A flying visit to this vibrant city on the Canadian Lakes!
by RLB2 on November 12, 2011
This area of Toronto has only been around for just under a decade. Prior to that it was a group of derelict Victorian buildings that had been pronounced a national historic site. It has been transformed and since 2003 has been a collection of eateries, bars and shops that keep the history alive while creating a modern space for people to enjoy. The site was home to Gooderham and Worts Distillery, which at one time was the largest distillery in the British Empire.We arrived late on in the afternoon looking for somewhere the eat, but were soon waylaid by the wonderful shops, many of which contain unique one of a kind items. Unfortunately they also tended to have unique one of kind type price tags that were so far outside of our budget we didn't even spend a penny, A real shame given how lovely everything was. The setting itself is worth a visit alone as the buildings are amazingly well kept and lots of fun to wander around. Here and there are remnants of the old distillery's equipment, held in glass cases or even right out in the open to touch.In terms of eateries there are plenty to choose from, all the way from cafes serving hot coffee and delicious cakes, to chocolatiers and posh restaurants. Unfortunately most of the cafes were closing for the day and we were left with just restaurants to choose from, most of the ones we found were far too pricey for our liking. We were starting to get the picture that this is a very trendy place to be, and as all trendy places tend to be it has trendy prices.All in all I would recommend visiting the distillery district around lunch-time and go and have a coffee and a nice bit of cake in one of the many cafes, then while away some time browsing in the shops, listening to buskers and checking out the quirky pieces of art dotted all over!
I would reckon that lots of people from the U.K. don't know that Toronto was orginally called York. I found this particularly interesting because I live near the actual York in the U.K. and so was quite keen to learn something of the history of the region. Basically modern Toronto began it's life as a garrison on the site of the current Fort York built in 1793 by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. He built the garrison because he was fearful of war with the United States. The fort was originally on the shoreline of Lake Ontario, although now it is quite a way inland because of siltation and land reclamation. The fort was going to be a major naval base to control Lake Ontario and was indeed required for several battles with the US.We visited on a day when many of Toronto's attractions were free to enter and so didn't have to pay anything to get in. There were lots of people in historical dress doing tours of various parts of the fort, everything from the type of guns they used to the roles of women. We listened to a few of the speakers as they were setting off from the main base, but decided to wander round ourselves. There are several huts/buildings that have been set up as barracks and officers quarters with replica and actual furniture to give you a real idea of what life was like in the garrison.We particularly liked the officer's quarters where dressed up ladies were cooking some recipes from an actual cookbook of the time. What made me laugh most was the amazement of some of the other visitors at the fact people could cook elaborate dinners over an open fire. There are plenty of things to see and do in Fort York, you can learn about the various battles and the regiments that were based here. You can spend a whole afternoon looking at the different canons, guns and ammunition that were used. You do all this with a backdrop of modern day Toronto, with it's skyscrapers and the CN tower, something that is quite magical to do!
If like me you have followed ice hockey for most of your adult life, but don't live in Canada, then visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame is pretty much a must when you're in Toronto. You can find it on Yonge Street (the longest street in the world) near Union Station. Before entering I was warned that the building that it is housed in is one of the most haunted buildings in Toronto (if you believe in that sort of thing).Not only is the building a Hall of Fame for the greats of Ice Hockey but it is also a museum. I would also recommend having a meal at Gretsky's either before or after your visit because there are some nice pieces of memorabilia in there too. I didn't think it was too expensive to visit this great place, only CAD$17.50 for an adult entry. There is an unrivalled amount of information about hockey in here, including displays of the equipment used by the 'old-timers' and a full-sized trophy room that houses a Stanley Cup. Along with the multitude of statistics, facts and memorabilia this is really a fantastic place for any hockey fan.Unlike other museums there is plenty to do if you have kids, with a whole level dedicated to interactive games. You can try your hand at being a goal-tender and try and field shots from Gretsky or Messier or you can have a go at hardest shot or even try your hand against some hockey related trivia. This place was such a good laugh for me, I'm so pleased I got the opportunity to go and to round it all off being in the gift shop was like being a kid in a candy store. Living in the U.K. it can be quite difficult to get some of the books and shirts that I have wanted to collect, suffice to say that my suitcase was little heavier and my wallet a little lighter after leaving the gift shop!!
The CN Tower is one part of the Toronto skyline that you really can't miss. When we were there it was the third tallest tower in the world, yet when it was built in 1976 it was the world's tallest tower, a record that it held for 34 years. In addition to this in 1995 it was declared one of the modern seven wonders of the world.We thought that a trip to the top would be most spectacular at nightime (also it meant we could cram in loads of other things on our short time in Toronto). Even an hour before it closed for the day, the line to buy tickets was really quite long, we thought we might not even get up to the top. There are loads of different types of tickets to choose from, with the most expensive being CAD$35.99 which includes everything you can do (Look Out, Glass Floor, Skypod, Movie and the Motion Theatre Ride). To be honest most of that felt like a con, so we just paid to go up to the Look Out and see the Glass floor, which cost CAD$23.99. You get taken up in a speedy lift with a guide who gives you a quick bit of information. Then we were on the observation deck, which is very impresive and the twinkling lights of Toronto shone out. I think perhaps our idea of going up at night might not have been such a good idea. Although during the day the mist was so bad that we wouldn't have seen anything. We would certainly have had much better photos during the day, but no matter it was still an experience in itself. The glass floor was a bit scary, especially if you have a fear of heights, but well worth the experience.All in all though I would say that perhaps the tower is a bit more exciting to look at from the ground with all it's twinkling lights that were on when we were there, than from the top. I don't know perhaps it's because we felt it was a 'must-see' in Toronto and had to go up to the top, but I left feeling a little disappointed by the whole thing. Oh well at least I can say I have been up the 3rd tallest tower in the world!
We arrived in Toronto having spent 4 nights on the trans-Canadian railway from Vancouver. Understandably we were keen to find a hotel that would have all the mod-cons and we could rely on to be comfortable. Having stayed in Novotels elsewhere we were confident that this would meet our requirements. We were not disappointed, being walking distance from the train station we were soon checking in with the super polite and efficient staff on the front desk. A short hop across the lobby and we were in the elevators taking us to our 4th floor twin room.The room itself was down a corridor away from the elevators, the corridor was quiet for the entire time we were there. The room was really very spacious, with two queen sized beds, both very comfortable, and still plenty of room. There were tea and coffee making facilities, a hairdryer, tv with cable and free WiFi. The bathroom was also very modern and clean with a full sized bath tub as well as a shower. Basically all the stuff you would expect in a hotel room. The main thing that we liked about the room was the peace and quiet especially after being on a noisy train for so many nights.The hotel is very centrally located so we managed to walk right into the centre of downtown and explore everything that we needed to. On return to the hotel we managed to squeeze in time for a swim in the big square pool in the hotel. Then after a lovely dinner out we walked back to the hotel and felt safe the entire time, which is great when you are two women in a city on your own.The breakfast in the morning was pretty amazing, with all sorts of different breads and pastries, freshly ground coffee, juice, fruit salad, yoghurt, pancakes, eggs, bacon, the works. Exactly what you need to set you up for the day. Overall a really nice hotel, with everything you could ask for as well as peace and quiet. I suppose the only thing to remember about a chain hotel is that compared to some exciting b&bs and guest houses they can seem a little souless and lacking in character. However, that's hardly something to complain about when you have a busy schedule sightseeing around one of the great cities in Canada!
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