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A Vibrant City
Jul 25, 2003 03:15 AM 3395 Views
(Updated Jul 25, 2003 03:26 AM)


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Toronto means a “Meeting Place” in Native Indian. And truly it is a big melting pot of all the world cultures. Only one out of every four persons you meet in Toronto are Caucasians. I have visited this beautiful city several times – both for business and pleasure and present before you some of my observations.

Where is it?

Toronto is the largest Canadian city and is in the province of Ontario on the banks of Lake Ontario. It is made up of about five suburbs which have blended over the years to be referred to as Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It is about one hour drive along QEW (Queen Elizabeth Expressway) from the US Border town of Buffalo in upstate New York.

There are several bridges (across Lake Ontario) one can use to cross over from US to Canada. At the midpoint on the bridge you can see the US flag and then the UN flag and then the Canadian Flag – the bridge is in no mans land.

I always wondered if you have a breakdown on this bridge – who do you call? I play it safe and accelerate while on the bridge and get to the other end quickly.

Who lives here?

A snapshot of the world – there are over eighty cultures living in this metropolis. You name it – they are here – Canadians, Americans, English, French, Italian, German, Russian, Africans, West Indian, East Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Sri Lankan, Middle Eastern. etc etc.

What to see?

You can use this list as a check list and depending upon how much time you have at your disposal – this can last either days, weeks or months.

# 1. Downtown. This is very lively and is full of office buildings. The main street is Yonge Street which divides the city into East and West. Bay Street is a bankers paradise and houses all the banks and financial institutions. The City Hall has nice fountains in front of it, which becomes a skating rink in winter. The entire downtown is in a well defined grid and it is easy to navigate by foot.

# 2. CN Tower. This is the worlds tallest free standing structure and is truly magnificent to look from outside. This is almost like the signature icon of Toronto. One can go up to the top (costs about $50) and where there is a restaurant with a panoramic view of the city.

# 3. The Harbor Front. This is along the banks of Lake Ontario on Lake Shore Drive. There are several provincial parks and museums in the area. A boat ride takes you to Center Island which is an island on the Lake and there are lots of outdoor activities like sailing, jet skiing , cycling, canoeing etc.

# 4. Air Canada Center. This is a sports arena for Hockey and Basketball. Hockey (Ice Hockey) is big in Toronto like the rest of Canada. The local team is Maple Leafs and it is a riot on the streets the night the Maple Leafs are playing. This arena also house the Toronto Raptors – who are an above average Basketball team and play in the NBA. Besides the arena there are several exhibits within the center and is worth a visit.

# 5. Sky Dome. This is an open stadium and houses the Toronto Blue Jays which is the Baseball team and also the Argonauts, their Football Team. Canadian teams play in a league called as CFL (Canadian Football League) which is different from NFL (the American League). Suffice to say CFL is different. The dome is retractable, which is good as in fair weather it is kept open and in foul weather it can be closed.

# 6. PATH. This is a total underground city about 11 kms long which connects all the major streets above. There are several shops downstairs and food courts which are a fast and convenient way for dining.

# 7. Toronto Zoo. This is a nice Zoo and the kids and adults would definitely enjoy this outing.

# 8. Paramount and Wet and Wild . These are amusement parks and lots of fun in terms of rides and water related activities.

Within GTA, there are certain areas which have a concentration of a particular culture like Chinatown, Little India (in Gerrard Street), Little Italy, Little Greece etc and it is interesting to visit these neighborhoods.

Getting Around

Most of the places in the downtown area can be visited on foot.

Toronto has two modes of transportation. The TTC – which is the subway system and the GO which is the surface transit system.

The TTC runs underground trains, buses and trams and connects to all part of the city. A $2.00 token takes you from one point to another within the network.

The GO is for far out suburbs like Whitby or Mississauga – they depart from the main station (on Front Street) and are like a double decker train (reminds me of the Sinhagad Express from Bombay to Poona.)

Getting there

The Airport is located in Pearson which is about thirty minutes from downtown. All major airlines are represented here and there are good connections to the US and Europe.

Where to stay?

There are plenty of hotels in the downtown area to suit all budgets – some of them are the Sheraton, Mariott, Novotel etc. Normally I stay at the Sheraton which is on Queen Street just opposite the City Hall.. The charge varies between $180 to $250 per night in Canadian Dollars.

What to eat ?

Toronto is a food lovers paradise. You name it and they have it – be it American, French, Italian, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Mexican cuisine.

Food can be had in restaurants or in food courts. It is normally inexpensive and a good meal costs between $15-$20.

There are several pubs serving all types of beers – try the local brews – they are excellent.

For Indian food the best place is Kama on Queen Street. (tell him I have sent you there, my next meal will be free).

Best Time to Visit?

The best time to visit is Summer – between June and Sept. The rest of the time it gets cold. The worst months are Jan-Mar where the temperature reaches minus 30 degrees. But one good thing – it does not receive much snow fall.

Around Toronto

There are several places one can visit about an hours drive from Toronto:

# 1.Cottage Country: This is the area around Lake Simcoe which is North of Barrie (North Toronto) and has several cottages along the lake. Some of the best ones are in the Muskoka region. During the summer it is common to see locals leaving the city on Friday afternoon and spending the weekend in the cottage.

# 2. Lion Safari: About one hour drive from Toronto on Highway 401 is an Open Safari where one goes through acres of open land with wild animals roaming freely – like tigers, lions, bisons, giraffes, ostriches etc.

(Permission to digress…)

describing this Lion Safari, reminded me of Maddy’s comments – “show my wife to the animals”. That would be a riot.

# 3. Niagara Falls. This is the about an hours drive from Toronto via Burlington and Hamilton. This is one of the wonders of modern world and truly an awe inspiring site. It looks like the entire Niagara river lost its footing and is falling down. This can be a weekend trip and one can stay near the falls and there are always some activities nearby like fireworks etc.

PS: Toronto has an excellent night life. Some of you are aware of it.

All in all, a good place to visit, and also a good place to settle down.

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