My Top 10 All time Favourite Destinations – #6 TORONTO

He said….Did you know that Monday, JULY 1st is CANADA DAY (originally known as Dominion Day), the National Day of Canada celebrating the anniversary of the coming together of three separate colonies under the British North America Act legislated on July 1st, 1867, to form one country called CANADA within the British Empire.   Now I have to say that Canada is one very beautiful country and as an Australian travelling there during my former business life, I quickly realised a number of striking similarities with my own wonderful homeland:-

  1. .Similar sized land mass
  2. Large city developments on its east and west coasts
  3. Large wilderness areas in between each with dramatic landscapes
  4. Similarly divided into States and Territories or Provinces
  5. Similarly governed with Federal and State legislatures following the Westminster System
  6. Both have a Prime Minister, a Governor General and the British Monarch as constitutional Head of State
  7. Both former British colonies and  both still part of the British Commonwealth
  8. Not hugely different population sizes
  9. Similarly valued currencies
  10. And perhaps many more, yet both countries are distinctively different!

It was my former Canadian held global corporate employer, then known as The Thomson Corporation but now Thomson Reuters, that allowed me the privilege to experience, albeit infrequently, the rich Canadian culture and to visit  its key commercial centres – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver - and also some of its pristine natural wonders – The Canadian Rockies including Lake Louise, Banff National Park, the dramatic Columbia Icefield and more particularly, to actually walk on its Athabasca Glacier - WOW what an awesome experience that was!!

But I’ve singled out of this rich tapestry the delightfully friendly, east coast commercial city of Toronto as a favourite – probably unfairly because when I do return to Canada next – as a retiree and a tourist – I would be hard pressed to leave out the whole west coast/Rockies experience and equally, even from an east coast perspective, the winter wonderland “underground” city of Montreal to its far north which I found equally captivating. On balance and unless there is endless time (and funds available) to do it all in one hit, I suspect there is a strong case to go back twice – once to the whole west coast/Rockies adventure into which I’d simply have to include Alaska, and another trip to focus on the equally vibrant east coast. I am now thinking it might be easier to undertake this latter scenario by car, starting in New York, driving north west through New York State to Buffalo entering Canada through the dramatically beautiful Niagra Falls - which is definitely not to be missed! – then on to Toronto itself, then Quebec City which I’ve not yet seen and of course, classically beautiful and very French influenced Montreal. 

Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. It is located in Southern Ontario on the north-western shore of Lake Ontario with its skyline impressively  dominated by the CN (Canadian National) Tower reaching 553 meters (1815 feet) in to the sky. It serves both as a major communications receptor and a hugely popular tourist site (since its completion in 1976)  with its glass floor observation deck. The other dominant structure is the Toronto Skydome (now called The Rogers Centre) a multipurpose sports arena, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays in the Major Baseball League and also the Toronto football team.

Toronto, like so many other great cities around the western world, has its fair share of tall buildings, bustling city landscapes of cars and people going every “which way” but my point of interest in my business travels was the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower which in its upper reaches housed the corporate headquarters of Thomson. But on my next visit, my interest will be focused on the Art Gallery of Ontario which now houses the Thomson Collection, the result of unprecedented philanthropy by Ken Thomson (now sadly deceased and who had inherited his father’s British Knighthood, Lord Thomson of Fleet, first bestowed when his father Roy Thomson was owner of The London Times, the then flagship of a huge stable of publishing assets around the world) who donated CAN$50million towards the construction of this wonderful gallery. Ken was himself a keen collector of fine art and now many pieces from his personal collection are on permanent  public display at the AGO thanks to his generosity. And then of course there is Roy Thomson Hall, with its beautiful curved glass exterior, the home of The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and “must” for music purists visiting Toronto. It was opened in 1982 and named after the first Lord Thomson as a tribute to his family who donated CAN$4.5million to compete fund raising for its construction

But aside from its classical art and entertainment attractions, Toronto is equally famous for its love of comedy, being home to numerous world famous comedy clubs-YukYuk’s, The Second City, Comedy Bar and Absolute Comedy and others –  and the training ground for some top Hollywood comedic actors the likes of Mike Myers (of Austin Powers fame…oh, behave!!), Jim Carey (Liar, Liar and so many others), Dan Akroid and John Candy (Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters etc). I was lucky enough to enjoy a memorable evening at The Second City during one of my business trips there and truly, I’ve never laughed so hard in my life – what a funny, funny night!!

On another Thomson trip, I took time out to visit with dear friends – Doug (since sadly departed) was my superior in the formative years of my career and from whom I gained my first CFO role when he returned to Canada – he and wife Cathy had remained friends from afar for many years and these “Thomson” visits in the 1990s presented special opportunities to catch up at their lovely suburban bay-side home in Toronto and to reminisce about the many fun times we shared in Sydney all those years before. But on this particular visit we spent an autumn Saturday motoring to breathtaking Niagra Falls - the scenery en route through open countryside of sweeping pastures and leafy vineyards was truly beautiful, though it paled in comparison to the awesome vista that Niagra so grandly presented. You should know that this place is really popular but do not let that deter you – If you are in the region you truly cannot afford to miss this wonderful spectacle! It definitely is a MUST SEE place. And days like this make stays in places like Toronto even more memorable!

However you reach Toronto – whether via the USA, by transcontinental rail from Vancouver or by air directly from Heathrow – make sure its on your itinerary – you will surely find many fabulous things to make your stay in this fine city a very special time!

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