I think of gophers.
They maneuver just below the surface within an elaborate tunnel system. Their tunnels represent a series of underground areas leading to various broad openings such as a main living area, feeding areas, and toilets. Located several feet deep, these enlargements are layered with accoutrements for survival and comfort.
This tunnel system can cover an area of thousands of square feet with the main runway situated parallel to and well below the surface. Short, lateral tunnels connect the main runway to the light of day. These exits can be found throughout the system. On top of the exits are coverings of some sort to protect from rain and snow.
One need not venture far from this underground infrastructure, and for even more security from natural elements, food and drink holes are often created near above-ground food sources. These holes allow for one to feed or enjoy Happy Hour without being any further than a few feet from the warmth and safety of a tunnel entrance.
Be it gophers or tourists, Toronto’s underground PATH system is efficiently setup to meet your needs. Hundreds of people could be resting, shopping and dining right underneath your toes – literally – much like the gophers who inhabit my yard.
The PATH is mostly an underground pedestrian walkway system under downtown Toronto and spans over 18 miles of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. The PATH provides links to public transit, massive Union Station, and warm pathways to traverse the city’s downtown core without ever having to poke your nose above ground.
The first underground path in Toronto originated in 1900 and since that time the city, like my gophers, have continued expansion. Currently, there are 1,200 restaurants, shops and services like dentists and optometrist in the PATH. More than 75 buildings, six subway stations, three large department stores, nine hotels, banks, and Toronto’s busy mass transit hub – Union Station – are accessible along the PATH. It provides links to some of Toronto’s popular entertainment venues and includes a Skyway to the CN Tower.
Like my gophers, I can wine, dine, and sleep without ever exposing my nose to the elements. In winter this is a real bonus in Toronto.
The City co-ordinates and facilitates the directional signage, maps and identity markers throughout the system. As a tourist this could be improved. There is a map and occasional wall plaques which are helpful but it is easy to get off the main route and become engulfed within a maze of shops and side tunnels. Also, on Sunday morning, locked doors prevented me from walking to Union Station. But overall, the PATH is a top Toronto destination.
I think of food.
There definitely is not a shortage of dining options in downtown Toronto. My experience is that most large downtown areas are a deserted oasis outside the business work week. Not so for Toronto. For street food and breweries, there is the historic Distillery District. I found narrow walks packed cheek to jowl with people, restaurants with long waits and bars filled. And that was at 5pm!
So, get thee to Benares. Located at 49 Front Street East, Benares’ menu offers a wonderful selection of Indian dishes. The restaurant is large, warm and inviting. The food was delicious. In fact, the dining was so good we went back a second night.
I think of diversity.
Nowhere will you find more diversity than the small area of Kensington Gardens which is mainly between Dundas and College streets. It is a colorful neighborhood of restaurants, cafes, and markets. Wall art adorns many of the buildings. Getting there is easy on Streetcar 510, which is a great experience in itself as it parallels the harbor before turning north to travel up Spadina to Dundas.
This unique neighborhood is worth poking one’s nose above the PATH. Be it Mexican, Chilean, Jamaican, Peruvian, Thai or German, just walk Augusta Street to find a meal. It’s a great neighborhood for vintage clothing, too. I ate a delicious Italian sandwich at an Italian cafe made by an Italian who spoke Italian. Couldn’t get better than that.
I think of glass towers.
To appreciate Toronto at its fullest, one must exit the PATH and look up. Toronto’s skyline is stunning. There is reason to mourn the loss of many of the old and historic buildings, but in their place, Toronto has moved up. High rises and glass towers surround you and create a beautiful skyline.
Gophers may be below, but modern Torontonians are reaching into the the sky.