Toronto the good
Plenty to see, do and eat in The Big Smoke
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“The elevator goes up so fast, your pants come down,” Margie warned as we approached Toronto’s CN Tower — or more accurately, “The Seein’ Tower.” She explained, “That’s what I heard when our class visited in the 1970’s. I held onto th
I assured her, “Descending, they’d come back up. But landing, I’m not so sure.”
Entering the western hemisphere’s tallest structure, I asked staff about this. All denied the phenomena. That aside, they do whisper among themselves.
The views thrill. New skyscrapers stretch up as if challenging the Tower. Although its glass floor was closed, you peer straight down through Sky Pod windows. Signs warn against clambering onto them. Staff must think tourists are fools. Maybe some ask stupid questions.
A big silver tear-drop pendulum appears to sway inside, but wind is swaying the Tower. Staff point this out to watch your face.
Most dramatic is the elevator’s landing. A dad yelled, “Jump!” I yelped, “My pants!”
Walking is a great way to feel the perpetual motion of Canada’s biggest city. We trekked 12 kilometres one day. Couldn’t stop. Adding to the commotion, like most tourists awe-struck by downtown’s towering buildings, we walk gazing straight up.
Nearing the massive digital displays of Yonge-Dundas Square, amplified voices boomed. A high-stakes take-down? A rap concert? Drake?
Two street preachers competed for volume. Passersby didn’t hear. One repeated, “God, he love. No matter where you came!” His challenger resonated, “Don’t improve before coming to God. He takes you now!” Margie said, “There’s hope for you.”
On Bloor Street I exclaimed, “A spaceship crashed into the Royal Ontario Museum!” Some call the renowned “ROM” Canada’s most hated building owing to its discordant architecture.
It houses a Timothy Eaton statue. Winnipeg’s Canada Life Centre houses the other. Before Jets games, Winnipeggers rub the toe of Timothy’s left shoe for good luck. Hey, Leafs fans in Toronto: maybe try that.
Nearby, the Bata Shoe Museum contains the world’s biggest shoe collection, oddly located in a city where an unhoused chap wears one shoe down Yonge Street in winter while dogs wear four. But the city is Toe-run-toe.
Is Timothy in the right museum?
Jet-black squirrels and fearless pigeons abound. A Distillery District bakery door sign says, “Please make sure that the pidgeon (sic) doesn’t come in with you!” with arrows pointing down to, indeed, a pigeon. The owner explained, “Patty gets in and takes stuff without paying.”
Kensington Market bustles with shops like Bikes on Wheels, Blue Banana, and Hi. I spotted “Four t-shirts $9.99.” Find extreme vintage, plus silly socks, buttons, and patches you don’t really need – but at $9.99, some things you do.
About half of Torontonians are born outside Canada. At Kensington Market, the enriching youthful diversity shines. Savour Jamaican ackee, Tibetan momo, Armenian basturma. Foodism magazine describes the taco eateries as “hip joints.” That was exactly my painful expression after trekking 12 kilometers.
From the intro to the 1970’s TV show, King of Kensington, for laughs I hollered into a crowded Market street, “How ya doin’ King?!” Not one person reacted – except Margie saying, “Lord, help me.”
I remarked, “No one knows that show?”
Margie quipped, “You mean one from 45 years ago?”
We found Toronto’s hospitality workers all friendly and kind. The Duke of Cornwall’s bartender even announced, “Sorry I’m slow. Your pints are free.”
Toronto’s food creation is peameal bacon, explaining an endearing Toronto nickname: Hogtown. Among St. Lawrence Market’s terrific fresh food vendors, at Carousel Bakery we split the peameal bacon sandwich topped with Kozlik’s maple mustard. Yummy! The neighbouring Paddington’s Pump serves a tomato, lettuce, and cheese version called “The Oink.” Also featuring peameal bacon, Flo’s Diner in Yorkville serves generous breakfasts with retro ambience.
Eataly offers four restaurants, undiscovered cheeses, and over 30 take-out pastas, like Ravioli Di Barbabietola or Bergamaschi. Bigoli! I mischievously asked, “Any macaroni?” At Bar Mercurio, Giuseppe announced, “I make Toronto’s best pepperoni pizza. I certify that myself.” On Dundas Street, La Palma’s menu boasts “100-Layer Lasagna.” This claim had to be challenged.
Paper-thin noodles arrive sitting vertically, seared under grated cheese. I asked in a prosecutor voice, “Where’s your 100 layers?”
The server testified, “34 layers of pasta. 34 layers of sauces. 34 layers of cheese. That’s 102.”
I replied, “Aha. 100…and 2!” But I’m dropping the case; this is luscious lasagna.
Save up for swanky. At Canoe, bread and butter costs $6. At Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a tomahawk steak alone: $200. But for $103, a small filet on sizzling butter with béarnaise and au gratin ensures satisfaction – when a pal pays. At STK Steakhouse, white decorative swirls swoop up from walls. We’ll eat here someday – pending the 6/49.
Toronto also embraces squirrel diversity. Unseen for days, a white squirrel figurine clung inside our Kimpton Hotel closet. Showers offer “eucalyptus lemon white flower sandalwood orchid mandarin and citrus body wash.” With that breathtaking bouquet, who cares if it’s got soap.
Lobby staff pour complementary evening wine. At Wednesday karaoke I sang “With a Little Help from My Friends.” The surely overwhelmed DJ raved, “That was … different.”
With Toronto offering so much, we must return — especially given the performance accolades.