So, what do I do before going on a walking tour? I walk. My day 2 in Toronto can be summarized easily – “walking around like my hair was on fire.”
I woke up got my Bible time in, had a LaraBar, and I was on the street. I enjoy a city in the morning. So I wandered east from the hotel along the harbor and then turned north in search of the St. Lawrence Market. The St. Lawrence Market is a large daily market that features a farmer’s market on Saturdays and an antique market on Sundays. It is in an old brick building surrounded by old and new construction.
The market was super lively with shoppers. Parents with children sifting through the produce and fruit for the best stuff. Elderly folks getting their flowers for the week. City dwellers pulling their small grocery carts with them so they can cart their loot home. Tourists, of course, taking pictures and admiring the fruit of the nearby farms and local vendors. I bought a container of fresh blueberries and finished them off as I walked the market. It was a lovely start to the day.
I started walking west to meet the walking tour group. It was a great stroll as I walked from the old part of town toward the areas were most new buildings have been constructed. It is interesting to see the new and slick rising up next to the old and grand. I found my meeting location – Ray Thomson Hall – ahead of schedule. So I decided to have some tea and admire the Ritz Carlton next door. The lobby was a great place for a pit stop and a photo opp featuring the freshly placed flowers adorning the gratuitous lobby furniture. Pretty.
The architecture tour was great. The tour was led by a volunteer who had been a banker in his former life and since his retirement he volunteers as a tour guide. I immediately liked him, he and his wife have spent time at Mount Rogers near my home in Virginia. It is a small world, after all. The tour group was small – me and my new friend David from Kenya. David has been in Toronto for 4 months. He and his wife, both architects, moved there from Africa. Super interesting.
The tour was specifically about contemporary buildings but the guide was also knowledgeable about the older buildings as well. So, we got the best of both worlds. We saw the TIFF building that is home to the Toronto International Film Festival, the Princess of Wales Theatre named in honor of Princess Diana and featuring beautiful murals by Frank Stella, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts specially designed to insulate the building from the city noise and subway, and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) designed by Frank Gehry and featuring a Henry Moore sculpture at the front doors. All the buildings were stunning in their own right.
We also stopped at the Umbra Concept Store on John Street. Umbra is a popular maker of household items that started in Toronto and now sells to companies the world around (including Bed Bath & Beyond). The concept store on John St. is the only place you can buy straight from Umbra. As the guide described the unique pink plastic facade of the building a striking gentleman came out of the store to greet us. Paul, the owner of Umbra who works at the concept store every other Saturday, introduced himself and gave the most wonderful talk about Toronto. Frankly, if I were a development person for the city I would hire him to do my marketing. After he stopped talking about the good things about Toronto I felt persuaded to move to Toronto immediately (my Daddy does not approve of this plan because Toronto is “not in the U.S.”). Paul is good. Paul was also kind enough to give David and me $25 gift cards to Umbra. After the tour, David and I headed to Umbra to get free stuff (of course I went over my gift amount . . . but wasn’t that the idea?).
As for old buildings on the tour, we saw the William Barber Building built in 1880 featuring “Toronto Brick”, which is yellow in color and everywhere in old Toronto. The Barber building was once a Whitewear underwear factory, which I thought was neat. We saw The Wesley Building on Queen Street West. The Methodist Church built this building and named it for the denomination’s founder John Wesley. The building is covered with Gothic detail. It is gorgeous.
The tour ended at the super cool and contemporary Ontario School of Art and Design with its black and white aluminum wing that is supported by giant multicolored pillars meant to resemble pencils. Very cool.
After the tour and my shopping excursion I stopped at a small Vietnamese restaurant called Ginger (recommended by the ladies at Umbra) for lunch and plotted my next move. By plotting I mean figuring out the quickest way to get back to the hotel to lay down. I was exhausted. I returned to the room did some reading and made a call to Daisy’s Aunt, Aunt Sharon, who lives in Toronto. Aunt Sharon was kind enough to give me her afternoon. So, after a rest I met her on the waterfront and we explored the Museum of Inuit Art, where I learned that Eskimo is an offensive term for the Inuit people outside of Alaska. Note to self. The art was gorgeous, carving in bone, tusk, and stone along with wall hangings, and basket weaving. If you have an opportunity to explore Inuit art, do it. It is my new favorite.
Next, we wandered through the international market where I scored a gray pashmina for $7 and now regret not getting the black cashmere one for $8. I hate when I do that to myself. Aunt Sharon found the perfect beach top to accompany her on her trip to the Carolina coast. Everybody wins!
We then settled in for people watching, great conversation, and dinner with a view. It took a couple of tries and a great deal of much appreciated patience from Aunt Sharon but we found a restaurant that could work my diet. The Pier 4 Restaurant served us some excellent orange roughy with a scallop and a beautiful view of the sunset and moon rise on the lake.
Aunt Sharon saw me off at the parking garage where she left her ride. She was lovely company.
I went up to the fancy Westin rooftop restaurant and had a decaf cappuccino and looked at Toronto at night. I like it there. It is a great city and I left plenty to see and do undone (like go up in the CN Tower, yes, I skipped it, don’t judge), so there will be a next time.