Courier January Courier - Page 33

And I know Queen Street. I joined a local couple on a brunch tour led by Francisco Tejada of Culinary Adventures. Cisco said a foodie tour is the best way to dive into a city’s soul, as the diversity of cuisines indicates the multicultural makeup of a destination. And Toronto is multiculturally amazing. Our deconstructed brunch took us along the trendy streets of Queen and King, and the menu included chocolate chip cookies (our starter), Brooklynesque pizza, a Mexican main course of eggs and chorizo, a bombolone (Italian filled dough- nut), seaweed chips at a Japanese grocery and a fresh crois- sant from a French bakery. The city’s multiculturalism extends well past brunch. “Our diversity is a real asset,” Somarriba said. “When you come to Toronto you really see it, and you hear the different languages.” More than 160 languages are spoken within the metro- politan area, and Tourism Toronto provides materials in 100 Bring on the brunch different languages. English is the most common mother tongue, spoken by 55 percent of Torontonians, followed by the Chinese languages, Italian, Punjabi, Tagalog (Filipino) and Spanish. Canada’s other official language, French, ranks 14th. Groups appreciate Toronto’s diversity of tour product, said Maxine Morrell-West, North America leisure trade manager for Tourism Toronto. “We truly have something every visitor can enjoy: theater, museums, galleries, festivals, tours, shop- ping and group dining.” I did stop eating long enough to hop on a bus for a city tour, and an attraction I really enjoyed was Casa Loma, a 98-room castle built in 1911–14 by industrialist Sir Henry Mill Pellatt on a hill overlooking Toronto. Pellatt was innovative and extravagant in the design of his lavish dwelling: It includes 30 bathrooms, a built-in vacuum system, secret passageways, a steam-heated greenhouse and several accessible towers. Toured with an audio guide, the historical home and gardens offer a fascinating look into the ostentatious world of the ultra-rich. Spoiler alert: Sir Henry luxuriated in Casa Loma for less than 10 years before he lost his fortune and his castle. A short way from Casa Loma is Kensington Market, the neighborhood that both Somarriba and Morrell-West tabbed as their favorite. Casa Loma A diverse destination Kensington Market “I’ll go there on a Saturday afternoon by myself and just walk around,” Somarriba said. “It’s sort of hippie and colorful, with fusion food and vintage shopping. It’s just a very differ- ent vibe from the downtown financial center.” I hear “hippie” and expect a ’60s sit-in. But I came to understand Kensington Market as Bohemian, on an interna- tional tableau. Nearby is the Art Gallery of Toronto and a very authentic Chinatown. The Chelsea Hotel was my headquarters, close to shopping neighborhoods as well as Eaton Centre, a 1,200-store mall that attracts nearly 50 million visitors a year. “Our location is a huge asset. All the shopping you’d want is within walking distance,” said Tracy Ford, the hotel’s PR direc- tor, who described the Chelsea as a middle-of-the-road hotel with some nice offerings: free Wi-Fi and a family fun zone. “The tour market is extremely important to this hotel. As large as we are, groups can stay under one roof.” I also toured The Distillery Historic District, a collection of restaurants, shops and galleries housed in 47 restored Victorian-era industrial buildings that once composed the Gooderham & Worts Distillery. On my guided tour I sampled cheese, chocolate and beer—yummy. 31