Travel: A bit of downtown funk in Toronto

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

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Moans and groans come from the front seat of the taxi as it weaves its way through the Toronto traffic.

The Pan-Am Games have descended on the city and many of the locals have departed to be replaced by basketball, swimming and volleyball players.

Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto

“Business is terrible, they don’t take taxis,” complains driver Paul. “All these athletes get driven to the competitions in their buses.”

But while the Toronto taxi industry may be suffering (although Paul isn’t filled with an abundance of positivity on any subject) the city itself is buoyant.

It’s as vibrant a place as you could wish for if you’re young at heart and come to life when the sun sets.

Getting to Toronto now is a far easier proposition, thanks to the new United Airlines service from Newcastle to New York.

There’s just a two-hour wait once you get to the Big Apple’s Newark airport, before the 90-minute onward flight to Toronto.

Situated on the banks of Lake Ontario, there’s a picturesque aspect to the proudly Canadian metropolis, with the sun glinting off the water and the sweltering heat providing plenty of opportunity to sun-bathe on the banks.

Take lunch at the top of the CN Tower, which looks out over the city, and the stunning views won’t disappoint.

But it’s the bars, restaurants and nightspots in the city which grab you. It’s inescapable.

Maybe it’s because there’s a huge university population, or maybe it’s because there’s a designated entertainment district, but there’s a buzz on the streets.

Themed bars, cuisine from Korean to Kurdish, and welcoming locals, all combine to create it.

It’s imperative to be based in the Downtown area though.

While Toronto’s subway system is excellent, part of the joy of being there is wandering around the city from a central hub.

There’s a similarity to New York, London and Paris in that respect.

Canada’s biggest hotel, the Eaton Chelsea, is ideal for that purpose.

There might be more than 2,000 rooms, but they’re still spotless and there’s plenty of facilities to go around – four eating options, plus a top floor swimming pool and fitness centre which looks out over the city.

Neither does this four star hotel break the bank. Room prices are reasonable, while the in-house food is excellent quality – particularly the a la carte T Bar. It’s a snip considering the location is right in the centre of the action.

For those looking to explore North America from the North East’s new trans-Atlantic hub, Toronto should be one of the first stop-off points.

* To book a room at the Chelsea Eaton visit www.chelseatoronto.com