I’ve been living in Toronto for over 26 years now, and for most of that time I’ve been day-dreaming about moving out. Yet I am still here, and I even own a condo downtown! Why? The problem is that for each thing I love about Toronto, there is also a thing I hate.

The 5 things I love

The sheer variety of foods

Whatever you feel like eating you can find it in Toronto: Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, French, Italian, Greek, and even less known cuisines like Cambodian, Peruvian, and Ethiopian. Being probably the most multi-cultural city in the world, that comes with the territory. We have produce markets selling everything from Dutch cheeses to Indonesian fruits. We have chocolate shops, bakeries, and gelato stores. As for drinks, micro-breweries (and bars who serve their beers), wine bars and wine stores (we’re located close to a major wine region), and just plain bars serving any cocktail under the sun ensure we don’t get bored.

The great coffee

Downtown Toronto is increasingly endowed with independent coffee shops making great espresso coffee. In my neighbourhood, I can get a good cappuccino in a different shop every day of the week without ever hitting one of the chains.

Toronto has good coffee

Toronto has good coffee

The people I know

Although I sometimes feel like my friends are spread out over the four corners of the earth, the truth is that after all these years, I know a lot of people here, from my dentist to my hairdresser to dozens of ex-colleagues that I often pass on the street. And many more people that I don’t really know at least recognize me when I walk into their shop or restaurant.

The things to see and do

You can’t really get bored in a city like Toronto, even if you’re someone who likes to go out a lot. There are always exhibitions, plays, concerts, as well as seasonal events and festivals, many of which are free. And of course the cinemas play all the latest releases. There are municipal libraries, yoga studios, night classes about everything under the sun, and tons of special interest groups organizing meetups through meetup.com.

Cherry blossoms in High Park (Toronto)

Cherry blossoms in High Park

The airport

Pearson International Airport is the largest in Canada serving the most destinations with the most direct flights. For a big travel nut like me, this is a very important aspect.

(Update June 2015: And now we even have a train link from downtown to the airport!)

The 5 things I hate

The public transit (TTC)

The TTC has not kept up with the population growth, and compared to most European cities, it’s rather pathetic. There are only three subway lines (for a city of over four million people), and 11 tram lines (downtown and mid-town) that move at a snail pace in rush hour, don’t come around often enough, and keep short-turning. The buses serve more areas, but you’d better not be in a rush.

King streetcar, Toronto

King streetcar

The suburban sprawl

If you’re trying to get out of Toronto overland, it will take a good two hours of driving from downtown before you see anything resembling countryside. And that’s on a nice sunny day with fluid traffic.

The guarded attitude

Most large cities display a kind of guarded attitude that everybody puts on in public. But in Toronto, it is compounded by the natural British reserve, often combined with the tendency of more recent immigrants to keep to themselves. This makes the people of Toronto appear rather unapproachable, unless you are yourself a very outgoing person. People rarely talk to people they don’t know, keeping to their own little circles. It’s hard to meet new people, unless you are introduced. Thank god there are meetups. (And no, this post is not sponsored by meetup.com!)

The sticker shock

Pretty much everything is expensive here, and prices keep rising by the month. Every time I come back from a trip, the price of several of my favourite food items has gone up. House prices are moving into the stratosphere, taxis cost $15 to travel a couple of kilometres, and a single fare on the TTC is $3. There is a 13% tax on pretty much everything (except groceries) and you’re expected to tip 15% in restaurants, where the price for a glass of wine is as much as a whole bottle at the liquor store ($10-14). Ordering a single dish and a drink in a restaurant will set you back at least $30, including tip and tax.

The long winters

The thing I hate the most about this city (and the country in general) is the cold. Temperatures are near or below freezing for five months of the year, with another couple of months of rainy not so great weather. This leaves barely four or five months a year when I actually enjoy being here. Granted, it doesn’t snow as much as in other Canadian cities, but when it does, it quickly turns into a slushy mess. Winters are grey, cold, and miserable.

Depressing winter view from my window

Depressing winter view from my window – How many days like this can you take?

And so I keep travelling for longer and longer each year, but I always end up back in Toronto. Here I know I can get a good cappuccino, served by someone who knows my name, five minutes from a Thai restaurant and a sushi place, on my way to an art exhibit or a Christmas Market. And when I get fed up, there is always the airport!

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