Toronto: New York of the North?

by Rachel Gertz

Toronto

Day 226

We’ve both been to Toronto before, but decided to try and approach it like we’ve approached nearly every other city on this journey. Like a couple of noobs acting like spies. Here’s the rundown:

Day One

Our first mistake was trying to slide obese Walter through the narrow streets of urban Toronto in search of an inner city camp site (aka parking lot). It was like trying to squeeze an Oscar Meyer wiener into a drinking straw. The bendy kind. After an hour of sweat and tears, dirty looks, and honks from peeved Torontonians, we managed to suck the proverbial meat from the straw and ended up 40 minutes outside of downtown. A dirty Walmart in the suburb of Mississauga. 

Day One Findings

Toronto drivers are assholes. At least on the highway. I shit you not, these people might actually be as bad as Miami drivers. (By the way, what is with major cities and their driver’s complete lack of decency on the road? Is it substandard driver education? Is the high concentration of carbon monoxide turning their frontal lobes into gravy?) Once they leave the main arteries, they seem to cool down a little… unless you are like us on Toronto streets: the equivalent of Rita MacNeil being birthed by Calista Flockhart.

Day Two

After the Rita MacNeil hotdog birth experience from the previous night, we came to terms with the fact that Toronto is just not a good city for RVs. We were forced to the distant edge of the metropolis before finding a campground to house the mighty beast. Although happy to find a safe settlement, the galactic distance to downtown left little to be desired. But hey, we are seasoned champions of foreign transit systems, right?

Our commute to downtown Toronto consisted of a ten minute scooter ride, followed by a 45 minute bus ride, followed by an hour long subway ride. That, plus the ride home came out to nearly FOUR HOURS. This left just enough time to walk down Yonge Street, eat, grab an overpriced drink and go home.

Day Two Findings

Toronto transit is really good… but not if your base camp is in the boonies. Drinks are expensive. Patios can be difficult to find. Yonge Street is loaded with dirty little holes-in-the-wall restaurants which are probably all awesome. We wouldn’t know because we ate at the food court in the mall (!).

Also, the panhandlers in this city will handle you like nowhere else. If you decide to hang on to your cash or don’t have any cigarettes to give, prepare to be accosted. We didn’t see anyone get hurt in the sticks and stones variety, but yelling, insults, and sarcasm seem to be par for the course.

Day Three: Alone Day

It took a couple days to get it right, but I’m marking day three as a success. Instead of wasting our time on transit, we got up, jumped on ‘Bella and scooted the side streets all the way downtown in half the time. Rach and I declared this our “alone day”. I think she got a manicure and a massage or something. While she was getting insulted by grumpy curmudgeons, I explored the city with vigour. Somehow I managed to fit the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Ontario College of Art and Design, a stroll down Queen Street, and a Steam Whistle brewery tour. 

After regrouping over a mediocre dinner on a fantastic patio at the Black Bull, we scooted down to the CN Tower to take in a breathtaking Toronto sunset from 446.5 metres (1,465 ft) high. You can actually see the curvature of the Earth. There was also an escort entertaining a portly gentleman who may or may not have been an Ontario politician. I bet she goes up there at least once a week (the tower, perverts).

Day Three Findings

Toronto is a gold mine for creatives. It is a thriving petri dish of art, design, architecture, fashion, film, music and theatre. Inspiration blankets Toronto like oil in the Gulf of Mexico (too soon?). T.O. also happens to be a remarkable town for scooters. I can’t think of any other city where we’ve been able to travel so far on non-scary roads. Plus you can park ‘em anywhere… and people do.

Day Four

We met up with our friend, Mr. Scott Boms, who took us around the city to scarf some epic burritos, guzzle some quality beers, geek out at Silver Snail, take a tequila shot at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, and meet some of Scott’s awesome geek friends at the lovely Sweaty Betty. During the course of all this madness, Scott pointed out the legendary Greg Keelor sitting in a park, and me and Rach walked by Mark McKinney on the way back to the scooter. Who knew the first celebrity run-ins we’d have would be in Toronto, Ontario?

Day Four Findings

Toronto, despite it’s latitude, can produce some pretty mean burritos. Canadian celebrity sightings are quite common. The best parts of Toronto are the places you have to look for. Lastly, Scott Boms is the man (not that we didn’t know that before). A man who knows design, a man who truly understands the web, a man who has shown us our new favorite places in Toronto, and a man who we will always consider a friend. Thanks Scott!

In Sum

We like Toronto. It’s got great art, design, culture, food. On paper it sounds like the ideal city, but something about it just doesn’t sit with us. As great as it is, we could never shake that feeling that it’s trying to be something it isn’t. You could say it’s the New York of the north, but that’s sort of the problem… it isn’t New York, it’s Toronto. If you’re a wiener, don’t try to be a smokie. Embrace your wienerness or you’ll end up looking like a cocktail weenie.

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