Wednesday, June 26, 2019

1 June - In Toronto - Day 28 of TCE

Toronto is the capital of Ontario Province and is the most populous city in Canada with more than 2.8 million. That the city is home to the most diverse groups is evident from the fact that more than 50% of the population comprises immigrants and over 200 ethnic minorities are represented in it. A truly global city it is one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world. It is here that I have seen the largest agglomeration of Indians during the tour of Canada. Despite the large population and diverse origins of them I was assured by my friends that the city has a very low crime rate. This is what prompted me to park my car in the street rather than spend money renting a garage.

The bright weather this morning prompted an outdoor schedule. First on the list was the lovely Casa Loma 'castle' Museum. The name for the palatial residence of Sir Henry Pellatt in Gothic Revival style is derived from the Spanish for Hill House as it sits 140 metres above MSL. Built between 1911 and 1914, with the War interfering with its speedy completion, the Pellatts occupied it for just ten years. They abandoned it in 1923 and the property was seized by the government for unpaid taxes. How the property fell to seed and its subsequent restoration is the poignant aftermath. Since 1937 the property is a sought after tourist destination. The magnificent 98 room residence, the largest then in Canada at over 6000 square meters, takes more than two hours to go over, even peremptorily. Secret passages to explore, Norman and Scottish towers to scale, exquisite furniture to admire, innovations that take your breath away, opulence that is the stuff of legend, incomparable wood work, et al with an audio guide in attendance is a most enjoyable experience. Beyond museum timings the popular tourist and filming location is open for public functions on rent.
Sonja Bata, the spouse of the owner of Bata Sons, got a special building designed to serve as a museum for the large collection of shoes she had from all over the world. One of a kind in the whole world, the museum has over 13,500 exhibits from across the world spanning over forty five centuries in time, region, religion and culture. A small theatre has shows of 'stories' of shoes. The museum’s collection of celebrity footwear is an important segment of the museum which includes the ballroom slippers of Queen Victoria, monogrammed silver boots of Elton John, Elvis Presley’s loafers and John Lennon’s Beetle boot. The Museum sponsors study and research into the importance of footwear in the social and cultural life of people around the world. It is said that more than 10,000 students visit the Museum every year in study groups. The gift shop in the Museum has some interesting collectibles.

The St. Michael's Cathedral was consecrated in 1848 and was funded by Irish immigrants. The grand church is an iconic building in downtown Toronto. A short walk away is the Eaton Centre, a humongous shopping mall and office complex. The large food court is the size of a football field! It is here that I met up with my classmate from Loyola College, Joseph Kattukaran. A successful businessman and entrepreneur, he is on the verge of relocating from Dubai to Canada. Meeting after over 40 years we had a lot to catch up on.

I emerged from the Eaton Centre after the meeting on to the Yonge-Dundas public square. The square was designed to revitalise the important intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets. Since 2002 the square has become a major attraction for tourists with many events, art shows and performances being conducted there. This day a large fair was in progress and the Raptors’ victory was very much the central theme. The square had brightly illuminated billboard screens and corporate logos drawing comparison to the Piccadily Circus in London and New York’s Time Square.

Mamen George was a classmate through school and pre-degree. He has been a resident of Canada for nearly three decades and I hadn't met him in nearly 45 years. Invited to his lovely home in Brampton, we spent a few hours over spiced rum and coke, chicken tandoori, salmon and shrimp biriyani and Black Forest gateaux reliving the old times and exchanging notes of our lives and times. Truly appreciate the culinary expertise of this dear friend.

It is time to bid goodbye to Toronto after having spent a couple of good days, with the weather playing true and the accommodation being untrue.

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