A Date In Toronto

A couple of weekends ago Katya and I took a day trip to Toronto. We've both been working very hard this first half of summer and haven't really seen much of each other, so we decided to spend a day together. I took her on a date to the CN Tower and the Toronto waterfront.

We couldn't have chosen a finer day. The weather was a perfect 27 degrees, sunny with only a few puffy white clouds lazing about. Traffic on the 45-minute drive was pleasant, and I got off the Gardiner Expressway and drove us along Lakeshore Blvd, with all the parks and trees and marinas flanked by condos.

We even found cheap parking right under the Rogers Center (formerly the SkyDome). It was only $9 for the whole day, unheard of in this giant city of 6 million people!

Toronto is an awesome city. Many Canadians say they "hate" Toronto but they are just really saying they hate big, crowded metropolis' (metropoli?). I love Toronto.

The past few years have seen Toronto gain dozens of international accolades, from 3rd best city in the world to live (UN) to best city in North America to be young (Huffington Post) to 10th most powerful city in the world (Forbes). Toronto is clean and modern and young and sleek, with a vibe about it filled with youthful vitality and culture. I've been to quite a few cities in my lifetime, and even had the opportunity to live in a few of them, and Toronto is, in my opinion, the best city in the world.

Approaching downtown along Lakeshore Blvd.
After we parked, we exited the underground parkade and emerged alongside the Rogers Center, home of the Toronto Blue Jays MLB team (currently #1 in the league...another World Series Championship this year?) and the Toronto Argonauts CFL team. The entire avenue was decorated in Blue Jays flags, with the white dome of the stadium and the CN Tower towering over all.

We made our way around the stadium and paid for our tickets up the tower ($30 apiece, unless you show an Air Miles card, then it's only $26 each). We went through a big series of glass doors and emerged into the air conditioned lobby of the CN Tower, which is a big gift shop.

We had to go through security, just like at an airport, except these machines blew puffs of air all over your body and "sniffed" for chemical compounds. Little puffs of air blew in my face and took me by surprise. On the other side a big guy wearing black and a kevlar vest searched my hat and Katya's purse, then waved us on.

We found the elevator going up and got in line. They pack as many people in as possible, but it wasn't too bad that day. The elevator operator gives a little speech as the we commence our ascent.

"We are travelling at 30 km/hour. It takes 58 seconds to reach 1,400 feet. The glass floor below you can carry 500 lbs per square inch" etc etc. As the elevator shot up, the glass skyscrapers of Toronto became smaller and smaller. My ears popped.

Finally at the first observation deck we all piled out. Katya and I made our way through large groups of Indian families and some quiet Korean couples and found a free spot along the windows. Wow! Toronto, Lake Ontario, and even the Greenbelt and escarpments surrounding the city were spread out below us. A helicopter flew by....and we were looking down at the top of it!

We circled the observation deck and then made our way outside. It wasn't too windy although because of the tower's overhand there was no sun so it was a bit chilly...and we were 1,400 feet in the air.

After walking around outside (twice) we found a flight of stairs and went down a level to the "glass floor", which is really just a 12' panel of thick glass covered in kids and Hindis taking selfies. We managed to find a small, clear spot and take a couple of picks, then got out of there.

The revolving restaurant was WAY too expensive ($100 each, please), so we stuck around for a good hour and then got back on the elevator and down we went! Wooosh! In the gift shop I picked up a blue "CN Tower" t-shirt and a fridge magnet for my collection.

Blue Jay Way
I think I can see my house..

Can you tell me how to get to the airport?

They only have 50 story buildings. Losers.

Architect inspiration #27: Wedding Cake

Good. My boat is just where I left it.

Architect Inspiration #17: vagina

Whatever you do, don't look down.

A Lego CN Tower in the gift shop at the base. 
After our trip up the tower, we walked down to the harborfront. Our goal was...well, we didn't have a goal. A beer and lunch fit in to our plans somewhere, but we were just taking it easy.

Our first stop was about 50 meters from the tower when we came across the Toronto Rail Museum, and old switching yards that had been converted into a Leon's furniture store and Steam Whistle brewery. I liked the brewery (Steam Whistle is my favorite Canadian beer, and just to make me like it more a big steam whistle, a la Flintstones, went off at noon. WHOOOOOOO).

The whole area around the tower and the lakeshore has been reclaimed from abandoned industry. For a long time Toronto was a stinking industrial city, and when industry packed up and went to cheaper locales in the 80's, the city was left with a terrible eyesore. During the 90's a lot of public and private investment has taken place and wow! What a change! Old factories are now loft condos and boutique stores, quaint pubs and artisan shops. Parks and boardwalks have been built all along the waterfront, and developers have built condos with an eye to clean lines and expression.

We got lured into an crafters cooperative, inside an old red brick factory, where potters were spinning clay and glass blowers were making vases with huge furnaces. We watched them work for a good 20 minutes before meandering down to the gift shop at the end of the building, where vases were selling for a measly $600.

The old switching yard, now a rail museum, furniture store and brewery. Katya liked the girl's hair and shoes.

The height of steam technology

The whistle even went off for me! WHOOOOOOO

We found ourselves on the boardwalk and meandered from marina to marina, live band to juggler, park to park for a good two or three hours. It was a beautiful day and we were in no rush. We stopped and rested in shade under a tree when we were tired, took pictures when we were interested, and walked and talked when we were excited. Thousands of people were all around us, many of them doing the same thing.

The water of Lake Ontario was bright blue, like a tropical sea (although not really) and the sun was just the perfect temperature with no humidity. A nice breeze off the lake kept us cool.

After a few hours of this, we turned around and started looking for a place to eat. One problem with the Toronto waterfront is that there is NOWHERE TO GET A BEER AND A BURGER! We found one patio that was served cafeteria style. No thanks. A few dozen meters away was another patio, with outrage prices and a pretentious menu (and no Steam Whistle!).

We cut away from the waterfront and into the city core, near Union Station, and passed under the Gardiner Expressway overpass.Tall skyscrapers blocked the late afternoon sun, making it seem later than it was and a heck of a lot colder than the sunny lakeshore.

It was a good decision, however. Right next to the train station was a big, shiny Casey's Bar and Grill with a beautiful patio. I asked the hostess if they had Steam Whistle on tap. They did! Success!

The customer service was awesome and my cheeseburger was frikkin delicious. A World Cup match between Bosnia and Nigeria was playing,and it was getting cold outside, so we eventually moved from the patio to the restaurant and watched football...ahem, I mean soccer....indoors. Then we paid, walked back to the car and drove the 45-minutes home! It was an awesome date in Toronto!

The reclaimed Toronto harborfront

I thought I saw Johnny Depp...

With parks like these, who needs TV?
Wait, where was Johnny Depp?

It's impossible to get lost in Toronto. Just head towards the gigantic needle that dominates everything.

I think I drank too much...
It gets awfully dark in these parts...

The CBC! My favourite!

Post-industrial thirst quencher

TTC streetcar (aka: trolleybus). I love Toronto!
After we drove home, Katya said she loves Toronto. She's a big-city girl, born and raised in Moscow (population 15+ million) but, unlike Moscow, Toronto is clean and the infrastructure is well maintained and crime is much, much lower.

There's a big Russian area of Toronto filled with Russian stores and restaurants. We went a few times last year. I'm thinking that, since we're only 45-minutes down the road, we need to make a monthly trip into town to pick up some of Katya's favourite Russian foods. It gives us an excuse to get into the big city once in a while!


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