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Introducing Toronto

Polite yet edgy, urban yet green: Toronto is one of those places where you can get it all. A cultural leader, Toronto has a thriving art community and food scene. And while you could spend weeks pinballing between Toronto's urban virtues, it's a green city too. Parks and natural spaces fill in city gaps, and public transport is top notch.

Toronto is a city driven by the seasons. Dramatic shifts in weather elicit almost schizophrenic behavior from the locals. Washed-out by winter, reticent residents scuttle between doorways to stay out of the April wind – spring here is far from frivolous. Come back in July and it's a whole new ball game: patios overflow with laughing crowds, pubs heave and sway, people play in the parks and along the lakeshore till late. Humidity clogs the avenues and the streetlife hum approaches a roar. In October, Torontonians have a haunted look – reddening maples bring a tight-lipped, melancholy realization that winter isn't far away. Spanked across the face by bitter February, locals head underground into the PATH network of subterranean walkways. Snowy streets are no place to be – instead it's galleries, coffee shops and cozy pubs. And of course, winter is hockey season!

Toronto's many immigrants play along with this well-weathered performance, their relocated cultures transforming the city into a hyperactive human stew of ethnic, subcultural and historic districts. Far from ghettos, this patchwork of neighborhoods shapes the city's social agenda and fuels its progress. Overlaid by a typically laconic Canadian attitude, Toronto is as unpretentious and tolerant as it is complex.

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is a deep, loamy plain furrowed by leafy ravines – refuges for raccoons, eagles and more sweaty joggers than seems plausible. Tommy Thompson Park, an artificial wildlife oasis, juts abstractly into Lake Ontario, while the Toronto Islands rustle their leafy boughs at the city skyline.

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