Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Toronto … my kind of town

As many of you will come to Toronto for the NABC coming soon I thought it was a good time to tell you a bit about my city.  I was born in Toronto and have lived here all of my life.  This may not seem very special since many of us who were born here have stayed since Toronto has so much to offer.  But in fact Toronto is a city of immigrants.  Once a group of us who worked for a technology company went out to a restaurant after work.  I asked everyone around the table where they had come from.  There were 12 of us.  I was the only one who had been born in Canada.  We had people from India, Ireland, China, Poland, Romania, Pakistan, Indonesia, America, Israel, and other places I can’t remember now.  No two people had come from the same country!

So let me tell you about some of our neighborhoods.  Toronto has a huge Chinese community one of the largest in North America.  There are very large groups of Chinese people in many areas of the city.

File:Chinatown toronto spadina avenue.JPG

One large area which is not too far from the tournament might be called Downtown Chinatown.  It is located all Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West.   You can easily get there by subway.  The sidewalks are filled with vendors selling produce and all sorts of Chinese merchandise.  There is a large Chinese cultural center, numerous wonderful Chinese restaurants, Chinese clothes and other products.  I really like the silk jackets that are imported from Hong Kong.  My favorite is the reversible ones.  I have worn them for business and for parties.  No problem getting Chinese medicine and treatments of any kind.

The Italian neighborhood is also very large.  Italians represents a large part of the population of Toronto.  When they won the World Cup the celebrations filled the streets around.  Many of the Italians live in the St. Clair midtown area of Toronto.  There are street fairs some times, lots and lots of Italian retaurants and gellaterie.  You can buy the big huge pots to make pasta and sauces and buy Italian clothes and products.

Kensington Market is an area that has hosted many nationalities.  The Jewish population of Toronto was part of this great cultural mix when my grandparetns came to live in Toronto around the time of the first World War.  My grandfather was an early draft dodger.  When the Russian army came to draft young Jewish men into the Czar’s army the whole community pitched in to provide him steerage fare on a boat headed for New York City.  The boat stopped in Toronto and my Zadie decided that he would get off right there.  He had an uncle in Toronto and that was enough to get him through immigration.

During the early twentieth century, Kensingston become populated by eastern European Jewish immigrants and some Italians.  It became notable for the items and gifts, reminiscent of those in Europe, that covered the streets of the area. From the beginning, the market sold items imported from the homelands of the various immigrant communities. It became known as “the Jewish Market”. Jewish merchants operated small shops as tailors, furriers and bakers. Around 60,000 Jews lived in and around Kensington Market during the 1920s and 1930s, worshipping at over 30 local synagouges.

File:Kensington market.jpg

Kensington is a great place to shop for well many things including clothes, gifts and produce.  In November 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site.   Today it is also home to artists and many cultural activites.

You may gather from some of this that Toronto is not a melting pot.  It prides itself on being the home of multiculturalism.  Some other large communities in Toronto include Greeks (we love to visit especially the restaurants, East Indians, Jamaica, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Russians, Koreans, Mexicans and many more make Toronto their home and enrich our culture.

Besides these wonderful neighborhoods Toronto has some lovely geography.  All the shores of Lake Ontario we have Ontario Place, Harbourfront, the Beaches and Toronto Islands.  Each of these locations has lots to offer.  I like to take a ferryboat out to the island on a summer day.  There are a number of islands to chose from.  On Centre Island you can rent bicycles, canoes and Kayaks.  There is an amusement park and a petting zoo.  All the islands have beaches with swimming.  If you want go to Hanlan’s Point where there is a clothes optional beach!  There are lots of restaurants and snack bars all around the islands.

I like to go to the beaches too.  It is a great place to take kids or dogs!  You can walk along the extensive beaches, swim or cycle.  There are nearby playgrounds for kids and a large dogs off-leash area.  When I went with my friend Victoria and her dog Angel we had fun watching the dogs swimming, although Angel is not much of a swimmer.

Some other attractions that I enjoy in the downtown area are the St. Lawrence Market, Baldwin Street’s eclectic restaurants, baseball and other events at the wonderful Skydome, Castle Loma (a bit out of the downtown), Allan Gardens Conservatory, the ROM (museum) and well a lot more.  I have never been to the Bata Shoe Museum but I hear it is terrific.

If you have time for a day trip one of my favorites is to the McMichael Art Gallery home to the Group of Seven artists.  I grew up with this wonderful art.   They were twentieth century painters who painted vivid pictures of the Canadian countryside.

Lawren Harris is my favorite.  Although A.Y. Jackson is the most famous.  Of course Niagara Falls is amazing.  I have seen it hundreds of times and will see it many more.  It fills my photographic albums.  But Niagara On The Lake, home of the Shaw Festival (theatre) is charming and doesn’t cross the line to being too cute.

I find that as I write I can think of more and more wonderful things.  Let me know your favorites.  And welcome to My Home Town.


SallyJuly 13th, 2011 at 11:11 am

You have mentioned most of my favourite Toronto destinations, like Kensington Market, the Toronto Island and Chinatown. While downtown at the NABC next week, I hope to find some time to visit the AGO and also go out for a nice meal somewhere because the Summerlicious festival is on (only until Sunday, July 24th). Check out the website, there are so many restaurants participating. Prix Fixe menus for great prices!

Looking forward to the NABC coming to Toronto, and to meeting so many people I converse with on email and the phone, right in my home town!

James WardJuly 13th, 2011 at 11:55 am

Thanks for that write-up, Linda. I’ve been looking through guide books, but they never have the same intimate feeling that a local’s view gives.

I can’t wait to arrive in Toronto and enjoy your city (and the NABC, of course).

James McLarenJuly 13th, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I have trouble picturing a boat trip from Europe to New York VIA Toronto.

Could you provide a little detail to help me out?

LuiseJuly 13th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Of course you didn’t mention the one thing that gives the Toronto skyline it’s unique profile that distinguishes it from every other metropolitan city: The CN Tower. The top-of-toronto restaurant that revolves at the top of the tower is a bit pricey but if that’s not your concern, the experience of having a meal while slowly rotating to get a 360 view of the whole city is certainly an experience worth having. Elevators to the top of the tower aren’t cheap either, however the experience of viewing the city from the top of the tower on a clear day can’t be matched.

The “Skydome” is not called the “Skydome” anymore (even though the locals still know it as such). The new management has now called it the “Roger’s Center”. I do recommend anyone who is a baseball fan grab a couple of Jays tickets and enjoy a game while you are in town.

One of my favorites for those younger couples with children is to visit the Ontario Science Center. You won’t be able to get there from the hotel without a vehicle (There is public transit as well, if you really want to go that route). But if you have kids, it is a place not to be missed. Make sure you visit the science arcade on level 6 and enjoy a show in the OmniMax Theatre by the main entrance (tickets sold separately). If your kids are really young (0-5), the KidSpark on level 4 is a good place to start.

Another place of interest is a bit north of the city, but if you have a vehicle I highly recommend a day trip for all families, especially those with pre-teens and teenagers. Canada’s Wonderland is one of the largest amusement parks in North America. With 14 major roller coasters, games, restaurants, shops, shows and other attractions, you are sure to find something that the whole family can enjoy. There also is a section of the park dedicated to younger kids as well and has a kiddie roller coaster that children as small as 42 inches tall can enjoy. Be warned, however — food prices within the gates aren’t cheap, so pack a lunch in a cooler and enjoy it at the picnic tables under the covered tent to the right of the main gate. If your kids are at least 54 inches tall, show up 30 minutes before opening time and make a left turn once you enter — follow the line of running kids to ride the Behemoth first! If the forecast calls for a hot, humid day, bring your bathing suits and towels and cool off in the water park.

There’s also the Toronto Zoo, located East of the city. Again, this is another trip for which you would need a vehicle. I recommend that you start your day by buying a tram ticket and getting off at the Africa exhibit. If you are pushing a stroller, a walker or a wheelchair, you may wish to skip the Canadian area as there is a very steep, very long hill to climb on the way back. The zoo also has a splash park to enjoy, as well as a kids adventure area where they can dig for dinosaur bones in the sand, crawl through tunnels, play in the park and slide down a large slide, etc.

Other than that, I think you covered it! If I think of anything else, I will post it later.

Cam FrenchJuly 13th, 2011 at 5:37 pm


you are right. We have much to offer as a city.

Subways. Universities. Blue Jays, Leafs, even Wonderland.

The Zoo is out in my neck of the woods and although it is wonderful, it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

We have Chinatown. Little Italy. Greek town on the Danforth, and many more ethnic neigbourhoods.

As a city, there is much to offer. I hope our international visitors will enjoy the sights, sounds and delicious tastes of our city.


Dave smithJuly 13th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Thanks for the info. I’m really looking forward to my trip and not just for the bridge.

Jordy CohenJuly 13th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

For those with a real sense of adventure the CN Tower is now allowing people to stroll around on the OUTSIDE of the top of the tower–I don’t know what the surcharge is for that, but it’s not for the faint-of-heart! Heading down either King or Queen St. W after the games leads to a bustling club and resto scene, with great watering holes at the Drake, the Gladstone and Thompson hotels.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 14th, 2011 at 8:25 am


What a fantastic post! Regret we won’t be there as it has so much to offerl

James WardJuly 14th, 2011 at 8:52 am

Thanks for the tip Luise – just reserved a table in the 360 restaurant!

MichaelJuly 15th, 2011 at 11:55 am

Nice post Linda, looking forward to seeing everybody and checking out the city.

Ray LeeJuly 15th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

One thing you forgot to mention, probably since we Canadians take it so for granted… Toronto is a very safe city. Feel free to wander around the city centre at midnight after the game… there will be lots open, especially if you go North a couple of blocks to Queen Street West. Enjoy!

HanniJuly 17th, 2011 at 6:21 am

Wonderful post, gorgeous pictures. Several years ago I read a book about young Jewish boy, saved in holocaust by Greek professor who took him to Toronto when he moved to teach in university there. The boy spent his life then exploring Toronto, which, according to author, has great geologic significance. Quite fascinating.

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