Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Canada Part 7 - Finale, Touring the Handsome City

13 July (The final instalment) 

I treated myself to room service breakfast this morning and what a wonderful feast it was, two eggs, 5 slices of bacon, a huge pile of hash browns, two slices of toast, various conserves, orange juice and, best of all, a pot of tasty tea with the tea bag in it!  My first proper tea of the trip and it was like nectar!  So I was well set up for the day.

I met up with Debbi and Julie in the foyer, and, sadly it was time for another goodbye, Debbi was leaving soon for the US.  We said our sad goodbyes when our tour bus arrived, now it was down to two of us for my last full day in Canada.

We were going on the Shop - Dine - Tour Toronto a hop on hop off trip.  It was another hot day though maybe marginally cooler than the previous few days.  We passed by the St Lawrence Market and on to the historic Distillery District which was founded in 1832 - and was the largest whisky distillery in the British Empire.  It also has the distinction of being the biggest collection of Victorian industrial buildings in North America and it certainly had a feel of the past - something you don't often get this side of the Atlantic.  The building have been renovated and now houses shops and entertainment centres.

We headed back to the centre of downtown Toronto through the financial district to the Eaton Centre where there was a break for ten minutes.  I noticed on the trip that many of the buildings had beautiful carved stonework and there were lovely vistas along many of the long straight roads.  I remember the Eaton Centre from when I lived in Canada many years ago.  Coming from a then small city with poor shopping (it's much better now) in the north of England this shopping mall was heaven for me!  Apparently the original Eaton's shop is now no more but this huge centre lives on.  Normally we would have got off the tour bus here and explored the shops but as this was our last full day our finances were somewhat depleted so we stayed on and avoided the temptation! 

We next drove through Yorkville which I remembered walking through with Catherine last year as we made our way to the lovely rooftop bar of the Park Hyatt Hotel nearby.  It was full of pretty, expensive, upscale shops and eateries.  We knew it was out of our league so didn't get off here LOL!

Casa Loma
We turned onto the interestingly named Avenue Road and on to leafy Forest Hill, one of the wealthiest areas of Toronto.  Our guide told us that everyone was obliged to have one tree in their front garden - to help it live up to its name I suppose.

Nearby is Casa Loma, a Gothic revival style house, complete with turrets, set on a small hill.  It was built between 1911 -14 and is set in five acres of garden and has 98 rooms.  Originally it was a private residence, then a luxury hotel and more recently was restored and now open to the public.  We got off here and went inside, the cost of looking around the house and gardens was quite a lot so we gave it a miss.  We sat by the fountains in the garden at the front of the house.  It's real fantasy house built for Sir Henry Pellatt who was only able to enjoy the house for ten years before he went bankrupt and had to give it all up.  He ended up living with his chauffeur in altogether more modest surroundings on Spandina Avenue.

We got back on the bus and the next stop was the Bata Shoe Museum.  It has over 13,000  shoes and related items celebrating 4,500 years of footwear housed in a cubistic, modern building that is supposed to represent a partially open shoe box, though I didn't see the latter when I looked at it.  I was very tempted to get out here as I have a shoe "thing" as far back as I can remember - my mum told me when I was very little and got new shoes I'd insist in going to bed wearing them!  However, time was passing so we gave it a miss.

We drove through the entertainment district and passed the Much Music HQ complete with a car exploding out of the wall.  We passed the Rogers Centre and CN Tower, we'd seen enough of them recently so stayed put.  Our guide told us that the land south of Front Street was all reclaimed.

The next stop was the Harbourfront Centre on the shores of Lake Ontario.  It was lovely there and our guide told us that the scenic beauty there was all down to our Queen Elizabeth.  She visited Toronto in the late 60's when there were lots of factories and dereliction there and remarked that it was a shame that more hadn't been made of what could be a potentially beautiful shoreline.  This spurred the city's leaders to tidy up and renovate the shoreline and now there is only one fasctory, making sugar, on the waterfront of Lake Ontario in the Toronto area and it is indeed gorgeous now.  I wonder if the Queen has ever been back to see the change her words started?

We got off the bus as this was where we would get our boat trip.  We had an hour to spare before the next boat went out so we went into the shopping mall nearby and bought some sandwiches and drinks and sat outside to eat them whilst watching life go by.

We got onto our boat the Mariposa Belle and stood on the upper deck to watch the scenery.  We chugged out into the calm waters of the lake, the breeze keeping us pleasantly cool.  We sailed past and round some of the Toronto Islands. 

These islands were originally a peninsula of sand extending out from the mainland.  However two violent storms in the mid 1800's caused pits in the sand to flood and completely breached the peninsula and along with the land reclamation on the Toronto shore caused the formation of the islands. 

There are 17 islands, most forested, and six have been left exclusively for wildlife and no humans are allowed on them. 
Toronto Waterfront
There are 250 permanent residents on the islands, also an amusement park and the exclusive Royal Canadian Yacht club.  There is also a lighthouse that is said to be haunted by a keeper who was murdered there. The views of the shoreline of Toronto from the lake were stunning, it really is a handsome city! 

Back on shore we got onto the next bus to our hotel which wasn't far away.  We'd been out for six hours!  If I'm ever in Toronto again I would take this tour once more as there are many places on its route that I would like to see.  Excellent value for money.

That evening we tried our hotel's "Summerlicious" dinner for $25.  I had a yummy cranberry, pecan and  goats cheese salad to start, chicken Kiev with garlic mash and endive for the main, and for dessert I had summer berries and cream. All washed down with the Novotel's delicious tea!

And that was it, our last full day in Toronto.  All in all it has been a fantastic holiday in so many ways, I love Canada.  I don't think I'll return to Montreal, but I have a feeling I'll see Toronto again.

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