We had a great time in Toronto, and are only sorry we didn’t plan to stay here longer. Bad planning on our part. But this city is lovely!
First, the city is just pretty. The business center is full of modern buildings of glass and steel, some innovative, some normal boxy modern – but still, an interesting skyline. Especially since the CN Tower is here, one of those crazy modern space-age towers with the flashing lit up antenna on top, and probably a rotating something up there too.
Then the residential areas are full of old Edwardian and Victorian houses, many featuring brick façades with wood gingerbread trim, turrets and towers and gables and bay windows. Plus little architectural details, for extra ornamentation. Just because. Just beautiful! Plus wrought-iron fencing that not only is beautiful in its own right, but casts very interesting shadows in the mid-day sunlight.
And flowers, flowers, everywhere! Baskets of flowers hanging from streetlights! Gardens full of flowers in yards along the streets. Parks full of flowers, seemingly at every block. (We even saw a “parkette,” a little tiny park at the end of a block, with a dog run and space to just commune with nature.)
Streets are also lined with trees, so that the feeling is a very green city. Physically green, but environmentally green as well – there are “litter cans” rather than garbage cans on the street, right next to recycle cans for plastics, cans, and bottles.
And Toronto has STREET CARS!!!!! What fun!!!! For $3, you can ride on the cable car, which stops all along the route – and this includes a transfer so you can switch routes and get around the city. It’s a great way to see much of Toronto, and just so much more fun than a boring old bus or subway.
People have been helpful and friendly, and we’ve been having a good time. We got to our little budget hotel, The Amsterdam, (website www.amsterdamguesthouse.com ) a beautiful old guest house in the area of Toronto called Cabbagetown. (One wonders whether this was an old cabbage farm, or maybe a farmers market, or, well, maybe something from a Canadian fairy tale with fairies and elves hiding in the cabbage patch?)
NOTE: Just got a reply from my friend re Cabbagetown. Originally, this was a low-income area of the city, and the impoverished people ate a lot of cabbage, because it was inexpensive. Hence the name.
Anyway, Cabbagetown is sort of a funky area with its own mural, random stencils on the street (the manhole covers here are boring, but the occasional umbrella or something makes up for it). The area is full of gorgeous buildings housing residences, a few guesthouses, interesting shops and pubs and cafés and bakeries (or patisseries, because Canadian is bilingual and features great French pastries!). We’ve sampled several cuisines in our two days here, which was wonderful after all that train food.
Our first day, I headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario to meet a friend for a lovely lunch and chat, and a whirlwind tour of the artworks. I’ve found in our travels that art classes everywhere tend to focus on the established Masters, maybe some “cultural” art of Asia and Africa, and the art of that particular country – so while I know something about artists from the USA, I know nothing about artists from Canada. It was an enlightening visit, as well as fun hanging with my buddy and just talking and enjoying being together for an afternoon.
Today, Richard and I wandered around our neighbourhood, and then decided to explore further afield. But the weather changed from sunny and warm to grey with a chilly wind – so we hopped on one of the fun street cars and rode all the way to the end of the line and then back to our neighbourhood. It was interesting – we went through an Asian area, then an area featuring Indian cuisine and clothing, and then a third section of the city with Muslim bookstores and Middle Eastern cuisine. All very interesting.
Plus we were wondering how the street cars turn around at the end of the line. Turns out this line just makes a large loop around the subway station and then heads back along the route. No turnstile like the cable cars of San Francisco. No switch the cable and just head in the other direction, the way they do in New Orleans. Just a big continuous loop. Interesting.
Not much else to say – there’s so much of Toronto that we would have liked to see, but just didn’t have the time because this is sort of a whirlwind trip, a vacation from our traveling lifestyle. We realized Toronto is close to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, which is supposed to be the more spectacular side of the falls – so we’ll have to save that for the next visit. I only saw one floor of the art gallery, so that will be saved for the next visit. We didn’t wander around the downtown area, or visit any of the historic buildings, and we didn’t walk through any of the lovely parks. Again, all of that will be saved for our next visit, as well as some time along the shores of Lake Ontario. Bad planning on our part. And we’re sorry to be leaving Toronto much too soon. I think two or three weeks here would be optimal, so that we could explore and really get to know the city. It seems to be a wonderful city, and we’d have liked getting to know it better.
We leave tomorrow, for Quebec City. And will report again from there.