Travel Canada: my experience in Toronto and Montreal


I recently had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Canada. A country that attracts a lot of French-speaking people for its culture, and its breathtaking nature, but also for the language, because yes, Quebec is the French-speaking region of Canada. For my part, I first landed in Toronto, where I spent most of my trip, before heading to Montreal and then back to Toronto for the last few days.

August 31: Arrival in Toronto and discovery of the city

I arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport on the afternoon of August 31. I chose Air Transat for my round-trip flight and, contrary to what I'd heard, I was satisfied with the company's quality. I recommend it for all your trips to Canada, and the fares are very attractive if you book in advance. Nevertheless, I used the Ulysse comparator for my booking. This enabled me to benefit from quality customer service and to opt for travel insurance.

As for my suitcase, I opted for a small cabin suitcase.... for a 10-day trip (laughs). The bare minimum! And there's always a launderette on site in the worst-case scenario.


Underseat Luggage 46cm CARPATES


A shuttle bus takes you from the airport to Union Station (downtown station) for $12, and the journey takes 30 minutes. As I boarded the train, I finally began to feel the atmosphere of the place I'd landed in as I gazed out the window at the landscape: tall buildings, American-style residential neighborhoods, golf courses, and of course a flock of people speaking Shakespeare's language all around me!

Toronto's Union Station is quite beautiful, resembling its counterpart Grand Central in New York with a museum-like feel. I then took the subway to my hostel. I advise you to opt for a Presto Card, which you recharge yourself as needed. As soon as I got out of the subway, I found myself back in the city.

Toronto is a true North American city, with its wide, symmetrical avenues and skyscrapers, and an impressively diverse population. Indeed, one out of every two people here was born a foreigner, and diversity is an integral part of the city's policy, and of Canada in general.

My hostel, Hostel One, is located in the charming Kensington Market district, close to Downtown. It's an alternative district with lots of eclectic boutiques, where the hippie vibe blends with the charm of Victorian houses.

The manager shows me to my dormitory and shows me around. Honestly, although I booked my plane ticket in a reasonable time (4 months), I chose my hostel at the last minute, and when I saw the incredible view over downtown, I immediately opted for this accommodation. By the way, hotels and hostels are very expensive in Canada, so if you want to travel there, be resourceful!

As soon as I arrived, I had to explore the city and soak up the atmosphere. So I went straight away to meet some friends in a bar downtown. I liked the atmosphere in Canadian bars. I think there's a much warmer, friendlier feel, a bit like what you see in American movies.

Very often, there's a live show or concert, and a lot of interaction between the performers and the audience. I also like the fact that all bar terraces are separated from the sidewalk by a small fence! I've lost count of the number of times I've spent more time watching my bag on the terrace in Paris than enjoying the moment with my friends!

One last little thing: the famous tips! At first, I wondered how all this worked, but it's quite simple. When you check out, you take the payment terminal and select the amount you want to tip. The average tip is between 10 and 15%. Delighted with my first evening, I head back to my hostel, tired after the long flight and first visit to the city.

September 1: Scarborough Bluffs and Chester Hill Lookout


No time to sleep in as I join my friends for a drive around town. Speaking of cars, let's talk about them. They're twice the size of models you'd find in France! And there are plenty of top-of-the-range cars. I'd been thinking the same thing on my trips to Belgium and Germany.

Scarborough Bluffs is a very popular cliff to the east of the city. Up high, there's a long park (the cliffs are 14km long) where you can admire Lake Ontario and enjoy the view. If you venture down below, you can lie on the sand and enjoy the beach. Just a few kilometers from downtown, it's like being in the middle of nature. Like all Canadian cities, Toronto has a good balance between a bustling metropolis and a return to nature.

After this nice little visit and a few souvenir photos, my friends take me to Tim Hortons. A Canadian institution! It's Canada's Starbucks, although there are Starbucks in Canada too. While my first experience with Canadian food was a success, I was nonetheless sick to my stomach for almost 3 hours. As everyone knows, food is much more chemical and greasy in North America. Well, it took me about 3 days to adapt to the local food.


Then we hit the road again. Scarborough being a rather residential suburb, I found the typical "Desperate Housewives" style of the neighborhood with big detached houses, huge garages and the famous yellow school buses! No big deal for my Canadian friends, but a real eye-opener for me.

Our next destination was the Chester Hill Lookout in charming East York. It's an elevated viewpoint over downtown. From here, you can see the Toronto skyline and its ever-increasing number of skyscrapers, thanks to the city's development. I was lucky enough to be able to visit this spot thanks to my Canadian friends, as it's not well known to the general public. It's one of the city's hidden treasures!

September 2: Afternoon in the Toronto Islands


The next day, my friends suggest an outing to the Toronto Islands. A small inlet separates the mainland from these 15 small islands, which are places of relaxation and recreation for Torontonians who want to unwind after a busy week at work or just enjoy the summer. There's something for everyone: children's parks, English gardens...and nudist beaches, where my friends decided to take me.

Indeed, Canadians are quite open-minded, and apart from that little detail, it was a very pleasant afternoon of relaxation. Nevertheless, even if the setting was idyllic, we're still in Canada, and Lake Ontario is very, very cold... I was delighted to bring my bathing suit, so I didn't go for a swim.

The ferry is a little adventure in itself. Several dozen of us boarded the boat to travel back and forth between the Waterfront and the islands. Beware of the jolts on board! Especially if you want to immortalize the moment by taking photos. Indeed, the route offers a breathtaking view of the downtown skyline, as well as the whole of Toronto Bay.

September 3: Road trip to Montreal and Mont-Royal

We had to get a good night's sleep to be in shape for this weekend in Montreal. Departure at 9 a.m. for a 6-hour drive with breaks. I was lucky in that Monday, September 5 is a public holiday in Canada and the USA, so I was able to enjoy the festive, relaxed atmosphere that kept everyone going until Monday evening.

The road was very pleasant, and I laughed with my friends while discovering the roads of Ontario and Quebec with their breathtaking nature. Part of the route borders New York State. We stopped for lunch at a fast-food restaurant lost in Ontario, south of Ottawa. The atmosphere was radically different from Toronto.

Honestly, we thought we were in Texas or deep in Ohio. There was none of the diversity you find in Toronto, and an old woman even laughed behind me at my thick French accent.

Arriving in Montreal, we quickly dropped off our belongings before touring the city, as it was already late afternoon. Our first destination is Mount Royal! It's a mountain in the heart of Montreal. At 234 meters high, Mont-Royal is the city's highest point. From its summit, you can see downtown from Montreal's most emblematic vantage point.


Then it's on to the famous rue Sainte-Catherine, which is pedestrianized in summer. Montreal, unlike Toronto which has a more 24/7 style like a little New York, is a calm and very relaxed city. Although we were right downtown, the atmosphere was very relaxing, even though it was a Saturday evening and all the shops were packed! We had dinner in a restaurant on the terrace, although the rain forced us to cut our meal short.

A word about restaurants in Quebec, though. I found them more expensive, and the wait was longer than in Ontario. In my opinion, this is because Quebec has a crying shortage of manpower in the restaurant sector. But since in North America, the customer is king, you can always give a less generous tip if you're not satisfied with the service, which is what I did.

September 4: Old Montreal and Nightlife: Canada's Las Vegas


The next day, we continued our tour of Old Montreal. This district is unique in North America. With over 400 years of history, it's one of the oldest cities in Canada. As a result, you'll find European architecture, old buildings and cobblestone streets. Honestly, I almost thought I was in Paris!

What's more, I was amazed by the crowds that day. Many Ontarians, but also Americans, mainly from New York and the New England states. Indeed, many people took advantage of the long weekend to make a little getaway to Montreal!

After this visit, I was in the mood for a solo stroll. I headed for Milton Parc, a charming neighborhood in the heart of Montreal. Its tree-lined alleys are home to beautiful 19th-century grey stone mansions.

My next stop was the McGill campus. This is one of Canada's most renowned universities, and a visit to its campus is well worth the detour! I was able to discover the typical American campus atmosphere, and the buildings have majestic architecture. What's more, I came during the back-to-school period, so the campus was packed with students strolling the lawns!

Then it's off to Parc Jeanne Mance. It's at the foot of Mount Royal, so you can watch the huge hill while sitting on the grass. There were lots of youth groups and musicians. I felt this "joie de vivre" that you find in French-speaking Canada, whereas Toronto can seem a colder city and its inhabitants more hurried.

In the evening, I met up with my friends for a night out. Montreal has a reputation as a mini Las Vegas, and I wasn't disappointed! You'll find clubs all over downtown. People are very friendly and won't hesitate to party with you or integrate you into their group. 

September 5: Quebec gastronomy and return to Toronto

On my last day in Quebec, my friends took me out for my first poutine. The quintessential Quebec dish. It consists of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. The dish is traditionally served hot, and the cheese curds should be slightly melted. Honestly, it was a pleasant surprise! I liked it so much that I even found a good address in Paris for Poutine: Le Grand Canadian Pub in Saint Michel.

After a delicious meal, we headed back to Toronto for the next part of our adventure.

September 6: Casa Loma and Ontario Museum

To save money on the big attractions, I opted for a City Pass. For just under $100, you can visit 5 of Toronto's top attractions. I started with Casa Loma, an old bourgeois house with a real castle feel, located in the north of the city.


It's the only castle in North America, and the house was just magnificent. I nicknamed it "Beyoncé's Castle", because it's nothing like the castles you'd find in Europe, and the interior captures the opulence of the family who lived there.

In all, there are over 100 rooms, more than 30 bathrooms, secret passageways and an incredible view of Downtown and Lake Ontario.

Before retracing my steps, I took the time to stroll through the neighboring residential neighborhoods, and the houses were just magnificent.

Back downtown, I visited the Ontario Royal Museum, one of the largest museums in North America and the largest in Canada. The museum covers a great deal of European and Canadian history, as well as a gallery of South Asian sculptures and paintings.

September 7: CN Tower visit


The CN Tower is surely the city's most representative landmark. For an even crazier spectacle, I planned my visit around 8.30 pm to take advantage of the sunset. At a height of 553 meters, the view over the city and the region from the observatory is just incredible. However, it's best to do this visit with the City Pass, otherwise, you'll have to pay $40.

September 8: Niagara Falls: a grandiose spectacle


For my last full day, my friends took me to Niagara Falls. 

Located on the border between the United States and Canada, the falls are made up of three distinct waterfalls: the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and finally the Canadian Falls: the ones I was able to see up close since we were on the Canadian side, in the town of Niagara, Ontario.

From downtown Toronto, it's a 1.5-hour drive to the falls. The city of Niagara was exceptional, a mini Disney Land with a truly American atmosphere (casinos, theme stores, candy shops where you can find many American products like "fudge" made from butter, milk and sugar. Very, very fatty, but I recommend it!)


After visiting this city park, we head off to the falls observation point. It's an impressive sight. Having stayed until early evening, we were able to see the waterway illuminated in Mexican colors, in tribute to the country's independence. Afterward, we paid a visit to the casino: gigantic, worthy of American movies! Then back to Toronto for a final evening before my departure.


September 9: Back to France

For my last day, my friends took me to a Yemeni restaurant in the Mississauga suburb of Toronto. I'd never tasted it before, and I recommend it for the quality of the fish in the dishes. Then it was on to Toronto Pearson for my return to Paris. Fortunately, my Canadian adventure is just beginning, as I plan to return very soon after this wonderful trip!