You’ve had about ten minutes to recover from the drinking and debaucheries, cheese platters and hot tubbing a quiet country life has to offer, so you’re probably ready to show off your trim fig in workout wear.
If it’s summer (or something like it), you might consider a jog/bike ride/Segway along Toronto’s uncredible waterfront.
My journey started at Parliament and Front Streets, also known as The Distillery District. (Can’t get enough old-tymeyness, can I?) Here’s a fun fact: wearing the “omgzzz they have TOURIST clothes in WILDERNESS TOWN” shirt you bought leaving the countryside – complete with flying eagles and polar bears (not actually represented in aforementioned small town’s wilderness), you can burn both calories and everyone around you with your hot-like-fiyahness. Fierce snap!
Take Front Street West and snip into the St Lawrence Market, taking in dead animals as far as the eye can see, but also a literal cornucopia of delicious fruits and veg, and if you’re so inclined, cheese, breads and spices. Though I myself prefer to eat air (and if I’m really feeling cheeky, some paper and ice cubes – shhhh! Don’t tell Nanny!). Across the street, depending on the day, one can purchase overpriced “antiques” (read: purchased by sellers earlier in the week at V-squared, or Value Village, to vintage-twee-types) in a mishmash of market stalls rating marginally above car-park-boot-sale-chiq.
You’ll pass The Gooderham (The Flatiron) Building as you make your way towards the CN tower (ooh, more landmarks… how thrilling!). If you’re on a Segway at this point, make sure your brain-bucket is strapped on tight (is it!?) when you take 100K pictures of the CN tower from every conceivable angle en route towards it – but no! You’re going to detour South on Spadina Ave (about a 15 minute streetcar ride South of Toronto’s Chinatown) to cross the bridges over multiple traintracks you saw as you passed Union Station back at Front and Bay Streets. You remember, the train station across from the Fairmont Royal York hotel, the definitive conference quickie palace – as in “oops I shagged the boss but it’s ok ‘cause he totally has the cash to support my Blackmail…”
UNDER THE BRIDGE – Work with me, pedestrians. There are no stop-and-go-lights, no zebra crossings and no attention paid to your footpath as you traverse a particularly delicate section of Spadina as it bisects Queens Quay (A personal landmark, where I once chased a turkey behind a bunch of condo buildings under The Gardiner Expressway). Are you feeling confident? Good. Cross the exit-off-the-highway and you’ll find yourself in front of The Empire Sandy’s dock, also a point where one can walk out practically into the lake, to see planes arrive and depart from the Toronto Island Airport.
Continue West toward the Canada Malting building, a monumental structure built in 1928 that has remained vacant since 1980 that adds a curious element of post-apocalyptic castle to an otherwise insanely manicured Toronto Music Gardens. I don’t quite think I “get” The Music Gardens, but I like the idea. I prefer to walk through the marina where hundreds of sailboats are moored and one can glimpse the seafarer’s life of constant motion sickness and reapplication of SPF 8 to imitation pancetta back-fat. Of course this is not the sailing set to which we are accustomed, but we will overlook that, for the time being.
Queen’s Quay turns into Stadium Rd (not quite sure why, as stadiums are a bit of a jog past – “whatevs” being the general motto for urban planning in this city) which takes our tour out to Lakeshore Boulevard, a waterfront condo-land set between the Navy and Army HQ’s at Fort York. Mercifully, they have yet to bulldoze Coronation Park, a stretch of manicured lawns on the water where one can picnic watching boats bob past, if one chooses to ignore Dogs Gone Wild and Canada geese going head-to-head in turf wars cleverly designated to one gang or the other by number of fecal deposits. Advice? Don’t park your picnic hamper next to a tree, pretty much ever.
Southwest of the park you can make the decision leading to your inevitable touristy suicide and hit up Ontario Place, a vaguely interesting midway and miniscule amusement park that puts on a decent fireworks display throughout the summer, and during The Ex does a nightly spectacular of throwing money up into the sky, setting it on fire and watching it turn into glitter. The Ex, or Canadian National Exhibition is across the street and you’ll pass The Prince’s Gates as you travel North up Bathurst Street. As you cross Fleet Street, be on the lookout for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (and stop taking drugs you paranoid sicko), as their stables are to your left, just past the Ontario Hydro massive mega superstation, which looks about a billion years old and provides an interesting backdrop to complete our portrait series of “industrial wasteland”.
Time for a nap! But there’s not enough time! After a shower and a well-earned glass of champagne (slight substitution in the all-air diet here), we’re back on the road to what may well be Toronto’s most Nouveau Richey tourist attraction of all time, Casa Loma.
Washing ourselves of the wastelandyness of the previous hour, put on all the airs of true heirs to romp through the “castle”, which from the exterior is a mishmash of styles not adequately aged or subjected to cannon fire, and therefore looks rather Disney on the edge of a residential area reserved for the massively wealthy. Imagine an overweight awkward prepubescent girl showing up to her private-school peer’s posh “I’m a socialite” theme party in a cone hat and an ill-fitting pink Cinderella gown and you get the idea of what this castle feels on the daily. Take the shame!
While the house has a certain charm to it, it truly is a ridiculous tour, and the most fun was had listening to the audio tour (Purel it first), which has voice-actors portraying scenarios in which elements of a particular room was used. They also slag off the owner of the house by telling stories of how he was obsessed with titles so much so that he was conned into picking up “Sir Thomas” in full regalia at the nearby train station only to find out it was a cat. This pleased me immensely.
Sir/Lord/Whateverington also had a wifey who was the Queen of The Girl Guides, so there’s a whole boring expo on that, and if you want to dull your soul forever, go ahead and click the link. I preferred to attempt to sell my cookies in her private salon, and got quite a few offers. Over 30 boxes sold! I think I got my beaver patrol badge by default.
God, touristing is boring sometimes. Here’s the rapid-fire notes on Casa Loma:
- The rooms are okay, but mostly what you want to do is make out anyway, so head for the tower, or alternatively the closet in the servant’s quarters. Ooh, slumming!
- The gardens were a joke. Literally tulips spaced at six-inch intervals that appeared to be losing their petals at lightspeed. This may have been due to the early summery weather being juxtaposed by a fear for flash frost, so I’ll assume they can do better in the warmer months.
- The stables were nearly all closed, but made for some hilarious pictures.
- Garage – not even worth it, whatsoever.
- Underground tunnel was cool but that was probably made so by virtue of the fact that it was completely deserted. It would likely feel really uncomfortable if you were in a long lineup of children and the elderly, which was avoided by arriving on a Monday afternoon.
Overall, I can see why the castle is a tourist attraction, but I kind of also just don’t care. Since it was part of a CityPass package at 59$, I didn’t mind seeing it, but as the admission was around 20$, without the pass I would say give it a skip.
Walking south past Bloor Street we pass the outskirts of the University of Toronto campus (pretty and castley, and much more bang for your non-buck), en route to the final tourist futuristic castle destination of the day, The CN Tower.
I want to encourage people NOT to go to the CN Tower as I have in the past, as it’s about a 40$ per-person tourist trap, but as it was part of the CityPass, ….Oh, go on, then.
Arriving just before sunset, I have to say it was spectacular to watch the sun set over the city I had just covered on foot, and in that respect it was worth the irritation of being one of ten million people clamoring for a good view of the sunset. Stay away from anywhere with a binocular stand, as you’re just asking for your eardrums and soul to break when every child in the universe wants to fuck around with it. Avoid the restaurant upstairs and, if you’re feeling romantical, enjoy the city lights with a reasonably-priced cocktail list instead of taking some kind of movie-thrillride combination, closing down the day’s adventure by missing the hard-sell in the late-night abandoned gift shop.
As you close your eyes after a full day of Royal misadventures and romantical interludes, try not to think of your alarm clock’s inevitable intrusion into tomorrow’s hangover.
For tomorrow… is another (fun filled, sugar fueled, drunk-encouraging touristy) day!