A Day In Toronto Spent Putting on the Ritz With Both Eaton and Trump (TheByteWeek Issue 10)

When I was in New York this past winter, I made a habit of asking anyone I met whether they had recently spent time at any major museum, or cultural epicentre as a sort of gauge of visitation. Similar to Niagara Falls and I, it became immediately evident that just because the MOMA is nearby, this fact didn’t mean that New Yorkers spent more than one day a month (if not significantly less) at one of the foremost museums of Modern Art in the world.

The situation was explained quite succinctly; unless a person needed to visit a “Tourist destination” they didn’t really spend very much time there. Certainly, bankers and stoke brokers seemed to effectively live on Wall Street, but of all the people I met, very few spent a lot of time on 5th Ave, or anywhere else movies and television programs portray as commonplace New York City places.

When it became a matter of simplicity, the conclusion was that New Yorkers didn’t visit famous parts of New York, unless they had to, or were showing around out of town relatives and friends. Of course, in retrospect, it seems obvious that this would be the conclusion, but for a person such as myself, whose immersion in American culture far exceeds his immersion in almost any other, I simply assumed that all New Yorkers took time out of their very human schedules to go for long meaningful walks in Central Park, only to stop for a quick stroll around 5th avenue.

The assumption was almost baseless, because visiting Toronto is a similar experience; it’s fairly easy to take a train to the cultural hub and spend a day there, walking around Yonge or Bloor, spending time in the Eaton centre, watching a show at the Toronto Centre of the Arts, or walking the antiquated streets of the Distillery District in an artistic haze, but quite frankly, I don’t.

Granted, when I do end up doing any of these things, the only obvious thing to do is to talk about my experience which is why today’s TheByteWeek begins with this sentence: last Saturday, I spent a day in downtown Toronto doing all of the tourist-esque things I don’t normally do, for the simple reason that I actually had an excuse to go and do the things I don’t normally do.

The day began by car with a drive along the QEW, and a parking detour on Adelaide street, where the day’s events were agreed upon and routed. After searching for a lot, parking, paying, and walking, the first destination we arrived at was the newly opened Trump International Hotel and Tower. To be completely fair to the hotel’s designers, the outside looks marvellous. Quite the contrary, the outside of the tower is absolutely stunning, and the space it takes up along the street’s skyline really is something to behold; the inside, however, leaves much to be desired. The first observation anyone can make is the stunning lack of colour; the hotel’s interior is pitch black, and any identifiable decoration, such as the blown glass chandelier found near the lobby, is the same. Coupled with a stunning lack of contrast, the interior isn’t ugly, so much as it takes time to get used to the designers’ choices.

At the same time, I’m sure that the interior was designed with a thorough plan, though I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t get the point of it all; the mosaic in the driveway is a nice touch, and I’ll give the creator (or creators) credit for attempting to incorporate the generally agreed upon multiculturalism that Canada is well known for. That being said, I’m not kidding when I say that every part of the hotel’s immediately viewable interior decor is pitch black, even the spa, which seemed especially counterproductive. I always assumed that spas featured softer tones to calm and relax an individual, though given my lack of time spent in spas, that assumption could no doubt also be wrong.

Once time in Toronto’s Trump Tower came to an end, we moved along Bay Street and found ourselves on Yonge, ironically at the Hudson Bay Company Headquarters, and flagship store. For a moment, I’ve always wondered why The Bay is on Yonge; wouldn’t it have been better to build the department store on Bay instead of Yonge? Was there a time where the store could be found on Bay Street, but corporate expansion lead to a Yonge Street placement? I really should look into it, and I’m sure that the history is quite intriguing, but for the moment, we found ourselves in The Bay on Yonge and, soon thereafter, in the Eaton Centre.

The Eaton Centre has always had a special place in my heart, for whatever reason, and the merging tunnel between The Bay and the aforementioned shopping centre has always brought a smile to my face. Maybe I just like tunnels, but going from The Bay to the Eaton Centre brings a sense of child like glee to my mind. In terms of overall design, the Eaton Centre always has an exhibit dedicated to unity and Canadian culture and almost always features art by Canadian artists, or art students. Interesting then that the Slipstream exhibit, a series of prisms hung from the ceiling of the downtown Toronto’s largest shopping mall, is designed by a UK-based firm. Regardless, the piece was built by a Montreal based firm, and I can safely say that Slipstream is absolutely stunning; more than 70 prisms are hung from the ceiling, each tilted one degree greater than the prism before it, to form a fluid 360O installation. I was later informed that each prism lights up at night, but all things considered, there wasn’t very much time (or any at all) to come back and see.

Following a quick lunch, and an even faster ice cream truck dessert, we made our way to the Ritz Carlton, Toronto, a second US based hotel to find a home in Toronto in the past few years. At the same time, the Ritz was the second of two hotels that served as the purpose for our visit, and it certainly proved to be the better. Immediately noticeable within the hotel’s lobby is the chandelier, an intricate blob that (I’d like to mention) serves as an interesting antithesis to that found at Trump Tower. The blob features the regular chandelier fixtures such as crystals, bits of metal to hold them all together, and lights, but the blob shape reminded me of Nickelodeon. I can safely assume that the designers of the chandelier didn’t intend for that to be the correlation, but the truth is that once you see the Nickelodeon blob, it’s very difficult for it to be unseen, regardless of where it’s first spotted.

Apart from a potential lawsuit from the most unexpected place, however, the rest of the hotel is fairly luxurious. I’d like to quickly point out that the main restaurant and bar, TOCA, are beautiful, and the Deq lounge and bar area is equally as attractive. I thought it was fascinating that the TOCA restaurant features plates with hand painted art created by a single hotel employee, and though much of it is minimalist, they are all quite pretty.

At one point I jokingly thought that the reason for the minimalist design was the overall number of plates that needed to be produced, but thinking about it further, I’m starting to wonder why this idea doesn’t hold water. At least 50 tables, with 4 dinner plates to each table, not to account for every accompanying piece of table ware creates a minimum of 200 plates. 200 plates to be designed by a single artist, and no two plates are the same.

For some reason, minimalism seems like the obvious choice, though far be it from me to blatantly challenge any individual’s creativity.

The Ritz-Carlton served as the venue for a round of pre-dinner preparation, and once appetites were wet, a slightly larger congregation than the one we began with proceeded to the Keg Mansion at Euclid Hall along Jarvis Street. However, a 2-hour wait time, and a growing sense of hunger and urgency led the gathering to reconvene on Danforth Avenue, the prominently Mediterranean district that also serves as the home of Toronto’s Greek, and soon after, Ethiopian communities. As anyone can assume, the food is delicious, and once placed on plate and table, serves as a fantastic way to end a relatively outstanding day.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t visit Toronto as often as I’d like to, and while many have their qualms with the capital of Ontario, calling it a poor man’s New York City (no matter how historically inaccurate that claim may be) and so forth, to me, it really is one of the great cities. Allow that last sentence to be both allusion and metaphor. I love Toronto, and while I’m rather lazy, given the right set of circumstances, even I’m capable of getting past this glaring character flaw and really enjoy myself.

At the very least, it gives me an excuse to write an article destined to be over a week late. At the most, I have the time of my life doing little more than walking from place to place.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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