Over the past few years, the decision to leave our jobs and try something new has never really been a particularly difficult decision to make. In the past four years we’ve done it twice; the first time to go on our five month stint around South East Asia and beyond and secondly, only in September of last year, to leave Scotland and relocate semi-permanently to Canada.
Since moving here 10 months ago, some of the best moments of our lives have been created here in Toronto. We absolutely love this city and we can definitely see ourselves living here again in the future. I know for me, it will always be my favourite city in Canada, call it a ‘first love’ kinda thing if you will. It’s the first place I’ve ever lived and worked outside of Scotland. And it really does feel like home. This time, it was a much tougher decision to give up our apartment, our jobs and pack up our belongings to hit the road again.
For now, it seems like the right time to take advantage of our location here in North America and explore a lot more of Canada and the U.S. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reminiscing quietly to myself about my favourite things about this wonderful city.
Love it or hate it? Love it! What’s not to love?! (Note this is being written in June and is currently 30 degrees outside). I’ve never lived anywhere that experiences such dramatic change in weather than that of Toronto. I’m serious when I say one weekend in May it was zero degrees and snow, and seven days later I was lying on the beach in my bikini.
The main thing I love? Toronto adapts to the seasonal change like no other. The city embraces whatever the weather-Gods throw at it. The first bit of snow in December saw pop up ice rinks appear overnight as if from nowhere! Conversely, the first few days of summer-like temperatures saw patios (what we know as beer gardens back home) pop up all over the city! Summer also sees hundreds of festivals, special events, and parades every day of the week. There are not enough hours in the day to do all of the things! There’s no such thing as familiar surroundings. Constant seasonal change. I love it.
Favourite Moment: Stepping outside in a t-shirt after 6 months of wearing the same winter coat and realising there is no bitter nip in the air. Summer c’mere!
Visits from Family and Friends
These are the best times. We have been lucky enough to have had a few visits from family and friends in the little time we have been based here. I think we’d both agree that some of our best memories of our time here so far has been made with visits from family and friends. Showing them the tourist hotspots, exploring the latest restaurants, different neighbourhoods and the secret wee places only locals know. It’s great showing our family the place we call home and see that the love we have for Toronto is shared also by them.
Favourite Moment: Visiting the Niagara wineries with Stuart, the scenic flight over the city with Mum and Dad, hanging off the CN Tower with Lana, power-boating across Lake Ontario with Greg and picnicking on Centre Island with the Matthew/Paterson clan.
Couldn’t quite believe our luck in securing an apartment slap bang in the middle of Toronto- with an epic view over the city. Condo life is the epitome of qualm free living. Crank that heating up in winter, leave it on 24 hours, and do not worry about forking out any money on heating bills! Everything about it was great, it was the perfect base from which to explore the city and a lovely haven to come home to after a long commute home on a cold winter evening. We must’ve spent hours and hours gazing out of the windows, forever discovering new buildings that had popped up on the horizon as if from nowhere. From our place, you could catch a full 180 view, which included the Financial District to the south, Yonge and Dundas Square straight ahead and the towering condos on Bloor Street to the north.
Favourite Moment: Arriving home on a Friday evening after a long week at work, pouring a large glass of wine and watching the sunset out the window. The best.
‘Cottage country? What’s that? ‘ I hear you say! It’s only the most Canadian thing ever! Cottage country refers to a few particular picturesque areas out with the city where residents of Toronto flock to on weekends, particularly over the summer months. I just love this concept! It gets so hot in summer months, it’s important to get out of the city and get in amongst the nature that is on our doorstep. We were lucky enough to spend a long weekend with family Denise and Cliff at their cottage in Muskoka (more here). The cottage and everything about it scream peace and tranquility. The ultimate chill out place, only meters from the edge of Lake Medora. I just loved it here and I gotta say, the thought of missing out on cottage country this summer makes me sad.
Favourite Moment: Out on the lake in the ‘tinny’ boat at sunset before returning to a wonderful Thanksgiving meal in the cottage. It was the calmest mirror-like water I’ve ever seen.
Brunch in Toronto = our weekend ritual. It doesn’t get any better than here, does it?! In brunch-obsessed Toronto, there is no shortage of amazing low-cost spots to choose from. Saturday mornings are my ultimate favourite time of the week, closely pipping Friday evenings, gazing-out-of-the-window-wine-in-hand to the top spot! We must’ve tried a hundred different brunch restaurants, cafes, and diners in our short time here, none of which have been a disappointment and none of which have broken the bank. The fact that you can get coffee, juice and a jam-packed full breakfast which lasts you until dinner time for around $12 (£6) is enough to set you up for a great weekend.
Favourite Moment: For us, the Old Town of Toronto wins hands down for best brunch spots – Paddington Pump, Hanks and old classic The Senator are top of our list.
Although the winter months were chillier than we were used to, we still made a point of getting out to ‘see what’s going on’ on week nights and every weekend. Walking or cycling the city is by-far the best way of seeing all it has to offer. One of my favourite things about walking through the city is that it is ever-changing, we constantly notice new developments and changes. We must’ve walked the same streets time and time again, but not once were two walks the same. The past couple of months have been the best, most enjoyable months from which to really explore the city at the weekends and in the evenings. The warmer, lighter nights has allowed us to get on our bikes and see much more at slightly quicker pace! Nothing stays the same for long.
Favourite Moment: Day trips to Evergreen Brickworks and Blue Mountain, evening strolls through the Financial District and the long but satisfying cycle to Humber Bay Park were particular highlights.
The number of vantage points from which gain an unparalleled view of the city is unreal. One of our favourite activities has been to hunt out the best spots to snap some epic photos of this awesome city and skyline. With the exception of trying our hand at roof-topping, I think we’ve covered them all, (see more here). Drakes album ain’t called Views from the 6 for nothing, dontchaknow.
Favourite Moment: The One-Eighty bar on Bloor Street offering amazing views of the entire city – particularly amazing sitting out on the patio on a calm sunny evening. Riverdale Park East a very close second.
What a place. The best neighbourhood in Toronto hands down. We were lucky enough to spend a month living here when we first moved to the city. Little did we know when we moved into that room above the tattoo shop what a great neighbourhood it would turn out to be. Now demographically more of a mix, the atmosphere is still very much Italian. It’s a very lively area with loads of cafes, bars, trattorias, trendy restaurants and sushi joints.
Favourite Moment: The Dip, also known as Cafe Diplomatico, a Toronto institution for good, honest, huge Italian pizzas. Hapa Izakaya window seat on a Friday night comes in at a very close second.
As we look forward to the next few months, we bid a very bittersweet ‘see you later’ to Toronto. And definitely not ‘goodbye’.