Offbeat Toronto…what the tourist doesn’t particularly look for!

A travel blog full of photos of the more offbeat areas of Toronto. Whilst I would like to claim all the research and facts behind each picture or story; however, I recommend a walking tour of Toronto from http://www.buzztours.com – I was the only person on this tour (off season and cold) but enjoyable and informative nonetheless.

This is my seventh visit to Canada and my fourth to Toronto but have learnt more about Toronto on this visit than all others put together!

So, in no particular order:

The ROM…Royal Ontario Musuem

An eclectic mix of exhibits more akin to the V&A in London than any other specific type of museum.

This unprepossessing spot is the junction of Yonge and Bloor Streets but is the geometric centre of Toronto from where all distances are measured, to the north it’s uptown, to the south Downtown, to the west all roads have west in the title, to the east…you can work it out!

Now…here’s a challenge! Medicinal marijuana has been legal in Canada for a little while but sales of recreational marijuana become legal later this year. Rather than allow free market forces to take effect (as elsewhere in Canada) Ontario has decided to regulate sales on the same basis as alcohol (you can’t buy alcohol in supermarkets etc), you need to go to the LCBO. So in Ontario the government spent C$ 650,000 on researching a name for the new regulated outlets and came up with OCS – Ontario Cannabis Store! Perhaps most of the cash was spent sampling the product.

At the moment outlets like the above are allowed and from the directory at the entrance offer a range of products. Everyone is now trying to get on the bandwagon of new marijuana tourism opportunities. However, how does the tourist use it? Smoking in hotels and on the streets/public places is not allowed and taking supplies of proscribed substances into another country is not an option. So, thinking outside the box is taking off here in more ways than one!

Your chosen career is in tax accounting or tax law, and your boss says to you today “I want you to stand in the street outside wearing a maple leaf costume and waving to passersby” I think it’s time to rethink your career choices!

There is a strong prosperous and influential LGBT community in Toronto – the local MP usually ends up with a significant cabinet post in the national government in Ottawa.

This is Yonge Street claimed by Canadians as the longest street in the world at over 1600km ending somewhere in Manitoba but in fact it ends 80km north as it has to divert around a freeway and comes to an end before it does. To quote Michael Caine not a lot of people know that….and why would they (or even care!)

This is Maple Leaf Gardens – the original home of the local/world famous ice hockey team. The ground and first floors are now a supermarket festooned with hockey memorabilia whereas the top three storeys house an ice hockey rink and seating for thousands to watch the local university teams. Incidentally Toronto has three universities catering for 170,000 students and countless other academic and vocational organisations supporting another 200,000 students at any one time.

The last owner of the Maple Leafs before they moved to their current location decided that the Gardens holding 12,000 spectators was not enough so all the seats were ripped out and 16,000 smaller ones installed instead. The problem was that no one could sit comfortably in the seats but they turned up nonetheless to support the team and berate the owner who says in his comfortable bunker away from the fans.

Currently each Maple Leaf game is always sold out, to become a season ticket holder you need to go on the waiting list (20 years and counting) and pay C$ 10,000 deposit (non-refundable) and wait. Unlike the MCC you can bequeath your position on the waiting list in your will!

Turn the corner and you bump into a green oasis in the middle of the city – a park exclusively for dogs, a Kew Gardens lookalike full of colour and greenery (and warmth!). The Allan Gardens.

The people of Toronto were

asked when the government wanted to redevelop Yonge/Dundas Square whether they wanted a green calming space in the city centre or something resembling Time Square New York…and this is the outcome (seemingly more gaudy than the architects intended!).

Not just any old shopping mall but the Eaton Centre – Toronto’s no 1 tour attraction, 350,000 people pass through every day, even Christmas Day. It has more visitors than Las Vegas every year. But it’s connected to the rest of Downtown but the PATH – a 30km underground system of connected malls, offices, food courts which mean you can keep inside in the winter. The PATH system is so large it houses five subway stations!

Originated by TD Bank in the 1970s when building their skyscrapers and decided not to use the basement for staff car parking but to rent it out to retailers…the rest is history and profits!

And when you want to cover in a walkway between two 50 storey skyscrapers, you get a Spanish world famous architect to do it for you.

And when you’re not allowed to build a taller skyscraper you cover the windows in gold film at C$72 a window, or if you’re HMQueen you have a suite at the Fairmont Royal York on standby for your next visit (the fact she hasn’t been for over 20 years is immaterial!).

Toronto – a lot to see off the beaten tourist track but you need to know how to look!

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