Travel memory: First trip to Canada

queen street toronto

The first big trip in my since-destroyed travel van was a weekend getaway to Toronto with my friend Robin. This was also my first visit to Canada and my first couchsurfing experience.

We arrived late on a Friday night, sometime around midnight. I didn’t want to inconvenience my couchsurfing host, so after grabbing dinner and drinks (and being amused by Canada’s monopoly money), we slept in the van that first night. It seems silly in retrospect, but since it was our first CS experience, I didn’t want to get a bad review (“Inconsiderate guest didn’t show up until midnight…”)

canadian money

Somehow, we slept through my cell phone alarm, and when we woke up the next morning, I found that we had received a parking ticket. After 8:30, the street was meter parking, and the time was now 8:47. In that brief window, someone had ignored the two sleeping Americans in the back of the van and placed a citation on the window. I thought Canadians were supposed to be nice! They sure didn’t waste any time writing up that ticket.

Following that blow to our wallets, we headed over to the CN Tower, one of the city’s main tourist attractions.

cn tower

Unfortunately, it was the cloudiest day of the year, so we saw nothing from the top. We literally couldn’t even see the ground. It was pointless going up there, but we were eager tourists, so we paid anyway. Doh!

cn tower fog view

Wandering through some of the neighborhoods was a lot more fun. Our host directed us to areas like Kensington Market.

kensington market toronto

This was a quick trip. We didn’t have the time or money to fully immerse ourselves into the place. We didn’t take a ton of pictures. In fact, compared to my current travel style, where I run around like a madman to maximize my time in every city, this particular trip was very laid-back. Our host took us out to a couple of awesome restaurants and bars, but we didn’t take any pics there and the evening is a bit of a haze. We’ll all have to use our imaginations on that one.

I wish Chicago trains were as colorful as this.


I don’t think American businesses would dare to moon their customers the way these mannequins at Urban Outfitters did. Thumbs up for Canadian humor.

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butt out urban outfitters

My favorite random discovery: Random blue sticks, which led to some artsy photos.

robin blue bars

The lingering feelings I had about Toronto were: 1) The city was very cool. 2) The people were not as cool as I expected. Oh, they were friendly and pleasant, and I liked them a lot, but they weren’t ‘cool’ in the hipster sense. They were a little behind the times in terms of trends and fashion. I remember being disappointed that Toronto wasn’t as edgy as Williamsburg in Brooklyn, as I had hoped. But in retrospect, that’s probably a good thing. Toronto is doin’ its own thing, and that’s fine.

I can’t wait to go back there next summer for the TBEX travel bloggers conference and get a better taste of the city.

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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  1. My hometown! I`m happy you go to see Kensington, it`s one of my favourite parts of the city. But I hate to be the bearer of bad news, we have tons of hipsters in the city. They must have been hiding while you were here because of the grey weather.

  2. Hello Scott!
    Thanks for a lovely post on my hometown! I hope you can visit again and connect with someone who can give you a better and authentic hipser-y experience. Our indie trend is also slightly different from US, certainly so in the francophone areas. I see that you were at Queen west and Ossington, hopefully you will like it more next summer! Sorry for the ticket, you could apologise and get it reversed. 🙂
    cheers, Priyank.

  3. Okay this is really helpful! I’m headed to Toronto in a few weeks and all I’ve heard how cool the city is. I’ll be interested to see what the hipster scene is like. I love the ad on that train with all the #2s – looks cool.

    And I totally get you about wanting to be a good CS guest. I would’ve done the same thing.

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