Trans Canada, Eh: Toronto and back to the US


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.





Figuring it out


I did wash today! Why is that a big deal, you ask?

Well, when visiting a city for an extended time, we prefer to book airbnbs versus hotels. For us, it’s much more interesting living among the locals versus staying at a hotel among travelers. That said, without room service and a front desk, a freestanding foreign apartment/home presents its challenges.

Is that bottle full of watery liquid for dishes or for laundry? Which slot does the detergent go in and is this one of those combined washer-dryers? We like to do some of our own cooking; ovens with foreign dials offer an endless state of perplexity. Think you know how to work a thermostat? Forget about it. Every place we’ve stayed at was unique.

So we figure it out. As soon as we arrive, we plug in our adaptors and hook up to the Internet. There are apps for the mathematically challenged (me!) to convert temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius. Google an appliance model and you’ll often find a translated instruction manual. You Tube videos (or calls home to your kids!) come in handy for figuring out coffee pots. Sometimes we wing it and sometimes you just have to ask.

After a week, we’ve identified our favorite places for bread, fresh fruit and groceries. We’ve discovered the walking shortcut to Frank’s municipal pool. We’ve mastered the Metro and know not to take the bus when you’re in a hurry. And, today, we did wash. Cheers to simple — yet somewhat empowering — victories!

Olá from Lisbon, Portugal

We’re here! The stress of once again packing “our life” away in storage is behind us. We are free to enjoy the adventures ahead.

After traveling on a red-eye through the night, I was exhausted but afraid to go to bed too early and be wide awake in the middle of the night. At 8 pm, however, I surrendered. Turns out it wasn’t a problem — I didn’t wake up until 10:15 this morning!

Anyway, Frank and I have settled into our airbnb in Mouraria, an old, authentic Lisbon neighborhood that has recently undergone many renovations. It is a lively area of many ethnicities so there is no shortage of great little restaurants. We are also within walking distance of the river, a castle, many museums and much more. We can’t wait to start exploring!