3 February 2011 The Jewish News
Keeping up with Brangelina in Canada's good-time city
TORONTO’S LIKE NEW YORK – ONLY SAFER, FRIENDLIER AND MORE COSMOPOLITAN
by Sharon Feinstein
Main image: Sharon and Lara enjoy lunch at the revolving restaurant in the CN Tower. Above: By the horse drawn carriage at Niagra on the lake
Winona Ryder stayed in my room, Clint Eastwood was down the hall and Brad and Angelina dropped in for afternoon tea. The cool, stylish Windsor Arms is the place to stay – and Toronto is the place to be.
While cities in the United States are stagnating with the recession, Toronto is bursting with energy, cutting-edge architecture and a real quality of life. I went to spend the festive season with my daughter, Lara, and despite the icy wind and plummeting temperature the sun still shines, people are bright and Canada’s largest city glints with skyscrapers of chrome and glass. Toronto is like New York, but safer, cleaner, friendlier, and even more cosmopolitan.
It felt like we were at the the top of the world having lunch at the CN Tower’s revolving restaurant, nearly 2,000 feet high, with a 75-mile view across Lake Ontario to Buffalo.
The holiday season is the time to eat and Toronto is definitely the place to enjoy food, from the chic, imaginative dining at celebrity chef Mark McEwan’s One Restaurant in the Hazleton Hotel, to the old school Italian menu at Scarpetta, the sleek nightclub-style restaurant at the Thompson Hotel. Annona at The Park Hyatt is cosy and delicious for lunch; Panorama the best for spectacular views, exotic cocktails and simple food; and we had new year’s eve dinner at Vaticano, a favourite of movie legends like Al Pacino and Sophia Loren, where the authentic dishes are cooked by generations of the Vacca family from Rome.
Hop on a street car in this cosmopolitan city and you’ll be in Little Italy with the largest population of Italians outside Italy, or Greek city, Chinatown or the Gay Village. It’s a place of little worlds, full of flavour and diversity.
Each area has its own street festival, but the most spectacular is now the Toronto Film Festival in September, second only to Cannes, when all the beautiful people come to town.
Inevitably they stay in upmarket Yorkville, where the Windsor Arms Hotel nestles in a quiet side street, and knows how to hide and host people with taste.
A step away is the best shopping, and Boxing Day saw my credit card flashing at the fabulous Sesso where Tina Turner buys her shoes, and MO851 opposite the hotel for classic leather coats and bags.
Older parts of Toronto include Victorian and Edwardian buildings, fine redbrick town houses and the small town charm of Bloor West Village. With the thriving art and design scene many of the crumbling buildings have been restyled into designer studios and gallery districts. Architect Frank Gehry has rebuilt Toronto’s Art Gallery in wood and glass, a splendid space, flooded with light, where we saw a Julian Schnabel and Henry Moore exhibition.
In 1941, the number of Jews in Toronto had only risen slightly to 49,046, despite the thousands who desperately sought refuge in Canada. But today, the Jewish community stands at approximately 150,000 out of Toronto’s 3.5 million inhabitants, and boasts 50 synagogues – many of them very interesting buildings.
Built on the banks of Lake Ontario, this city never feels claustrophobic with its wide streets, beaches and islands in the lake, but we decided to head for the small historic town, Niagra-on-the-Lake, in a Lincoln Sedan from Niagra Classic Transport. Our driver, Rudy, stopped at important landmarks on the Niagra River, with its bridge to New York State, the three-foot space between the Canadian and US flags known as no man’s land.
This charming, well-heeled town was the scene of the war of 1812, attacked by American forces, then recaptured by the British who rebuilt it to its present splendour. The place to stay is the comfortable Georgian style Queen’s Landing on the Niagra river, tour the pretty streets in a horse drawn carriage with Sentineal Carriages, and eat at The Charles Inn, one of the best meals we had in Canada.
Because of its micro climate this has become Canada’s big wine region, especially for ice wine where the grapes are allowed to freeze on the vine. At the Peller estates you can sample the range of wines and feast on a seven course tasting meal.
I was in bits having to leave my daughter behind in the city she has fallen in love with – but so relieved to see what a safe, bright, innovative, and good-time place it seems to be.
Windsor Arms Hotel: www.winsorarms.com