Destination Toronto: How to top Zurich
Sometimes it takes a visit from an out of town guest to realize all the great things in your own backyard.
This summer, I was treated to a week long visit from a very good friend of mine who lives in Switzerland. My 16 year old daughter and I had spent a week with her in Zurich the previous March, so we were looking forward to returning the favour by hosting her and her 19 year old daughter in our hometown of Toronto.
The problem was, how could we ever top the visit to Zurich?
While we were there, we traveled extensively and saw almost every part of Zurich. We went to Zermatt via train and up 5,000m above sea level via cable car to spend time on a glacier. We spent a full 8 hours on the Glacier Express to on the way to St. Moritz. We traveled for a day to Colmar, where we wandered around the rustic and beautiful streets of the Alsacian town and spent a day in Raperswill at a glorious castle.
How do you top that … in Toronto?
I am a native Torontonian, born and raised. I have traveled through Europe, the USA, and parts of the Caribbean. I am not naive to the sights of my city, and I thought they were limited, that my city was boring. I wondered how we would ever fill the time. It turns out that I was wrong. Toronto is interesting and here is our itinerary to prove it.
Day One: An afternoon of sight-seeing across Bloor Street. We wandered the streets of Yorkville, with its boutiques and restaurants, then enjoyed the architecture of the buildings of University of Toronto - which happened to be open that day, thus allowing us the privilege of wandering the halls of the 150 year old buildings. Finally, we visited Queen's Park, and toured the Parliament building. Our feet were tired by the evening, when we made our weary way home.
Day Two: An afternoon of sight-seeing across "Lower" Toronto. This was my first time ever to the Distillery District, if can you believe it. Why did I not come here sooner? I captured a picture, showing how the old is nestled in amongst the steel of the newer buildings. Fascinating! We discovered a shop I had never seen before, where the owner made the clothes that she was selling as you watched and I bought a gorgeous new scarf. We saw the Eaton Center, and Dundas Square and walked through the St. Lawrence Market - which they found absolutely impressive. There were pianos in the streets, free for those that wanted to play, which were part of an art installation of 41 pianos, called the Play me, I’m Yours project. Angelina (my friend’s daughter who is an impressive pianist) played every single one that we passed, to the delight of the passersby. We walked along Queen and King all the way to Spadina, and back before we finally took the subway home, completely exhausted!
Day Three: A day trip to the west of the city to visit Niagara Falls and wine country. I could write a whole post on this day alone! We saw Niagara Falls, went on the Maid of the Mist, and did a winery tour.
Day Four: A day trip to the east of the city to visit Gananoque & the Thousand Islands. It had been over 30 years since I had taken the "3 hour tour" of the islands. Our friends were astounded by the beauty of the area and after being reminded of it, so was I.
Day Five: We spent the afternoon walking on Queen Street and the boardwalk and shops of the Beach. Of course, we had to stop into Greek Town for a fantastic Gyro sandwich and saw a wonderful Cirque de Soleil show in the evening!
Day Six: On our final day together we went to the Toronto Islands for the afternoon. We rented a bicycle built for 5, and toured the paved paths around the island. Afterwards we sat on the sandy beaches of Center Island to rest, then walked the boardwalk to Ward's Island to catch the ferry home. How could such beauty be only a short boat ride away from the heart of downtown?
As my friend was leaving, do you know what she said? She asked me how was she going to top that, when we went back to Zurich? What? How could my little city be as exciting as Zurich?
Now, when I reflect back on that native experience, I realize this: My city is beautiful, exciting and a great place to see. I can't wait to experience it through the eyes of a traveler again sometime soon.