Louis Claydon, 23 from Leicestershire, shares his amazing journey on our Work Canada programme.
I sit perched on a make shift desk at my family home in Leicestershire, England. Staring out to an overcast sky whilst wearing multiple layers to stay warm. The make shift desk, supporting my laptop, is the first step to writing this re-cap of my time away as I had sold most of my furniture prior to departing to Toronto, Canada, on the trip of a lifetime.
…and I am boarding an Air India flight lasting approximately seven hours and arriving in Toronto at 6pm sharp. Having passed several security checks and having sobbed like a five year old at to the sight of my family walking away for twelve months I put the iPod on to the sound of the wombats in a vague attempt to cheer myself up. That doesn’t work and I cry some more.
“This is your captain speaking, you have arrived in Toronto, enjoy your stay”. Wow. Suddenly I have gone from feeling like a five year old to a four year old as the sudden realisation of what I am actually doing hits me like a ton of bricks. Seriously, what am I doing? And more to the point where is my mum?
….and the four year old grew up! I find myself with a French girlfriend sharing a huge apartment living on Queen street just minutes from some of the coolest shops and bars in the city using the phrase “life got crazy” on a regular basis as my world has been transformed from a small countryside town to a capital city, bursting with life and energy. I have an amazing job at American Apparel surrounded my model-like women all day long and enjoying my 50% discount on the freshest of clothing. I must add that this is the dream job as I had been used to frequenting the store on occasion when I was in a big city. I really was your typical young fresh-faced student before boarding that Air India flight. To which I must again add, was one of the worse experiences of my lifetime however I mustn’t mention that right now.
I am in Toronto and loving life, I’ve just experienced my first North American Halloween, walking the T.O streets dressed as an 80’s Italian pop star in the company of my crazy French women whose wearing a lot of gold and sporting a big afro. One of the most humorous moments of the occasion must have been riding the famous Toronto street car looking out of the window to the sight of a mercilessly intoxicated Superman who’s swaying from one side of the street to the other. I never thought I would see the day. A drunk superman. What would Lois think?
Two days until Christmas and I am reclining on the bed of a fabulous Montreal hotel in an executive suite, sipping scotch and watching Home Alone. Is this really happening? I believe so; but its not far from a dream.
….and I am in Montreal, one of the most charismatic and charming cities I have ever visited. It certainly helps that my girlfriend is French and so we are able to converse with shopkeepers and restaurant owners appropriately. Oh and its snowing. Wow. Dream? Apparently not.
Well I had heard many stories of Montreal and what a wonderful place it is to which I must agree. The old town is quite beautiful with its paved streets and photo worthy architecture. The men and women are dressed to the T and most look like they are en-route to a 1920s fashion shoot. We decide to make Christmas Eve our main celebration day and will be when we splash out a bit (although American Apparel is rather cool, I must note its not the best for paying the bills.)
Anyhow we ask the locals where we should visit and find ourselves in a restaurant with its own smoking chamber downstairs where we enjoy salmon followed by smoked duck. After finishing we attend the Christmas celebration at the famous Notre Damne cathedral. How perfect it was. Apart from the fact the ceremony was in French. Note to self: New Year's resolution, must learn to speak French.
…and it’s a bit sad because the days of my Toronto romance with my French girlfriend have came to an end as she has to return to her studies. However springtime is that of optimism and you never know what is around the corner. I move in to the most amazing holiday style apartment in the heart of the annex, a glorious part of Toronto. The place is full of local shops serving some of Ontario's finest foods and I soon find myself a local coffee shop which I can't help but visit on a daily basis. The area is very chilled and is perfect for this time of year. I can't help but feel like I am actually on holiday. I never could have pictured myself in a complex style building but I rather like it. The 70’s style décor in the entrance takes a bit of getting used to but this is in adventure after all so I accustom myself to it. I spend my mornings sipping tea on a balcony reading and writing and my nights with friends in the local bars and cafes. Sometimes I cant help but feel an overwhelming sense of happiness.
…and its summer in Toronto. This is a crazy city! Its 35 degrees with 80% humidity and I’m sweating. Lots! I live in this crazy holiday complex surrounded by the young hipsters of Bloor street. I treat myself to an 80’s style Japanese road bike and spend my days blazing around the city with friends, meeting the most amazing people exploring little Italy, China Town, little Portugal, downtown, uptown, greek town. The fun never stops. For 3 months I spend my days and nights with great friends living life to the fullest. My friend moves in to an apartment just minutes away and we create a bond of around 10 persons. Every night we congregate in the garden (far too hot for any indoor meetings) and talk of adventures and plans for the future. There’s music, wine and lots of laughing. So much fun. Its so hot that we become night owls and don’t sleep till 6am. We know we are young and this is a special time in all of our lives and we are certainly living it to its fullest. We can do whatever we want, and we do. I make friends that I will have for life. I barbeque more meat than I would ever desire again and I build myself some biker legs.
…and I finally cool down. What a summer! So many memories. One of my favourite has to be our 20 man strong swimming trip at 4 in the morning. What would your mother think?
I move downtown to King West, a very cool and trendy part of the city. I spend my days visiting art galleries around the city to which I must say there are plenty of. It was always a sector of the city that I wanted to learn more about and I am lucky enough to live with well known name in Toronto's artist community, Tibi. You can see some of his here: www.tibitibi.com.
It does feel good to cool down a bit and start to enjoy fall in Toronto. Everyone seems to be wearing a few more layers and the citys enlaced with rich colour and tone. I can tell that my adventure is coming to an end for now and so I make sure I enjoy my days to their fullest. I start to think back at all those memories and cant help but smile. “I love this city.”
The flights booked and I start to make plans to go home. As an extra special treat my friends buy me a week's pass to the exhibitions and attractions around Toronto and I don’t leave any of them behind. I visit the royal art museums, the art gallery of Ontario, the CN tower, the steam whistle factory (local beer brewing, I had to have a nap after), Casa Loma, The Zoo, The islands. I said it then and I can confirm it now – this was the best week of my life. I couldn’t stop smiling and it was the most incredible way to end this trip of a lifetime.
The Last Night
And to finish this time away all of my new found friends cooked me a huge roast with everyone contributing a little something to the meal. There was lots of laughing and reminiscing of my amazing time in Toronto, Canada. I slept well that night in the knowledge that I had lived this year to the fullest. What an amazing experience. I got off the Air India flight feeling like a scared child and got back on it a year later feeling like I had accomplished something big and something magical.
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