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Monday 1 Jan 2007
Toronto, Canada

Happy New Year 2007!

Before I start.. Happy New Year to everyone: folks, friends, geeks... you know who y'are!

I'm starting this blog a few days after I arrived in Toronto, but the past few days have been festive to the extreme: house parties, a birthday and obviously New Years! I'll do my best to recollect the best parts but, considering the number of brain cells I've destroyed over the past few days I'll no doubt forget plenty too!

Right well before I begin, I have to detail one of the weirdest encounters I've ever had on ANY of my trips abroad...

Myself and a few Canadian buds were out in Toronto last night for New Years and we happened upon a random nightclub downtown.

I go up to the bar and order a drink, then this drunk Irish lad, Paddy, starts a conversation with me:

Paddy - "Where you from in Ireland?"
Me - "Dublin, you?"
Paddy - "Clonee"
Me - "Ah yeah? I used to live in Clonee about 20 years ago, but we sold
the house... the house was called the Long Acre"
Paddy - stunned silence
Me - "Yeah do you know it? Probably not, it's a small place.. in the
middle of nowhere"
Paddy - "That's where I LIVE!"

Turns out his Dad bought the house from us about 20 years ago and they've lived in it ever since.

Totally messed up small world of ours.

Reminds me of the time when I bumped into my cousin out of the blue in a 7-Eleven in Khao San rd, Bangkok too.

After the festivities last night, Paul and I went to a burger joint around 4.30 to get a late night feed. Pretty soon into our meal another Irish couple sit up next to us. A girl from Drumshanbo in Leitrim no less (Drumshanbo being where my Dad is from). Name was Mulvey I think.. weeeeeird night!

Riiight.. ok back to my trip here...

I'm spending a year in Canada exploring (and hopefully working with a Canadian company at some point). I'm in a relatively fortunate situation, though, whereby my boss back in Ireland wants me to continue working for him via laptop while I'm here, so in essence I don't need to worry about organising a job with a local company.

This is a mixed blessing. On one hand it means I can travel and setup base pretty much ANYWHERE in the country as long as I have an Internet connection. On the other hand it also means I will probably be working on my own in an apartment all day... so I'll need to find a happy medium between the two.
Unlike Australia, it's not quite as easy to find temporary acommodation in Canada. In most cases you will need to lease a place for one year minimum. Short term leases tend to only be available in shared acommodation situations (something that I would prefer to steer clear of since I would be working from home all day at differing hours and so I would need a relatively quiet place to operate in).

In all likelihood I will probably end up choosing one of the big cities, Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal to live in and move there for about 6 months - travelling around the surrounding areas.

Right so, here are my "second" impressions of Toronto (I was here briefly a few years back on the RTW trip)...
Unlike the last time I was here (when I was on a majorly tight budget) I've found Toronto is actually a very classy and enjoyable city indeed (as long as you have cash that is!). The people here, in general, are undeniably polite and courteous, despite the size of the city. There is an air of formality and as Paul (my Canadian friend with whom I'm staying for now) says, a certain feeling of refinement. This is no doubt reinforced by every Canadian's desire to be regarded completely separately from the US, so they go out of their way to 'improve' on the US' perceived flaws (i.e. loud speaking, obnoxious, rude, selfish, etc). Obviously this is a generalisation and there are people in the US that are not categorised in the above!!

One thing definately stands out about the Toronto though: it's familiarity!

Walking through Toronto, you could easily believe you were in London or Paris or Melbourne. In fact I think that Toronto most resembles Melbourne (just a hell of a lot colder).

In a sense this is quite comforting and it's easy to feel settled here within a day or so. Everything here works just as you would expect.

A major difference to most of the above (maybe not Melbourne) is that the streets are almost completely litter free! People here just tend to have respect for their city.

Obviously there are some major differences to places like Dublin though... the cold for one: at the moment the weather is apparently mild for the time of year (at 1 C), but it's not as bad as it sounds. It's actually quite a 'refreshing cold' that doesn't necesarily get under your skin. Yesterday, New Years eve, was a bit of an exception: it rained. Couple that with the freezing temperature and it wasn't pleasant at all.

Cost of living here? It's obviously cheaper than Dublin, but really it's not THAT cheap. One of the annoying carry-overs from the US is that taxes are NEVER quoted in the price. Therefore when you might think you are getting a bargain, and approach the counter with the exact change ready, they add another 16% on top of the price for taxes!

Cash seems to hemorrhage from your wallet with relative ease here. Eating out is quite expensive, as is the entrance fee to nightclubs etc (which usually require that you pre-purchase tickets to enter). It's really not a place for backpackers (as I found out only too well the last time I was here), but professionals on a decent wage.

Anyhoo, enough analysing... I gotta say, overall, it's a great town. Great people. Great chicks! Plus Creemore beer is absolutely delicious Cheesy

The next few days are going to be dominated by me trying to sort out acommodation. Paul's got a great group of mates here in TO, plus I've met plenty more already, so I'd be sad to leave TO so soon and might opt to get an apt locally. Then again Whistler etc with its snowboarding is calling me and I might decide to head to Vancouver.

All the while I need to be available to work full time for the guys back home, so it's going to be a challenge.

Bring it baby Cool

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Canadiana!

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