A day trip to Toronto
The 2016 Higher Education Data Warehousing (HEDW) conference was in Rochester, NY, hosted by the University of Rochester. As usual, the conference starts on Sunday evening, so I decided to fly out from LA with the red-eye on Friday in order to explore the surroundings on Saturday and Sunday.
Upon landing in Rochester, I rented car and checked into my hotel downtown. Rochester is no bigger than Augusta, GA, where I used to live – around 200,000. Its downtown, however, seemed much less developed than Augusta’s. I don’t know if it will get more lively during the week but on this Saturday morning, it was pretty deserted.
I promptly left Rochester and headed for Toronto, Canada, almost 3 hours away. The weather forecast was quite iffy – snow was forecast for later that evening and into Sunday. I was nervous about getting caught in this weather, but the proximity to Toronto was too tempting to pass up. The drive was uneventful (borderline boring) but I got excited when I finally approached downtown Toronto.
I didn’t know anything about this city, so I had looked up a some tips on Trip Advisor, and I was lucky to find a one-day walking tour of Toronto on the site. I parked my car below Nathan Phillips square, and set out to spend the afternoon meandering around.
As soon as I came up to street level from the parking garage, I discovered that the weather forecast was not wrong. Seemingly out of nowhere, snow flurries were coming down in increasing numbers. Before long, it seemed like I was in the middle of a winter wonderland. “It’s April 2nd,” I thought, “what is up with this snow!!!” Alas, it stopped after just 10 minutes, but perhaps you can make out some snow flurries in the photos I took in front of the giant Toronto sign at the square.
The reflecting pool you can see here turns into an ice skating rink in winter. And across the way stood City Hall. It was constructed after an international design competition was held in the 1950s and it was completed in 1965.
I left the square and headed towards the next building on my tour. Osgoode Hall was built in 1829, and of its best features are the gates and the classic wrought iron fencing. Legend has it that they were designed to keep errant cows or horses from entering the manicured property back in the days when this building sat at the edge of town. I saw a wedding party taking pictures on the grounds.
A little further down the road, this sign had me walking away from the buildings and closer to the street’s edge. 🙂
I then passed St. Andrew’s church, Roy Thompson Hall – home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre and its newer sibling, the Princess of Wales Theatre. The musical Kinky Boots was playing at the Alexandra, which explained why there was a statue of giant red boots in front of it.
Across from these theaters I found Canada’s walk of fame. It consists of a series of maple-leaf-like stars that are embedded in 13 city blocks’ worth of sidewalks in Toronto. They celebrate successful Canadians from all professions, not just actors. The walk of fame was conceived in 1996 and the first inductees got their stars in 1998.
I was getting close to CN tower, and I was excited to go to the top and enjoy fine views of Toronto from above. Luckily, the skies had cleared and I was rewarded with a bit of sunshine while I was up there. The ride up to the observation tower was a thrill in and of itself, as the floor of the elevator is glass. In fact, the CN tower holds the record for the tallest glass-floor elevator in the world.
The CN tower makes the Toronto skyline instantly recognizable and is one of the city’s most popular attractions. The tower is 1815 ft (553 m) high and was completed in 1976 after 3 years of construction, becoming the world’s tallest free-standing structure and the world’s tallest tower at the time. It held both records for 34 years until the completion of Burj Khalifa (Dubai) and Canton Tower (China) in 2010. Today, it is the third tallest tower in the world and is the tallest free-standing structure in the Western hemisphere.
The name “CN” comes from Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower. The railway sold it in 1995. As the name “CN Tower” became more common, the abbreviation was expanded to “Canadian National Tower” or “Canada’s National Tower.”
I wanted to explore more, but it was getting late and the snow flurries from earlier really scared me, so I wanted to get on the road. On my walk back to the parking garage, I walked along Queen St.
The drive back to Rochester was not fun. It started snowing for real, and for a while visibility was poor and the accumulation of snow on the road made things slippery. I hadn’t driven in snow in a long time and I was quite nervous!
There was a short line at the border, about 20 minutes worth, which passed really slowly! I was so happy and relieved to reach Rochester! safe and sound. I dropped off the rental car at the airport and took the hotel shuttle back to my hotel. Whew!
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