Other tour highlights were the Bata Shoe Museum shaped like a shoe box; the University of Toronto (largest in Canada); riding along the harbor front of Lake Ontario; the Skydome for sporting events; and Fort York which was taken over by the United States in the War of 1812 because the British simply left town.
Of course, a major part of any trip I take is seeing theatrical productions and I was rewarded with a variety of performances. We sarted with an afternoon dinner theater play, “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” at the Second City. From the minute we walked in the front door, we were caught up with the whole bridal group before and during the wacky “wedding” ceremony at Vinnie’s Chapel of Love. By the time we left the festivities, we were not just members of the audience, we had become part of the family!
“In 1812 the population of Toronto was 2,000. Today the Greater Metropolitan Area tops 3 1/2 million and is the 5th largest city in North America.
One of the big tourist attractions is Casa Loma (house on the hill), a “castle” with European influence built by architect E. J. Lennox between 1911 – 1914. Our guide said that Casa Loma was the home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt who designed a hydroelectric grid for Toronto and made millions of dollars; however, the city of Toronto took over the grid and eventually the castle leaving Henry with very little money.
The other city icon is the CN Tower built by Canadian National in 1976 to display the country’s industrial strength. I looked way up to see the revolving restaurant and viewing platforms. Our guide continued, “It still remains as one of the highest free standing buildings of the world, attracts over 2 million visitors annually, is located in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District and is a short walk from the Fairmont Royal York.”
Ontario Tourism virtually gave us the keys to Toronto with a complimentary Grand City Tour on a red double decker open Gray Line Bus.
After we boarded. Alex, our guide, pointed out the Hockey Hall of Fame. “the ultimate tribute to the fastest game on earth” which had a sculpture depicting a group of hockey players behind and straddling a low wall.
“The Royal Bank of Canada is encased in gold dust” and it really stood out on the overcast day. “Yonge is the longest Main Street in Canada reaching 1200 miles to the Minnesota border.” We were on mile 2 when we drove through Eaton Center – “the busiest shopping area in Canada.
Three generations of Britain’s “Royals” have stayed in the Royal Suite at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. I thought it was interesting to note that in 1929 a room there cost $2.00 a person and guests could enjoy a grilled Lake Ontario trout for $ .85 or a filet mignon for $1.75 in the dining room.
Part of the York’s hospitality to us included a gift package of fruit, cheese, bread and crackers plus a bottle of wine. We were also guests for a sumptuous 4 course dinner at their 5 star Epic Restaurant. The “Amuse” was dried beef with a kumquat compote followed by sliced tomatoes with a Saint Maure goat cheese tower and balsamic vinegar; I chose the pistachio-crusted Rack of Lamb with an eggplant puree and tomato chutney chutney for my entree.
Since I believe that “Life is short, eat dessert first:, I was delighted to savor a Hot Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake with spiced Tulle on top and presented with almond pralines and Caramel Anglaise. Since our visit coincided with the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, a traditional turkey dinner was also available with pumpkin pie.
Nothing can beat the scenario of spending a weekend in Toronto, Ontario. In fact, just staying at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel was worth the whole trip.
As a guests of Ontario Tourism, my friend and I were treated to one of the beautifully appointed suites outfitted in period furniture. The Royal York was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. as part of their chain of luxury hotels across Canada to provide lavish rest stops for train passengers from St. John’s Newfoundland to Victoria, B.C. When the Toronto hotel was officially opened in 1929, it was the tallest and largest building in the British Empire with 28 floors of architectural splendor and opulence topped by a glass-enclosed roof garden and a hand-painted 176′ ceiling in the loobby.
We’ve already taken a ride on the Skunk Train and looked for glass on Glass Beach. One morning we revisited the Little River Inn on the Mendocino coast for some of their famous Swedish pancakes that Paul remembered having twenty years ago. Since I’m partial to sweets, I had the house specialty – Ollalaberry Cobbler with yogurt – delicious!
Originally Little River Inn was built in 1853 by Silas Coombs, a lumberman from Maine, as a family residence. Now the facilities bordering Van Damme State Park have expanded into 225 acres which include Ocean view lodging, golf and tennis.
I am definitely anticipating our next coastal adventure at Fort Bragg.
There are a variety of things to do and places to eat in Fort Bragg. We usually drive down to Noyo Harbor for some fresh fish served at Cap’n Flint’s or The Wharf. If you want to catch your own seafood, outstanding year-round deep sea fishing is advertised by numerous party boats.
Life isn’t complete without a bakery and there’s one in the middle of town. The North Coast Brewing Company, voted one of the top ten breweries in the world, is also a good place to dine.
One afternoon we went to the Laguna Point Seal Watch, only a .3 mile stroll via the boardwalk. At various points there were turnouts with interpretive signs about the following:
*The San Andreas Fault is only 10 miles off shore.
*Inter-tidal pools have a kaleidoscope of colorful sea anemones, sea stars (not star fish), bat stars, California mussels and Gooseneck Barnacles when the tide goes out.
*Harbor Seals are the “Big Attraction” where they lounge on the ocean-sprayed rocks and occasionally deign to flip into the churning surf for a brief swim.
Paul’s sister, Jane, and I decided to visit MacKerricher State Park. 3 miles north on Highway 1. On the way to the beach we passed equestrian riders and sand dunes overgrown with red and green ice plants. When we pulled into the parking lot, there were several women sitting in lawn chairs. covered with blankets to protect themselves from the sun and wind while a few teen-agers darted in and out of the frigid water and one man was flying a kite.
Since Paul is an avid birder, we took long walks on the beach front road, just a few steps from our room, to observe mallards in an algae-covered pond, several varieties of gulls, immature White Crowned and Savannah sparrows, plus Stilts, sandpipers, Sanderlings and a few Avocets stalking on the sand and rocks. Almost every hour a squadron of brown pelicans flew by skimming the ocean.
When it rained, I could still see the edge of the ocean on the horizon. I can understand why early sailors thought that the world is flat and were afraid they would said off the edge of the world. I think that there are still “flat landers” – people who believe that the earth isn’t round!