Craig Fleming is a long-time, loyal customer of Canadian Affair who has travelled with us many times over the years. Find out why he fell in love with Toronto and the new things he discovered on his most recent trip.
A wonderful place to stay
We’ve been visiting Toronto now for close on 40 years and it never fails to amaze or amuse. On our most recent stay this summer, if we had ever needed reminding of which city we were in, seven giant LED lit letters were waiting to spell it out for us. The colourful 3D Toronto sign, in the shadow of City Hall, cannot fail to catch the eye in Nathan Phillips Square. And, at more than 3 metres high by 23 metres long, it was still easy to pick out 43 floors up while we leisurely tucked into our daily buffet breakfast high above Queen Street West.
But then the Sheraton Centre Hotel’s Club Lounge, with its spectacular floor to ceiling windows, offers panoramic views across downtown and way, way, beyond in all directions. Our bedroom was just one floor below and gave us a vantage point of our own – breathtaking scenes towards Lake Ontario, whose deep waters could be glimpsed between the various high-rise apartments, glass-fronted office blocks and that unmistakable needle of Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, with its impressive after-dark lightshow.
Close to another stretch of rippling water – the tree-lined part indoor/part outdoor Sheraton swimming pool, itself several storeys above the traffic below – was an oddity: a crazy golf course in regular use on top of an office building. A short walk round the block and the nameplate on the door revealed the premises to be the HQ of Google Canada, the quirky rooftop trapping presumably created to help staff unwind and to impress clients!
Travelling with Canadian Affair
It was an invitation to “cross the pond” from a branch of the family that emigrated from England in the 1880s that first led us to Toronto a century later. Over the years, we have flown with names long since consigned to the Canadian aviation history books: CP Air, Wardair and Nationair. But we have been enjoying our travels with Air Transat now, every two years or so, for almost as long as they have had Manchester in their network, and booking through sister company Canadian Affair has always made our holiday arrangements such a simple, seamless affair.
Taking Option Plus on recent flights has given us the added benefit of still travelling in economy but with a much-increased baggage allowance, dedicated check-in, priority boarding and a range of onboard perks, including a comfort kit and a complimentary alcoholic drink and snack.
Getting around Toronto
Our Downtown Toronto base is a 40 minute taxi ride from the airport, although if you have light luggage you might want to try the Union Pearson express rail link. Staying in the heart of this vibrant city has always offered us the very best of both worlds. We have our independence yet are easily able to meet up with those Canadian cousins who are literally on the doorstep, for, say, a Tim Horton’s “double double” coffee and a Boston Cream donut. Or sometimes a light lunch at a real Toronto institution, The Senator 1940s-style diner, tucked away behind Dundas Square.
We’ve also taken in a lively, laugh-a-minute Second City dinner theatre show, and enjoyed a mid-afternoon breezy harbour front and lakeshore stroll, stopping to look out towards the islands or, in complete contrast, back at the downtown towerblock core. We’ve even regrouped later in our stay for a chance to catch the latest touring exhibition in the galleries of the Royal Ontario Museum.
Getting around the city has never been a problem on foot in the open air or beneath street level in the extensive PATH system with its huge selection of shops and eateries. There is also a realistically-priced network of streetcars and subway trains to speed up your journey. We’ve managed to travel farther afield, without bursting our budget, by using the double deck commuter Go trains and buses out of Union Station, getting as far as Niagara Falls and back in a day.
On the latest Canadian visit we went that bit further by trying the intercity Via Rail service for a comfortable three hour journey that skirted the St Lawrence River to the east of Lake Ontario – the route to Ottawa and Montreal – alighting at a station called Brockville, where we met up, finally, with long-time, long-distance, facebook friends for an enjoyable and leisurely weekend. Of course, if you don’t feel confident enough in your own planning, Canadian Affair have a range of escorted Canada coach tours who do the driving and itinerary for you.
There is so much to discover in Toronto itself – even after almost 40 years – that we’ll never get tired of visiting. A bonus, in our case, is meeting up with the extended family who first encouraged us to “cross the pond” all those decades ago and commence our own enduring and enjoyable Canadian Affair.