Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Toronto

Toronto Day 2

Friday 8 May 2015

Another bright sunny day and no planned itinerary.  We decide to take advantage of the clear blue skys and take ourselves up to floor 27 and to use the sun deck to at least attempt to go home a real brown and not rusty as we had anticipated.

Mid-afternoon changed and refreshed we head out and take the subway down to Union and walk through and along to the foot of the stupendous CN Tower where the local railway museum is situated in the Roundhouse.  Most of the major exhibits are located externally and the contents inside are quite limited.  Disappointingly the L&SWR loco is not on display.

Adjacent to the Roundhouse is the Steam Whistle brewery and the plan had been for Jackie to sit in the brewery bar and consume come cider whilst I visit the museum.  This does not work as the brewery only sells its own beer products and does not really have a bar area to allow railway widows to rest.  So she has to join me wandering around the museum which does not take a huge amount of time and the photographs are to be found here

The main delight of the evening is ahead.  We ascend the CN Tower to the dining room which revolves, taken 72 minutes to complete a circuit.  My wife sits effectively going “backwards” and is consequently warned about the potential effects of motion sickness.  By the time we take our seats we are almost looking down on the main railway line in a westerly direction and our progress enables us then to take in the city we visited yesterday so we can re-identify some of the buildings we had seen; then we pass again over the railway looking to the east and the we can look down on the waterfront (which looks much better from here) and out over to Toronto Island (which we may have visited if the weather had not been so nice) before completing the circuit to where we came in looking at the small local airfield (not the main one used when we arrived).

Photos from the Tower can be found at:

Whilst all this viewing is happening we are also eating a most excellent meal – indeed it is hard to say which is better – the view or the food.  For me asparagus with hen’s egg is a real flavour of the season and this is followed by rabbit in a mustard sauce and both are excellent, nay generous portions.  Again excellent ingredients, well timed cooking and presented beautifully on the plates.

We are well looked after again by the waiter and serving staff and he is able to answer questions on the identity of the buildings where we are unsure. Again he is also interested in our future travel plans and adds to the welcoming and interesting feeling of the residents of Toronto.

It cannot be denied that dinner in the CN Tower is expensive, BUT it also provides entry to the two floors immediately below the restaurant level – one enables a walk around to see the sights we had already seen, but completely enclosed, whilst the floor below allows a walk around exposed (safely) to the elements – and boy is that wind blowing – and also to stand on a glass floor showing the ground many stories below.  I have to admit that whilst I did stand on the glass, emboldended by others lying down and taking selfies, and that clearly it was “safe” I felt highly nervous – Jackie would not stand on it at all.

Access to these levels without a meal was (I think) about $40, so take that out of the meal costs and the whole thing, perhaps not a bargain but the meal actually becomes cheap – as with Portmeirion the package deal is highly worthwhile!

Toronto Day 1

Thursday 7 May 2015

Inevitably we awake at what is for the locals an early hour.  Dressed we wander out again on to “Elm” for breakfast but we are so early that the chosen destination is as yet not open for breakfast so out of simplicity we return to the hotel.

Photos for today can be found on Flickr here

This morning it is an organised city tour and we steadily perambulate around the city in a Greyhound bus.  And I can quite see why this city is attractive, although no doubt expensive.  The core of the City is quite compact and does largely comprise relatively modern buildings; however alongside these are older buildings and where there is an important frontage this is often retained with a the newer building rising behind the facade.

The old waterfront area is being completely regenerated; former railway marshalling yards and docks have been swept away – all land which was claimed from the waterways many many years ago.  Now new apartment blocks (condos) are being built with more to come, new moorting areas for boats and no doubt fancy prices to match.  One area that has been restored is the Distillery area and this is the only “stop” on the tour as we wander around what has been turned into a shopping and dining area, following the ending of the need for the docks themselves as goods are transported in different ways.  Our visit was around 10:30 in the morning and we did not see it as the very active place it no doubt becomes in the evenings.

Visible from just about everywhere is the CN Tower and I shall return to this magnificent edifice tomorrow when we visit it.  The Canadian banks did not get enmeshed in the financial problems of the last 7 – 8 years and they remain strong with immense skyscrapers demonstrating their strength in practical form in the financial district.

Entertainment is also strong, although an attempt to see “Kinky Boots” failed as it has not yet opened. And the local love of brewing seems to be a high priority. We see various examples of breweries during our stay and the quality of the beer is good.

In the evening the use of Trip Advisor pointed us at a restaurant called “Richmond Station” and so we took a gentle walk down Yonge until we reached Richmond Street.  Looked left, no luck.  Looked right – there it is across the road.  We walk in and not having a booking seems to cause a major disturbance in the ether as if such people as us did not exist.  Eventually we were offered the ability to sit upstairs outside the kitchen area – but the table was needed back in 75 minutes (bit quick); or we could sit at a high table in the lower area for 90 minutes, either side by side or opposite each other.  We chose the final option and after a further hurried discussion among the staff they identified which stools (with backs) we might occupy. This lack of knowledge continued when a very nice waitress joined us and tried (as is her right) to upsell us to the tasting menu – but we reckoned that completing this in 90 minutes might prove a challenge.  By now we were wondering if we had chosen correctly.

Never mind we chose an IPA for me, cider for my good lady wife, a carafe of local Gamay to follow; for food we agreed to share starters – a special of pig’s blood (black pudding) on sourdough and another one with main courses of halibut fish for Jackie whilst I selected another special a duo of lamb.

As we wait and the place starts to fill up and is clearly a popular restaurant with the post work crowd.  The higher table around us soon fills with a diverse collection of diners.  Meanwhile neither the IPA or the cider are rated quite as highly as the drinks at Elm Street the previous evening.

The starters come not together but sequentially.  Both are of good quality and well presented and soon demolished.  The black pudding equivalent being an excellent representation of the dish.  Delivery of the food is by male waiting staff – I am not entirely sure if they are also kitchen staff, but I think they may be as they are not generally waiting tables.

The lamb duo I am presented with is larger than I had expected with some nice slices of a lamb rump cooked pink and just right alongside a confit of belly lamb of decent size.  We rarely see this latter treatment in the UK with lamb, although it is common with pork, an it was a nice contrast – and almost too much too eat.  My wife also found the halibut that she was eating was properly cooked and of a good plateful.

Based on our relatively small sample (one still to come) the kitchens of Toronto have access to good suppliers of quality food and are able to cook it to perfection as well as deliver it to the table with knowledgeable and friendly staff.  The young waitress who took our order originally pops back for a chat (easily identifying our foreign accents) – at least until it starts to get really busy; but they do seem interested in travellers and what and why and where we are going – far more of an international outlook than one might find in the US.

All of which warms me to Toronto as a wonderful city and Canada more generally.

O Canada

Heathrow – Toronto 6 May 2015

This was always planned as a primary post retirement holiday and it is exactly 1 year since work and I separated. We have been elsewhere in the interim but this was a big one and it will be our most expensive holiday to date (according to my wife who knows about such things) plus being one of our longer breaks.

We head for Heathrow and Terminal 5 for a Ramsay breakfast and then our first “train” – the underground shuttle service to B gates and sadly the 787 has gone technical and it is a 777 to Toronto.  Some delays but up, up and away.

Due to a lack of communication somewhere I get an upgrade to a business class salmon salad for lunch – very nice.  Then settle back to watch series 3 of Borgen as we head west.

Even when we land the sky remains blue as we find that it can be warm and sunny in May in Toronto.  Indeed the weather we later find is a surprise for the locals – although they seem keen to enjoy it!  A coach takes us to our hotel and we unpack enough for a couple of nights.  We are tired and return to the ground floor and find an exit marked “Elm” – Elm Street running along one side of the hotel and we are looking for the Elm Street restaurant.  Which turns out to be immediately across the road!  A warm welcome from the girl on the door and we can sit out at the front to watch the world go by.  Local cider for my wife and some beer for me.  Having had about four meals already today we both simply choose a duck confit on mushroom risotto main course.

The place seems very popular by the numbers inside and the coming and going and when the food arrives we can see why.  A better duck than my last one and a very good risotto underneath.  The cider and beer both go down well.

Time for bed.