Walking Tour of Toronto – Ontario, Canada

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6

BUDGET $99 per day

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I can hop on a bus and be in Toronto in about one and one half hours (depending on traffic). This day, early in June, is turning to be hot as I make my way for a walking tour. Unlike the documentary, “I hate Toronto”, I happen to love it!

Born in Larder Lake (northern Ontario), my first home was Toronto Sick Kids Hospital. I hadn't been back in 47 years! The grounds were covered with white tents. The media was present. It was Herbie’s Day (annual event days are named after a patient). Herbie’s hometown in the United States raised money for his medical bills. Even some staff volunteered hours. I chocked back the tears. Beside Sick Kids is Toronto General and across the street is Princess Margaret, both well-established hospitals with long histories.

Making my way toward Queens Park, I stopped at the Ontario Firefighters Memorial which opened June 2005. I paid tribute looking at the statue of a full uniformed firefighter carrying a baby.

Ontario Legislative Building
Ontario Legislative Building

The pink sandstone Ontario Legislative Building dates back from the 1890s. It wasn’t the first but the fourth for the province of Ontario. It may not appear as a wow of elegance, but it’s heavy and solid. There were plenty of trees to take a bit of refuge from the scorching sun.

Across the street on Queens Park Crescent is the impressive Whitney Block, opened in 1928, named after James Whitney, premier of Ontario from 1905-1914. Most of this structure is grey sandstone that I consider a nice change from the modern glass slapped together eye sore. The design is a series of wings so natural that light shines in every office. What a concept! I wonder if anybody will ever do that again rather than work under artificial lights all day. Ah, keep dreaming.

Continuing on Queen’s Park Crescent I turned into Avenue Road. heading towards Bloor Street West. I walked into the lobby of the Hyatt Park, took the elevator to the 18th floor. The welcoming hostess thought I was attending whatever function was happening. Shaking my head, I headed to the restaurant and stood outside the balcony for a stunning and hazy view of the city. After soaking in the scene, I walked back in and asked the hostess where I could get coffee. “Don’t say Starbucks or Timmy’s,” I told her.

“Try Mercury or mercurio something like that”, she jotted the directions in my notebook. “It’ll remind you of Paris.” The Expresso Mercurio Bar did make me think of Paris. At the bar, I ordered a toasted baguette and a cappucino. “This is like a fancy McDonald’s,” the waitress said as she offered to refill my water bottle. Sitting outside, I watched the people pass by

From there I headed back past the Hyatt and took a quick photo of the Church of Redeemers, an Anglican church founded in 1871. The impressive neo-classical Department of Household Science (1912) is where a woman named Clara Benson continued her research in food science. Now it houses Club Monaco and Ontario’s Ombudsman.

St Basil's R.C. Collegiate Church
St Basil's R.C. Collegiate Church

Finding my way, I strolled down Bay Street. It was longer than I expected. Maybe I needed to hop on a bus or streetcar, but then I would have never found St. Basil’s R.C. Collegiate Church (1856). I wanted to go in but time was ticking. Now I'm disappointed I didn't after seeing pictures of the inside on the internet.

At the Eaton’s Centre, I could no longer walk. I decided to take a short $2.75 subway ride to Union Station. Moving along the underground, I reached the Royal York (now Fairmount Royal York). Opened in 1929, it’s hard to believe the 25-storey building was once the tallest, now dwarfed by huge office skyscrapers. Across from the Fairmount is the main entrance to Union Station (opened in 1927), with its amazing neoclassical column. The interior main hall has coffered and tiled ceilings of a unique style.

After a quick bathroom stop, I exited on Front Street, turned left and made my way to BCE Place. I found the water fountain at the Younge Street exit at the Marche Restaurant (new name change Raintree). With some time to spare, I stepped outside on Younge Street and took some photos of old architecture, including the Irish Embassy Restaurant.

Old City Hall: Freedom Arches grace the pool
Old City Hall and its Freedom Arches

The beautiful red, brown and grey stonework of the Old City Hall (1899) is impressive with its clock tower. Across the road is New City Hall (1965). Nathan Phillips Square (Toronto’s mayor from 1955 to 1962) is a gathering place year round. The pool becomes a skating rink in the winter. The Freedom Arches are dedicated to those who gained and defended freedom and to those who suffered and died for the lack of it.

Towards the bus depot, I saw a yellow sign with the word "Discovery" and a finger pointing across the street. Here was Trinity Square and Church of the Holy Trinity (1847) with two turrets instead of towers similar to what's found on castles. The interior has no columns but large and colourful stained windows.

You can indulge in the bustle of city life or you can find a peaceful spot among the hidden nooks and crannies, maybe even discover a few of the many fine parks. Ah Toronto, so much to discover.

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