Toronto – The Last Capital

Riding a VIA Rail Corridor trains was a pleasant surprise, one occasioned by the fact that I knew nothing about the route or the trains. We boarded at the Ottawa station, about 4km from the downtown. It’s really not a walkable distance.

We arrived at Toronto Union, an older station a few blocks from the Lake Ontario waterfront serving VIA, subway, and commuter rail. The entire area is now a construction zone as more transportation capacity is added. As with most of the downtown-located older rail stations, we were able to make the walk through the downtown to the Church Street HI-Toronto hostel in about twenty minutes.

Another well-located hostel, we were a few blocks from the St. Lawrence Market. A banner proclaimed its christening by National Geographic as the “No. 1 Food Market in the World.” The Eaton Center, a huge shopping mall, was a fifteen minute walk. Across the street was the Anglican St. James Cathedral where we attended Evening Prayer. A few blocks south of Union Station is the waterfront and various sports venues.

The next morning, 18 October, we did our last Canadian capital walk on yet another warm and pleasant day. The 10k walk led us through the downtown and past many of the historic areas and buildings as well as several ethnic neighborhoods. We walked by the Blue Jays stadium with its delightful sculptures of sports fans and nearby, the CN Tower. Along the route, we stopped at Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, currently in a sizable renovation project. A group of members was exiting the church at the time and a young attorney gave us a tour of the edifice and a short introduction to the faith. Pat, who is learning to paint (write) icons was fascinated by those in the sanctuary.

Friday we wandered the downtown separately, exploring shops and the Eaton Center, and watching the masses of locals and tourists doing the same. Toronto is not only Canada’s largest city, it is also the most diverse, with a large immigrant population and a mix of almost any language spoken anywhere in the world.

I grew tired and, feeling overwhelmed by the noise and bustle of the city, walked back to the hostel, crossed the street, and flopped onto a bench outside St. James Cathedral. I have the ability to take a nap almost anywhere and easily slipped into a comfortable snooze, only to be awakened by the carillon bells of the cathedral exploding into joyous music as the door flung open and a bridal couple emerged. A woman who lives in the area had joined me on the bench and I remember that before I dozed we had tried to discern the closed doors and the extra limousine parked out front. We had guessed wedding.

A limping woman emerged from the wedding party to sit on a bench near us. She said, “I’m not used to these shoes, I don’t dress like this anymore. They hurt!” Throwing her shoes onto the grass, she added, “He’s my brother. He’s always made trouble for me.” Her son, a lad of about ten dressed in a formal suit, came over and, gathering her shoes, helped her hobble off to a waiting car.

Saturday, our last day, we stored our bags at the hostel for one more visit to the St. Lawrence Market, now filled wall-to-wall with shoppers. It was frustrating; we knew that all our food needs would be met during our four night journey to Vancouver, so buying more food was out of the question. But we bought a bottle of Trius Chardonnay from the Niagara region of Ontario. Finally drinking the wine after we reached Vancouver, we realized it was an excellent wine well worth carrying across Canada.

We retrieved our bags and walked to Union Station for more storing. Pat walked off to explore the Yonge Street area of downtown. I remained near the station, making several forays into the area further west. Here was the convention center, street-side food carts, the large CBC radio-television complex, and the Glenn Gould Studio. Gould (25 September 1932 – 4 October 1982) was an eccentric person who was a brilliant pianist and conductor. His early death robbed the world of one of its greatest musicians. Alas, the studio was locked and the mist was starting to look like sprinkles, so I wandered back to the station, assumed a first-class passenger personae and walked into the VIA Panorama Lounge.

Pat arrived a few minutes later and we claimed our bags and settled permanently into first class to read and eat the provided snacks. We understood that, as long as we didn’t disturb the real First Class Passengers, we could eat all the candy we wanted.