Travel: Insider's guide to... Toronto

What's the weather like now?

Toronto is temperate by Canadian standards. At the moment, although it can change with little warning, it's still summer here. The leaves are turning magnificent shades of russet and gold but, at least until the end of September, it's likely to remain shorts-and-T-shirt weather with the odd bit of rain.

What are the locals complaining about?

Traffic jams. It's cheap to make films here, so Hollywood heads this way and production companies often cause gridlocks. Residents are unimpressed.

Who's the talk of the town?

The city has been buzzing over the Toronto Film Festival. Hero of the hour is Atom Egoyan, the Canadian director whose movie Felicia's Journey was shown at a gala opening.

What's the cool drink to order this year?

Molson, Labatts - anything home-produced is passe. Order a margarita or simple glass of white wine instead.

What are people eating?

This being a city of WASPs (white Anglo Saxon Protestants) and immigrants, almost every sort of ethnic dish is available. "Fusion food" - a blend of Asian and almost any other cuisine - is all the rage.

What's the latest outrageous stuff on TV?

There's a choice of at least 67 channels: flick through them to find the cult favourite, a cable- network show called Oz (also shown on British terrestrial TV). It's a prison soap opera with no holds barred: love intrigue, murder, sodomy - you name it, they've got it.

Where would the locals not dream of going?

It's definitely not the done thing to go to Wayne Gretsky's restaurant near the Skydome - the city's baseball pitch and a major landmark. Gretsky is a mega-champion ice- hockey star who recently retired. Locals consider his Planet Hollywood-type venture tacky.

Where are the locals going that tourists don't know about yet?

The "hot" area is Queen East (to talk like the Torontonians, drop the "Street" in place names). This up-and-coming part of town has retro-style antique stores and "really cool" eateries.

Where are the chic doing their shopping?

By comparison to the UK, anything is a bargain. Armani and the like are downtown on Bloor, west of Bay; Yorkville, off Bay and Bloor, is full of boutiques where those with money and mobile phones like to be seen; Queen West has street cred and on Saturday is packed.

What's the trendy place to escape to for the weekend?

In summer, many Torontonians make the two-hour trek to weekend "cottage" country, at Georgian Bay on Lake Ontario (a cottage being anything from a log cabin to a mansion). The area was made famous by the Group of Seven landscape artists. In winter they bunker down at home - or in a bar.

Harriet O'Brien is a British journalist currently working for the `National Post' in Toronto.

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