Toronto actually provided the reason (or the excuse) to visit Canada during 2017 in the first place. Marina was a participant in a triennial international midwifery conference and we concluded our trip to Canada in this city.
It was a large event, unsurprisingly involving mostly women, and I was happy to keep my distance from all that energised estrogen, leaving me free to explore some aspects of the city.
Toronto is also home to the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association (PDAC), probably the largest annual gathering of mining and exploration people in the world. For some reason, however, I’ve never attended this event that usually occurs in early March. I’d heard stories of bitterly cold weather during PDAC events and I was glad that we were in town during summer! The weather was warm and there’d been quite a lot of rain, so that Lake Ontario was literally filled to the brim. In fact, the islands to the South of the city were largely flooded, so that visits there were not allowed.
It’s a large city and we used the underground to get from our Airbnb basement accommodation in the suburbs to the centre. Now I have lived in countries where there are excellent public transport options and in cities where they are… well, less excellent. And we’ve visited a number of cities in the world with great underground/subway/metro railways: Stockholm, Beijing, Paris, even London (to some extent). But in Toronto we found a subway that was clean and efficient, though with a strange payment system. If we wanted to pay for a single trip, we’d go to a lady in a glass booth, right by the entrance to the underground, and pay up. She would then issue a little metal button, literally about the size of an aspirin. We’d then walk about 3 metres to the gate and insert the pill into a machine and the gate would open. I presume having a person open the gate after you’ve paid, would have been too simple a solution.
However, since we have Dutch genes, and since we did not want to buy a bag full of little metal buttons, some of which might not be used, we wanted to buy a pass for a week. (Even though we had flown halfway across the world to another continent, driven many kilometres from Calgary to Vancouver, and after flying from there to Toronto, all at considerable cost, our genetic roots require that we save a few dollars on subway tickets, if possible.) This was indeed possible, but only if your week started on a Sunday, until the next Saturday. Which it did not. And the pass could only be purchased from the preceding Thursday until the next Monday. So… if you’d arrived in Toronto on a Tuesday or Wednesday (or only figured out the system by then), then you would have to buy singles for the rest of the week and on Thursday you could buy a week pass that would work from Sunday onwards. Still with me? Having considered the options, and after some mental arithmetic, we used a combination of singles and week passes.
Since Marina was going to be participating in meetings and various events, I needed something to keep me occupied. I wandered away from the convention centre, in the direction of the lake and conveniently found the Steam Whistle brewery (now the Steam Whistle Biergarten & Tap Room) located just on the other side of the railway lines. I feel obliged to test different beers in different parts of the world and the cold Steam Whistle Pilsner definitely passed the “nice-to-drink-on-a-hot-day” test.
One of the ICM festivities took place on Nathan Phillips Square (pictured below) and here I had to photograph the iconic “Toronto” sign, which has in very recent days been removed to make place for a “new and more durable” one. It had been erected in 2015 for the Pan American and Parapan American games and was supposed to be there for a few weeks. However, people (like us) seemed to like it, climb all over it and photograph it. According to the mayor, the new sign will be “easier to clean and will in fact actually be waterproof“, a good combination.
Toronto is clearly a very modern city, but I am always on the lookout for historical stuff, so I walked all the way to Fort York, an old (and reconstructed) fortified military camp that was also the site of the 1813 Battle of York. American forces landed and largely destroyed the camp during the war of 1812, but it was swiftly rebuilt thereafter. Interesting to walk through and to imagine what life must have been like for a British soldier stationed there more than 2 centuries ago, even though the skyscrapers of modern Toronto loom in the not-so-far distance.
We also tramped through the streets in the Little Italy and surrounding neighbourhoods when there was some sort of food festival happening on College Street. Great to taste various food nationalities and to do some people-watching.
Another way to tramp through Toronto, is to walk underground. I suppose in reaction to the ferocious winter weather, the city has developed a system of connected shopping malls that are largely below street level. PATH (as it is called) is apparently the largest such network in the world. It is possible to enter through some shop or staircase from the street, and emerge, hundreds of metres (or more) away, in the atrium of an office tower block. We spent quite a bit of time wandering through parts of the system, sampling fast food outlets here and there.
Our Canadian adventure had started with friends in Calgary, included magnificent views (and assistance to a rescue) in Banff National Park, fantastic forests and wonderful waterfalls, clambering up canyons, more friends near Vancouver, and concluded with a conference and some touristic tramping through Toronto. Apologies for the awful alliteration, but I need to conclude with a final flourish: