Toronto: A Walk to Explore
The summer was hanging on this early September. The morning was cool enough to wear a light jacket but one could get away with shorts because the day would eventually heat up.
I had visited Toronto several times but never ventured into the magnificent Royal York Hotel. It is here I stepped off the bus coming from my hometown for a day’s outing. To stay at this hotel can set you back some CDN$200.00 but it costs nothing to take a peak at the 1929 décor of its elegant lobby. The hotel is linked to the Union Railway Station, opened in 1930. Behind Union Station, take the escalator then walk through the set of gray doors that lead underground to find yourself at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Maple Leafs hockey and Raptors basketball. If you don’t have time or the inclination to watch a game, a tour costs CDN$9.50.
I got a bit lost in Union Station, but I didn’t care. Eventually I found myself exiting onto Font Street. Opposite Union station, is BCE Place with its all-metal interior to support the weight of the huge glass atrium. Attached is the former Bank of Montreal, 1886, a gray stone rococo structure. This building houses the Hockey Hall of Fame. Even if you’re not a hockey buff, it’s still a great place to see artifacts on display such as goalie masks, skates and stick collections. Visit the replica of the Montreal Canadiens’ locker room. And now on display is the “lucky loonie” buried in the ice at Salt Lake City for our Canadian women and men gold Olympic winners. Tour costs CDN$12.00
Down Front Street are many of Toronto’s oldest and well-preserved structures, including the Flatiron (Gooderham) Building which started life in the 1890s as a distillery. A few minutes walk further and you can delight your sight and smell of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats at the St. Lawrence Market. You can even grab something to eat and drink. The smells made my stomach growl. Even though I could have grabbed a bite to eat here, I had already decided to try one of the many outdoor restaurants.
Flatiron and Firkin was my relaxation and people watch point while I munched on a plate of fries. I had fruit in my backpack to keep me going during the day since I anticipated my Italian dinner later that evening.
St. James Cathedral (1850-74) boasts the tallest steeple in Canada. Next to the cathedral, I took a few moments to sit on a bench and admire the beautiful flowers and greenery on this late summer day.
Still on King St., known as the entertainment street, I walked toward Royal Alexandria Theatre (built 1906-07) a contrast to Roy Thomson Hall across the street, with its space age looking exterior. A few doors down is the Princess of Wales Theatre. Opened in 1993 by Diana herself, sadly four years later this was a place of tribute for her.
I sat in the pew, in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (built 1876) cooling off. The silence was a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Toronto’s streets.
I had walked and soaked in a lot of Toronto but didn’t put a dent. With throbbing feet, I rested at one of the restaurant cafes on King St. before meeting my niece and her boyfriend.
The 1815 feet CN Tower
The Italian dinner wasn’t a disappointment at Leoni’s, located on Blue Jay Way across from the Wayne Gretzky Restaurant. I was short a day before the Toronto Film Festival. Leoni is plastered with pictures on the wall of famous people who dined in this fine establishment.
The next day, after saying good-bye to my niece, I headed down John St. My neck stretched up toward the 1815 feet CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the world. It was a few years ago; I went up to the tower. On the Glass Floor Level, you can walk along the transparent floor looking down 1,100 feet toward the concrete.
Next to the tower is the Skydome, the first to have a retractable roof. It is the home of the back-to-back World Series winner Toronto Blue Jays. Other events are held here besides baseball. And if you don’t want to waste time getting here, all 70 rooms of the Renaissance Hotel face the field (though it’ll set you back CND$189.00 and up). Tour of the Dome costs CDN$12.50 and includes a 15-minute video about the construction then a 45-minute tour includes the Blue Jays Memorabilia Suite, a private Skybox, the dressing room and, if time permits, a stroll onto the field.
I walked down Front St. until I reached York St. From here it’s about a 15-minute walk or so, depending on how fast you walk, to the Harbourfront. This is popular on the weekends. I, however, was there just before the start of the weekend for a walk enjoying the lakeshore beach on this hot day.
Old City Hall, from the fountain pool at Nathan Phillips Square
I then made my way toward downtown until I reached city hall. I wished my city did this. Toronto preserved the Old City Hall (built 1855, opened 1899) and it now houses criminal courts. Guards at the doors will check all bags and you’ll have to walk through the metal detector. Across the street is the New City Hall, known as Nathan Phillips Square (built 1958-65). I sat on the bench and people watched, enjoying the sound of the fountain pool (which in winter turns into an ice rink).
Toronto. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes to help you enjoy and relish this city’s atmosphere. The public transportation (bus, streetcar and subway) is excellent should you run out of steam.