Friday, July 5, 2013

Canada travel tips: Toronto (part 2)

“Toronto, Almighty Toronto!” Welcome back to Toronto, where we started this chapter of our journey. Previously, we traveled so far to many different destinations, starting from the west and slowly moving to the east. As above mentioned, we started this chapter of the journey in Toronto; then we went to Niagara Falls, making some small stops. Now, it is time to get back where it started, to the largest city of Canada, Toronto!

Where: Toronto, Canada.
What:Travel Smart” series

Previous Toronto travel tips:

Most obviously, you will see a lot of guides and brochures, inviting you to the Old Town of Toronto. It is very much reasonable. Take your time to visit the very heart; I would say “the old heart” of the city, not meaning its age but the history.  The place is especially beautiful in summer, when you can grab a coffee and sit outside and read a newspaper, magazine, or simply view all what happens around you. Visit those shops, watch some shows, which regularly take place in there, and simply walk and enjoy the day. You are going to be amazed how different it is from the downtown area. You can sit there and see one of the highways full of people rushing by, hear the noise from the business district of Toronto, see the CN Tower, and feel the breeze from the lake. That is how different the place is. It is like a town within the city. 

Old City Hall in Toronto
Old City Hall
The Old Town Toronto
The Old Town

To be more precise, you can find the Old Town if you walk out the Union Station and behind you is the lake. So, you need to turn right and move forward till you see some old brick buildings, they are not high. That will be the place you are looking for. In any case, you can always check your route using Google Maps, which is really helpful. When you are in that area, do visit St. Lawrence Market; there you can find fresh food, some souvenirs to purchase, and try some unique flavors of familiar dishes; you are going to be excited a lot! Well, I can tell you that when you are in the Old Town, there are a couple of shops where you can buy domestic chocolate and different chocolate stuff. It is very tasty and not expensive. If you like some antique stuff, there is a place for you, passing by those historic buildings with special signs, you can visit basically each and every shop you like and, finally, purchase something. 

St. Lawrence Market in Toronto
St. Lawrence Market

There is one thing I would like to point out. When you are at the intersection of Front St. E. and Lower Jarvis St. and if you look directly to the direction, where the Union Station is, you can see a very interesting building (Front St. E. and Church St.). That building reminded me of Times Square in New York City. I am sure, most of you have ever seen it in movies, but that building does look very alike but a little smaller. So, I would name it as a “Canadian Times Square”. 

Police car in Toronto
Police car
One of districts in Toronto
One of districts

There is another world famous place in Toronto, which is worth visiting. I mean the outstanding Hockey Hall of Fame. You can reach it simply going from the Union Station to the Old Town. Hockey Hall of Fame is located on Yonge St. (intersection with Front St. W.). There you can see many interesting stuff and bring back lots of good emotions. I will not describe it so that you could check it out on your own and enjoy every moment. If you are a fan of hockey, that place is for you! Prices might seem a little too high, but it is totally worth it. Therefore, find time to visit the place.

Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto
GTA (Greater Toronto Area) in Toronto
GTA (Greater Toronto Area)

If you like all exciting and not standard things, you need to visit the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. It is quite far from Union Station, but you can take a bus or a tram and get there. The place is located on Queen St. W. I was confused when I first saw that building; it does look weird but attractive at the same time. 

The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto
The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

Moving on to another part of Toronto, we get to one very unusual but totally lovely place, Canada’s Wonderland. It is a huge amusement park with anything you might imagine; a good family place for all day long. I would recommend it as one of your stops during your trip. 

Casaloma castle in Toronto
Casaloma castle

Definitely, amusement is very important as your travel memory and experience, but there is always a room for history, an interesting and exciting history. I am speaking here about the Pioneer Black Creek Village. This is one of those amazing places in Toronto I would like to talk about a little more. When I was there, I felt the history was alive; everything was untouched and even the smell of wooden buildings, farms, anything was reminding of truly Canadian history. I loved that very much. You move from one building to another, watch, enjoy, learn and appreciate. That is something we should remember… the way it all started. This place offers a closer look into the inside of Canada’s life at times of first comers to the land. There are many parades taking place in the village, so you can observe them and become a part of the action. A place worth visiting especially with children; it is too exciting to miss such an opportunity. Some of those “local” shops within the village offer domestic products, mainly with world famous maple syrup, but also other products. At the entrance / exit you can purchase different souvenirs, great books (I bought one there and have a chance to enjoy it very much). And now it is time to help you with your way to get there. First, you take subway (if from Union station, then go to east end of it, Downsview St. and then take a bus 106 till The Pond Rd. with Shoreham Dr. or simply ask a driver). 

Pioneer Black Creek Village in Toronto
Pioneer Black Creek Village

Now it makes sense to talk about transport in Toronto in detail. The whole system is call Toronto Transit System  (you can see it in many movies, videos), or in short TTS. The same system applies for all big cities in Canada. You can use the same ticket at the crossing station (but there is a limited time), i.e. with that ticket you can get off your bus and get to the subway (and the opposite way) without a need to purchase a new ticket. The price per ticket was $3CAD (as per October 2012). Honestly, Toronto Transit System is very comfortable and useful. As for subway, Union Station is the central one with lots of connections to other transport and also railroad. Here is a subway map with current lines and another one with the forthcoming opening of extensions and new lines.

Current subway map in Toronto Canada
Current subway map

a subway map in Toronto
Forthcoming subway map

In addition, there is a good railroad connection between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. As for the rest of Canada, it is not that popular and well maintained any longer. The company, which covers the whole country, is called Via Rail. Obviously, the connection between the major business centers of Canada should be perfect and rapid; therefore, there exists another company, Go Transit, which covers those major business centers and has not only railroad, but also buses (and in plans some lines of subway).

PartI Bus in Toronto
Tram in Toronto

As it comes to transport more, here is more interesting information about that. Here is a list of some airports in Greater Toronto Area (GTA); but I would like to concentrate more on two of them, the first one is the airport where most of flights get to or through, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and the second one is Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, on Toronto Island

Toronto Pearson International Airport
Toronto Pearson International Airport

Pearson airport is huge; my first flight to Canada was exactly to this airport. It is full of people, lots of gates, terminals, walkways, etc. You can get lost unless you read all the signs, which make it pretty easy to find the required destination. Since 2007, the time of my first trip to Toronto, and 2012, it has changed a lot. Many new things appear. It is hard to describe due to a great variety of things inside of the airport. All I can say is that Pearson airport is very comfortable and convenient. There is a plan of future extensions of the subway lines, one of which is supposed to get passengers directly to the airport as in most of the world largest cities, for instance, like in Vancouver, BC, or in London, U.K. As for Finland, there is a plan for upcoming extension and new lines in Helsinki metro to Vantaa airport, which would be so much convenient; however, the project has not been approved yet, but it is to come…

Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto

As for Billy Bishop airport, well, it is located on Toronto Island, which is in the city center. It is very comfortable, suitable not only for business trips, but regular ones too, and simply not very expensive. I was not there, but on one of the lectures the group was told about it and the information I gathered about it is that if you count all expenses, it makes it a little cheaper in some ways, but usually it is a little more expensive than the regular airports. The reason is that it is small and has lots of connections to the required popular destinations, for instance, Ottawa, Montreal, New York City, Chicago, etc. There was also something about the customs, but do not remember this now. Anyway, you can go check it out yourself and feel the service.

Ajax, view to the lake in Toronto
Ajax, view to the lake

I would now suggest moving to one of the districts of GTA, i.e. Ajax. That is a good district, a very beautiful place. I had a chance to be there and observe and enjoy it very much. That is a small paradise not far from the city center of the largest city of Canada. During the good days, you can see the CN Tower, the downtown skyline and even somehow the Niagara Falls. But basically what you see is the beach in front of you, the lake, which is awesome. Lake Ontario right in front of you, one of the Great Lakes, and yes, you can see it from another point of view. It seems like a sea, so big it is. Take your time to visit Ajax, it is definitely worth it.

Ajax, battlefield scheme in Toronto
Ajax, battlefield scheme
Ajax, park in Toronto
Ajax, park

As for downtown area, Toronto is also famous for its underground level, i.e. several levels. It is terrific how deep the levels go down. You can basically live there and do all your stuff being totally underground. People living in downtown really rarely go out to the “real world”. They do not need to. All they need is to take an elevator to get to the desired level and walk to the required place, for instance, a bank, a shop, a supermarket, a hairdresser’s office, or anything. Then if you need to take subway, go ahead, it is anywhere you go, all the directions. Basically, it is very convenient for citizens. And as far as I know, Toronto was one of the first cities in Canada to offer and to build such a level. Toronto is a really unique and great city.

Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto

What comes to accommodation, there are plenty of options both in downtown and in the GTA; basically, you can find the one you need, depending upon price level, location, personal preferences, and / or something else. 

Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto

Let us talk about sport a little. As you might know, there is a famous NHL team in Toronto, it is called, Toronto Maple Leafs. It has its own shops, where fans can purchase stuff with the team symbols on it. If you are interested, you can watch hockey or soccer games at the main stadium, which is in downtown. The stadium is called Rogers Centre. You can get there following Lower Simcoe St. crossing Bremner Blvd. There is a Metro Toronto Convention Centre right in the corner of the Olympic Park. The Olympic park is a beautiful family place. Definitely, there are so many parks in Toronto, where you can see many squirrels running, jumping and staring at you, which is quite funny. 

Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto

Right there in front of the park, you might find the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre, i.e. railway museum. It is very nice and interesting historic place. I was there and enjoyed everything. It is in downtown, so you can get there quite easy. Kids love that place, they have fun, feel happy and walk around exploring new things. But it is very attractive to adults as well. Besides, there are some cafés around it, where you can enjoy your time spending there. 

Toronto Railway Heritage Centre
Toronto Railway Heritage Centre

Well, it is time to get to the final part of this chapter of the journey, Toronto. And to me it makes most sense to finish up with a symbol of this city, world famous CN Tower. The CN Tower was meant to be just a media source; however, its meaning has changed into a symbol and the most attractive place for tourists and citizens. CN means Canadian National (and also Canada’s National), but it is not used since CN is more commonly in use. It used to be the tallest building in the whole world until 2007. Now it is the 5th tallest building in the world. But, I believe, it is still the tallest in Canada. To discover more about the CN Tower, you can also read our Observation Decks section with a special article, dedicated to this world famous Canadian wonder of the world.

CN Tower in Toronto
CN Tower

To conclude this “chapter of the journey”, I would like to say that every place you go, every stop you make is already a good memory, is your own history and your own experience. Take every opportunity to travel and enjoy. Here I would say The More You Explore, The More You Discover. It is yet to be continued in the future, and for now we move to Finland to explore a northern neighbor. And to end this, I would use the famous phrase by Mark Twain “Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

 A shop in the Old Town in Toronto
A shop in the Old Town

View to the CN Tower in Toronto
View to the CN Tower

Kirill “Traveler” Malyutin

About Travel Smart series:
“Travel Smart” is a section, narrating about different countries and good travel tips, advised by the author, Kirill Malyutin. The series contains recommendations, including selected places to visit, character accommodation, and reasonable shopping. Simply get inspiration!
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О серии «Travel Smart»:
«Travel Smart» – раздел, в котором автор Кирилл Малютин рассказывает о разных странах и дает необходимые в путешествии советы. Серия включает в себя рекомендации по посещенным автором местам, характерным средствам размещения, а также разумному шопингу. Вдохновитесь приключением! 
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