(Picture courtesy of and copyright by Yuxi Pan)
So the other day I went out to the islands in the Toronto bay area with some fellow exchange students. Never having been out there before, I was kind of amazed by the sheer amount of work that’s gone into the atmosphere and landscaping of the general area.
So, a few pieces of information about the islands: They’re located just offshore from the Toronto harbour, and feature approximately 570 acres of land area (230 hectares), of which some is private and corporate (meaning not open to the public). The place features several smaller restaurants, five larger beaches (one of which is labeled “clothing optional” on the map. I’ll let you figure out for yourself what that means), and many, many miles of walkways. All of the islands, to my knowledge, are reachable on foot once you arrive at any of the designated ferry points. A ferry can be boarded in the Toronto harbour, not far from Union station, for (at the time of writing) seven (7) Canadian dollars (equaling about €4,50).
The picture above depicts the Toronto cityscape as viewed from the deck of the ferry, close to one of the island docks.
The islands themselves are beautifully landscaped, with waterways, fountains, evenly kept grass and boardwalks along parts of the islands facing out to Lake Ontario. It’s important to remember that because of the size of the lake, Lake Ontario is somewhat chilly compared to smaller inland lakes, and while a dip in the blue can definitely be refreshing, if you’re planning on doing it, be aware of where and when you do so.
Me and the group I was with walked around a bit on the islands, enjoying the nature and the boardwalks especially. Tourist trap or not (and yes, they are), it’s definitely a good place to mix up walking/biking and spending some time in the sun at one of the beaches. There’s even a frisbee golf course, for those so inclined.
I want to point out that while I enjoyed the visit a lot, especially the view of Toronto from the island coast and the ferry, as a Swede the islands feel very artificial. Their beauty is undeniable, but it’s also incredibly neat. The lawns are kept, the trees are roughly the same size, the ponds are charming and have smooth, even edges. It may be a well-landscaped piece of land, but it IS just that: Landscaped. Visitors to Canada looking for a more “wild-natured” look may want to look elsewhere for their entertainment… though at seven dollars for a round trip on the ferry, it’s a worthwhile investment either way.
I haven’t been “touristing” a lot in Toronto as of yet, but I figured I’d keep you all appraised of what goes on outside of the studies at Ryerson as well as within the campus “walls”.
Oh, and I got to see Reese Witherspoon as we walked by the Toronto International Film Festival.
That was neat.
Okay, so just what’s going on here?
For those of you who do not know, I’m a student of the BIT-programme at Umeå University, who’ll be attending a 4-month exchange during the fall term of 2013 at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
As for what’s going on right now: I’ve been in Toronto for six days now, four of which have been like living in a sauna. The heat in and of itself isn’t bad; a mere 23-25 degrees celsius. The problem lies in the humidity; a humidity which I am told is always this bad in the region. Humidity for the first few days was around 85-90%, so this is definitely something to keep in mind if you’re going to visit Toronto during the summer months.
As for me, I’m just settling into my room. Living in Toronto is very expensive overall (a small room/bachelor’s apt. can be anywhere between $650-1100), and while there are cheaper places, there are also a lot of places you want to steer clear of. The trouble is that not all of them are concentrated in the same spot, or are in the outskirts of the city. On the contrary, there are select blocks near downtown which are considerably worse than what you might find just around the corner, and doing your research will pay off.
Right now I’m living in a room in a 140-year-old townhouse about 20 minutes walk from the Ryerson campus. I only just settled in today, after six nights at the Only Backpackers Inn, a great little hostel up on Danforth Avenue (comes warmly recommended).
Conveniently located smack-dab in the middle of downtown, Ryerson University is one of the several universities in the Toronto area, and it does have many (Brown, U of T, Centennial just to name a few). While the first few days around here (classes have yet to start) have been somewhat chaotic, the welcome I’ve received has been warm and genuine. The student commitment thus far has been lovely, and I look forward to participating in yet another exchange student activity on the morrow.
Want to learn more about life as an exchange student at Ryerson? Then you’re in luck, because there’s more to come in the days, weeks and months ahead, so stay tuned!