Sure, it's been a comedy of errors. (Maybe we'll all be laughing about it later.) Do you think nicknaming our giant labor of love "The Breeze" was a jinx? Something akin to saying, "There shouldn't be any traffic," right before getting on the expressway?
We may never know. But with a new nickname just to be safe, new management, and more replacement parts than your boyfriend's souped-up Escort, that ship is getting ready to sail. What's that? The ferry spontaneously tipped over and now we have to fly in experts from Switzerland to attach waterproof cement bags to the bottom of it? I'm sorry, I can't hear you, what with my fingers in my ears and all the humming.
As of our publication date, the relaunch date for the fast ferry is still being determined --- but everyone's aiming before July 4. Don't cross your fingers, don't knock on anything, and for the love of humanity don't say anything foolish like, "What could go wrong now?" Don't even look funny in the direction of Charlotte. Just focus on Toronto. What will you do when you get there? What won't you do is more like it.
Toronto has a lot to offer. To cover the big spots, you can buy a CityPass, which, for a flat fee of $38.35 for adults or $24.28 for kids, will get you into the CN Tower, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, Ontario Science Centre, and the Toronto Zoo. Buy a CityPass online at citypass.com or at any of the individual attraction sites.
But for a day or two, the easiest thing may be to focus on what that city has that we don't.
Chinatown, for example. Toronto has a big Asian population, and so its Chinatown is big. This is the place to find great, fresh, bulk groceries, teas, herbs, and spices. Buy a bag of lychees and eat as you walk, or stroll in and out of stores selling clothing, dishes (beautiful, cheap dishes), socks, toys, home decorations, cell phones, and whatever else you didn't know you needed. But whether or not you're shopping to buy, Chinatown's a great place to walk around. It's busy, it's thriving, it's diverse. If you have kids, it's like Epcot Center, but real. And with ducks and pigs hanging in the shop windows. And yes, of course: speaking of food, you'll find authentic cuisine from a host of Asian countries here. And there's also a Little Italy, a Greek Town, and other neighborhoods with a strong cultural identity.
Another thing Toronto has in abundance? Shopping. There are enough thrift stores, shopping districts, and open-air markets to keep you busy for weeks (and sink the ferry on your return trip). Try Kensington Market, between Dundas and College Streets, a haven of vintage shops and all kinds of eclectic wares that you can peer at while dodging street performers. Or, visit a public market --- public markets are fun! --- almost everyday of the week you'll find one at various locations, like the one at City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesdays, but St. Lawrence Market is open all year, Tuesdays through Sundays. It's a great place to get a snack or, even better, a feel for the city.
If you're a theater type, Toronto is a good place to get your fix. Its performing arts scene is big enough to draw both big blockbusters, classics, and newer, experimental stuff alike. Here's a taste of all three.
The Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil will open at Ontario Place on August 4. You have to see it to believe it (800-361-4595, www.cirquedusoleil.com). For a little outdoor Shakespeare, check out CanStage's production of Much Ado About Nothing June 28 through September 4 in the amphitheatre in High Park (there's a subway station nearby) at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. (416-367-1652, www.canstage.com). And the annual 2005 Fringe of Toronto Film Festival Fringe is July 6 through 17. Tons of plays, indoors and out, cheeky and traditional, cold readings and staged productions --- you can't predict what you'll find, and that's the idea. Fringe festivals are meant to keep theater fresh and interesting. (www.fringetoronto.com, 416-967-1528)
And then there are the specific events. When it comes to festivals, we may have found a rival in our sister across the lake. Check these:
Harbourfront Centre, along the waterfront (the ferry will drop you off right there) is host to a whole bunch of festivals throughout the summer, like Beats, Breaks and Culture, the electronic music festival July 8 through 10; or Masala! Mehndi! Masti!, a South Asian festival August 3 through 7; or the Kick Up Your Heels dance festival August 26 through 28. For information: 416-973-4000, www.harbourfrontcentre.com
Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival, June 30-July 3, various downtown venues. 416-928-2033, 416-870-8000
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, July 3-9, Nathan Phillips Square, downtown; art on display. 416-408-2754
Celebrate Toronto! Street Festival, July 8-10, downtown; live music and street performances. www.city.toronto.on.ca/special_events/streetfest
The Caribana, July 21-August 7, downtown; Caribbean music, dance, art, and a parade. 416-466-0321
Tennis Canada, August 13-21, Rexall Centre; Tier 1 women's tournament. www.rogerscup.com,416-665-9777, 877-2-Tennis
World Wrestling Entertainment, August 15, downtown; WWW Summerslam. 416-497-8338
Canadian National Exhibition, August 20-September 6, downtown; fireworks, exhibits, Kids' World, entertainment. 416-263-3800
This is just a percentage of everything going on this summer. Don't forget museums, art galleries, concerts, baseball games, the CN Tower....
To buy tickets for The Cat, visit www.nfl-bay.com or call 877-283-7327. For more information on Toronto, including maps and information on special events, visit www.torontotourism.com or www.city.toronto.on.ca.