Toronto 2

I wake up this morning in Toronto. At 4 am. Groan… jet lag on the first night is the worst. I toss and turn until at 6 am I decide to catch up with e-mail. It’s grey and pouring with rain outside, so after breakfast I have to get a cab to my meeting. My hotel is in the Bloor Street/Yorktown district of Toronto, a rather upscale area, and indeed the road is lined with Italian fashion boutiques: Prada, Gucci et al, and the flagship Canadian department store – the famous Hudson’s Bay Company. After the meeting I have time to kill as my flight out is only in the evening. The rain has cleared up, so I walk down Yonge St. to downtown. This is another of Toronto’s main roads, but considerably more plebeian with various ethnic restaurants and small shops with permanent sales. Looks rather dreary to me. Maybe this is because the real downtown, as in Montréal, is in vast underground shopping malls, purpose-built so that shoppers in the winter don’t have to negotiate the snow and freezing temperatures!

The weather brightens up considerably and the sun glitters off the skyscrapers – I am once again near the CN Tower and the huge sci-fi rocket spire today looks much more impressive against the blue sky.

Toronto Tram and Tower No time to go up and see the view, so I do a spot of shopping: I am a hat-lover, and Toronto is the home of the famous Tilley …and I eventually emerge with my very own Mesh Hat, to add to my collection of two Borsalinos, an Aussie Bushhat and a Russky kolbakh!

This being a multiethnic city, I have multi-ethnic meals: a beef sukiyaki at a Japanese fast-food for lunch and a bagel with cream cheese and lox at the airport bar for dinner! Alas, I see more airports than restaurants these days!

Pearson International again to catch my flight to Minneapolis. I check in and then am directed to my surprise to US Immigration just behind the check in desks. It seems that the Americans have delocalised their place of entry to Canada! I stand in a long queue to face interrogation by a grim border security official and be subjected to the odious “US-Visit” procedure: mugshot and two fingerprints. How very different from the civilised Canadian immigration! Next comes the baggage search by the TSA. New travellers to the US should know that you *can* now take liquids, creams and gels on board: but the must be in bottles of less than 200 ml and be contained in a clear plastic bag max. 1 lt in size. Presumably this is for the benefit of women who wish to take their make-up on board. A bottle of Coke is definitely a no-no!


Arrived in Toronto this afternoon. How civilised it is to fly to Canada rather than the US – no pesky questions at boarding, no tiresome security searches and at arrival, Canada immigration is quick and efficient and does not subject you to fingerprinting and mugshots! My suitcase is delivered and I’m out of the airport within half an hour!

I travel on the airport bus into downtown: a compact centre of skyscapers by Lake Ontario, dominated by the CN Tower (still the tallest free-standing tower in the world?). On closer view, the CN Tower does not look quite picture-postcard handsome, in fact, the 1970s concrete looks rather stained! In the midst of the skyscrapers, several parks and Victorian government buildings and brown-brick mansions.

I check in the hotel and am too tired after the flight to wander around much, but a couple of things strike me:

  • the sheer number of Chinese faces – I know that many Chinese have emigrated to Canada, but I thought they were all in Vancouver and B.C.!
  • the face of Queen Elizabeth on the back of the loonie (Canadian Dollar) – one does forget this is the Loyalist bit of North America!