Well, I made it in one piece which I can imagine that with my terrible sense of direction that came to a large shock to a lot of you, but I’m here, in Canada.

After parting with my family and Adrienne at the early hours of the morning I proceeded to get my first flight from Edinburgh to London. It was soon to see that serendipity was upon me. After being spotted by the women aside from me that I must be British as “no one has tea on these BA flights unless they’re British”. It’s safe to say we got chatting. Turns out she was a lovely music teacher who was returning Washington D.C to begin classes again. Little did I know until later in the conversation that her husband, Craig, works in a vaccination lab for the Gates Foundation (funded by none other than Bill Gates himself). We exchanged emails, I got talking to Craig, and I might have some work in Washington or London possibly in the summer – more on this as it develops – but that was a clear case of asking the right questions, and being in the right place at the right time.

Connecting to my flight in London was more then swift, Terminal 5 had everything one would need but I wasn’t to stay for long as the gate departure was calling soon after I landed. The extra leg room on the flight to Toronto was more than amazing, it’s the first time I haven’t felt like I’ve been packaged into a confined space and left to squirm around to find a comfortable position. However a very emotive infant came in to spoil what comfort I had in my leg room. But hey ho I got to Toronto Pearson airport. And at this point, I pretty much had no idea where I was going.

The TTC (definition) was easy enough to navigate to UoT Scarborough campus, but without having any form of internet connection I had to rely on the Canadian bus drivers for aid. I have to say, they’re some of the most helpful & pleasant people I’ve met on a public service, they made sure I knew exactly where I was going and which connections I needed to take, one of them didn’t even charge me a fare because it was my first time in Canada!

With all that, I got to the campus, and it was like a winter wonderland with fresh snowfall over the night. Picturesque doesn’t even begin to describe. As of being the first one in my flat I had the celebratory moment “I made it, without any hiccups, to a country and a university I’ve never been to before. Fuck”

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to take it all in as the following day lectures started. I do have to say compared to back in Stirling, they’re quite intense with regular pre-lab quizzes and online questions of the sort. This made me realise that most of the time I’ll have to explore the city will be at the weekend.

The first few days were terrifying. Even with my flatmates all be a very nice group of guys I found it harder than I thought to integrate myself into the Canadian lifestyle. Forcing small-talk upon others is something I’ve been known to be quite successful at but here I felt out of my depth. And coming Up until the Thursday & Friday of the first week.

Thursday was a residence event in the nearby residence centre, whereby it was a ‘Winter Wonderland’ of carnival games. Even though the games themselves weren’t as high as expectations found, the plethora of different people I met that evening definitely kick started my stay in Toronto for definite with many a plan coming after that

I’ve now been here for over a couple of weeks, and even now I’m still getting to grips with many things, but there have definitely been a few highlights already.

Downtown Toronto – Dundas Square/Eaton Centre

As soon as you get off the subway station at Dundas Square all you see is bright lights on vibrant billboards and high up bars & restaurants, it looks very much like a smaller Times Square.  Especially to be hear at night is something special to just be in the centre of the city with everything whizzing by around you without a care in the world. It’s an extraordinary feeling. The Eaton Centre situated at the square is by far the biggest shopping centre I’ve ever been to, considering it has 5 floors with each one containing what feels like an endless amount of shops of all different kinds, fashion, tea, cuisine of all cultures this place has pretty much anything you can think of. I haven’t even been on 2 of the 5 floors as yet but that will come. I’m hoping there are more displays of animals here like the geese we found on the 2nd floor.

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Fun Fact – the geese are actually made from lots of different pictures of different geese that are arranged together – art is amazing sometimes. 

Harbourfront 

Just a stones through away from Union street station you come to the magnificent harbour side of Toronto, it almost seems surreal that there’s a water body in such a densely packed city of people and skyscrapers. But whilst admiring the amazing harbour with it’s large amounts of boats bobbing up and down in the semi-frozen water there were two places along here that really caught my eye. The first being the Natrel Rink where it’s cheap as anything to hire a pair of skates and to be there till your heart’s content. Myself and a couple of exchange students from UTSC came down and met up with a load of other exchange students and I have to say it was lovely to meet so many people from all over the world. France, The Netherlands, Japan, Sweden and various places in Canada to name a few. With how long it’d been since I skated I was quite proud that I only fell once! With the CN tower situated near here it would’ve been rude not to include it in this – I will get a picture from the top of there one day when I’m here don’t worry!

The second place we went to after a long afternoon skating and chatting was a place called Amsterdam – confusing name, yes, but the beer they sold here was impeccable, the fact they brewed it all is what looked like a large barn was just brilliant. The authentic smell of the hops they used flowed through the restaurant like an freshly poured pint. The fact they had so many beers here it would’ve been rude not to try a few. I would definitely recommend this place to beer lovers, and non-beer lovers as the food here looked rather good too!

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Kensington Market

This has to be one of the oddest places I’ve ever been to so far. The fact that all the places in the market are so brightly coloured but yet look so run down baffles me, however some of them looked so modern in their interior. Due to the cold of the day we didn’t stay around for too long, but from what we saw it looks like a very hipster area with everything being vintage or just out of the ordinary. For example the photo below showing the ‘cocktail emporium’ where they had the hardware to make cocktails on one side, and the alcohol for said cocktails on the other. An amazing example of the kinds of things you find here. This area will definitely be explored in more detail on a warmer day, but to as we left the market we did stumble on some rather magnificent graffiti that we couldn’t not admire. I mean look at it!

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Sugar Marmalade 

A Chinese restaurant just near to Kensington market that simply seems authentic Chinese and Chinese fusion desserts. Just desserts. How amazing is that?! I didn’t go straight into the new when I ordered, but these filled pancakes did leave my stomach wanting so much more, they do hot and cold desserts of so many different flavours you could come here a dozen times and still not try even half of them!

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The Hoxton – Madeon

A night I shall not be forgetting for a long time, whether it was the fact we went on a whim  without having tickets in the hope we’d get in (which we obviously did) or the fact that it was so easy to get to the front of stage being so tall. Madeon’s music was just everything and more. I couldn’t describe the feeling having the music hit you in such a way that everything in the world didn’t seem to matter at that moment in time. It was truly amazing the Hoxton as a venue was incredible with raised side areas and amazing sound system where the music filled the place. I didn’t manage to get any good videos from the gig but I was more into just enjoying the night, which I most certainly did to the fullest.

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These are but a few places I will highlight, and there will definitely be much more exploration into Toronto centre outside of studying I can tell you that much. But I know what you’re all thinking if you read my last post;

“Every week you said you were going to post, and this is your first post since you’ve been here!”

It’s been a big adjustment getting accustomed to the Canadian lifestyle, a whole new currency, education system, city, people – everything. That is one of the reasons why weekly posts will probably not be happening, as I’ve got to go and actually explore the city first to then come back to you guys. I will aim for fortnightly posts here, with a little wiggle room I should be able to manage that. But trust me, there is much more to come with some of the plans organised.

Watch this space.

George

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