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Report 1565: A September Weekend in Toronto
By Doug Phillips from Canada, Fall 2008
Trip Description: September 19-21 2008. A weekend in Toronto with excellent weather. Activities included a baseball game, a night at the symphony and visits to several restaurants. Downtown Toronto features a variety of entertainment, dining and shopping options, an efficient public transit system and a safe urban environment.
Destinations: Countries - North America; Regions/Cities - Toronto
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Foodie Trip; Opera; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 1: Doc Halladay, Mahler’s 3rd, Good Food and Weather, Great Company
One of our sons invited my Beautiful Wife (BW) and I to Toronto for a weekend in September 2008 – a week after the Toronto International Film Festival. Steve lives and works in the city. We live about 200 miles away in eastern Ontario and don’t get to see him as much as we’d like. He usually comes home once every couple of months or so and we see him in Toronto a few additional times a year whenever we get the opportunity – but not enough. So his invitation was quickly accepted.
On Friday afternoon we had about a three-hour drive to Toronto – an hour to Kingston then 200+ kms west along the 401 to the Don Valley Parkway and down to our hotel on Eglington Avenue. The hotel was a few miles, and several more minutes, from where we spent most of our time during the weekend, but was otherwise fine. However, I would not recommend this location for anybody who wants to visit Toronto and remain car-free for their time in the city. Choose a hotel in the downtown core.
Steve picked us up at the hotel on Friday evening and took us over to Chimichanga, a Mexican restaurant on Yonge St near Eglington. On-line reviews of this restaurant are decidedly mixed, but we had a good time. The restaurant was full with a 20’s & 30’s crowd. I likely raised the average age of the patrons by a couple of years all by myself.
Saturday morning Steve again picked us up at the hotel and we drove farther into the city, this time meeting up with his girlfriend Kate for brunch at 10:30am at Kalendar, a popular bistro at the start of Toronto's Little Italy. We arrived just as the restaurant was opening for business and secured a table on the street-side patio. Following brunch we “rode the Rocket”, as the Toronto Transit Commission streetcars used to be called, down to the Rogers Centre in time for an afternoon baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays (Wait till next year!) and the playoff-bound Boston Red Sox in front of 40,000 fans. The Blue Jays won 6-3 as Toronto’s ace, Roy “Doc” Halladay, bested John Lester and his Boston teammates. While the Blue Jays season will soon be over, the Raptors of the NBA and the Maple Leafs of the NHL both play their home games in the Air Canada Centre (ACC), next to The Rogers Centre. I was going to write that the teams "compete" at the ACC, but compete might be too strong a word to describe the Maple Leafs over the next few years.
After the game we followed a large throng and walked along Front Street, enjoying the beautiful September day. The temperature was in the low 20’s (70’s) and the sun was shining. We walked all the way over to The Esplanade where we stopped at The Bier Markt and each chose a different beer from an extensive selection. I had Stiegl, a draft beer from Austria – highly recommended.
Steve had made plans for us in the evening that represented a change of pace from the afternoon ball game. We had tickets for the symphony, a performance of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony in D Minor by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) at Roy Thompson Hall. We intended to have dinner at a nearby restaurant on The Esplanade, but the wait was too long, so we walked back in the direction of Roy Thompson Hall and ended up at il fornello, an Italian restaurant on King Street directly across from the hall.
The symphony was also a very enjoyable experience – one of the very few symphony performances I have attended and my first exposure to Mahler. Accompanying the TSO was the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Canadian mezzo-soprano Susan Platts. I enjoyed the ball game, but I am sure the memory of the concert will remain much longer.
While the streetcars were still running after the concert - indeed they run all night - we caught a cab back to Steve's and drove from there back to our hotel.
Sunday morning we drove down into the city picked up Steve and Kate and enjoyed a very enjoyable brunch at musa, a popular “urban restaurant and bistro” on Dundas Street West. In the early afternoon we drove home, arriving back around 5:30.
Toronto tourism has hit a rough patch over the past few years, greatly affected by the SARS outbreak and the rise in the Canadian dollar, but it seems to be on the rebound. Everywhere we went over the weekend there were lots of people in the downtown area. I was surprised at the number of Red Sox fans from across the border that we saw in the ballpark, at restaurants and at our hotel. Toronto’s downtown area is safe; transportation is plentiful and efficient; retail and entertainment options are plentiful and varied. Our weekend weather was ideal; our experiences were all very enjoyable; dining choices were almost unlimited; and we got to spend time with people we like a lot. A perfect weekend.
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