Farewell, Toronto

Blue skies, great visibility, and that Friday feeling - without question the best day to head into Toronto city centre and take in the views from the top of the famous CN Tower.  We had this and the aquarium left on our CityPASS, and given the fish are at the bottom of the tower it makes perfect sense to do them both on the same day. And I always love going into cities during the week when they are pulsing with the people who keep them alive - so given we had Friday, Saturday and Sunday left, Friday was the day.

Readers of my previous post will not be surprised to learn we chose to drive rather than take public transport, and interestingly city parking doesn't seem too expensive (with a bit of research beforehand) so it seemed like a good idea all round. We drove in mid-morning, parked beside the Rogers Centre stadium, then walked round it using the easiest landmark on the Toronto skyline.

CN-tower

What you can't see in this photograph is all the yellow tape round about the base of the tower. We approached a security guard and asked him what was going on: due to the recent ice storm there were shards of ice falling from the top of the tower, and so it (and the aquarium) was shut. The day we decided to visit was the first time the CN Tower had been closed since 2003.

We later learned that it had in fact been closed all week. Such is what happens when you only have Netflix and not even basic cable channels - we hadn't been exposed to any local news, and hadn't checked the website for opening hours etc. since the previous weekend. Take note everyone: always check a venue's website on the day of your visit!

By now of course we'd paid to park all day and had the kids all bundled into the buggy and excited about a day in the city, so we were in a bit of a quandary. At such times the best emergency fallback is one of those little green squares mercifully still visible on offline Google maps: a park. Luckily there was one pretty close, so we headed there to let the kids play while we formulated a new plan.

toronto-city-park

toronto-city-park

toronto-city

We decided to keep it simple and embark on a walking tour of the city, punctuated with a stop for lunch at a chain called Earl's which we'd visited in Vancouver and found to be pretty child-friendly. As it turned out there wasn't a single child in the place and there was no children's menu or apple juice availble, much to Master H's disdain, but fortunately Miss H shared my pasta dish quite happily and Master H soon forgot all about apple juice when the chips (fries) arrived.

Anyway, here are the photos from our walking tour. First off, Union Station, which is cleverly connected to a number of buildings through the city's PATH system, a 30-kilometre network of underground tunnels and covered walkways ensuring Torontonians don't have to brave the snow every time they want to nip out for a coffee.

toronto-union-station


The Fairmont Royal York hotel is an impressive-looking building across the street:

toronto-fairmont-hotel


Next, we strolled past the building which is used in the TV show "Suits" as the main law firm offices.

suits-building

I stopped to get a coffee - a really nice one, I should add - at this place called Dineen Coffee Company, which looked quite pretty inside.

dineen-coffee-shop


Then we chanced upon some older style buildings, so we took a closer look. This first shot is a view up to the Old City Hall:



And here we peeked through the railings at Osgoode Hall, which houses a lot of legal affairs such as the offices of the Law Society of Ontario and the Great Law Library.



Then we wandered away from the older style and we were back in the area of modern buildings, with plenty of tall glassy skyscrapers and curious statues.

toronto-city-centre

toronto-city-centre


And some of the buildings looked rather odd, like this angular experiment topped with a Rubik's Cube that didn't pass quality control.

toronto-angular-building


And this skyscraper that looks like it's being held together with sticky tape. (Nice trams though.)

toronto-skyscraper


I found Toronto a peculiar city, although not an unlikable one. With two weary pairs of feet and two restless children who'd spent the afternoon dozing in the buggy we headed back to the car, and promptly sat in traffic for about half an hour as everyone struggled to get on to the ring road out of the city. Mind you, what do you expect when the road sign instructing drivers to merge reads - I kid you not - "SQUEEZE"??? Honestly Toronto road authority people, that's how you think it works? We all breathe in and magically three lanes of traffic become one? Jings. Try painting some yellow boxes so people don't sit in the junctions. Trust me on this one.

Anyway, after "squeezing" our way home the next day we kept it low-key, and started with a visit to the tiny (and free) High Park Toronto Zoo across the road from us. It is home to a small selection of animals, including a few alpacas, some Highland cows and, to the little ones' delight, actual reindeer!

high-park-toronto-zoo

Mr H then trotted off to watch (English) football at the pub with a friend of a friend, and the kids and I walked through High Park to the playground. Being a Saturday and the first non-snowy weekend for some time it was really busy however, and Master H got a bit upset when he couldn't find me at one point so we wrapped it up pretty quickly and ambled back to our apartment where I got on with some packing.

The next day was our final full day in Toronto, and fortunately the CN Tower had reopened as by now all its treacherous ice shards had well and truly melted, so it was time for city trip take two! This time was far more successful, and I'm delighted to say we had a really marvellous final day in Toronto.

The kids were excited about the aquarium so we went there first at their request. As readers of this blog from the beginning will know, we've been to more than our fair share of aquariums - and Toronto's Ripley Aquarium is right up there as one of the best. They have the longest moving underwater walkway I've been on, with lots of sharks and rays swimming right overhead and also alongside in separate, specially lit tanks.

aquarium-tunnel

aquarium-tunnel

aquarium-tunnel


Then at the end of the walkway we spilled out here: a massive play area with a live DJ!

aquarium-play-area


There are tanks to for kids to stand up inside:

aquarium-play-area


Crawl tunnels to, erm, crawl through (unless you're still teeny enough to stand up):

aquarium-play-area


And not to mention some excellent water play:

aquarium-play-area


There are also some small tunnels and slides to play on, and at one point we lost track of Master H. Well, when Mr H went to look for him he found the slightly teary three-year-old standing faithfully next to the buggy where we'd parked it, just as I'd told him to do the day before when he couldn't find me in the park. I had said if he ever couldn't find me or Daddy he should always look for the buggy and wait there (I then briefed Mr H in a parenting-catch-up that evening). So when he did this at the aquarium we were so proud of our wee champ!

Some more water play quickly restored our little chappie to his normal happy self, so we were soon able to carry on and found some interesting boards about how the aquarium is run which Mr H appreciated, while little Miss H enjoyed playing with the interactive displays.

aquarium-interactive-displays


We rounded off the visit with a trip to the shop to pick up some bath toy souvenirs (seemed only appropriate), though before that Mr H got a quick nail clean courtesy of this little guy:

aquarium-nail-clean


Outside the aquarium we stopped to have our picnic lunch - and to the kiddies' delight, there was a collection of railway engines to be clambered upon!

john-street-roundhouse

john-street-roundhouse


It's the old John Street Roundhouse, now part of the Toronto Railway Museum although the outdoor pieces are free, and there's even a little track for a miniature train that runs in the summer months.

john-street-roundhouse


And yes, it was even sunny enough for us to take our coats off briefly - hooray!

After lunch, to round off our trip to Toronto, we ascended the CN Tower.

toronto-cn-tower-view

toronto-cn-tower-view


And so this brought us to the end of our ten days in Toronto. From snow to sun, suburbs to CBD, we saw some very different sides to this one city. I'm pleased we visited it, but I'm ready to move on.

outside-aquarium


Next stop: Chicago!

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