The final stay on our incredible Trans Canada journey was in Canada’s largest city. Toronto sits along the shores of Lake Ontario and is home to 2.8 million people. This was our second visit, as I had joined Frank when he came here in the late ’90s for a transportation conference. He has always considered Toronto a “transportation junkie’s dream.” The size, efficiency and breadth of its network — street cars, buses, subways and bike lanes — continues to impress. We utilized it to explore some new places and to revisit others.
Our airbnb was in a downtown high-rise. The wall of windows overlooked a sea of other apartment buildings, office towers and the iconic CN tower — magnificent views, day and night.
All was ideal with the exception of our second night. At 2:30 in the morning, we were awakened by the blaring of the fire alarm! The shaky voice of the building concierge came through the intercom, “The alarm system indicates a situation in the F stairwell. If your alarm is sounding slowly, remain where you are. If your alarm is sounding quickly, proceed to the exits. Don’t use the elevators. The Toronto fire department is responding.” Frank and I looked at each other wondering if our alarm was sounding slow or fast — it was kind of medium(?!). She repeated the message three times as the alarm continued to blast. We readied ourselves to go down and just before we walked out the door, the Fire Marshall came on and issued the all clear. (It turned out to be someone smoking in the stairwell!)
The rest of the trip was less eventful but still very interesting. Toronto is Canada’s top tourism destination. There’s a lot to do, no shortage of good restaurants and the shopping is second to none (be it vintage, boutique or department stores).
Like Montreal, Toronto is vibrant and multi-cultural. The two cities, however, have a very different vibe. Toronto is, obviously, much bigger, but it’s also more business-centered — and the locals all speak English. Montreal feels very European, while Toronto seems like a big American city — albeit one with modern and efficient mass transit(!). After our two-month journey across this amazing country, the city made for an ideal transition as we headed back across the border.