In a stark but welcome contrast to the previous day’s grey skies and rain, our Sunday in Toronto could not have been more beautiful. So after a good night’s sleep, we set out to do a couple of the things that were on our Toronto hit-list.
But first … coffee.
Just a couple of blocks from our apartment we found Quantum Coffee, one of the best-regarded independent coffee shops in the city. As well as serving up a marvellously good cup of joe, they’re deft hands at a pretty piece of coffee art.
And when it comes to breakfast …
You guys. Breakfast SCONES are totally a thing in Canada. For real. (Canadians, don’t laugh – this is a big deal.) They’re not quite like our British scones, and you’re unlikely to be served them with jam and clotted cream, but they are really imaginative with the flavours – chocolate chai was a memorable hit.
So we got three (to share, not each … we’re not animals), and we ate while we walked through the city.
Or at least that was the plan, until Jenna found a comfy place to drink her coffee in peace …
But we couldn’t stop for long, because we were heading for one of Toronto’s most famous foodie destinations, St Lawrence Market.
Passing another downtown icon on the way, Toronto’s very own flatiron building, still holding its own amongst soaring glass and steel condo towers. How much would you love that room at the top? Like a Rapunzel tower!
And as we found our way to St Lawrence Market, we realised that something seemed .. off.
It was awfully quiet around there.
And sure enough, as bad luck would have it, we’d picked totally the wrong day. Although we’d been reliably informed by our tour guide (and lifelong Toronto native) when we passed St Lawrence on our way to Niagara Falls that the market was open every day except Monday, it was definitely very, very closed on this Sunday.
Sad that we were going to miss a chance to try a peameal bacon sandwich, we decided to cut our losses and walked back past the skyscrapers towards the ferry port.
We did at least get a chance to see the iconic Royal Bank Plaza building up close and personal. You see the golden tint this building has? That’s because every single pane of glass on this tower is coated with a thin layer of 24-karat gold. That’s pretty crazy, right?
Wanna know what’s crazier than that? The value of the 70,875 grams of gold it took to coat these windows is somewhere in the region of $1,000,000. Which is really cool, until you realise that the manufacturing process used to create the golden glass means that the gold can never be extracted from it. So now all that gold is effectively worthless. Ho hum.
Before long, we’d arrived at the ferry terminal and jumped aboard the boat to take us on the short ride across Lake Ontario to the Toronto Islands.
There are a few good reasons to pay a visit to the Toronto Islands if you happen to be visiting the city in summer. Essentially, the islands are one big park, so it’s a great place to go and chill out on a beautiful day like the one we were enjoying. It’s the world’s largest car-free community (except for essential service vehicles), so it’s a super safe place to go for a bike ride, too – which was our plan for the afternoon.
Centre Island is also home to Toronto’s only ‘clothing-optional’ beach at Hanlan’s Point. And frankly, no matter how high the mercury soared, we were always going to give that one a miss …
But the real appeal of visiting this little haven is the incredible view it has of the Toronto skyline.
Pretty special, right?
Having missed out on the promise of peameal bacon sandwiches, we were pretty hungry by this point. The islands don’t seem to be particularly famed for their restaurants, so we just hit the first place we saw – a fast-food BBQ joint next to the ferry terminal where I ordered pulled pork with sides of sweet potato fries AND mac’n’cheese … It turned out to be enough food to feed a small country.
So we thought we’d better work it off by hiring bikes and taking a tour of the islands.
There’s only one bike hire place on the islands, and it’s across the other side of Centre Island from where the ferry docks, which sounds a lot further than it really is. In reality, it’s a pleasant walk of around 10 minutes.
And they sure are keen to make you feel welcome.
Sadly, however, we didn’t manage to borrow anyone’s children to give us an excuse to join the pirate crew …
But we weren’t sad for too long, as this handsome fella flitted across the path in front of us.
Unfortnately, he seemed a little camera shy. So we left him to get on with his butterfly business and went to hire our bikes.
When we got to the bike rental place, we noticed that as well as hiring out regular two-wheel bikes, there was also the option to hire a tandem or a quadricycle. We decided instantly that a tandem was a bad idea, but we somehow thought that a quadricycle was a great idea.
It was not.
I don’t know how old those things are, but they must weigh about the same as the average HGV. Just getting it moving on the flat was hard enough, but when it came to pedalling up a slight slope … it was killer.
Which is why we don’t have any photos of us riding the quadricycle. Sorry. But trust me, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Instead, there are a few snapshots I took as we wheezed our way around the islands.
And there was that gorgeous skyline again, peeking through the trees.
We found a pretty special spot to stop for a rest …
… although apparently it’s not a very well-kept secret.
Suitably exhausted, we slowly pedalled our way back to drop off our
torturecycle quadricycle, passing what has to be Toronto’s smallest and most adorable fire station on the way.
We grabbed ourselves a couple of well-earned cold beers before making our way back to the mainland, with one last look at a very special place.