Let’s go danc­ing

From mu­sic venues to a shoe mu­seum, you’ll be kept on your toes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Canada - IAIN SHED­DEN


If you’ve never heard of a peameal ba­con sand­wich (I hadn’t) the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence one (ideally with maple mus­tard, as lo­cal cus­tom dic­tates) shouldn’t be missed when you visit St Lawrence Mar­ket, a bustling 200-year-old food em­po­rium in the funky part of town, west of the CBD, on the cor­ner of Front Street East and Lower Jarvis Street. Housed in an im­pos­ing 19th-cen­tury brick build­ing, it op­er­ates most days, with 120 stalls selling ev­ery­thing from ex­otic cheeses to fish, poul­try and, in the Carousel Bak­ery, the afore­men­tioned ba­con-based del­i­cacy. On Satur­days there is also a farm­ers’ mar­ket across the road from the main venue. More: st­lawrence­mar­ket.com.


If you’re in Toronto dur­ing the base­ball sea­son ( (April-Oc­to­ber) it’s worth check­ing out the Toronto Blue Jays, once a pow­er­house of the North Amer­i­can sport and back-to-back World Se­ries cham­pi­ons in the early 1990s. The Jays play in the Amer­i­can League and at­tract a pas­sion­ate sup­port to Rogers Cen­tre, a com­fort­able, mod­ern sta­dium with a ca­pac­ity of 49,000 spec­ta­tors in the heart of down­town (I walk from my ho­tel, the Sher­a­ton Cen­tre Toronto, in about 10 min­utes). Even if you’re not a base­ball fan, the spec­ta­cle and the at­mos­phere is ad­dic­tive, with no short­age of fans ea­ger to ex­press their opin­ions in a frank and mean­ing­ful man­ner. Buy tick­ets online for as lit­tle as $C14.95 ($15.85) if you’re pre­pared to sit in the nose­bleeds or up to $C70.25 around home base. More: toronto.bluejays.mlb.com.


Dom­i­nat­ing the city and ad­ja­cent to Rogers Stad dium is the CN Tower, for 34 years the tallest struc­ture in the world, un­til it was over­taken in 2010 by the Can­ton Tower in Guangzhou and Dubai’s Burj Khal­ifa. Still, at 555.33m, the ob­ser­va­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions struc­ture is high enough to af­ford great views and of­fers the stan­dard tower fare of glass floors, sou­venirs and op­tion-to-buy of­fi­cial photo op­por­tu­ni­ties. There’s also a re­volv­ing res­tau­rant, 360, with set and a la carte lunch and din­ner menus and an ex­ten­sive wine list. Those of a dar­ing dis­po­si­tion can take the Edgewalk, a hands-free stroll around the roof of the main pod just above the res­tau­rant, about 350m up. Par­tic­i­pants are strapped to a rail sys­tem above their heads that es­corts them around (not avail­able in win­ter or dur­ing ex­treme weather). The tower is open 9am-10.30pm. Go just be­fore night­fall to get the best of both panora­mas. More: cn­tower.ca.


The down­town area of Toronto is a none-too-at­trac­tive sprawl of con­crete with the oc­ca­sional glim­mer of sand­stone, but a com­plete change of pace and scenery is only a boat ride away. The Toronto Is­lands sit in Lake On­tario, just a short hop from the main­land. Ac­cess, in­clud­ing to the big­gest, Cen­tre Is­land, is by ferry, from the Jack Clay­ton Ferry Ter­mi­nal in down­town Toronto. A $C7.25 round-trip ($C3.50 chil­dren) gives you the free­dom of one of the city’s most tran­quil en­vi­ron­ments, with quiet beaches, lus­cious park­land and am­ple recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing boating, ten­nis and an amuse­ment park. Cy­cling is one of the most pop­u­lar things to do on the is­land; hire bikes at the ferry ter­mi­nal on the main­land. Kayaks and ca­noes are also avail­able for hire on the is­land, although they tend to get booked out early in the day dur­ing the sum­mer months. More: toronto.com/things-to-do/cen­tre-is­land.


While the melange of sky­scrapers, fly­overs and con­crete malls in the CBD is less than at­trac­tive, go be­neath the sur­face, quite lit­er­ally, and the scene be­comes a lit­tle more ap­peal­ing. The Un­der­ground City, as it is known, houses hun­dreds of shops, restau­rants and bars, all con­nected by walk­ways and with ac­cess to the main Union Sta­tion and bus ter­mi­nal.


Dur­ing early May the cognoscenti of the global mu­sic busi­ness de­scends on Toronto for Cana­dian Mu­sic Week, one of the big­gest in­dus­try show­case and con­fer­ence events in the world. Dur­ing this pe­riod ev­ery venue in the city is put to use with tal­ent from across the world, but there is plenty to en­joy, no mat­ter your tastes, all year round in a va­ri­ety of venues, from tiny cafes to the­atres and are­nas host­ing in­ter­na­tional acts. A num­ber of the smaller gigs are dot­ted about the funky neigh­bour­hoods around West Queen Street West and Dun­das Street, about 20 min­utes’ walk west from the CBD. Horse­shoe Tav­ern (Queen Street West) is a peren­nial of the lo­cal mu­sic scene, an old-style pub with a fine se­lec­tion of tap and bot­tled beers, friendly at­mos­phere and mu­sic on the bill most nights. Also worth the trip is The Gar­ri­son (venue out the back of the pub) on Dun­das Street. More: horse­shoetav­ern.com.


Dun­das and Queen are the two main thor­oughf fares that run east and west of the city, but it’s to the lat­ter where the abun­dance of night-life is con­cen­trated. Stretch­ing for kilo­me­tres along those streets, tak­ing in Chi­na­town, Lit­tle Italy, Lit­tle Por­tu­gal and the en­ter­tain­ment and fash­ion dis­tricts, are myr­iad bars, res- tau­rants and gigs, some un­der the same roof. A few of the best ex­am­ples are on or around Oss­ing­ton Street, which runs be­tween the two main drags. The Com­mu­nist’s Daugh­ter is the size of a shoe­box but has a great vibe and a juke­box. The owner is happy to let you pay just be­fore you leave and doesn’t mind get­ting up to play smokin’ trum­pet. Also hot is the Grand Elec­tric, a taco and bour­bon bar that plays rap mu­sic, and Bell­woods, a bou­tique brew­ery with an at­trac­tive pa­tio for peo­ple-watch­ing (be pre­pared to queue). More: bell­woods­brew­ery.com.


If you’ve ever won­dered what Egyp­tian san­dals l looked like hun­dreds of years ago and can’t de­cide what flat­ties to wear at your fu­neral, then it’s worth a visit to one of Toronto’s left-field cul­tural di­ver­sions, the Bata Shoe Mu­seum. This hall of footwear, which cel­e­brated its 20th an­niver­sary this year, is the brain­child of Sonja Bata, an 88-year-old Toronto res­i­dent who has been col­lect­ing shoes from al­most ev­ery­where for the past 60 years. The mu­seum is the world’s largest de­voted purely to shoes and there’s ev­ery­thing from the most ex­pen­sive cat­walk heels to the most prim­i­tive peas­ant clogs, some dat­ing back thou­sands of years. Most ex­hibits have a back­story, some on video, so it’s an un­usual and en­ter­tain­ing way of learn­ing the cul­tures, cus­toms and history of footwear. More: batashoe­mu­seum.com.


J Just next door to the CN Tower (I ac­tu­ally mis­take the en­trance for the tower) is the Ri­p­ley Aquar­ium of Canada, be­lieve it or not, a new de­vel­op­ment orig­i­nally in­tended for Ni­a­gara Falls that in­stead opened in Toronto in 2013. As such it’s a state-of-the-art, child-friendly es­cape into the world of ex­otic sea life, with a few un­usual di­ver­sions, such as The Touch, where, with the as­sis­tance of aquar­ium staff, one can stroke a bam­boo shark or shake hands, af­ter a fash­ion, with a stingray. More: rip­leyaquar­i­ums.com/Canada.


The 1377-room Sher­a­ton Cen­tre Toronto Ho­tel in the CBD is very large, mod­ern, com­fort­able and quiet with an out­door heated pool and gym­na­sium. The main hall is of­ten bustling with del­e­gates from nu­mer­ous con­fer­ences tak­ing place on the floors be­low. There’s also a choice of din­ing in-house, from the ex­clu­sive Club Level, which of­fers great views of the city, to the meaty fare of the Quinn’s Steak­house & Ir­ish Bar and BNB (Burgers and Bistro). The ho­tel is con­nected to fi­nan­cial and en­ter­tain­ment dis­tricts by the PATH, a 25km un­der­ground link. More: sher­a­ton­toronto.com.

Iain Shed­den was a guest of the Cana­dian Tourism Com­mis­sion.

A dis­play at the Bata Shoe Mu­seum, left

Toronto skyline, top; din­ers on Queen Street West, mid­dle; base­ball at Rogers Cen­tre, above

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