Tag Archives: red rocket
George Medovoy – Daily Press
When people think of Toronto, they usually picture a modern skyline of skyscrapers and condos, those icons of Canada’s largest city.
But when I think of Toronto, it’s “The Beaches” that immediately comes to mind — a charming, lakeside neighborhood, where years ago, Toronto urbanites would retreat for the weekend and which is now a much-desired area at the far eastern end of the Queen Street electric tramline at Lake Ontario.
One morning, we boarded one of the city’s quiet, brightred, electric trams — endearingly known to locals as the “Red Rocket” — and slipped along the tracks to discover “The Beaches” for ourselves.
The Beaches’ main drag, Queen Street, is filled with antique shops and quirky little stores and cafes. The nearby leafy lanes, filled with cottage-style charmers, lead to the boardwalk and parkland along Lake Ontario.
At the beachside boat station, we saw lifeguards arranging rowboats, and in a fenced-off area, people were chatting as their dogs frolicked in a sandy doggy playground.
It wasn’t warm enough to go swimming, but three souls wearing jackets sat on beach chairs emblazoned with the red maple leaf of Canada, admiring the lake view within sight of Toronto’s modern skyline to the west.
As modern as the skyline may be, however, it still holds relics of a bygone era, like the majestic Royal York Hotel, which opened on June 11, 1929 and occupies a hallowed place across the street from another historic Canadian icon, the Beaux-Artsstyle Union Station, inaugurated in 1927 by the Prince of Wales when the train linked Canada’s far-flung cities.
The Royal York, now a National Heritage Landmark, is dwarfed by modern architectural giants, like the neighboring Royal Bank of Canada Plaza Towers and the 54-story Toronto-Dominion Centre.
Under the Royal Bank is an entrance to the PATH, whose 16 subterranean miles of shops, cafes and restaurants link 48 office towers, six hotels, and five subway stations, making it the world’s largest underground shopping mall.
In this downtown neighborhood you’ll also find the Eaton Centre — a three-block, three-level shopping complex at Oscar Peterson Square, named for the famous Montreal-born musician.
The city’s transformation has had other manifestations beyond architectural. I was reminded of this while reading an interview with Lorne Michaels, the Canadianborn producer of the U.S. TV show, “Saturday Night Live,” in the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Michaels remembered Toronto as “the best of all worlds in terms of comedy grounding.”
Because when he was growing up, it was “an unbelievably dull city,” so he would have to find ways to amuse himself.
Today “dull” is a thing of the past in a city considered very “hip.”
But new or old, there are some wonderful “behind the scenes” stories about Toronto told by Bruce Bell, the author, with photographer Elan Penn, of “Toronto: A Pictorial Celebration” (Sterling Publishing Company).
Bell took us backstage at the Royal York to an old dressing room with a big star on the door – it was Marlene Dietrich’s when she last worked the hotel’s supper club in 1947.
Bell, an 18-year-old busboy at the time, remembered being “summoned” to Dietrich’s dressing room.
“She said to me, ‘Get me gin’. We knocked back a few. She was wonderful, (but) I was so nervous.”
By lunchtime, Bell led us to the historic St. Lawrence Market on Front Street, a crowded, Victorian-style bee hive of vendors and wonderful aromas, where you can buy everything from fresh vegetables to cheese and salamis.
We had lunch at a small Italian stand, where a hearty, Italian-accented woman in a white smock with a smile to match the food served us giant foccacia sandwiches bulging with eggplant and peppers.
After downing our sandwiches with a cold Coke, we walked to Jarvis Street, where Canada’s historic Freedom Trail tied into the Underground Railroad that brought escaping Black slaves across the border from the United States.
After making their way to Rochester, New York, the slaves would cross Lake Ontario, the majority winding up at what was then the Jarvis Street dock.
The abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who published a newspaper called “The Northern Star,” would always advise the slaves to “follow the northern star,” said Bell, who led us into nearby St. Lawrence Hall, where a plaque commemorates the Underground Railroad and where, in 1850, a convention of “Colored Freedmen” took place.
The next morning we hopped a ferry to Ward’s Island with a group of young campers on an outing with their bikes. The trip from Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto to Ward’s Island took a mere 10 minutes, but once on the island we felt miles away.
From Ward’s, you can rent a bike or a canoe and look back at the city skyline.
There are beaches here, too, including a clothing-optional beach at Hanlan’s Point, which at one time had a 10,000-seat stadium, where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run in 1914.
After a midday ice cream, we took the ferry boat back to the mainland and spent the afternoon at Toronto’s pedestrian-only Distillery District, home to the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America, interspersed with artisan galleries and boutiques, theaters and restaurants.
On our last day in Toronto, we rode the trolley to Chinatown.
It started to rain, but we opened up our umbrella and took a stroll as planned, eyeing all the fresh produce and bargain clothing that spilled onto the crowded sidewalk.
Chinatown merges with another neighborhood, lively Kensington Market, which in the 1920s and 1930s was a distinctly Jewish area with at least 30 synagogues.
That night, we went up to the top of the CN Tower, the world’s tallest free-standing structure, for a different perspective of Toronto, taking in wonderful, panoramic views of this city of charming neighborhoods that spreads out by the lake.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
- Preview Opening and Special Offer Preview opening Thursday September 18 – only registered guests will...
- Toronto Condo Owners Beware Of Special Assessments The sad truth is that sometimes scary things happen in...
- History of Radio City Radio City's Interior Designer Trevor Kruse is now designing the...
- Old is new again at Queen City Vinegar Co. Lofts The Queen City Vinegar Co. Lofts, where Streetcar Developments Inc....
- City of Toronto Act In response to a formal review of the City of...