Friday, April 5, 2019

The Adventure to the True Great North

Toronto skyline during sunset.

Traveling to Toronto was challenging to begin with. From the tourist visa hiccups to every traveler's nightmare named jet lag, It's hard to comprehend that this trip had finally become a reality. Back home, everything was green and cerulean. Here, it's all white, gray, and overcast. As the plane touched down Pearson International Airport's runway, I couldn't help but smile.

After almost 24 hours of flight and transit, I am finally on the other side of the world.

The night slowly crept in as we taxied towards our assigned gate. The queue at the immigration and customs was quite long, and it took me at least 30 minutes before I finally claimed my luggage. The blast of cold wind got me caught off guard as I exited the terminal building. A sudden gust of memories came through: My first winter experience in Seoul, South Korea. For the longest time, I've been waiting for this moment–the bitter cold touches my bare skin, and how my body shivers from the extremely low temperature. As the white Subaru sedan sped off the Gardiner Expressway, the tall skyscrapers slowly came into view. As Torontonians call it a night, everyone's busy preparing for their day back home.

Ice and mountains.

I forced myself to wake up at around eight in the morning. The view from the balcony was a sight to see: a thick blanket of white and gray covering most of the Sackville and Dundas East streets.  The month of February was about to end, yet it is still in the middle of the dead winter. I can't complain though because it brought joy to me. After lunch, I decided to roam around the neighborhood to look for some food. As I walked two blocks to the nearest Tim Hortons and Subway, it felt eternity while walking on very windy and snowy weather. Add the fact that I was trekking on a foot deep snow.

On our final approach at Toronto's Pearson Airport.

Somewhere near Dundas and Sackville Streets.

Heavy snow.

I began sojourning to different neighborhoods of Toronto. Despite being sprawling, there's nothing much to see around the city, especially during winter. But don't get me wrong, there are still places around Toronto that you shouldn't afford to miss–Liberty Village, Harbourfront Center, Downtown, Distillery District, St. Lawrence Market, Nathan Phillips Square, and Kensington Market.

When it comes to a gastronomic adventure, Toronto has a lot to offer. No, we are not talking about poutine, a seemingly underwhelming Québecois food. Toronto, touted as one of the most diverse cities in the world, boasts a multicultural cuisine. Are you craving for Pho Noodles? Toronto has it. Are you looking for some legit Pad Thais and Tom Yum? Toronto has it. Are you missing the crunchy and juicy Chicken Joy of Jollibee? Again, Toronto has it, and they have two branches. If I live here, I won't have any problems if I'm craving for some Asian comfort food.

Braised pork at Amsterdam BrewHouse. This is one of my favorite restaurants at the Harbourfront Centre.

Typical brunch at Kost.

Afternoon snacks: chocolate fondue at Cacao 70, Distillery District. 

Flavored beers at Boxcar Social, located at the Harbourfront Centre.

I got reunited with my old friends who were now residing in Toronto, and also met new ones. The city is just like your typical western city. The people here are generally warm and friendly, don't care about what you wear and do for a living, and are fond of small talk. Despite the growing efforts of the national government to promote multiculturalism, racism still exists in this part of the world (I mean, it still exists almost everywhere, even in my home country). I am glad that I did not experience any of these.

People were perplexed as to why I went to Canada during the winter season. It was my choice. I'd love to see the snow and experience the subzero weather. It is easier for me to adapt to cold weather than the hot and humid environment. The latter would make me dizzy if I stay too long under the heat of the sun. They say that there are more activities around Toronto during the summer season. I am not a fan of summer since I've already experienced hotter-than-the-Philippines summer weather in Taiwan and Japan. But then again, the Canadian summer is still considered cool in Philippine standards. By fall, everything becomes picturesque as the foliage bleeds orange, yellow, and crimson.

Gooderham Building, Toronto's version of the Flatiron building. It's older brother in New York is still more stunning though.

Torontonian skyline, as viewed from the Harbourfront Centre.

Late winter.

City lights.

Toronto is an attractive city. It is not because of its sweeping landscapes, but because of its multiculturalism and diversity. When the locals respect everyone's culture, beliefs, and principles, the city becomes a tolerable place to live. Toronto is a sea of flags, and it will always be beautiful.

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