Published: September 23rd 2012September 23rd 2012
Somehow I have never considered going to Canada on a holiday, don’t know why? Even though friends have raved about Toronto, Quebec or Montreal. Even though Vancouver has just been anointed world’s most liveable city. Even though the Canadian Rockies are supposed to be spectacular. I feel we should blame America, our brains are so hardwired by US of A, that Canada doesn’t come to mind when planning a holiday. So, I must confess I landed in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport with not much of enthusiasm.
It was a bright summer morning, and my old classmate & friend Rinku was waiting for us at the Arrivals. It was an overwhelming feeling meeting an old classmate after 17 long years, and the towering presence of this ‘gentle giant’ reminded me of good old school days. The day went by catching up on our sleep & relaxing, but surprisingly, I was not feeling ‘jet-lagged’ at all, and by evening I was itching to move out & do some exploring. My dear friend Rinku got the hint, and he took us to Montana’s – an amazing steakhouse & grill kitchen, where we dug our teeth into the most-delicious ribs.
some guidance from our local hosts, and the rest on maps, we set off the next day to experience Canada. Our first destination was Black Creek Pioneer Village - a recreation of life in 19th-century Ontario and consisting of historic 19th century buildings, decorated in the style of the 1860s with period furnishings and actors portraying villagers. With Toronto’s large transit system consisting of buses, street cars, subway lines, it was not at all difficult to move around. After stepping back in time to a period of European elegance and splendor at Casa Loma, we reached Art Gallery of Ontario. Proper internet surveys & planning got us entry into Canada’s largest gallery free of cost. Along with large collection of Canadian paintings & sculptures, it has one of the world's most expensive paintings on view. Being an avid art lover, Deenaz absolutely loved this place.
At Toronto, Rinku introduced us to Tim Hortons - Canada’s very own answer to Starbucks or Barista. With a tag line of “Always Fresh”, here in Canada people believe that they have more of Tim Hortons coffee than blood in their veins. So, filled up with a “double double” from Tim Hortons, we
were ready to explore the classy & very bustling Toronto Downtown. After a quick peek at the Ontario Science Centre, we started our walking tour of downtown. It began with the world’s longest street – Yonge Street, which runs 1896 km into another town. Every Torontian is proud of Yonge Street, and the Yonge-Dundas square is the hub of all activities. A must-do in this area is the Eaton Centre, a massive shopping & office complex. I was unmoved by the shops, but I was most taken up by the kind of activities in progress – a local ‘Silver Elvis’ dancing on a podium, street dancers doing their bit, local drummers playing their beat, The Dark Knight himself gracing the occasion & the our very own Indian presence in form of IIFA pre-show celebrations – everything was engrossing.
Walking in any city doesn’t feel like a structured activity (which I resist on holidays); it feels casual. Like we were walking & talking the city, experiencing it, rather than sightseeing & imbibing information. So, after wending our way past the old City Hall, where the architect had cunningly inserted visual symbols of himself into the brickwork, we headed to
the nearest Food Court. With some Canadian “poutine” in our stomachs, we headed to the Lakefront & Harbour front where the breeze almost swept us from our feet. We gazed at the vastness of Lake Ontario, on which the city sits. It may technically be a lake, but it looks like a sea. With awe-struck views of the CN Tower & Rogers Centre at night still lingering in our minds, we returned back home.
Next day we wanted to explore that part of Toronto which is not found in any tourist brochure or website. After careful study of the local information, we landed at The Historic Distillery Centre - a pedestrian-only village dedicated to the arts and entertainment. Once the largest distillery in the world, it’s now a working community for artists, furniture & jewelry designers, dancers and stage actors. With more patios space than any other Toronto location, The Distillery has also become a favourite neighbourhood hangout among thirsty locals. One minute you’re ‘in the city’, the next you’re on brick paved lanes amidst 13-acre charming collection of Victorian-era buildings with no cars to spoil the magic. Our pit stop was at Mill Street Brewery where we sat down on a sunny patio to taste their trademark Tankhouse Ale & Organic Lager. All the beer drinking made us hungry, and we headed to St Lawrence Farmer’s Market, stretching over two buildings, with large seafood, meat and fruit & vegetables sections. It boasts of an extensive food court, with merchants often cooking food that they bought fresh that morning.
Meeting old acquaintances at unassumed locations always come as a pleasant surprise. The same thing happened when we stayed for a night at Col Suresh’s place, and he was more than glad to welcome us with open arms. An old 268-er will always welcome you like a family member, and that’s why ‘Regimental spirit’ is so very strong in Army. I ended my Toronto trip like I began, on a high. CN Tower, like Yonge Street is one of Toronto’s top scorers, and with Rogers Centre being next-door neighbor, the atmosphere is eclectic.