So far, Toronto has been good. I found some very cheap lodging at the University of Toronto. Apparently they operate their dorms as short or long-term hostels during the summer, and I was able to stay at $37 CAD a night. Compared to the conference hotel (a 4 star hotel), it's a great steal and has allowed me to rationalize the exorbitant price of dining in Toronto. Transit in Toronto is much more institutionalized than in Seattle, so the subways are often packed in the morning and streetcars go between the most important subway stations and offer free transfers to the subway. Though I have gotten lost a few times in the subway, it is much more convenient than being lost on a bus system or on foot.
I arrived here on Sunday via a non-stop Air Canada flight from Seattle. Transport from the Toronto Pearson airport is a simple connector bus and 15 subway stops, for a grand total of $3 CAD. The price of food has a great deal to do with its proximity to 4-star hotels; A half-dozen blocks from the conference hotel, I was able to get decent coffee for $1.50. Within the hotel, coffee is over $3 and a simple Heineken at the hotel bar will run you a sweet $8 CAD.
Downtown Toronto also has a sprawling network of underground shopping plazas and walkways. According to the marketing copy, it is the largest underground network in the world. Personally the city seems like Montreal, but much more British than French (opposite of Montreal). Montreal also has a substantial covered/underground tunnel system, but I never used the subway there. The French influence in Montreal is almost like the Chinese and Vietnamese influence present outside of the downtown core of Toronto. On Sunday I walked through Chinatown, and it is at least 30 blocks in size. It makes the International District in Seattle seem quaint and cozy by comparison.
Later I'll write about the actual research presentation program. Now, I will be off to lunch.