Traveling Abroad – I survived a week in Toronto as a solo traveler. Part 1.

Wow. What a week it has been. Another whirlwind of a week. I have many things I want to talk about. Many things to think about. But first of all – let me just say how good it feels to be sitting in my own recliner. In my own living room. In my own “sleepy” city.

It seems that I have bad luck when it comes to travel. It doesn’t seem to matter when I leave or where I go. But I almost always experience flight delays. Terrible weather. And 9/10 times, even if I pick a seat in the back of the plane, I get some whiny kid stuck behind me that loves to kick my seat. This aggravates me more than I’d care to admit. Today’s saving grace was the young couple, Chantal and Mike that I sat with on the way back to Edmonton. They had their four month old son traveling with them. And their baby was adorable with the cutest little smile.

He didn’t even really cry. He just made tiny noises to express his unhappiness and I found myself nodding in agreement with him each time. And then I cooed over how cute he is. I’m not a grandmother. I’m a grand-auntie. And I’ve got the “grand” part just right when it comes to little kids.

I was also playing a riveting game of peek-a-boo with a sweet little ankle biter in front of me. He wasn’t as happy as the baby. But he sure was cute. I think that’s why they make babies so cute. It saves them. Kids love me. For some odd reason. Even though I don’t have any of my own.

Day 1 – Edmonton to Toronto

Let’s start off with how much the Toronto airport and West Jet sucks lately. Our flight going to Toronto was delayed over an hour. I got the message at 10:00 in the morning. After I had made all my arrangements and ride to the airport. The flight was supposed to leave at 3:15 – we didn’t get off the ground until almost 5:00 pm. Yeah. I was pretty grumpy.

We still don’t know why the flight was so late. West Jet is not exactly known for sharing details. Maybe I should give Air Canada a try next time.

One thing I love about traveling alone is the people you meet. Because it was a later flight, the plane wasn’t as packed as it normally would be. The seat between me and older gentleman was empty. At first we made small talk and then I politely smiled and put on my headphones. I had loaded up my Spotify playlists specifically for the trip.

When the elderly man saw that I was listening to music, he excitedly showed me his phone. I’m a musician too!  He exclaimed and played some of his music for me. It turns out he was guitarist – a flamenco guitarist. Which is one of my favorite kinds of guitar music.

I’m not an anxious flyer. But sometimes having someone new to chat with distracts you just enough to make you forget you’re stuck in a cramped coach seat for four hours with crying toddlers, and dozens of people drenched in sweat. Don’t forget about the constant coughing and sneezing around you. The airport is FULL of germs. Ugh. I’m grossed out just writing this.

The flight finally pulled into the Toronto Pearson Airport at 10:30 pm. I made way down the long halls in search of the baggage claim area. Talk about confusing airports. It took 45 minutes for our baggage to finally arrive. And apparently, I have one of the most common suitcases because I struggled with at least three silver suitcases to learn that none of them were mine. Oh well.

Then it came time to hail a cab. I decided to opt for Uber. I read the pick up message carefully and proceeded to the lower level where the sign said “Ubers/Taxi/Lyft” pick up. I waited at the right stall number. The driver called me and said. “Oh no, you’ll have to come up to the upper level. I can’t come down there.”

At which by that point, my give a fucks had all been used up and I politely suggested he give me a break. It was my first time in Toronto and I was tired. I asked if he could come meet me.

“Oh no… I can’t do that,” he said. At least, that’s what I think he said. I honestly don’t know. English was not his first language.

So, I broke down and hailed a taxi and paid the hefty $60 fare. A friend had suggested taking the UP train. However. It was RAINING by the time we landed. My legs were swollen as they do when flying. And I just was not in the mood to get lost at midnight in a strange city.

Thankfully, the ride was short. And I found myself at the condo I was staying at. Did I mention that this was not only my first time in Toronto, but it was also my first time using Air B&B? I did a lot of first-time things this week. Boundaries were pushed.

Air B&B – not a relaxing and enjoyable experience – but it wasn’t the owners fault

The concierge on the 9th floor had no idea who I was even though I had filled out the paperwork to let them know I was staying in a unit on a “short-term” basis. Luckily, I had printed out a copy of my agreement. Chalk up one point for being overly-anxious about solo travel.

I finally get up to the 23rd floor of the building and find the lock-box where my key was supposed to be stored. I punched in the four digit code. Nothing. It wouldn’t budge.

“Well, this had to be the right box. Someone had used the same four digit code on it before I did.” I said out-loud and cursed multiple times. This was my worst fear about using Air B&B and it was all coming true.

I texted my friend Aimee who was staying ten blocks away in a panic. “The box must be broken.” I was near tears. I was tired. Swollen. And covered in sweat. Every muscle in my body was screaming at me to crawl into a hot bath.

“Wait, I’ll go see if there’s another box on the floor,” I said with renewed hope.

I grabbed my suitcase, backpack and carry on, and lugged it all across the other side of the floor. Sure enough, there was the magic box with the red ribbon on it. And sure enough, it popped open on the second try.

I texted my friend Aimee with relief and made my way to the condo. I swiped the fob. Nothing. I swiped it again. Nothing. And again. Still nothing.

Well, by this point, it was just laughable. I texted Aimee again and asked her what to do. What a life saver. She said to hold the handle down while swiping the fob. And sure enough. There was that clicking sound. And I was in.

I let the door slam behind me. I dropped my suitcase on the floor. I ran into the bathroom and took care of some business that had been building up for a few hours. I stripped off my clothes and climbed into that bathtub. And it was the most glorious bath I had had in a long time.

Day 1: Summary

What I can tell you is this: Toronto is beautiful. There are lots of activities to do as a single person. The food is amazing. Longo’s market was the best part of the trip. I saved money on food – $80 on groceries for the week plus three dinners $50.00 at restaurants (that includes my steak at the airport tonight at Fion McCools).

Downtown is clean. It’s safe. There’s something going on at all times. Whether you’re in the mood for a baseball game. A concert. Or maybe you want to take a ferry to the islands for a picnic. Or if you want to rent a bike and ride it around the harbourfront.

Or you can do what I did and enjoy lunch on the terrace of the infamous Casa Loma. Take a tour through the castle. Explore the tunnels. Watch a video on the history of the castle. Enjoy an outdoor concert under the stars!

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Toronto is an exciting city rich in culture and food. But… it’s busy. All the time. There are people everywhere. And everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere. There were no leisurely strolls downtown. You had to keep up with the pace or get out of the way. Which was so disappointing for me.

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Want to know why? Make sure to follow and read my next post!

All photos in this post by me – J.W. Jensen

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