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Terrific Toronto

Photograph by Preeti Verma Lal


Exactly 7 minutes and 52 seconds. That is what a Canadian cop took to huff up to the top of the world. He ran up 2,579 steps of the CN Tower, the world’s tallest tower. I got there in 58 seconds flat! Naah, that day in Toronto the angels hadn’t lent me supersonic wings. In the beautiful city I had gotten lazy after French toast with bananas in dulce de leche and chantilly, grew feet of clay and whooshed up the tower that equals the weight of 23,214 large elephants (in real terms, 117,910 metric tonnes) and is almost twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. From the observation deck’s glass panes, Toronto looks like a grey spread laced with Lake Ontario’s azure blue. If you squint harder or peer through the telescope, it is easy to spot the icons – Eaton Centre, Rogers’ Centre, Harbourfront, Casa Lama (beware! ghosts haunt the labyrinthine passageways of this century-old castle), the green blob of Toronto Islands, the rather twisted Royal Ontario Museum, the Fairmont Royal York Hotel that could pass off as a gigantic wedding cake and the historic Distillery District that houses 44 heritage buildings amidst 13 acres of pedestrian-only brick-lined streets. My head swirled as I looked 1,120 ft down from the glass floor. Trust me, it is giddy up there, but if you had just one minute to see Toronto this is the place.

If vertigo is your nemesis, and instead of a minute you had an hour to glance through the city, hop onto the street car that chugs through the streets languorously. At 24.8 kms, the 501 Queen Street Route is the world’s longest street car route and the best way to see the distinct neighbourhoods that dot the city that is also called The Big Smoke and Toronto the Good. In Danforth, the Greek neighbourhood, the streets are redolent with the whiff of sinful honey donuts; in Little India, you’d notice a rickshaw parked outside Lahore Tikka House (do not miss the kulfi on chopsticks!); dumpling kiosks and jade warehouses in the bustling Chinatown; the uber chic Bloor-Yorkville and High Park that is cluttered with East European butchers and bakeries.

However, it is at night that the city is at its glitziest – dreamy, dramatic, shimmering with million neon lights. From the Toronto Islands, the skyline looks resplendent with the CN Tower sticking its nose out of a zillion skyscrapers and the ROM looking surreal in its convoluted design. I, however, chose to pound the pavements during the annual Buskerfest where flames are tossed, swords are swallowed and acrobats tossed in the air. On Toronto’s streets, exhilaration needs no invitation; everyone is invited.

That night as I curled up in the fluffy duvet of Fairmont Royal York, I wondered whether the Queen of England had slept on the same bed during her Canada visit? Was Richard Gere in the same room? Antonio Banderas? Celeb names were tiptoeing into my room, but I shunned them all – I had to pack for day-trip to Niagara Falls. In Toronto, I chose the cascade over celebs!

Swagat, 2010

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