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Chasing the Moose and Maple leaf

Matt on his recent return trip to Canada

Even though it had been arranged for over a month, from the moment I started packing until two or three days in to the holiday, a voice in my head was yelling at me, ?TORONTO?? What the hell are you doing going over THERE?! It?s MILES away!? Fortunately I didn't listen.

That'll be the Canadian flag I supposeI suppose I should confess one thing up front - I didn't truly do the backpack thing around the country considering that I stayed with a friend and relatives for nearly two of the four weeks. However I was left to my own devices during the day and night even during that time, so I was still a traveller at heart.

With the body clock well and truly convulsed between jetlag and not going to bed at all the previous night, I rolled into Toronto in a cool limo from the airport, drenched in blazing sunshine. There was no chat from the driver - definitely a good start. However he did miss the exit on the motorway; well, you can?t have everything.

Arriving at the plush house of an old university friend, I was barely given time to find my bearings before I was dragged out for a very European lunch in little Italy on College Street. I spent that day, and the next week, marveling at what a cool city Toronto struck me to be. Coming from Belfast, I?m not exactly used to sun or style. But everywhere you look in Toronto, the streets and the people are positively buzzing. The people are all so friendly and helpful as well. It was easy to forget I was in a city of around three million people and not just a big village where everyone knows and takes care of everyone else.

CN Tower Toronto - photoAs far as attractions go, there?s the usual smattering of art galleries and museums. In a city as big as this, you would expect there to be some pretty decent ones too, and if you?re into that kind of thing, you won?t be disappointed. Sadly, although I really did try, the likes of the Art Gallery of Ontario left me cold. And of course, there?s the infamous CN Tower. For me, going up it in a lift with glass doors was bad enough. Crushed right up to those doors, with only a few inches between me and a half kilometre drop, was positively brown trousers inducing. Walking along the glass floor inside was among the scariest things I have ever done. No amount of small children crawling all over it, laughing their heads off, could change that. Right next door is the Skydome, the only stadium in the world with a retractable roof. An impressive fact, but ultimately boring. But I suppose there?s worse ways to spend the hour it takes to tour it though.

As far as Toronto goes, I enjoyed myself most just wandering around the city, getting a feel for the place. Queen Street is so vibrant, full of street artists, hot dog stands and colourful shops that you could easily spend a sunny day wandering up and down it at your leisure. And in such a multicultural city, there will always be a new part of town to explore. I spent over a week there and didn?t get to see half as much as I would?ve liked to. So no matter how long you stay for, there?ll always be something you missed.

>> Click HERE to continue with Quebec in Part 2

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