Travel: Down by the Lakeside

Ciarán Ó Braonáin is taken by the majesty of TorontoNot only combining North American and European cultures, Canada’s largest city encapsulates elements from the most exotic corners of the globe and truly is an international melting pot.DSCF1512Toronto’s ethnic diversity is reflected in its vast array of restaurants and shops, offering all manner of genuine international cuisine. Little Italy, the Greek quarter, and Chinatown are just some of the more obvious places you’ll find authentic ethnic dishes. St Lawrence’s Market houses a treasure trove of the finest fresh produce from fruit and veg, fish and meats to delicious baked goods and is definitely worth a visit.Of course the city’s most obvious tourist attraction is the awe-inspiring CN Tower. The elegant spire illuminates from top to bottom of its 1,815 majestic feet and adds a further touch of class to the city’s already breathtaking skyline. To get real value for your money, dine at the tower’s revolving restaurant as set meals at $49 include the $26.99 admission fee.Another of Toronto’s most recognised draws is its appeal to shoppers. The colossal Eaton Centre boasts over 230 shops, restaurants and retailers, including all the most fashionable labels. Queen Street West caters for the slightly more bohemian and edgy fashionistas, with the occasional big name thrown in for good measure. For those even more alternatively dressed amongst us, Kensington Market is a must. A more eclectic clutter of second hand and homemade vendors you will not find.With a population of over 2.5 million, many of whom are students, there is no shortage of venues for nights out. Unfortunately, expensive and pretentious asylums of the fashionable are as plentiful as in Dublin. However, if you’re a fan of good music and laid-back atmosphere then you won’t be found wanting either. Queen Street West is also home to several wonderful live music bars and the city’s range of clubs is almost as diverse as the population itself.Toronto is a haven for the sports enthusiast, with representative teams in the MLS (Toronto FC), MLB (Blue Jays), NBA (Raptors) as well as the NHL’s second most successful side, the Toronto Maple Leafs – not to mention being home to the NHL Hall of Fame.In terms of cultural attractions, museums and galleries are in abundance. Parks are plentiful too but Island Centre Park, five minutes by ferry, is probably the most scenic. Also, anyone with the slightest pride in their Irish identity should make the rewarding trip to the city’s Ireland Park Famine Memorial. On top of all of this the spectacular Niagra Falls are only an hour away by bus.Toronto is a truly beautiful cosmopolitan metropolis with an immense range of attractions – I have barely scratched the surface.