Toronto Stories and Tips

An early visit to Toronto circa 1998

Fountain at the foot of the CN Tower, Toronto Photo, Toronto, Ontario

In 1998, I was in Toronto for a course for work. I arrived on Halloween on a Saturday in the late afternoon. Since I was on expenses, I got a taxi to the hotel downtown, the Delta Chelsea, one of the hotels the course sponsors had on their list for special rates. It's near the subway so it will be easy to get up to North York for the classes next week.

It's a huge hotel, too. My room is on the ninth floor, a double room with a balcony overlooking the busy Yonge Street. I headed out straight away to walk down Yonge Street and poked about in the huge Eaton Centre shopping mall. At this time, the department store, Eaton's, was still open. Now it's gone and Sears has moved in to the floors that Eaton's occupied but they kept the name for the shopping centre. It's now a Toronto landmark.

After I'd browsed around there and in the Bay I was definitely hungry. The Hard Rock Cafe is nearby on Yonge and since I'd always wanted to go there, that's what I did. It was good fun, too, as all the staff were in costume! Elvira greeted me at the door and Carrie, complete with blood splatters, (from the horror movie) showed me to my table. My waitress was punk. At least, I think it was a costume! The most disconcerting sight was that of a young man in a hooded cloak over an Edvard Munsch (sp?) Scream mask serving food to tables nearby. The costume with the best "Yuck" factor was the bartender that had a real pumpkin on his head! I did see the handles of a plastic carry bag sticking out the back of his neck though, so I imagine his hair was protected!

I had big plans for Sunday. I was meeting an internet friend early and I had intentions of seeing Toronto from the sky, up the CN Tower. This we did on a clear blue November morning. It was quite an experience, especially getting up the courage to walk on the glass floor! Eek! Your head knows it will hold you but your body isn't quite so sure. After leaving there we drove around the city a bit, past some landmarks and nice old buildings in between the modern ones. We stopped in the Eglinton neighbourhood for a coffee and made another stop at Toronto's Castle Loma which was built by a turn of the 20th century industrialist. We didn't go in but we peeked through the windows and took photos.

From there it was off to a pub in North York near the Shepphard station, called the Frog and Firkin. Our numbers reached nearly two dozen by the peak, all of us friends from an online chat room for fans of Coronation Street. These are all people I had only chatted to online, never met face to face and we all got along great! Most of them had met before in the Toronto area at other Corrie get togethers though some had not.

I ended up taking the subway back to the hotel around 7 after a lovely afternoon. I picked up a few slices of pizza at the market style restaurant in the hotel for a late dinner. Monday night I met up with one of the ladies from the group the day before who worked in the posh Yorkville area of Toront near Bloor Street, also known as the Million Dollar Mile for all the designer shops there. We ate at a Swiss based restaurant called Moven pick and had a lovely chat. We Window shopped our way to the parking garage where she was parked and she drove me back to the hotel.

I headed back up to Yorkville on my own the next day after class for some more window shopping and a bit of Christmas shopping before dropping in to visit the Royal Ontario Museum. That's a very large museum in a historic old building. It's got a brand new annex as well now that wasn't there at the time. There's also a nearby ceramic and china collection in a separate building that I didn't have time to go to but which is also on my list for the future. They have great collections from various civilizations as well as lots of antiques and decor. I had a quick look at a James Audobon exhibit as well and was surprised to find out he lived in the early 1800s. I had thought he was a 20th century painter.

That was the extent of my visit to Toronto this time. I had been to Toronto once before for an afternoon but this was the first time I had seen a lot more of it, even with just a day and a few evenings to get around. It's an enormous city and growing all the time. It really is a world class city though I don't rate it as one of my favourites. Now that I've been to some other Canadian cities, I think I find Montreal a lot more vibrant. Toronto has a lot of good aspects of course and there is something for everyone there. I just don't find it has as much character overall though there are some nice little neighbourhoods to break up the monotony of big city concrete.

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