Along the PATH, heading south towards the tallest free standing structure in the world (as long as you don't count anything in Dubai)
31.05.2008 - 02.06.2008 26 °C
Only a couple more days before I am...
...Europe Bound! I had been hoping to use my last couple weeks in Toronto to play a little more tourist and get to see the sites before getting on a plane, but things quickly started to pile up, and the amount of time I was spending getting my stuff packed up, donated or thrown out took a lot longer than I would have expected. Eventually, though, I was able to clear everything out, and spent my last couple days in the apartment sitting in a lone chair and sleeping on a carpet in a sleeping bag.
I have since moved a little closer downtown, and am staying in a hotel. Given that I am staying in a hotel and I finally don't have anything left to do to enable my move, I figured I might as well take a day and really go all out tourist. So I got my camera ready, grabbed my tourist map, put on a sweater emblazoned with the name of the place that I am visiting, and hit the town!
Seeing as I am staying at Yonge and College, I decided to head south and follow the PATH.
PATH is downtown Toronto's underground walkway linking 27 kilometres of shopping, services and entertainment. According to Guinness World Records, PATH is the largest underground shopping complex with 27 km (16 miles) of shopping arcades. It has 371,600 sq. metres (4 million sq. ft) of retail space, and connects more than 50 buildings. It's southern end would be my eventual destination for the day, and it's northern end is the Atrium on Bay at the corner for Yonge and Dundas.
On the south-east corner of Yonge and Dundas is Yonge-Dundas Square. The corner of Yonge and Dundas used to be quite a sketchy area, full of strip clubs, head shops, XXX theatres and tacky t-shirts shops, not unlike New York's Times Square back before it got cleaned up. Much like NYC's Times Square, the City of Toronto took it upon themselves to turn the dive atmosphere of Yonge and Dundas into something more tourist friendly. So they knocked down a bunch of the buildings and made part of it a square.
The square at Yonge and Dundas is now a meeting place, and they often hold music, film, and community events in the square and on the stage at the east end. This weekend was the Desi Fest, a South Asian music festival in celebration of South Asian Heritage Month. Yonge-Dundas Square is transformed into a South Asian bazaar and live music showcase for more than 20 Canadian and international artists. This picture of the square was taken this morning, long after the Desi Fest party had cleared the area.
Across Yonge Street from Yonge-Dundas Square is the Eaton Centre, a massive mall originally named after the main tenant. However, Eaton's department stores went belly up a few years back, but the name was so intrenched they decided to keep it, claiming that the complex is now named the Eaton Centre as it represents a tribute to Eaton's founder Timothy Eaton and the small shop he once opened at this location.
The Eaton Centre has a massive glass roof that runs the length of the mall, and the floors are designed to have many large gaps to allow for light to stream down, creating a very large atrium. At the south end of the mall, an art installation called Flight Stop by artist Michael Snow hangs from the roof. The art piece depicts a number of Canada Geese heading south. The artist and the management of the mall had a falling out one year, after the mall put red ribbons on the geese to celebrate Christmas. Michael Snow ended up suing the mall, and the Eaton Centre was forced to remove the ribbons, as the judge ruled that the "distortion" of the work infringed on Mr. Snow's copyright.
Personally, I thought it looked festive, but whatever... I'm no artist. Here's the geese, sans ribbons.
The south end of the mall empties out onto Queen Street. Heading west on Queen you will come across Old City Hall.
Built in 1899 and serving as City Hall for Toronto until 1966, when the city council moved west, across Bay Street to the new City Hall.
Designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and engineered by Hannskarl Bandel, the modernist architecture building opened in 1965. Two curved towers flank the main council chamber, which sits like a big round flying saucer in the middle of the buildings, almost looking like it's ready for flight. Given some of the loonies we have on city council, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that a few of them are aliens, actually.
In front of City Hall is Nathan Phillips Square, named after mayor Nathan Phillips of Toronto (1955 - 1962). The square often holds concerts and events, and in the winter the small concrete fountain in front is frozen over to provide a large, outdoor skating rink.
Even though my plan called for following the PATH, I decided to stay above ground and enjoy the sunny weather. I headed south down York Street, and came across one thing that you can't escape in Toronto, the hot dog cart.
Due to public health regulations requiring food serving establishments to have sinks and bathrooms and a number of other things, only "prepared, pre-cooked food" can be served by street vendors, which means that every food stall sells pretty much the same thing, hot dogs and sausages. It's one of Toronto's great failings, if you ask me, that you can't get a decent meal from a cart vendor in the city. They are working to change it, but like all things related to government, the right to sell a decent empanada or taco on the street is mired in red tape.
The other thing you run into, much like any other city, is people handing out flyers and free samples of stuff. It always bothers me when they try and hand something to me, but I must admit that I feel overlooked and sad when they ignore me.
Today I passed two young ladies handing out samples of something. I rolled my eyes as I approached, thinking, "oh great, somebody else trying to pass me garbage." The young lasses were handing out the samples to everyone but as I approached, they both looked away.
I stopped and cleared my throat. One of the girls turned to me. "Am I not good enough to receive your pamphlet and product sample? Have you thought that perhaps you've just lost a potentially loyal consumer?" I quizzed her.
Looking confused, she handed me the sample packet for new super-absorbent tampons.
"Thank you," I said. "I was running short of ammunition for my tampon blow-gun."
Okay, I admit, that last whole conversation was made up. But some girls did snub me when handing out their pamphlets this morning, though I figured seeing as they only seemed to be targeting women that there was an obvious reason why I was excluded.
Continuing south I arrived at Union Station. The main train station in Toronto as well as a bus depot and local transit hub, millions pass through the station every day. Outside the station is Francesco Pirelli's Monument to Multiculturalism, the statue depicts a naked, faceless man. The statue was a gift to Toronto by the National Congress of Italian Canadians in 1985. The statue has raised some eyebrows over the years, as some have questioned why a man with no facial features should have such an accurately sculpted groin area, but I've always liked it.
The statue, I mean, not the groin area.
The birds in flight and the globe shape have always made me think of travel, which is also helped by the fact that the statue is outside the train station.
It also makes a great place to tell people from out of town to meet you when they arrive at Union Station. "I'll be by the statue of the big naked dude." That's a hard one to forget.
Kiddie-corner from Union Station is Brookfield Place, which holds the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I guess I won't get to see much hockey over in England, so I took one last, longing look at the shine to Hockey, and moved on.
East of Brookfield Place and Union Station is one of Toronto's most iconic buildings, The red brick Gooderham Building (commonly referred to as the Flatiron Building) was built in 1892. At the triple-corner of Wellington, Front and Church streets and with the financial district as a back-drop the building and it's setting are almost an idiot-proof picture opportunity. Of course, my picture happens to come when the outer exterior is being worked on, so the building is partial obscured by scaffolding, so I guess no matter how idiot proof something is, there is always a better idiot.
I doubled back and headed west along Front Street towards the CN Tower.
The CN Tower is probably the most distinctive thing about Toronto's skyline, and is a major tourist attraction. Built in the mid-seventies to serve as a radio and TV tower, the last minute additions of a couple of observation decks turned the massive concrete shaft (nothing phallic about it) a tourist sight that has (depending on which list you read) been called one of the "seven wonders of the modern world."
As of today, the tallest man-made structure is the Burj Dubai, a skyscaper still under construction in Dubai, that has reached 636 m (2,087 ft) in height as of May 12, 2008
The CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, standing at 553.3 m (1,815 ft), was the world's tallest freestanding structure on land from 1976 until September 12, 2007, when it was overtaken in height by the rising Burj Dubai. The tower does, at this point though, still have the world's highest public observation deck, though that will most likely change once the Burj is finished and opened.
I went to both observation decks today. The lookout level is 346m (1,136’) above the ground, and from there you can get some pretty excellent pictures of the Toronto skyline.
Downtown core, often called the "Financial District"
Looking towards mid-town and up-town
One level down you will find not only the Glass Floor, offering you the vertigo inducing opportunity to stand 342m (1,122’) above the ground below with nothing but a few panes of glass supporting you up.
The glass floor opened in 1994, and I had the opportunity to attend a corporate event a few years later in 1995. To prove that it is safe to walk on, the CN Tower had put a sign indicating that the glass floor was "five times stronger than the required weight bearing standard for commercial floors." That's reassuring, until you are back in your office the next day, looking down at the floor below you and thinking, "Dear God, this floor isn't even as strong as glass!"
Heading up from the look out level, you get to the Sky Pod. Sky Pod is 447 metre (1465 ft.) above the ground, and offers even more dizzying views of the city. I snapped this shot, looking straight down, giving a view of both the roof of the look level section and railway Canadian Pacific's former John Street roundhouse, it is currently home to a brewery, and soon to be a furniture store and small rail museum.
Enough dizziness, and feeling adequately Canadian (see photo with moose dressed as Mountie as proof of my Canadian-ness for the day), I headed out of the tower and back east towards Yonge Street. Walking up Yonge, I pass a statue that I had seen many times before, but today it draws my attention even more.
"Immigrant Family" is a work by Tom Otterness. A bronze sculpture found at 18 Yonge Street (Yonge south of Front Street), the statue depicts a new family arriving on the shores of a new land, suitcases and baby in hand. The figures are cartoonish, which has always given me the impression that this family of newcomers was happy to be in their new land.
So it will be for me on Wednesday morning, happily clutching my luggage on the shores of my new home. Assuming, of course, that my luggage doesn't go missing in Heathrow airport.