So how’s Toronto?

That’s right friends, it’s Andy Goes to Toronto, Part II: Return to OMGHOLYGEEZITSCOLDLand.

Before you get all jealous, let’s look at some things:

  1. It’s a business trip
  2. It’s December in Canada
  3. I don’t really want to be on the road at the moment

But ultimately that’s ok.  Not every trip is a winner (like the total bummer of a trip I took to Hong Kong last May).  I do whine every once in a while but I try to keep it to a day or two max and then move on.  We’re on Day Two today so not too much whining left.

Let’s start with a picture.  This is Toronto.  Well, at least the CN Tower.  It’s the tallest freestanding structure in North America at 1,818 feet!  For those of you in MetricLand (i.e. literally the rest of the world outside of a small African nation I think) that’s 554 metres.

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The CN Tower is one of the icons of the Toronto skyline, but it’s not all there is to do here.  Around the tower (aside from the viewing deck where a section has a TRANSPARENT GLASS FLOOR) are a few other attractions like the Rogers Centre, where the Toronto Blue Jays play, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and some other things that I skipped looking up because I saw them while jogging in temperatures right around freezing.  Jogging in the cold would be better if I were a fast runner buuuuuut I’m not, so yeah I pretty much froze.

Where I Stayed in Toronto

So I’ve stayed at two places on this trip: the Hyatt Regency Toronto last trip (late November) and a hotel just around the corner this time.  Both have been pretty standard hotels as far as business hotels go: comfy beds, coffeemakers, um…coat hangers, you know, the usual.  We’re not talking any mega ultra super deluxe accommodations here which is fine with me: when I’m on a work trip I usually work late into the evening so the most important things for me are a good desk and a good chair.  Both places had good chairs and good desks, so job well done there.  I honestly didn’t get any pictures of the hotels, I simply didn’t have the time.  I realize the irony of that statement when I’m currently sitting in one of said rooms while writing this blog post, I just don’t feel like taking pictures of a typical 2 queen bed hotel room.

I will say, though, that the room next to mine currently has a very loud-talking group of 4 people in it.  I can hear their conversation very clearly as they’re yelling and conversating at each other.  It’s to the point that I want to try and time it right and yell out “naw you’re stupid” after someone makes a particularly controversial point and see if I can get them to think it was one of the people in their group and start a big argument.  But I’m too nice to do something like that…or am I?

How is the weather in Toronto?

As you can imagine, Toronto is quite cold right now.  I think it’s my fault though.  The last time we flew in was late November, literally the night that Toronto had its first freeze of the year.  It was windy, there was some sideways snow at times, and we had about a 1km walk to the office each day, so to put it lightly we were cold the whole time on that trip back in November.

(Ahhhh….update: the people in the next room left, now there’s peace and quiet.  It suddenly occurs to me that my Bose QC35 noise canceling headphones have been sitting next to me this entire time and I didn’t even realize it #fail)

Anyway, this time we landed in the middle of a vicious snowstorm (if you follow me on Instagram at @realandyluten you would’ve seen it on my Instagram story!).  Yes, it also happened to be Toronto’s first big snowstorm of the year.  So the simple act of Me Going to Toronto caused the first freeze of the year as well as the first big snowstorm of the year.

Ok so is it just miserable there?  What about the food?

Well I’m excited to say the food has been pretty excellent, as Toronto is well-known for its food.  On the first trip I went with a few people who knew people in the area and made some great recommendations near our hotel.

The first place we went, Weslodge, had a saloon-type feel to it.  That’s in fact what they call themselves, a casually refined saloon.  The service was absolutely stellar, their drink menu was diverse and creative, and I enjoyed the food.  Their menu was chock full of simple meals cooked well.  Among my favorites were the Scotch Quail Egg, the burger, and the Brussels sprouts.  Ok not really the Brussels sprouts, there’s only one person in the world who can make those where I can eat them, but the house fries were wonderful and came with a great aioli.

The second night we ate at an amazing Mediterranean tapas restaurant called Byblos.  Their fare is eastern Mediterranean and is ordered tapas style (smaller dishes for the table to share).  We had the labneh, the duck kibbeh, ceviche, a wagyu striploin, black truffle rice, and my favorite, cauliflower seared in duck fat.  I’m not a huge vegetable lover but that seared cauliflower was absolutely amazing.  We finished the night off with a serving of mint tea (one of my favorites from my trip to Morocco when I was younger).  All in all it was a unique meal a little on the pricey side but the venue was perfect and it left a few last memories.  Would absolutely eat here again.

The final place we ate was an incredibly cool Italian place called Buca.  The entire place has a really modern sort of feel to it but the dishes are a little more classical Italian.  If I remember correctly I had the tortellini in brodo (which is Italian for “Tortellini in Brodo”).  It was a delicious pasta dish with a simple combination of beef and mortadella.  The wine was flowing so if I don’t remember exactly what I had at Buca that’s why.

So last night was our first night back in Toronto and I failed miserably.  We were looking for a place that wasn’t around in the USA and found this place none of us had ever heard of called Jack Astor’s.  Sooo we went and yeeeeeah, it’s basically the Canadian version of TGI Fridays.  Not that the food was bad, it was just a chain and in a great food city like Toronto, chains should be avoided at all costs.

So what else have you done?

That pretty much covers it!  Work, eat, sleep, do some fitness down at the hotel gym, and do it all over again.  Oh yes, and freeze.

Should I visit Toronto then?

Absolutely!  It has kind of a New York City vibe to it without all the noise or shouty people and it’s a really close flight for most people in the USA.  Although I would have to say you should check if I’m going around that same time to avoid the bad weather!

6 Comments

  1. Good write up on Toronto!

    It is the city that many Canadians like to hate (especially those from Western Canada… land of my misspent youth) because like most big cities, it has a sense of self-importance which can make lesser places feel insecure 🙂 It is a big flat sprawling metropolis (by Canadian standards) that is quite unattractive so no love there. The summers are hot-n-humid and winters are, as you discovered, cold, so nothing to like about that. However, I have found Torontonians to be friendly, though somewhat too outgoing and loud (again, by Canadian standards). Toronto has a bit of everything, and cultured enough to keep one interested for a while – NYC-lite as you described. And it is a great place to conduct business.

    For really good food and people who know how to live, you have to head a bit east to Montreal. The winter can be a bit worse there than Toronto, but Montrealers can show you such a good time that you don’t care about the weather 🙂 Yeah, I lived there for a bit and miss the city. Btw, you can fly to Montreal from downtown Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, highly recommended! Let me know what you think.

    Reply
    • Great comment Joe! I really want to go to Montreal at some point.

      Reply
  2. “It has kind of a New York City vibe to it without all the noise or shouty people…”

    Except for the people right next to you…

    Reply
    • Touche

      Reply
  3. a few lessons learned from personal experience. 1) if you’re heading to Toronto from NYC, consider a flight on Porter Airlines from EWR directly into Billy Bishop, the tiny airport that’s downtown. Much easier and more enjoyable than AA, AC, etc. who all fly into Pearson. 2) wait to go until the spring! 3) Radisson Harbourfront is a nice choice if you’ve got a stack of points left in your account from the better days of Club Carlson, especially at the Cash+Points rate.

    Reply
    • Good notes Mike! I was flying out of DFW so didn’t have any choice but to fly into Pearson. Flying in as late as we did the drive wasn’t too bad except for the intense snow!

      Reply

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