Toronto is the commercial capital of Canada and is a bustling and vibrant city. We traveled here yesterday, from Ottawa in a long day of driving although we had a stop in a little town called Kingston for lunch and a river cruise.
Near this town is an area along the St Lawrence River known as the ‘Thousand Islands. These are in an archipelago that straddles the Canada-U.S. border in the Saint Lawrence River as it emerges from the northeast corner of Lake Ontario. The islands are generously occupied by holiday homes and stretch for about 80 kilometres downstream from Kingston. There are over 1,860 islands range that range in size from over 100 square kilometres to smaller islands that are occupied by a single residence, or uninhabited outcroppings of rocks that are only home to migratory waterfowl. To count as one of the Thousand Islands an island has to meet three minimum criteria – To be above water level all year round; To have an area greater than 1 square foot (0.093 m2); and To support at least one living tree.
This photo shows two islands – the sublime and the ridiculous. In the foreground, at the left, is one of the smallest inhabited islands with a house that resembles a small square shack. In the background is Heart Island which was the weekender of Mr Boldt of the Waldorf Astoria fame. Firstly, he blasted this island into heart shape as a sign of endearment to his wife and then he built the castle as a holiday home. It took four years to build, but unfortunately Mrs Boldt died in the time that the castle was being constructed. Today, the castle is open to the public and because the island sits in US waters, visitors from Canada have to report to the little US immigration and customs office on the island before they can enter.
Mr Boldt is the also the creator of the famous ‘Thousand Island Dressing’.
This is reputedly the shortest international bridge in the world. The island with the house is in Canadian waters and the little island tom the right is in America. The owner of the house is able to cross between the two countries as often as he / she likes.
We had lunch in a little cafe in Kingston and I made the mistake of having a very nice pasta that was laced with a significant amount of garlic. At our next stop at a truckstop I bought a number of packets of peppermints, gobbled them quickly to no avail, as I think that I was still rather offensive to everyone on the bus, at least until the next day.
Kingston has a large military facility, I think an officer training facility for the Canadian Army. Between there and Toronto, along Lake Ontario, we passed an enormous General Motors plant. I think that only a small part of it is now operating, but I don’t think that I have ever seen such a large manufacturing facility anywhere.
We arrived in Toronto at another palatial hotel in the Fairmont Chain in the late afternoon. It was again built by the railways and is directly across the road from the main railway station. It was raining intermittently and we were pleased that tonight’s dinner was provided as part of our tour and that we didn’t have to venture very far to find somewhere to eat.
This morning, Saturday, our day began with a trip up the CN Tower. The CN Tower is a communications and observation tower and is 553.33 metres tall. It was completed in 1976, and at the time was the world’s tallest free-standing structure and world’s tallest tower. It is visited by more than two million international visitors each year. The weather was cloudy and it was hard to get much of a view although we could see later in the day, that the tower was completey free of cloud.
We spent the afternoon shopping in the Toronto Eaton Centre with its modern shops and food centre. The Apple store was particularly busy after the release of the iPhone 5 yesterday. We found a couple of things to buy in the Sears Department Store and finished the day with a visit to ‘The Bay’ store.
This is the retail store of the famous Hudsons Bay Company. It is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. It was a fur trading business for much of its existence, but today Hudson’s Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada and the United States. The company was incorporated by English royal charter in 1670 as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay and it functioned as the de facto government in parts of North America before European states and later the United States laid claim to those territories. It was at one time the largest landowner in the world.