Toronto

[Matilda]

In the weeks leading up to our flight we were closely monitoring temperatures in Toronto, just so we’d have a rough idea of whether we’d freeze to death upon leaving the airport or not. After being warned about the -16 C weather, we anxiously left the airport, half expecting to die on the spot. Thankfully, we both had proper winter clothing on which meant the cold was absolutely fine. It’s easy to build these things up in your head but all you need to manage it is a few good layers.

We got a taxi to our Airbnb in Roncesvalles, which is a wonderful village west of downtown Toronto. Our home for the next 5 days was a garage turned guest house and we were pleasantly surprised by how warm it was. This garage was better insulated than any of the London flats we lived in. Take note, England! Our host was incredibly nice, allowing us to use the bathroom in the main house anytime, and giving us great advice on where to go for meals in the local area.

The next day we decided to explore Toronto by foot. According to Google Maps, it would take us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get downtown. We accepted this challenge. After all, we are quite used to the Londoner way of walking places. Of course, things are generally within more of a walking distance in London, but I’ve always found that you get to know a city better as a pedestrian rather than riding the subway all day. So we started off by heading south towards Lake Ontario. We stopped by Tim Hortons for breakfast, which we had heard was kind of like the Costa of Canada. It was cheap and good for money-saving, but later in the week we did discover that you quickly tire of the drinks (you get what you pay for essentially).

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We were accompanied by a light snowfall as we walked along the shore. Every now and then, we’d stop to take in the view and try to realise that we were actually on the North American continent. I still don’t think we’ve fully grasped it! It was a beautiful and quiet walk which eventually lead us to the city core. A few observations were made during this time:

  • Toronto is very easy to navigate. Because of how young the country is (Canada only turned 150 last year!) it seems there has been more planning involved in how cities are built, in comparison to our old European towns. The streets are straight so we just set out in the general direction of our destination and found that we ended up right where we wanted to.

  • THERE ARE NO PEOPLE ANYWHERE. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration. But coming from a cramped London and being used to the struggles of just walking down a high street, this was amazing. The streets are wide and so are the sidewalks, but even if they weren’t you’d still be able to easily make your way down any street. Of course, someone who spent their whole life in Toronto might disagree. It’s all about perspective after all. But this was a pleasant surprise for us – even downtown you’d never feel cramped unless you got near one of the main tourist attractions. (On our last day we also realized they had these underground shopping walkways called ’PATH’. This could also be why we didn’t see many people in the streets…)

  • The city is divided into districts and they very much follow the description. We were looking for some shopping, as I stupidly lost my brand new and very warm beanie before we even left Copenhagen (Christmas present – super sad). We soon realized that you can’t just walk around hoping to run into relevant retail. Sure, there are some individual stores here and there, but if you are in the Financial District you’re gonna see banks. If you’re in the Entertainment District, you’ll find a bunch of arenas. We eventually found the Eaton Centre which is massive  and located just above the Entertainment District.

So while we were walking around looking for a new beanie, we ended up passing the Rogers Centre which is the home of the Toronto Blue Jays. That day it was however very clear that baseball was not on the agenda. Having worked in the ticketing industry for some time, we soon realised that all the kids and parents walking by could only mean one thing… Disney On Ice! Without going into too much detail, we have both been slightly traumatized from selling tickets for this event in the UK, so we ran past the venue and didn’t look back! (We’re sure it’s a lovely event.)

As we then made our way up through the Financial District, Moa loudly exclaimed that she knew where she was because she ”recognised it from Suits”. I remain doubtful of this.

After walking back to Roncesvalles, we were very tired. I think it’s safe to say this was 50% jet lag and 50% exhaustion from walking literally all day. We had a late lunch at Chipotle on the way back and they’ve still not charged my card so YAY free food!

 

The next day we were up bright and early to make our way back into the city for a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. It was pretty crowded as we were there on a Saturday, and on New Year’s weekend at that. But it was a fun experience and very educational. Our favourite part was definitely the moving tunnel walkway where you had tropical fish, sharks and turtles swimming all around you.

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Halfway through, we purchased some drinks in the café and it’s very weird how they don’t add the sales tax on stuff until you get to the cashier. Note to whoever is responsible for this: PLEASE STOP. (This is a general thing in Canada by the way – on pretty much all purchases we’ve made so far.)

After the Aquarium, we made plans to go see a movie in the evening. And by this, I mean absolutely no later than 19:30 in the interest of staying awake. Damn you, jet lag! We got tickets for Downsizing at the Scotiabank Theatre and made our way to a pub called Belfast Love for dinner beforehand. We walked in just in time to catch the end of an ice hockey game between Sweden and Switzerland. Meant to be! And I barely stayed awake for the movie afterwards…

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For New Years we had planned to visit the CN Tower early in the afternoon as the weather was supposed to be cold but clear. We weren’t disappointed! The sun was out and we got a great view of the city and the lake. Moa loved the glass floor area, where you can see the ground hundreds of metres below… I wasn’t so thrilled. The survival instinct in me kicked in and I stayed clear of the death floor. Don’t worry though, it’s perfectly safe. Or so they say.

After our excursion into the sky, we walked past the Air Canada Centre and found a couple of familiar Swedish faces…

 

Some more walking ensued as we checked out Old Town before heading back to rest up before the big Eve. Believe me, when your body still thinks you are running 6 hours ahead, you need a rest before attempting to stay awake past midnight. We didn’t have any plans for the night, other than watching the fireworks display at Nathan Phillips Square. Around 20:00 we walked out onto Roncesvalles Avenue and found a gastro pub a few doors down that served a very tasty buffet at a decent price. A few hours later we got on the street car towards downtown for fireworks! I didn’t realise that public transport was now free for the night and paid $3.25 for no reason. Oh well.

We arrived just in time for the firework display with only a couple of minutes to spare. This was the most people we ever saw in one place in Toronto during our stay there. The fireworks were very cool and also signalled the end of Canada’s year long 150th anniversary celebrations.

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New Year’s Day was our last day and we decided to explore High Park which was just down the road from our Airbnb. It’s a really beautiful park AND they have a zoo! The animal displays are located along one of the roads in the park and it’s completely free to go past them. They had llamas, bison, highland cattle, yaks, sheep, reindeer and wallabies. Unfortunately we did not get to see any wallabies in the snow – that would have been cool! We did get to walk on the ice in Grenadier Pond for a bit, surrounded by people skating and playing ice hockey.

 

To round off our walk, we had lunch at the Grenadier Restaurant inside the park. The food there was great – especially their home fries. Try them if you get the chance! All in all, I absolutely loved Toronto and look forward to going back there soon.

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The Travel Day

[Moa]

Our journey to Canada started bright and early in my hometown Helsingborg at 8.30am with loading in our 2 bags and guitars into my dad’s car. Matilda had stayed the night so that we the could drive together to the airport in the morning. Our flight didn’t leave until 12.55 but we wanted to be at the airport in good time, just in case anything were to go wrong.Processed with VSCO with f2 presetAfter checking in our bags and mixing up the tags (oops) we headed into the departure area to find some food. If you haven’t been to Kastrup before you should know that it’s crazy expensive and the only cheap food you can find is hot dogs, and bland sandwiches. We settled for the latter and then headed to our gate to board our first flight of the day to Iceland where we had a connecting flight to our final destination; Toronto, Canada. Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThe Journey Plan:
Copenhagen → Reykjavik, Iceland (3 hrs 15 min)
Iceland → Toronto, Canada (6 hrs) 

The flight to Iceland was smooth – They had a big selection of movies and tv shows on the plane (Norwegian & SAS, please learn from Icelandair thank you) and we watched Everything, Everything which was amazing, and ended just in time for Iceland to appear outside the airplane windows. Talk about a breathtaking view!

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Landing in Iceland

Once we had landed in Reykjavik we had some more food (burger & pizza – we’re classy) and were also slightly mindf***ed by the Icelandic currency. The pizza cost 2000 Icelandic Kronor! We then headed to our gate to board the connecting flight to Toronto. On this plane we didn’t have seats together so Matilda headed to her window seat at the front (I’m not bitter) and I to my middle seat towards the back of the plane like the peasant I am.

Although the plane ride was 6 hours long, the time passed quite quickly. I spent it watching another movie (The Guest, meh) and chatting to my seat pal next to me, a lovely lady from Bellville outside of Toronto who was travelling back from Norway. She told me how she had almost missed the connecting flight because she had waited for her luggage and didn’t know she didn’t need to, and then had to sprint across the airport in 10 minutes to make it! I’m glad that wasn’t me…

The whole journey from Iceland to Canada the sky was the most amazing color as we were flying “with” the sunset, meaning the sun never went down. We flew over Newfoundland & Labrador, one of Canada’s more northern provinces, and got to see breathtaking views of the arctic scenery below.

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Somewhere above Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

We arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport at 18.00 local time.  and then it was time for the thing we had both worried about for so long – the border control and activating our Working Visas! We had both read stories online of how strict they could be and on top of that Matilda also watches a LOT of Border Control. Yeah we were VERY nervous. 

Getting Through Border Control
The process of getting a working visa in Canada is quite long and I won’t go over all the boring details, but to enter the country you need to have the following things;

  • Your passport (duh) 
  • Travel insurance for your full stay, in our case 1 year
  • Bank Statement showing that you have at least $2500 Canadian Dollars + money for a return flight
  • A printed copy of a letter they send you when your visa is accepted

On the plane we also had to fill in a declaration form to say what you are bringing into the country. Matilda advised me, based on her vast Border Control knowledge, that if I was unsure of something, I should always say yes. Since I was bringing one of those small Swiss Army Multi-Tool knives, I checked “yes” on bringing a weapon into the country which later on gave me some funny looks from the staff at the border…

Them, judging me: “YOU have a weapon?” 
Me: “err… I thought I did?”

We arrived at the desks where they were going to look through our documents and we were both incredibly nervous; for no reason at all. 5 minutes later after briefly reading through our acceptance letters, we were approved to work in Canada. The guy who I had didn’t even look at either my bank statement or my insurance papers!

Fun fact: It’s stated officially on our visas that we’re not allowed to work as strippers. Dammit. 

They then sent us straight to a Service Canada department where we were given our SIN numbers, which is the equivalent of NI numbers in the UK and personnummer in Sweden. We were then sent on our way to collect our luggage and suddenly before we knew it – We had officially arrived in Canada! 

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An Introduction

Welcome to our travel blog! 

If you’ve made your way to this page, you probably already know who we are. Our names are Matilda and Moa and we make up the Swedish country duo Fifth Floor. 3 and a half years ago we started our duo while we were both living in London, England, which has also been our home since September 2012 – up until now. That’s right, we felt we needed a change of scenery and decided to move across the pond to Canada! So we packed our bags and guitars, bought an airplane ticket and left on December 28th to start our new adventure. 

Our plans here are to travel, explore new places and perform our music anywhere we can. The purpose of this blog will be to document our adventure and share it with friends, family, fans and anyone else who wish to have a peek. We will of course also use this little site to share new music and videos that we will make along the way. 

So thank you for wanting to be part of this new chapter of our lives and feel free to check in as much as you want – we welcome any and all questions and will do our best to answer them in the best way we can 🙂

Let’s do this thing!

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/ Moa & Matilda