If there was ever a city that really truly represented 'East meets West' it's Toronto. Ultra modern high rise condos and the CN Tower form a high-tech skyline, but as you are drawn further in, you quickly realise that this city is not just a thriving metropolis of glass fronted business centres and luxury hotel brands, but also a mishmash of authentic, ethnic neighbourhoods, peaceful green spaces and quirky back streets.
My penchant for chaotic Far East destinations and sushi draw me to China Town first. That feeling of euphoria when you wander round the streets of a foreign city breathing in the action, unusual sights, smells and pandemonium usually associated with somewhere like Bangkok, Marrakesh, or similar. That's the feeling I get when I wander round China Town in Toronto.
Trams rattling past with yellow cabs weaving through. pandemonium everywhere. Only, in Toronto, no sooner are you weaving your way through the busy streets lined with colourful buildings and stalls selling exotic fruits, herbal medicines, Chinese paper lanterns and precariously hanging neon signs promoting the Chinese restaurants underneath them, you're out of the chaos of a far eastern country and soaking up the chilled hippy vibes of Kensington Market. Hanging Peking ducks are replaced by resident's gardens lined with racks of colourful kaftans and tie-died maxi dresses. Houses painted in bright colours adorned with colourful bunting and the faint smell of pot in the air.
Cultural neighbourhoods aside (and there are plenty more!), I only have a few hours to spare in this city of so many experiences and attractions and I have to choose wisely. There is simply no way I'm cramming everything I want to see into six hours. And with no less than six China Towns, Little Italy, Greek Town, Korea Town and Little India, I'm disappointed that I dont have a few more days to spare soaking up these cultural neighbourhoods dotted across Toronto.
I took 15 minutes out for a quick bite to eat in one of the many sushi bars. The spicy tuna roll was delicious, although super spicy. I'm in and out and The Bata Shoe Museum is where I head for next. I'm female. I love shoes. And this place houses 12,500 pairs of them! I had to dart round the place much quicker than I would of liked. a couple of hours is needed to browse the four floors of shoes from all eras; time to really comprehend how the heck anyone could walk in some of the artefacts on show. Exhibitions showcasing the sneaker generation and some of the shows worn by icons such as Marilyn Monroe are fabulous, but it really is the ancient shoe collection that I find truly fascinating.
There are plenty of other museums on Bloor; north of Downtown Toronto. And one should probably stop of at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). But the sun was cracking the flags and time was ticking so I made the decision to hot foot it over to Yorkville, just a 10 minute walk east of the Bata Shoe Museum.
Quickly I start to feel very underdressed. Trainers, a messy ponytail and a chunky Nikon camera round my neck is quite obviously not 'the look' in Yorkville; Louboutins, a Chloe handbag and big shades are. It becomes apparent that this area of Toronto is where the beautiful and the rich hang out. I stroll the streets lined with seriously expensive looking restaurants and fancy shoe shops. Wishing I had the cash to pop in and purchase a pair of Manalos, before heading in the direction of downtown. The Eaton Centre is where I'm heading next. I suddenly feel the need to shop; preferably where I can afford to buy the shoes, not just the box.
I spend a good hour in the Eaton Center on Dundas Square; the Times Square of Toronto. But an hour is simply not enough time in here, especially when J Crew has a 30% off sale on. But that's all I had and I made the absolute most of it. The Eaton Centre is Toronto's high street shopping mecca. Three floors of those North American favourites; Victoria Secrets. Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Coach and so on.
My short time in Toronto has come to an end. In the taxi on the way to the airport I felt thwarted that I'd not got to venture over to Toronto Islands. Nor had I been up the CN Tower, roamed around the Distillery District or got to sip a glass of wine down on Toronto Harbour. Nevertheless, I know I'll be back, and I can't wait!