Toronto is the most populous metropolis in Canada, and fourth in North America, next only to Mexico, New York and Los Angeles, in that order. A favorite destination for Filipino immigrants, it is widely recognized as one of the most multicultural cities in the world. In fact, half of Toronto’s residents were born in another country, and approximately 160 different languages are spoken in the city.
Located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, the city’s residents experience extremes in weather conditions. During winter, the temperature can dip as low as 25 degrees below zero, with a high wind chill factor, making it even much colder. During summer, the mercury can zoom beyond 30 degrees, and with very high humidity. Of course, the autumn and spring months are beautiful and pleasant.
I remember my very first visit to this city; I was awed by its cosmopolitan appeal and friendly people. Somehow, the country’s attractive flag, the Maple Leaf, proudly waving in almost all buildings downtown evokes, in tourists like me, a sense of familiarity and kinship with the residents. I always enjoy my visits to the city.
What is there to see in Toronto? A lot, especially if you are into the arts. The city is a center for music, theater, television and movie production, art galleries and museums, the most popular of which is the Royal Ontario Museum. It is also the biggest, with 40 galleries and approximately six million items on display, showcasing very interesting collections of world culture and natural history artifacts.
It boasts a valuable display of pre-historic creatures, like dinosaurs, and a collection of approximately 150,000 fossils. It has an extensive showcase of meteorites, and art pieces from all over the world.
Of course, when tourists talk about Toronto, we easily picture in our minds the city’s iconic landmark, the CN Tower, which is the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere. Located right in the middle of downtown, it is approximately 560 meters high, and offers a breathtaking view of the entire metropolis.
On top of the pod is the revolving 360 Restaurant. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to the top of the tower, but I remember that, each time I go up, my knees get wobbly when I look down, through the glass floor, to the street pavement hundreds of feet below.
Five years ago, the CN Tower management upped the ante for excitement when they opened the EdgeWalk, which allows thrill-seekers to walk on and around the roof of the main pod of the tower, directly over the restaurant. Its claim-to-fame is being the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk, where daring adventure seekers are connected to an overhead rail as they walk around on a narrow 1.5-meter metal floor.
Looking at those brave souls who did it, I chickened out. I was scared that too much adrenaline might not be good for an aging system like mine. This attraction is closed during winter, for obvious reasons, and when there are high winds and electrical storms.
Another must-see attraction is Casa Loma (or House on the Hill), an 18th century Gothic-styled house and gardens in midtown Toronto. This landmark used to be the residence of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, a wealthy financier in the early 1900s and is built at an elevation of around 150 meters above sea level. It is now a museum and a popular set for movies and television. It can be rented for private functions after the museum’s operating hours. Of all days, we had to go when it was closed for maintenance, so we could only see it from afar. But even from a distance, I marveled at its well-manicured gardens and the building’s awesome architecture.
Of course, for basketball fanatics, there’s the city’s NBA team, the Toronto Raptors and its most popular player, DeMar DeRozan, the 6’7” shooting guard who wears jersey number 10. He and his team can be seen practicing at the Air Canada Center during off-season or when they play their home games. I almost had a selfie with him, if it were not for that impertinent photobomber who passed between us just as I clicked my camera.
My siblings and I also took time out to visit Toronto’s Chinatown just to buy lanzones, It is no different from the Chinatowns of New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles—bustling with activity from non-stop, heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It has the familiar smell of various fruits, spices and Asian food items that we, Filipinos, normally hanker for, after staying for extended periods away from our native land. It’s always a fun experience discovering that they also sell some fruits and food items we see in our palengke here at home.
There is much more to see and do in Toronto but we only had a day to spend there as we had to go back to Oshawa to start preparing for the grand family reunion that brought us all to Canada in the first place. Come to think of it, Toronto hasn’t lost its luster. Something about the city always beckons fun lovers like me for another visit. Since I can never have enough of any place I visit, I might just find myself meandering in this city’s streets sooner than soon.
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YOUR FRIDAY CHUCKLE
A man placed an Ad in the classifieds: “Wife wanted.” Next day, he received hundreds of letters. They all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”