TORONTO - September 2022
Updated: Oct 2
This trip to Toronto was filler to pass the time after two exciting trips to southeastern Europe. The trip was nearly cancelled due to the ridiculously excessive cost of lodging. The place I stayed was a comparable dump considering the nightly rate was twice the normal travel budget and better furnishings have been found in past lodgings.
My friend Bill Lotz did the usual of collecting me for delivery to the airport on Atlanta's MARTA rail system. Going through security has become a bit easier without the infusion pump attached. My status with Delta's Sky Miles Program increased after purchasing the ticket which resulted in an upgrade in service class for the outbound trip and a first class seat coming home.
Clearing Canadian customs and immigration was a quick, seamless process. Transportation to the city was made possible on the UP Express rail link between Union Station and Lester B Pearson Airport on a senior's half price ticket.
Toronto has one of the most expensive transportation systems, second only to London. Five day passes were purchased for $10 each. With the cards stored in a safe place for future use, I was off to the races.
The city is densely covered by a network of subway lines, busses and streetcars (trams) operating on short headways between 3 and 7 minutes. Missing a bus, tram or train becomes of no concern with the next one on the way. Two subway lines densely cover the inner city with the outlying suburbs served by feeder bus service. Two shorter lines connect suburban commuters with the two main lines. A light rail line, Eglington-Crosstown Line, serving the western suburbs is scheduled to open by the end of this year. A second light rail line, Finch-West LRT is under construction will connect the northwestern suburbs to the main line. A dense network of surface light rail streetcars and busses supplement the in-town subway service.
Line 1 serves the northeast and northwest suburbs in a U-shape alignment focused from Union Station in downtown. The northeast branch is known as the Yonge Subway while the northwest branch is known as the University-Spadina Subway. Thirty-eight stations populate this line. The Yonge Subway was opened in 1954 with many of the stations constructed at shallow depths in non-descript architectural styles. The University Subway was opened in 1963 and extends from Union Station to the northwestern suburbs. A second extension in 1978 included stations with a bit more architectural distinction. The final extension in 2017 includes six stations constructed in massive concrete pours and offers diverse architectural designs. Landscaped exteriors and impressive mezzanines are showcased.
Line 2, known as the Bloor-Danforth Subway, runs on an east-west alignment across the city connecting eastern and western suburban areas with the in-town business district. Thirty-one stations populate this line with openings between 1966 and 1968. The majority of the stations are again constructed at shallow depths. Several elevated stations offer a bit of distinction in architectural design.
Line 3, known as the Scarborough RT, is an elevated line extending east from Line 2. Each of the six stations opened in 1985 are cut from the same mold. The current plan to replace this service with bus transportation.
Line 4, known as the Sheppard Subway has five stations connecting Line 1 with the northeastern suburbs. Architectural distinction began to be incorporated in these stations by 2002. The stations are constructed at depth with impressive mezzanine areas.
Toronto Subway (TTC) Rollingstock
The next challenge was learning to master the local transportation system. The daily system transportation passes mentioned earlier were nowhere to be found the next day. Four new daily passes were purchased with the cards being found after getting back at home.
The hotel was located near a tram stop, but away from subway stations. The ridiculous cost of lodging mandated a remote location to protect the travel budget.
The weather was a bit problematic causing major shifts in the sequence of activities. The Sunday evening outdoor plan was moved to Thursday evening to avoid forecasted rain. Amsterdam Bridge at the Lake Ontario marina was the first stop with golden hour photos planned. Disappointment clouded the evening when the bridge was found closed in disrepair and hoards of condos were blocking the extraordinary views seen in older photos. Puente de Luz, a pedestrian bridge, crossing the tracks near Union Station was the second stop. No disappointments were found here.
Amsterdam Brewhouse at the marina Puente de Luz pedestrian bridge
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada's best. The locals dislike the exterior modern architecture and consider the building a monstrosity. Photographing the exterior was a do-over after the last visit in 2010.
The Star Trek inspired City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square was the last planned visit for the evening with its iconic "Toronto" sign at the arched fountain and winter skating rink. The clock approaching 1:00 am, I was afraid of missing the last tram to the hotel. Trams, fortunately, run 24 hours.
Yonge-Dundas Square in the Entertainment District is Toronto's answer to the big city bright lights of Times Square. Shooting this location in the night was an awesome consolation prize for missing Times Square.
Yonge-Dundas Square: Toronto's answer to Times Square
While St Michaels Cathedral Basilica isn't the largest Catholic church in the city, Friday morning started with a visit to its stained-glass windows.
A daytime visit back to Nathan Phillips Square was again part of the do-over, but also was meant to capture the area in daylight before preparations for a Mexican heritage weekend. The skyline view denied by the closed bridge at the marina with the too tall condos was realized while riding the water taxi to Centre Island and gave some awesome shots.
The main public library located near Yonge-Dundas Square offers stellar quality architecture, but security doesn't allow photos inside. The original first night Thursday schedule of riding the rails on the eastern portion of the Bloor-Danforth Subway and the Scarborough RT completed the Friday daylight schedule after a late stop at the Sharp Centre for Design in
the Ontario College of Art and Design. Planning and construction of the Centre were initially opposed by the local community due to loss of green space. The creative solution was to build classrooms above ground on stilts and develop a small park below.
The evening finished with visits to the 2017 stations on the University Line. The architecture was most impressive. The only reprimand received during the trip was delivered at that time. A day that began at 8:30 am concluded at 12:30 am with some sore dawgs.
Saturday morning began with a visit to the Distillery District filled with restaurants and various shops. The area formerly was the home of beer and spirits manufacturers. Brick façades have been faithfully restored.
The Royal Ontario Museum was visited to complete the do-over in daylight.
The landmark Gooderham Building, situated on a triangular parcel, is one of several such “Flatiron” buildings in cities around the world. The building, constructed in 1892, includes a bright green copper roof, brick façade and a sandstone foundation partially above grade. Berczy Park, located on the west side of the building, has the most beautiful two-tiered fountain.
St Lawrence Market is located two blocks east of the Gooderham Building. Saturday shopping at its best happens here with meats, fresh fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, along with loads of ethnic street food.
The weather started with cloudy skies which changed to ground fog by noon. The 4:00 pm helicopter flight was in jeopardy of being cancelled. The flight eventually went up and allowed some high quality shots of Toronto from above. The Helitours.ca pilot hugged the Lake Ontario coastline too closely on takeoff from Billy Bishop Airport which limited the number of great shots possible of the awesome lakefront skyline. The lack of pilot commentary during the flight obliterated all recognition of landmarks below. Spending money on helicopter flights is always a crapshoot that rarely results in the perfect outcome.
Sunday was a complete washout with the forecasted rain falling all day. I stayed at the hotel working on photos through out the day while the rain continued into Monday morning. Skies cleared by the time of the tour at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario (LAO). The LAO, located in Queens Park, is full of rich wood paneling and Italian marble.
The day finished with exploration on the western portion of the Bloor-Danforth Subway and the southern portions of Line 1. Shoppers Drug Mart located inside a former theater was visited while on a lunchtime restaurant search. The architecture fixtures inside were most impressive and unusual.
Racial attitudes in Canada have changed drastically in the last 45 years since I worked in the country. At the time, indigenous Native Americans were looked upon with disgust and treated like dogs. They are now considered on equal footing with the rest of the population. Their contributions to society are universally recognized. Toronto seems to be as equally racially diverse as New York. The immigrant population exceeds the Caucasian population. Canada represents what the United States is supposed to be about with extremely high levels of tolerance and acceptance of others. Cross cultural friendships abound in the younger population demographic.