Tuesday, March 04, 2008

City of Toronto - Canada

Now what can I say about Toronto? Three days in this wonderful city is definitely insufficient to fully explore all it can offer. There is uniqueness in Toronto that is unlike any North American city. Although English is the most spoken language here, French is also widely used. Public announcements are always made in both these languages. French influences can be found in almost all walks of life in the city most prominently at most restaurants and also in the markets selling local produce.As we had only 2 full days in Toronto with another day at the Niagara Falls, we had to prioritize the places we thought would best capture the spirit of the city.On the day of arrival it was too late for any sightseeing. Checked in at the hotel and after a quick dinner it was time for bed. The next day turned out to be a fine day with blue sky and a bright sun. However it was bitterly cold, -9 deg C was the air temperature but with the wind chill factor it was more like -14 deg C. We were OK as we went prepared for the Canadian cold.
Our first destination was St. Lawrence Market. It was Saturday, the best day to visit this market we were told. The market was approximately 2 miles from the hotel. As it was such a fine morning we decided to walk. Toronto, like most North American cities have easy to follow roads. Unlike European cities the roads here are in the form of a grid. With the aid of a decent map, it was easy to get from A to point B. St Lawrence Market was not a disappointment. It was crowded with Saturday shoppers. There was a happy atmosphere at the place with shoppers, market stall keepers, children and tourists like us all having a jolly time. There were places where shoppers stopped to eat and drink. We sampled the pea meal ham sandwich which turned out to be delicious. French influence in Toronto also comes in the form of the large variety of bread and cheeses they have. At St. Lawrence Market there are numerous cheese stalls selling cheeses of all makes and flavors. At the bakery stalls one would find all types of bread and pastries. Meat, fruits and vegetables are also sold in abundance here. It is safe to say that at St. Lawrence Market one would find everything needed for the kitchen.We enjoyed our morning at St. Lawrence Market. We could have stay longer but by noon it was time for us to leave for the CN Tower. This is currently the tallest tower in the world with a height of 553m. We were lucky to have chosen a good and clear day for the visit to the CN Tower. From the viewing deck we could see the whole of Toronto and far beyond. A section of the floor on the viewing deck is made of glass. This section of the floor is strong enough to withstand the weight of 9 hippos. However, standing on the glass and looking straight down onto the ground below was still quite a nervous experience.
The next day we made our way to the Toronto Chinatown. I was amazed by the size of the area covered by Chinatown. The whole area is approximately 10 times the size of the one in London. Similar to the London Chinatown majority of the Chinese in Toronto are from Hong Kong. The restaurants serve only Hong Kong cuisine. We sampled some Hong Kong dumpling noodles and had a meal of Dim Sum, both meals were delicious.Our next destination was the famous Eaton Centre. We did not know what it was until we got there. It turned out to be a very large shopping mall on 6 levels. It was a Sunday and the place was extremely crowded. I guess shopping malls all over the world are basically the same. The afternoon of our second day was spent wondering around this mall and through the 2 very large food courts within the premise. The day ended with a meal at one of the food courts.
On our third and final day we booked ourselves on a conducted tour to Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls is approximately 125 Km for the city of Toronto. The journey to the Falls took 2 hours with a stop at a vineyard to taste the local wine. We sampled for the first time the Canadian Ice Wine, which was a very sweet wine made from dried up grapes.Niagara Falls is made up of the American Falls and the horse shoe shaped falls on the Canadian side. We could only view the American falls from a distant. The Canadian Niagara Falls is spectacular and one must be at the site to fully appreciate the sheer power of this God’s wonderful creation. There was a blizzard blowing when we were at the Falls which gave the place a certain added harshness and beauty. At 4.30 pm it was just getting dark and we started our journey back to Toronto.
We checked out of our hotel the next day and made our way to Toronto Pearson International Airport. As we were provided with First Class travel we made full use of BA lounge where we had our dinner.

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