Toronto in a Day:

Wow, what a Trip!

 

by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz

 

Toronto Skyline

(borrowed from Style in Progress Web Site)

 

April 26, 2008: My son Solomon and his friend Andrew came up for a visit this week and we decided that one of the places we would go was Toronto, Canada's largest city and the 5th largest in North America.  It is only about an hour and a half from Paris by car and it appeared that it would e a nice day.  We had planned to drive to the outskirts of the city (to Kipling Station) and then use the subways, buses and trams to get around.  But, on Friday night at midnight, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) called a Wildcat strike beginning at 12:01 AM on Saturday...our day to visit the beautiful city.  So, that is where we start this little adventure...with a strike!

 

Unfortunately for us, it wasn't the better way

 

The Headlines say it all.  So, there is a big black X through Chester Station in Greektown,

one of the stations we had planned to use.

 

This is the scene on Monday morning after the government

stepped in and forced them back to work.

 

Enough about the strike...we decided to figure things out on our own.  We drove the 401 freeway into Toronto and then made our way up Spadina Ave. into Chinatown, where we found parking underneath a shopping center near Dundas and Spadina.  From there we walked.  After visiting Chinatown, we walked over to Kensington Market.  Then, we drove over to Greektown for lunch via a swing by the Royal Ontario Museum, then we made our way to Casa Loma, the large castle in the middle of town, and finally back down Spadina to the CN Tower.  I am organizing this page a little differently than most of my others.  Rather than walk through the order of our visit, I am going to break it down in themes as there were a number of things we saw, besides those above...people, musicians, food markets, interesting buildings and statues.

 

This is a map of our route once we arrived in Toronto.  Basically, up Spadina to Dundas, then Spadina back to Queen,

E on Queen to McCaul, N on McCaul through Toronto University to Sussex and then over to Bloor,

down Bloor over the Prinice Edward Viaduct onto Danforth and then back to Bloor and

then north on Avenue Rd to Eglington, back down Spadina to Casa Loma and

then back down Spadina to the CN Tower and Rogers Centre.

 

 

A giant thimble sits in front of Starbucks on S. Spadina.  Wall art is everywhere in Toronto.

 

 

There seem to be hundreds of high-rise apartments/condos everywhere in Toronto

 

PEOPLE: Any big city has its people and they are everywhere and of every type.  During our trip around Toronto I captured a few people on camera...the good, the bad and the ugly...

 

People at shops...I loved the lady's hat and the fruit stand guy who wore a top that matched his shop decor

 

Then there are the homeless and the hopeless, the sad plight of many major cities

 

And then there was the guy who waved at me in Kensington and

the one on the bench with his cell phone "freeing his mind"

 

Street musicians were everywhere as well:  A Native American playing a flute, classical musicians playing Bach

 and a Chinese man playing a two stringed instrument on the corner in China town.

 

CHINATOWN: According to numerous sources on the web, the Chinatown (better to be called Asia town) of Toronto is supposedly second only in size to that of San Francisco.  Indeed, it was quite spread out and it really did feel more like we were in Asia rather than in Canada or North America.  Everywhere we went we heard Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese being spoken.  Lots of little shops and typical signage.

 

   

Chinese and Vietnamese signs clog the view in every direction. 

Signage was bi-lingual (and NOT in Spanish!)

 

   

There was "Bubble Tea" (just drink and chew) and the Greedy Kitten Restaurant

 

Lots of chickens, some duck brain and a whole pig (Yum Yum)

 

Many shops with lots of trinkets, an "Asian Moose" and lots of dried fish products

A note about the Moose: He is one of my growing collection of Mooses from all over

(see some of my other trip journals for others:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5 )

 

KENSINGTON MARKET: Just a few blocks away from Chinatown is another unique area of the city.  It takes up about three streets and about five blocks.  This was probably the favorite place for us.  Lots of color and lots of interesting items to peruse.  The Kensington Market (click on road sign for more info) is renowned for its many vintage clothing shops and a few other eclectic shops.  Here are just a few shots from the colorful area.

 

 

   

Most of the homes have the tall gables.  The photo in the middle represents the overlap of Chinatown and Kensington. 

The one on the right shows the great variety of color.

 

 

   

More color and variety.  The building architecture seems pretty similar, but the color makes them all so different.

 

   

   

Just a sampling of the many store fronts.  Most of these sold vintage clothing and other curiosities.

 

Lots of old dresses of every style and clothing.  Solomon shows off a polyester shirt fit for Antsy McClain

 

 

We even found a t-shirt (left) patterned after Andy Warhol's Che Guevara painting (right)

 

   

LuLu sorts the jackets while a mannequin and painted tree look on

 

 

Smiling customers...and no experience required!

 

Clothing and vintage things aren't all that can be found in Kensington Market.  There are fruit stands, cheese shops, fish mongers, meat shops, cafes, etc.

 

We found a shop for pot heads with a sign from Lexington, KY (High Street);

Sol and Andrew found the Army surplus store (but Sol didn't find any knives he liked);

the Hot Box Cafe is inside Roach-O-Rama...hmm, I wonder what kind of food they have....

apparently they DO allow weed smoking in there (see the link)

 

The fish markets were nothing like what I saw in Seattle, but they still were pretty fishy...

 

   

The Chocolate Addict on Baldwin St. had everything chocolate. 

Global Cheese does speak Solomon's language...they would cut the cheese just for him. 

There was fruit everywhere (and not just at the fruit stands)

 

There was Caribbean food (if you like jerk anything, they have it); more outdoor shopping; and lots of meat

 

Lots of other odd things could be bought in Kensington.  I love the Chief with the Hello Kitty dolls....and the juice wrapper purses

 

 

 

There was a shop that sold posters and post cards from Kensington artists (Global Aware). 

These are a few of them.  Click on them to learn about the artists.

 

Scenes from downtown Toronto: From Kensington, we got back to the car and drove across town to Greektown.  Along the way we saw some fascinating buildings.  We passed by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), but at $20/person we passed on going in.  We also passed the Toronto school of art.

 

 

A couple of views of the ROM from the outside.  Even the building is a piece of art. 

The Crystal, as this portion of the building is called, was financed by Michael Lee-Chin

and designed by Daniel Libeskind

 

 

The Sharp Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) is one

of the most unique structures I have ever seen.  The building is functional and houses

art studios, lecture theaters, exhibit spaces, etc.  It was designed by English architect

Will Alsop. The columns are 26 meters (85 feet) tall.  This building is right around the corner

from the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is currently closed, it too taking on a whimsical design.

The 8 foot tall vase above is found nestled underneath the Sharp Centre.

 

 

The 20 foot tall dragons stand guard over the trolley tracks on Spadina. 

More artful architecture on the building above.

 

GREEKTOWN: We finally made our way to GreekTown near Danforth and Chester, in the northeast section of the Toronto.  They claim to be the largest Greek neighborhood in North America, though there may be more Greeks living in New York City.  More than sightseeing, Greektown is famous for all of the dining establishments and the European ambience it has.

 

Logan Ave.; GreekTown flags; Ferrier Ave.: It's all Greek to me!

 

The Astoria Shish Kebob House at Chester and Danforth. Many friends recommended this place.

 

 

Making saganaki - flaming cheese.  While it was on fire everyone shouted "Opa!"

This is Greek for "celebrate" or something like that.

We ordered this as an appetizer...it came with a Greek bread and was marvelous

 

Sol and Andrew enjoy their Souvlaki - pork shish kabob with roast potatoes and savory rice as well as

Astoria's own recipe for Tzatziki, a creamy garlic yogurt used to dip the meat into. 

My mouth waters just thinking about the luscious flavor of the tzatziki.

 

 

After lunch we met with owner Elias Bonos who showed us all of the

photos of celebrities that had visited his restaurant. 

His daughter joined Sol and Andrew for a photo as well.

 

 

Many European-style outdoor cafes are sprinkled along Danforth Ave. in GreekTown

 

 

Many interesting store fronts on Danforth: Fermentations, a place to make your own wine; Suckers, a candy shop

 

 

Alexander the Great Park (Danforth and Logan) has a fountain and a bronze of Alexander

The bust was done by surrealist Dion Zachariou in 2002.

 

 

After walking around we stopped at Athens Pastries for something sweet.

We had some custard bougatsa (top of photo) and some loukoumades,

honey glazed dough balls that were waaay sweet.

 

CASA LOMA: After literally getting our fill of GreekTown, we headed back towards the middle of town to visit the famous Castle Casa Loma, a huge mansion built in the early 1900s by Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt. Casa Loma was supposedly the largest private home ever built in North America by the time it was built.  It had 98 rooms, an elevator, many other amenities and even two secret passages.  This castle appeared in the movie X-Men, which was filmed in Toronto and Hamilton.  We didn't go in as the cost was $16/person.  But the outside made the $2 parking fee well worth it.

 

   

Big watchtower structure, the whole castle and a close-up of the unicorn on the smokestack

 

CN TOWER: Obviously, a visit to Toronto cannot be complete without a visit to the CN Tower.  Once again, costs were prohibitive, but the Tower looms large over the city and can be seen almost everywhere.  Up until recently, the CN Tower was the tallest man building in the world at 553 meters (1815 feet).  At 628.8 (2063 feet) meters, the KVLY-TV mast in Blanchard, North Dakota is currently the tallest COMPLETED man-made structure in the world.  On April 7, 2008 the Burj Dubai in Dubai, UAE took over as the tallest man-made structure at 629 meters (2064 feet), but it is still under construction. Of course, this is not meant to belittle the CN Tower, which is also an amazing structure and certainly one of the man made wonders of North America.

 

   

Three views of the massive CN Tower

 

Comparison of CN Tower, KVLY Mast and Burj Dubai

(borrowed from the Burj Dubai web site)

 

TORONTO WALL ART: To close out this page, I wanted to include some of the wall art that can be found around Toronto.  Much of what we saw was in Kensington, but there is wall art all over the city and some is very good.

 

 

I thought the bike added some texture, as did the man walking by.

 

More artwork

A couple of these I have already shown earlier on this page

 

Colorful graffiti can also be seen everywhere.  There is actually a "Graffiti Alley" in Toronto and

an organization known as "Style in Progress" keeps up the work annually.

 

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sumoflam@sumoflam.biz