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Toronto 2012: Around Town

Downtown Toronto

Around Toronto on my own

After my other relatives flew back to San Francisco I had a chance to walk around Toronto on my own, I took the Toronto Subway and public transport system to see the city Toronto has grown into a city with lots of different cultural and ethnic flavors about the size of Chicago. I was able to move from Scarborough to North York and from one part of the city to the other without a car of my own with relative ease.

 

Like any big city it has it's issues, when I was there the city was dealing with it's issues with gun crimes like one notorious shooting at Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto; so keep your wits about you where ever you go and be careful. I guess you are never really safe regardless where you go, like any big city you can't also let your guard down.

Uncle's Backyard

Still, I had a great time walking through the streets of the city; during the day, the city is fun to walk through, it changes constantly. during the week day the financial district is full of people on the weekends the waterfront and the St. Lawrence District is full of people. Like San Diego during the real estate boom of 2004 to 2006, where high rise condo towers were springing up like weeds, Toronto is going through it's own real estate boom. Different people will tell you different things, some say it's a real estate bubble others will disagree and say that the Canadian government has much stricter laws, regardless of what you believe the rise of condo towers all over Toronto has slowly replaced old buildings in many parts of the city.

It was very interesting walking amongst the old and new buildings that are standing right next to one another. We don't have much of that left here in Southern California, everything is torn down and rebuild with alarming regularity, nothing gets to stay old very long, so it's a nice site to see old buildings in a city.

Penny in the garden

Penny and the Garden, June 7th, 2012

It's funny, after my relatives from out of town all flew home the rain stopped, the sun came out and it warmed up very quickly. The weather during the rest of my trip to Toronto was hot and humid, but Penny my Uncle's Beagle did not mind, she was back patrolling the garden in the backyard. Penny went back to patrolling the garden and watching the trees to see if the squirrels come down to the ground and invade her territory. She is very fast, penny has chased down a number of birds, squirrels and other rodents in the yard; walking her is also a challenge, after walking her around the neighborhood she is not very easy to control either. Around humans she is very well behaved, but that changes around other animals.

Compared to my past trips to Toronto, penny has matured, she is much better now than when she was younger. Uncle Chiu and Aunt Amy don't have to use a gate in the kitchen to keep her in when they sleep.

My Uncle and Aunt also started a vegetable garden, they are doing very well with it; by Autumn they should have a very bountiful harvest. Both of them work in the garden every day, to top it off they got several baby oak plants to grow, I am very impressed. Even better yet, a small Oak Tree sapling grew new leaves after a squirrel or rodent chewed off leaves and branches.

Toronto Route 510: Spadina Ave

Centre Island and Route 510, June 8th, 2012

One of the first things I did was travel on the Toronto Subway, My Aunt, Uncle and I took theSubway to the Spadina Avenue Station to take the trolley to the waterfront.Trolley Route 510 was one of the routes that for better or worse changed part of downtown, before the trolley route there were lots of different merchants along the street. That all changed after Route 510 was built, most of the parking disappeared and so did the businesses, when you travel down the street via the trolley you can see that this part of the trolley route was once a better place.

Still the trolley does provide a good view of several parts of Downtown Toronto, like Toronto University, Old Chinatown and the water front. The one very annoying thing is that there are three separate trolley routes that run down the Street, one goes to Union Station, another goes to the water front and the last one goes down Spadina Avenue only. The map never told us this, and we had to learn on our own how it all works.

Eventually we made it down to the waterfront and to the ferry terminal to take our ferry to Centre Island.

Downtown Toronto: Union Station and the Royal York Hotel

Toronto Subway

I have taken the subway or metro in London, Paris, Munich, Prague, Lisbon and Stockholm so I am familiar with how it all works I have been to Toronto many times but never traveled on the Toronto subway before, I did not get the chance until now, so this time I was determined to travel on the subway. Overall, I am very impressed, I was able to get to Downtown Toronto, West and North Toronto very quickly, in the outer suburbs of East Toronto I had to take a light rail train to the subway itself. There are two main lines the Green line that runs East to West, then the Yellow Line that runs North and South in a U shaped route. If you travel by subway and light rail, don't forget to get a Bus and Trolley transfer from the Red Box in the Subway Station, this way you can get on to a bus or trolley after you get off the subway; the bus or trolley driver is not going to give you a transfer if you don't get one from the box so don't forget this.

Toronto Subway Lines

  • Yellow Line: Yonge-University-Spadina
  • Green Line: Bloor-Danforth
  • Blue Line: Scarborough RT
  • Purple Line: Sheppard

If you are going downtown, the Yellow Line travels north to south running underneath Yonge Street to Union Station where you are just a short walk away from the ferry to Centre Island, the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, the Financial District, St. Lawrence District, City Hall and Eaton Cente, on the other side of downtown is the other half of the Yellow line, it runs under University Avenue and takes you to Toronto University, Old Chinatown and to Bloor Street.

The areas that the yellow line serves going into the downtown also takes you to a number of museums and galleries in the area, both sides of the Yellow Line will take you up to North York or North Toronto. Sorry, you can't travel to Pearson International Airport from the Subway Yet.

The Green line runs from east to west, this line can take you to opposite sides of the city and will take you to the Yellow Subway Line. For the most part this line will take you to the suburbs in Toronto, or if you are traveling to Bloor Street and want to travel to the Annex and walk around, then you can take the green line to the Bathhurst station and walk around.

The one subway line I did not take was the Shepard Line, this line will take you along Sheppard Avenue to the Fairview Mall, the other line is the Scarborough line which is really a extension of the Green line and takes you to the suburb of Scarborough in East Toronto.

Toronto Queen's Quay

Centre Island

Ever since I visited the CN Tower I wanted to travel to Centre Island, which sits off the coast of Toronto; during the spring and summer it is full of people from Toronto. There is a amusement park, several harbors and a couple of restaurants besides the parks and beaches on the island. If you have time you can even rent a bike and ride through out the entire island or even sit on the beach and get a tan.

Before I could get to Centre Island, I could have traveled by subway to Union Station or take the trolley, if you really like driving you can go to Downtown Toronto and try to find a parking space, good luck to you. Once you get to Union Station you walk south to the Westin Harbor Castle Hotel but don't go inside, instead go to the Ferry Terminal and you will be able to pay for a ferry to take you to Centre Island.

The ferry trip was very pleasant, but it was a warm day and there were lots of people, I was able to spend some time and walk around on the island. As I said earlier, you can rent a bike and ride around the island, there are two different routes that take you to separate parts of the island. The eastern part of the island is actually a town, there are people that live on the island year round, the central part of the island is a park and amusement park, there is a large cafe on the island and a restaurant that is closed at the time I was there.

Otherwise people store their boats at the marinas on the island and there is a airport on the island as well. The best part of all is that I got the photos of Toronto's skyline that I wanted, plus I got to set foot on the island that I always wanted to visit.

 

Scarborough Center and Shopping!!!, June 9th, 2012

I did not do any sight seeing today, we went Shopping for a Lawnmower, Dog Food and Groceries today, unlike in the states, Sears is doing a decent business here in Toronto. I guess you don't have a lot ofo choices, it's either the Bay or Sears you pick your pick here in Toronto, still if you walk through a shopping mall in Toronto, you will find the same brands are in Toronto as in the USA, they have many of the same stores with the same merchandise, but the names are different. After that I walked Penny, we took a nice long walk and she was very happy to have the exercise, the weather was hot and humid so the walk was not that long.

Later in the evening I had dinner with Bosco and Cindy, we had chinese buffet for dinner.

Downtown Toronto: Union Station

Toronto Financial District and Woofstock, June 10th, 2012

On my second day, I travelled down to the financial district and got off at Union Station; I have not been inside Union Station before and found the lower level to be a maze, there was lots of construction going on add to that lots of people trying to find their way to their destination, and it can get confusing. Still the building's interior was very beautiful in spite of all the construction that was going on outside and inside the building.

I did walk around outside and explored the financial district and the surrounding area, then I decided to do one of the lonely planet walking tours in my old lonely planet guide book exploring old and new Toronto, what I did not know was that there was a dog show called woofstock like woodstock... It's North America's largest open air dog show and meet, may be I should have bought Penny along.

Downtown Toronto: BCE Place

Walking around Downtown Toronto

I wanted to explore Downtown Toronto, my goal was to see the things that I did not get to see the last time I was there. I also started the Lonely Planet walking tour at Union Station and added a few extra locations along the way, I always wanted to see the inside of Roger's center. I go to do this by going into the Renaissance Hotel inside of the Stadium, I walked through the underground mall in one of the financial district buildings and was not surprised to see a empty and closed down shopping mall since no one was at work.

I also walked through the Royal York Hotel, Brookfield Place Building (BCE Building) and admired the very cool interior; had a quick look at the Hockey Museum along the way. I exited and walked into Woofstock, eventually I got back on track and walked through the St. Lawrence District and admired the new and old buildings standing next to one another, like the rest of Toronto new buildings are going up to old buildings. In this part of Toronto you can see the old Royal Canadian Post Office Building standing next to the Modern Cooking School next door.

Eventually I made my way to The Bay at Queen Street, Eaton Centre, the City Hall and Dundas Street, I notice a Filipino Community Festival at City Hall, there was hardly any body there. Woofstock was over shadowing anything that was going on there, I saw lots of promotions people around the city hall area handing out promotional prizes to passers by and have then check out the Filipino Festival but everyone was heading to Woofstock. I decided to take a look inside the Bay Department Store because I wanted to buy some thing cold to drink, I was curios to see what was going on inside of city hall so I had a look there too. Later I had lunch at Eaton Centre's Food Court, yes there was a shooting there a few days ago, but I could not resist the urge to see the inside of the food court.

Downtown Toronto: City Hall

Woofstock

When I exited Brookfield Place (BCE Building), I walked down front street only to see dogs everywhere, there were small dogs, medium size dogs, big dogs, and very big dogs of all breeds. Toronto was having it's annual Woofstock dog show, Front Street from Yonge Street to the St. Lawrence Market was full of dogs. All of the dogs were socializing with one another, everyone was having a great time, besides the dogs there were lots of street vendors selling their wares, services, dog rescue groups and other dog related groups were all there.

There were lots of dogs and people, it was hot and very humid, I enjoyed the walk through Woofstock, but it was time to get out of the area, the heat was becoming unbearable. I walked past the St. Lawrence Seafood Market but it was closed because of the dog show. Eventually I found my way out of the area and continued to walk around the St. Lawrence district on the Lonely Planet guide book tour.

Before I got into the area, I was wondering why there were so many dogs on the subway, normally they are not allowed. As I got closer to Union Station, I saw more and more dogs on the subway and there were a number of dogs who got into fights along the way. Well, now I know why they were all there.

Toronto Old York: Woofstock

North York and West Toronto, June 11th, 2012

On my second day out on my own in the Toronto area I decided to listen to Auntie Amy's advice and take a walk down Yonge Street in North York, this area is full of high-rise Condominium Towers under construction, they sit next to the original buildings that existed before the big construction boom in Toronto. North York does not offer anything of real interest to the average tourist, but I wanted to see how people in this part of Toronto live; walking down Yonge street from Finch to Shepherd I saw shopping centers, movie theaters, the North York Civic Centre, grocery stores, all of the necessities of life. I started his journey early in the morning by taking a bus all the way to the end of the line at the Finch Subway Station and walk down Yonge Street to Sheppard Avenue

After traveling by subway to Bloor street to explore this part of Western Toronto, which has a interesting mix of cultures and experiences. Later I walked down Spadina Avenue to a area near the university to take a trolley to Dundas and Yonge.

North York Toronto: Loblow Market

North York

This area is north of Downtown Toronto, Young Street runs runs north all the way from the Water Front, Downtown Toronto through North York; Chinese, Koreans and South Asians are some of the ethnic groups living in this area. As I walked down Yonge Street I saw lots of Korean Businesses and Restaurants along the street, plus lots of high-rise Condo Towers rising to the sky.

I did go into the Empress Walk Tower and have a look inside the lobby, it was very interesting, at the top is the Empire Movie Theatre and at the bottom is the Loblaws Super Market. You can walk around the two other levels where there are a few shops, and even go to the York Center Subway Station; otherwise I continued my walk down Yonge Street to the Sheppard Avenue Subway Station and travelled to West Toronto.

The North York Civic Center may offer something of interest, but unless you live here or need to go shopping in the area there are no major tourist attractions along this part of Yonge Street. If you enjoy shopping at Korean shops and are going to grab a bite at a Korean Restaurant in the area, then you can better spend your time in a different part of the city.

On the other hand, if you are looking to have a look at a different part of the city that is far away from Downtown that has a mix of Korean and Canadian, a mix of Old and New Toronto then North York is a nice quick look.

North York Toronto: Korea Town

Bloor Street

I travelled by subway to the Green Line then took the subway west and got off at the Ossington Subway Station and walked down Bloor Street towards Spadina Avenue; the day started out well enough, the weather was not to hot but that all changed when I got to Bloor street. West Toronto was actually hotter and more humid than Downtown with all the tall buildings, in spite of the weather I was happy to be walking around.

When I got off the subway station, I was in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Toronto, this part of Bloor street is populated with bars and restaurants the cheep rent brought many people here, as I went farther down the street I found specifically Indian and Korean neighborhoods along the street. One part of Bloor Street had lots of Italian Shops and Restaurants, but I heard that at one time most of the businesses along this part of the street use to be italian. Many of them moved from Little Italy to other parts of Toronto, there are two major Italian neighborhoods, Corso Italia i.e. Earlscourt and Woodridge.

As many of the other ethnic groups from the other parts of world moved in and the Italians moved to a different part of the city. I walked around the Bloor and Ossington Street area to see if there was a large Italian presence, but I was disappointed, thats when I learned that most of the italians and their businesses moved out of the area. There are other neighborhoods include Koreatown, a Italian section and the Annex, the Fasion Mile and Toronto Univesity; if you go further down you will come to the Royal Ontario Museum.

I picked one of the hottest days to walk down College Street, I was expecting a Italian neighborhood just like Chinatown in San Francisco, but I found lots of computer stores that sold WinTel PC parts. My Uncle told me that the computer stores cater to the Students at Toronto University next door. Eventually I took the trolley down College Street to Yonge Street. After I spending the day walking around all over Toronto the whole day, Scarborough here I come.

West Toronto: Bloor Street

Running around town, June 12th, 2012

After walking around Toronto the past 2 Days, I felt like a piece of BBQ Chicken, I sweated a lot under the hot sun and humid conditions. Still I had fun walking around town, now I know I can find my way around Toronto on my own, instead of more sight seeing, I decided to take the next day off. I just played tag along with my Uncle and Aunt to Scarborough Center and several other places to run errands; later I went out to have dinner with Bosco and Cindy.

Besides taking Penny for a walk around the neighborhood it was a very quiet day as we prepared to travel through the Ontario Countryside and on to the Bruce Peninsula. I also have one important observation, in Toronto Canadian Geese are all over the place, they are in the parks and on the front lawn of restaurants and office buildings; they are every where. Plus you are obligated to stop and wait for them to cross the street, the signs are all over the streets.

Ontario Canada: Bruce Peninsula

Ontario Countryside and Bruce Peninsulas, June 13th, 2012

We traveled with my Aunt's sister and her husband, the drive was not to bad, we drove along the network of paved country roads and motorways that crisscross the Ontario countryside. The route we travelled was more or less Highway 10 (It's not really a highway...), we passed through a number of town most notably Shelburne which has a huge wind farm. The drive was nice, the weather was sunny and warm, there was not a lot of traffic, except for a flock of Canada Geese that had to cross the road.

Ontario Canada: Owen Sound

Owen Sound

Our first destination was Owen Sound where we wanted to see Inglis Falls and the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, the other big claim to fame here is a monument to the three winners of the Victoria Cross (Thomas William Holmes, David Vivian Currie, William Avery Bishop), when Canada was apart of the British Empire, the monument is right across the street from the museum, a hall of fame NHL Goal Tender and a famous artist.

We visited Inglis Falls first, the water fall is near the end of the Sydenham River (Lake Huron), which his part of the Niagara Escarpment, the river empties into Lake Huron, the town of Owen Sound is divided in half as the river runs through the middle of the town. We had a very nice picnic lunch at the park and even saw several Amish and their families visiting the park. I do have one major complaint about the area, the sign to enter the park is so small, if we had not been paying attention, we have missed the sign and drove past the park entrance. Still, I got some very nice photos...

The next stop was the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound is much bigger than I imagine it would be, the Gallery was not that big, but the artwork and photos of Tom were very nice and enjoyable experience. Our next stop was Wiarton and the Scenic Drive along the coast well mostly...

The big problem is that like the rest of this county, the signs are not very big nor are they well marked. The Scenic Drive was nice, but we had to take a detour along the main farm road and through a unpaved road before a farmer pointed us in the right direction. In the end we got back onto the coastal road and we drove along the Scenic Drive, the view was very beautiful.

Ontario Canada: Wiarton

Wiarton

After a extended detour we made it to Wiarton and the home of Wiarton Willie, Canada's version of Punxsutawney Phil, after coffee at Tim Horton's we drove to the park where they have the monument to Wiarton Willie. Wiarton is a very beautiful place, it sits at the end of Colpoys Bay, We walked around the area where Penny encountered a dog as you might guess, she could not play nice and get along with a old woman and her dog. After taking some time to enjoy the scenery and admire the location we were in it was time for the 5-6 hour drive back to Toronto, after having dinner we were back in Scarborough were I had to pack up my things so that I could catch my flight back.

When I booked the flight to depart at 10,30 or so, I did not realize that Toronto Pearson Required all flights out of Canada to be there 3 hours ahead of time, add 1 hour of travel time because of the morning rush hour and you can say hello to leaving at 06,00 to 06,30. It was no big deal, I was not planning to do to much that day any ways.