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Toronto, An Introduction


by Max Lent

A biased introduction

I cannot write an unbiased description of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  I admit it, I love Toronto.  Toronto and I have been lovers for decades.  Toronto is an exciting fashionable international city.  It has all of the positive attributes of New York City without the negatives. 

The people of Toronto are polite, courteous, and extremely well dressed.  A visitor might have trouble discerning Toronto fashion because it is mostly black.  Black clothing, black coats, black shoes, and black accessories.  Of course, this is an exaggeration, but there is enough black around to appear exaggerated.

My wife and I think of Toronto as our eas-to-get-to international vacation city.  Even in mid-winter when the outside temperatures are in the minus numbers and snow is on the ground, we still find Toronto enjoyable.  One of our favorite Christmas holiday visits includes a stay at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel.  We spend the days shopping and visiting museums.  In the late afternoon or early evening we return to the hotel for a rest before dinner.  The Westin Harbour Castle  has an outdoor/indoor heated pool that is covered by an glass roof and walls and kept warm in the winter.  On the coldest winter day it is wonderfully enjoyable to soak the hotel's hot tub and watch snow swirling outside the the glass walls.  The pool is also used by members of a health club, so planning your soak before or after the after work rush is a good idea.  Warmed from our soak and swim we return to our room to make dinner plans.     


A summer visit to Toronto would be incomplete without ferry ride to the Toronto Islands and a walk around the islands.  This ride and walk becomes a memorable romantic experience on warm summer evenings in moonlight.  Swans can be seen illuminated by the moonlight as they drift around the numerous inlets.  Even more spectacular is the view of Toronto from the islands or the ferry on the return trip.  Take a jacket, the ferry ride is often chilly even on warm summer evenings.    

Toronto an international city, which means that it is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and proud of it.  The result of Toronto being multi-everything is that visitors can experience foods, shopping, and art from around the world.

India in Toronto

If your interest is India, visit Gerard & Hiwatha Streets and then East along Gerard St.  Here on a warm summer day you will smell the spices of India being cooked in the numerous Indian restaurants.  As you walk along Gerard St. you will pass by Indian shops that some of the best traditional Indian clothing, such as saris, in North American.  A friend of mine's wife purchased her wedding party's saris on Gerard St.  The aroma on incense is everywhere.  If you have been to India, close your eyes for a moment and you will imagine that you are shopping in New Delhi.

Not all of the best Indian restaurants in Toronto are located on Gerard St.  You will have to do some work to find the best ones.

China in Toronto

The Chinese population of Toronto is second only to San Francisco.  Toronto's main Chinatown is located in the Dundas-Spadina area.  Dundas and Spidina you can walk East along Dundas to near Bay.  You can also walk north and south on Spadina.  If, as you walk through Toronto's main Chinatown, you notice little quarter size pieces of brown or reddish brown fruit shell scattered on the ground everywhere, you are in for a treat.  What this indicates is that Lychee nuts are in season. Nearly every street side grocer will be selling them.  They come in a couple of quality grades.  Buy the most expensive, it is worth the slight additional cost.  If you are coming from the U.S., you will not be able to take your Lychees across the boarder.  Just buy enough to last you on your walk through Chinatown.

There is more than one Chinatown in Toronto.  The one that I have described above is the one that most tourists visit, but the others, described in "Chinatown Sextet" on are also worth visiting.   


Parking in Toronto is expensive.  It is so expensive that the City of Toronto parking meters take credit cards.  I'm not joking.  The system works like this: You find a parking spot, which is easier than you might expect, park, go to the nearby parking kiosk, insert your credit card, select how long you want to park up to the limit allowed, press the add time button until the dollar amount is reached, press the get ticket button, take your ticket, place it on your dashboard, and you are ready to roam.  The system works well, but it is very expensive.  We typically spent $25 per day Canadian on parking meters.  What happens is that you will over compensate by adding more time to the meter than you need and then come back to your car early and leave for the next destination.  Doing this several times in a day quickly adds up.

Hotel parking routinely costs $15 per day and up.  Some hotels include parking in their packages.  However, even if you get free hotel parking the mass transportation system is also very pricy.  For a short stay, it is best to maximize your time at destinations by parking on the street near where you are going.


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