What a month!

After laying low in Calgary, Toronto was strictly about urban vibe.

A 20 hour endurance test in bus travel deposited me at the Yorkdale Mall which runs along the northwest subway line.  What I had landed in was a steam bath. Precious minutes during bus stops outside small town Ontario hinted at a heat wave, but actual Toronto soil pounded my frame, sweat soaking through my T-shirt dress.  Snow storm or tropical rain?  I’ll happily squeak and slosh in flip flops, not Sorels.

But damn, I was baking.  It felt like Bangkok all over again.

TO skyline

Right now travel is a freshly cut lawn, unblemished from tramping feet or a jaded attitude.  There will be many favorite lists, but number one is how a new city smells or sounds.  That will always be pure in my mind.

I hopped off the bus despite creaky bones and bounced up the escalator towards the subway platform. Toronto crackled before me.

This city has a guttural scent, not necessarily pleasant, a mingling of sewage, sweaty humans, and car exhaust.  What’s a stunner are the visual cues, this city is bursting with multi-cultural goodness, over 100 languages and dialects are spoken in wondrous chorus.

Bustling Chinatown

As a result, take a turn on Yonge, Queen Street or Bloor and at every corner a distinct neighborhood forms.  Ripened fruit and bargains are laid to bare in Chinatown.  The messy, glorious chaos of Kensington Market or the cool, crisp lines of Yorkville won’t disappoint.

My first week I attended a travel blogger picnic with Alicia Taggio of Life Behind the Lens and Lauren and Todd of Globetrooper at Center Island.

Lauren, Alicia, me, and Todd

Views from Center Island

A feast fit for ants was placed on a picnic table.

Vittles

Next was St. Lawrence Market where I gobbled my share of seafood.

Fried smelt, anyone?

The delights of a busy market never grows old.

Markets make me tingle!

Yummy St. Lawrence

Sometimes solo travel isn’t concentrated on meeting people, but actually being solitary.  I spent a quiet, but visually full day at historic Queen Street East.

Those aren't tourists hanging around

Needless to say, Queen Street East is a depressed area, has been for years.  I observed several hastily closed storefronts with dilapidated signs screaming “For Lease”.

Chaotic Queen Street East

No matter, I still discovered some striking architecture.

Metropolitan United Church circa 1870

Meeting of minds and communities seemed to be the theme.

I simply fell in love with Carol Perehudoff of Wandering Carol.  We spent an afternoon noshing on dim sum and walking around the city.

Dim sum heaven

It kinda helped when after hugging the first sentence from her mouth was, “You are such a great writer.”  Here’s your cue, boys.  Say that to me over a candlelit dinner and I’m yours.  I’m a really cheap date.

Besides that, Carol is a seasoned travel writer, with the sense of humor of Lenny Bruce.  I had forgotten how connections can happen quickly in this weird microcosm that is traveling.  I was left with the sensation that unsaid conversations were between us, but the beauty of life is you can pick up where you left off.

Travel hotties - Carol and I

Another fantastic highlight was the first Toronto Travel Tribe meet up at a swanky restaurant on King Street West, coyly named Spice Route.

Janice of Solo Traveler discussed Meet, Plan, Go – a nationwide event on September 14, 2010 to educate and encourage career breaks and unfurled travel.

Curly haired Janice on the right

I got giddy and groupie with the people who inspired me to start this blog.

Deb and Dave of The Planet D.

Hehe, giddy!

Daniel of Two Go Round-the-World.

More giddy!

Without these shining examples where would I be?  Probably asking suburban dad through the window if he wants curly fries or onion rings with that.

Thanks to Mariellen Ward of Breathe Dream Go for assembling such a diverse group of travelers in one spot!

I did most of  my list except exploring the Distillery District.  4 out of 5 ain’t bad.  Instead, I traded that for an excursion to The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

Old lobby of Royal Ontario Museum

ROM exterior

This week is my last in Toronto.  Next week is Ville-Marie or as you know it, Montreal.

Conclusions?

I pledged to myself that slow travel is where it’s at, and it is.  I found myself exploring, not venturing out at all, thinking about nothing or everything.  Slow travel isn’t centred on dropping wads of cash or constantly going.  It’s about considered absorption.  I struggled to get here, actually have time to know thyself.  And I’m taking it.

I’m discovering it’s easy to escape a place, but not yourself.

I’m really enjoying breaking bread with fellow travel bloggers or just travelers.  I’ve never been included in a band of people who practice the intangible concept of community so dang well.

As for Toronto?  Come, come!  What many assume is a tangled, urban jungle is actually brimming with green parks and trees upon trees.

Call me silly, but the sweetest sound of Toronto is the subway hurling through a train tunnel.  Who knows where you’ll end up on the other side?