Toronto March 14 - 23
Trip Start Mar 14, 2008
1Trip End Mar 23, 2008
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FRIDAY 14th: Things went swimmingly right from the word go. No queues to check-in at Heathrow and the Air Canada flight left on time and arrived early - A good start! Then it was then into the Customs & Immigration hall. Last year in Terminal 3 this part of the journey took nearly 2 hours as I had to endure a huge queue and then a grilling from 2 different immigration officers about why I had come to Toronto. They had the remarkable ability to make me think I'd committed some horrible sin by daring to come and visit their city. This time in the much nicer Terminal 1 there was no queues, the much nicer immigration officer didn't give me the third degree and I was through in about 10 minutes. Definitely a good start! On to the Airport Express bus and in no time at all I was checking in to the Strathcona Hotel. I stayed here last year and whilst it has mixed reviews I have found it to be excellent both times. Sure, the room was fairly small, but it was clean, the shower was powerful, the bed was comfortable and I was travelling solo and was only planning to sleep, shower and change there so didn't need huge amounts of space.
I had booked a ticket to see Chris Rock at Massey Hall that night so I walked up there to collect my ticket. The show wasn't until 10 p.m. so I killed some time re-familiarising myself with the area.
SATURDAY 15th: Hockey Day! I had booked a ticket for a Maple Leafs game that night so decided to theme the day around hockey. I decided a good place to start would be the Hockey Hall Of Fame. I bought a City Pass on the way in and had a good look about. Certainly a very impressive place, and would have been even more impressive if I had done some research beforehand and known something about hockey or the players in the Hall Of Fame! The Stanley Cup sure is big though.
One player who I have heard of is Wayne Gretzky and it was to his bar/restaurant on Blue Jays way I headed to next for a decent Cheesesteak and a couple of beers. Lots of hockey memorabilia in here as well, like the Hall Of Fame probably of more interest to an avid fan rather than a hockey newcomer. Then onto the game
SUNDAY 16th: I was really looking forward to today as I was returning to the Air Canada Centre to see one of my favourite bands, Iron Maiden. After a fine breakfast at Fran's diner I walked over to Dundas Square - last year there was a chap doing some amazing chalk drawings with some very humorous comments on the sidewalk opposite the square. Well, he was still there! And he's even got his own website here Next was a subway trip up to Bloor and Yonge to see the St. Patrick 's Day Parade which was noisy, colourful and great fun. There certainly seems to be a lot of Irish people in Toronto or maybe lots who are Irish just for this day! Then onto the Loose Moose bar on Front Street where hundreds of Iron Maiden fans had gathered for a meet up organised by the fan club. I met fans who had travelled to Toronto from Sweden, Holland, Winnipeg, New York and there were several others from the UK as well. The atmosphere in the bar was the friendliest, most fun and enjoyable I have experienced for a long time.
MONDAY 17th: Took it easier today after the heavy night before. One of the many things that had stuck in the memory from last time was the Senator Diner and it's breakfast. Happily I found the Senator was still there and the breakfast was still superb. After refuelling I bought a weekly TTC pass and took the subway up to Bathurst and visited Casa Loma, the former home of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt who unfortunately was only able to live there for 10 years before going bankrupt.
After Casa Loma I headed back downtown to buy some postcards and then walked back to the hotel via Nathan Philips Square where it was great to see 2 gentlemen playing chess on the outdoor boards despite the bitter cold.
I went up the tower during the day last time so I thought I'd go up and see the city at night this time. Well, it looked spectacular with all the lights blazing.
TUESDAY 18th: Took full advantage of my TTC pass today and made a trip out to Toronto Zoo. Really saw how efficient the TTC is, took the subway to Kennedy and the bus from there to the zoo with no problems or delays at all. Got to the zoo and wasn't sure if I hadn't managed to gain entry while it was closed, the place was empty!
I spent hours walking between the indoor pavilions
WEDNESDAY 19th: There's a Tim Horton's opposite the hotel - I'm usually not a big coffee drinker but Tim's French Vanilla is fantastic! After one of these I took the subway up to the Royal Ontario Museum .
I hadn't been to the Air Canada Centre since Sunday so I was well overdue another visit. Luckily I had a ticket to the Basketball game that night.
THURSDAY 20th: Made my first venture onto a Toronto Streetcar today - was fully expecting to end up miles away, but I needn't have worried - the system is ridiculously simple and the automatic voice notifying you of each stop is a godsend. Anyway, I wasn't going far - just to the Distillery District - which as the name suggests is where several distilleries were located - much of the area know had been redeveloped to include housing, art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops and cafes. Very nice place, and nice to see part of the city with independent shops and food outlets not dominated by international chains. No Starbucks here! (Yet) It was another nice day so decided to walk back - had a look at the impressive St James cathedral and park and then the Toronto Sculpture garden which consisted of a sports car with a normal car's body (or perhaps it was the other way round?) Maybe it was my lack of an artistic side again or maybe I was missing something but I couldn't really work out the artistic merit of that.
Earlier on in the day I had picked up a free Metro newspaper - how nice it was just to take it from the box on the street rather than have some rude idiot shove the paper into your chest as they do in London. Anyway, in the what's on listings I had seen that legendary English Ska band Bad Manners
FRIDAY 21st: A bit of a late night at the Horseshoe last night so wasn't too quick out of the blocks today. It was a nice day - really sunny but cold - my favourite type of weather so I decided to go to the park - High Park to be precise.
Spent Friday night back in the Loose Moose - I liked it in there, it's certainly not classy, but the food's decent, the beer's cold and the people are friendly. Anyway, the Moose had the Leafs game on the big screen TV - they were away to Buffalo - the team that hammered them on Saturday. Well, the Leafs only went and won! Why couldn't they do that at the game I go to? Just my luck
SATURDAY 22nd: My last full day in Toronto . Started by walking to St. Lawrence market. The market was absolutely packed, but I squeezed through to the Carousel bakery for a fantastic peameal bacon sandwich and then back outside to buy some Maple Syrup from the little stall by the North Market. I then took the subway and streetcar to Kensington Market.
Then it was time to go back to my second home, the Air Canada Centre - this time for a Foo fighters gig.
SUNDAY 23rd: Nothing to report today, up very early for the uneventful flight back home. Felt pretty bad to be back, I could have stayed in Toronto for a lot longer - like the rest of my life (which by the way, I'm looking into doing) It was a wonderful week in a fantastic city. It was exhausting with many late, boozy nights and god only knows how many miles I walked during the days, but fueled by breakfasts from Fran's and The Senator and coffee from Tim Horton's I made it! Thank you Toronto, as Arnie would say - I'll be back!
Where I stayed