We continue Mike's walking tour of Canada with a visit to Toronto ....
After spending two days in historic Quebec on our Canadian walking tour, there could be no greater contrast than our next city, Toronto.
Less than two hours by plane from Quebec and originally named York, its history is recorded in the York Museum. It changed its name to Toronto in 1834. Situated on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, towering new skyscrapers and ongoing re-development are evidence of the rapid growth the city is experiencing. Depending on how you measure it, Toronto now ranks as the fourth or fifth most populated city in North America.
The city is the commercial hub of Canada and home to the Canadian Stock Exchange as well as Canada’s five biggest banks. This contributes to not only a high standard of living but also high housing costs and high-rise accommodation, something our group of hikers did not favour. The idea of working in one tower block then going home to an apartment in another tower block was a concept that did not appeal. However, whilst out-of-town living may offer more space and lower prices, the cost of commuting, and the time it takes, outweighs its advantages for most people.
Tallest of Toronto’s structures is the CN Tower and the best way to get an overall view of the city is from its revolving restaurant and viewing platform around 1,150 feet (351m) above the ground. If you are brave enough you can also venture onto the vertigo-inducing glass floor, popular with those taking ‘selfies’. However, the tower soars to an amazing 1,815 feet (553m) when you add the radio antenna and other structures above the observation level. Between 1976 and 2010 it was the world’s tallest building.
Our excellent lunch in the revolving restaurant was certainly an event to remember as we enjoyed a changing panorama of views during the 72 minutes it takes to complete its 360 degree revolution. There is a fixed price menu of $55, Canadian dollars that is, and this includes the exclusive lift rides. For those not wanting to eat, there is a revolving observation platform on the floor below the restaurant which we visited after lunch.
However, it’s not all concrete and glass skyscrapers. The St Lawrence market, founded in 1803 and voted Best Food Market by National Geographic in 2012, is a large indoor market with stalls selling a wide range of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and bakery products, as well as a few souvenirs that seemed popular with our group.
A few steps from the market found us facing another famous landmark, the ‘flat iron’ building, officially the Gooderham Building, which was completed in 1892.
Also worth a visit is the unique Bata Shoe Museum, rather appropriate for our group of hikers. Housed in a modern award-winning structure, the museum was founded by Sonja Bata, wife of Thomas J Bata who created the global footwear business that bears his name. Around 1,000 items were exhibited from a total of over 12,500 items covering a 4,500 year period.
Toronto is also well served when it comes to the Arts. There are a number of concert halls, galleries and theatres including the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
The city is culturally diverse with more than 80 ethnic groups. Street signs often proclaim the nationality of the immigrants who built their community there so that throughout Toronto an intriguing mish-mash of groups have worked their way into the fabric of Canadian society while retaining their language, customs, food and sometimes dress too. This means of course, that whichever ethnic cuisine you fancy, there are plenty of eateries to choose from with prices that won’t bankrupt you.
We particularly enjoyed a walk through China Town with its dual language street signs and unique shopping experiences, before entering the campus of the University of Toronto.
A calm almost traffic-free haven in the city, the University is in the Queens Park area, a short walk north of the financial district and close to the Parliament building. Unlike a number of other North American universities that are out of town, Toronto University is very much part of the city. The foundation for the University was the granting of a Royal Charter by George VI in 1827.
For somewhere with such a vast population, Toronto can easily be explored, as we did, on foot. There is much to see and do and it is divided up into areas of natural focus. Like all the other places we visited in Canada we found Canadians friendly, hospitable, always ready to chat, help and offer directions when you need them, and sometimes even when you don’t! You can be assured of a warm welcome.
For more information on this and other walking holidays contact HF Holidays on 0345 470 8558 or visit www.hfholidays.co.uk
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