Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Toronto - The City

A Birds eye view from the CN Tower

Downtown financial core

Toronto is the largest of Canada’s vibrant urban centers. As Canada’s economic capital, it’s considered a global city, also the hub of the nation’s commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural life. As the capital of the Province of Ontario, it is also known in the travel industry as the “center of the universe”, prime location for traveling anywhere.

(Mary Pickford may be America's sweetheart, but she was born in Toronto and her family home was in this exact location where this stone headpiece sits. She was all Canadian!)

It is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes in North America. (Other Great Lakes are; Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior)

Moose were all over the city, much like the bears were all over Vancouver last year.

Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto area, and is part of a densely populated region in south central Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe which encompasses one third of Canada’s population!

For Jim F. - Steam Whistle brewing company.

With over 2.5 million residents along the perimeter of Lake Ontario, beginning at the southwest’s city of Hamilton, traveling around it’s shores, through Oakville, Mississauga, Toronto, and finally ending in the city of Scarborough, this “Golden Horseshoe” makes it the fifth most populated municipality in North America as well. Needless to say too, Toronto is the largest city in Canada.

"CBC" building

Crazy named shops are popular with famous people visiting the city.

With bug eyes and a tourist glow we forged forth into the heart of Toronto by hopping onto the amphibious “Hippo Tour” escorted, and fully narrated for the duration of the 90-minute tour. We learned much along the way about this huge city.

Our Hippo bus

Our Hippo bus was unique, with its driver certified in both motor coach touring and fully licensed marine. As the bus offered its tour on land and water, we were intrigued for what lay ahead.

Historic Fort York (see here)

From our Hippo bus shortly before
launching into the lake.

Reach out and touch the water folks!

What a great way to tour an area, venturing throughout the core and outskirts of the city, and then heading for the water’s edge, everyone hooted and squealed when the bus driver hit the pedal and accelerated down the ramp, splashing into the water of Lake Ontario. WOW! Quickly I looked around to see a hue of green rising on one daughter’s face, and then a son’s shortly after when they realized we were floating in the water, windows all open and the water level very near entering inside. Reaching out, one could touch the water, feeling its cool, and moistness on our hand.

(She wasn't happy about this part, neither was her sister. Both had a lovely hue of green creep up their faces when the bus flew into the water, from the down ramp the driver rushed onto with super speed in his acceleration.)

Getting into the water was interesting and perhaps the green shade of fear and trepidation was due to being handed a life jacket in case of an emergency, keeping it near our seats. However, as the vessel motioned ahead, lake views of the cityscape became most interesting from this location.

Visiting the city during this particular time period allowed for the viewing of the Rogers Chinese Lantern Festival.

Rogers Chinese Lantern Festival is a nightly celebration of Chinese culture in Toronto. The focus of the festival is a display of 40 lanterns depicting scenes of Chinese culture and history that were designed and installed by Master Craftsmen from China. The lanterns can be as high as 50 feet and as long as 300 feet and are truly a sight to behold. There is also an authentic Chinese Marketplace, cultural events, including Chinese movies, acrobatic performances and much more. Rogers Chinese Lantern Festival is the largest festival of its kind outside of Asia.

Such a colorful waterfront scene, plenty of lanterns which light up at night, but rows and rows of all those statues too!

As we headed west along the waterfront area, our tour narrator made interesting remarks about the multi million dollar boating vessels located nearby, dragon boat races had been held here the weekend prior and some were still in use up ahead.

Million dollar boating vessels with
thousands in monthly mooring fees.

A few brave kayakers were making their way towards us, and to our right, many folks up on the waterfront park’s promenade decking began to wave to us, as they walked, rode their bikes or roller bladed along on this super lovely day. It was a peaceful and serene time on the water, such a contrast to our city tour with the hustle and bustle of crowds, honking horns, narrow streets which we traveled on with the long bus, and crazy drivers cutting us off periodically. Overall, this was a great investment, something we would all do again!

City lights!

Dundas square at Eaton's center

The sights and sounds of large city are always fascinating to witness and behold as a tourist, but there is something to admit to when returning home to our (stellar) location of preferred quiet country living soon afterwards.

Home sweet home!