To visit Toronto after a year spent locked down in lonely and small Gjøvik felt a little bit overwhelming. I had some doubts about how I will like such a big city and how will Canada cope with my admiration of Norway. I have to say, all these worries were quickly dismissed and 11 days in Toronto went by faster than I wished. But I have to admit, I might not be a totally objective here. 


After almost two years, Canada finally opened borders for non-essential travelers with covid vaccination. I just had to get a negative PCR test (only for the journey to Canada), buy an eTA visa, fill in the covid-related info in ArriveCAN for Canada and register form for transiting in Iceland; and to have the vaccination certificate. I didn't want to fly through Heathrow, so I chose Icelandair with stopover in Keflavik. Avoiding the crowds seemed like a good plan, it was faster (only 2 hour stopover) and an amazing northern light on the way back above Greenland was a nice bonus.  

Arrival to Iceland First look at Canada Helgøya island on Mjøsa 


My arrival to Toronto couldn't have been better planned. After chilly and rainy Gjøvik with around zero temperatures, sunny Toronto felt like summer in Norway and once again, I could enjoy walking without a jacket. Unfortunately, even 11 days weren't enough to explore Toronto fully (though we really took things a bit slowly). 

Anyway, a couple of recommended places are below. Basically, anything downtown does not disappoint (especially when viewed from the CN Tower perspective - dining experience was pretty amazing). Waterfront walk and High Park then kind of compensated for my nature cravings. 
Downtown High Park Railway museum
Old City Hall Waterfront relax Union Station
Nathan Phillips Square St. Andrew's Church Yonge-Dundas Square
Allan Gardens Toronto from CN Tower Trinity Lutheran Church


Being vegan in Toronto is not an issue at all. Vegan products can be bought in any store (including ready to eat meals) and almost every restaurant we visited offered some vegan dishes. There is also a lot of specifically vegan eateries including places with treats such as Japanese dumplings, ice cream or donuts. My two favorite places quickly became: Evviva and Fat Bastard Burrito. Evviva offers several vegan dishes - from "egg" omelets and other breakfasts to perfect Beyond burgers (on the picture grilled BBQ bacon cheeseburger). Fat Bastard Burrito then has a few vegan burritos options - crispy tofu, sweet potato, or plain veggie. 

Lentil potato cake in CN Tower Evviva's Omelette Korean glass noodles 

Impressions from Canada

After one year living in Norway, I had some concerns about how much I will like Canada. The first one was air quality, which I thought is unbeatable in Norway. But when I could finally pull down my mask, I didn't feel a difference. In fact, according to online weather reports, the air was even slightly cleaner than in Norway. The second concern was drinkable water. As expected, it wasn't exactly ice cold glacier water, but not a disaster. The last one was noise, but living in 35+ floor, noise is hardly a concern and all I could hear was a dim buzz of traffic and belling of passing trains. 

The biggest issue for me was therefore only safety - we have seen somebody on drugs daily. Either walking in the middle of a busy street, shouting in subway stations or just lost in hallucinations in a park. Being approached by homeless or poor people and asked for money or food was also something I haven't experienced for my entire stay in Norway and what felt a bit scary.  

Also, when comparing to Norway, Canada didn't feel so modern (for example manually opening doors everywhere, old subway trains), but on the other hand, this created an impression of a long history full of atmosphere. The last remarks are huge differences in living standards - one neighborhood can be very posh while another extremely poor; and not so clean streets, but again, nothing unexpected regarding the size of the city. 

On the other hand, most people we met were very friendly and keen to help despite the fast pace of the city. In a summary, my impressions from Canada were very positive and I was surprised, how difficult for me was to leave Toronto a get "acclimatized" to "empty" Gjøvik.