During the Spring 2013, we flew to Chicago, staying 8 nights in a high-rise apartment on the 28th floor within the "Loop", followed by a second flight to Buffalo, NY and an airport shuttle to Niagara Falls, Ontario where we spent two nights. Niagara Falls wasn't part of our original plans, but I could not imagine visiting Toronto without also seeing the falls. Although it was my second trip to the falls in 3 years, its stunning power and natural beauty was a must see for Kay. From there, we rented a vehicle and drove by the scenic route, to Toronto where we had rented a 17th floor apartment for 8 nights on north end of the financial district. What I remember most is Chicago's towering city centre of majestic high-rise buildings and the friendlier than expected people while Toronto stood out with its multi-ethnic culture and vibrant street life. Both active walk able cities have a lot to offer aesthetically and are worth a visit. My original postings were done using my phone camera, these are the pictures for my Canon S100. Below are some favorites from each place. Click on the link at the bottom of the picture to see all the pictures in PICASA.
Often I'm just as enthralled with the buildings that house art galleries as the art they exhibit and this is true for the intriguing design of the Art Gallery of Ontario which thrilled my senses. Wednesday evening, entry into the gallery is free from 6:00 to 8:30, so Kay and I timed our visit to take advantage of this freebie as did many other visitors since it was a busy evening. Below are pictures from the gallery.
Today, a cold, wet and windy one unfortunately, is our last day in Toronto after which, we have an early morning flight back home by way of Los Angeles. As much as I enjoy our travels, mentally I usually start yearning for home, the comfort, the familiar, and the routine, as the our trip nears its end and I begin counting the days. Kay and I are both more than ready for some rest and relaxation since we have been on the go, all day every day for the past 17 days. We have found, as I have in prior trips to Canada, that the cost of living here is higher than the U.S., thus all our activities costed us a bit more than in Chicago, be it the subway fare, entry fees, meals, or groceries. Regardless, it has been another great trip and we have enjoyed our experiences in both cities, each is unique and worth your time to visit. After I'm home, I'll probably add more pictures taken with my camera, since the ones shown are from my smart phone. I'm sure there'll be a lot; so if you like pictures, I've got them.
During the evening after dinner at Japango, a very good Japanese restaurant reminiscent of eateries in Tokyo according to Kay, we ventured over to Dundas Yonge Square, their version of Time Square surrounded by bright LCD screens, where free bike maintenance, part of Toronto's Bike Month activities, added to the crowds normally drawn to this open urban space due to its location above a subway station, near major shopping centers and Ryerson University, and at the intersection of two active streets lined with stores and eateries.
Today we toured the former homes, the Casa Loma and Spadina House, of two wealthy influential financiers from the early 20th century history of Toronto, Sir Henry Pallatt who's home was never completely finished before misfortune befell him, and Albert Austin who's home served multiple generations of the family until 1982. Both homes are now works in progress museums restored to reflect their heydays as some of the most lavish noteworthy dwellings of their days.
Toronto definitely has a 'bike culture' with people of all ages using pedal power to get around the neighborhoods or commute to work. Throughout the city, there are locked bikes everywhere on designated bike racks and locking posts as well as to fences, city sign posts, and residential porches and balconies. A bike left unattended for too long of a period may, unfortunately, become spare parts for someone else. Streets marked for bike usage always seem to have a slow, by vehicle standards, but steady flow of cyclist, one at a time or in small groups, which becomes heavier during the commute hours when some riders may aggressively take the entire car lane. In the past three years, Toronto's bike sharing program, known as BIXI, has grown to encompass 80 stations within the city core and 1,000 bikes. There's even a smart phone APP to help users find bike sharing stations and availability information. According to the owner of our apartment, bike usage is highest during the summer months when the weather is nice and despite local complaints of traffic congestion, it's drivers beware because bicycles rule on these city streets. Today we caught subway to Rancesvalles Street, or Rancy as locals would say, a recently revitalized area of shops, bakeries, and eateries popular with the locals on weekends several miles west of downtown and close to High Park, Toronto's largest public park and for Kay and I, reminiscence of Sacramento's own William Land Park.
A day of thundershowers, with periodic downpours, convinced Kay and I to explore the Toronto underground which starts two blocks south of our apartment and ended for us, near the waterfront at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Raptors. The underground is a series of corridors, sometimes above ground, within the financial district which connects most private businesses, public facilities, shopping centers, subway and train stations, and residential high-rises within a square mile so people can get around without stepping outdoors, a very practical application during the cold snowy winters, or as in our situation, thunterstorms. Since it was Sunday, many of the eateries and businesses within the corridors which serve the working population were closed but I could easily imagine the crowds during a workday. We also walked the waterfront from Bay Street to Spadina followed by dinner at 'Mother's Dumplings' in Chinatown which was disappointing given its high ratings on Yelp.
Toronto is a multi-cultural city where any type of ethnic cuisine can easily be found just wandering the streets or visiting the neighborhoods. In our short time here, we've had Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Argentinian, Ukrainian, Mexican and Italian foods. The city reminds Kay of San Francisco with its small ethnic hole in the wall eateries along with local and national chains. Today we visited the Royal Ontario Museum, a controversial building due to its unorthodox 'love it' or 'hate it' design, housing Canada's largest museum for world culture and natural history, then walked the streets to Korean Town and Little Italy followed by a quick stop at Kensington Market to pick up pork tamales, for a second time, at Perola's Supermarket. Below are pictures from the Royal Ontario Museum.