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Greetings! Last week we left off in Chicago, so we’ll pick up from there.
After the TV show, instead of going back to my room I had dinner by myself at the bar in a restaurant next to Hotel 71, called Nick and Tony’s. I used to hate eating out by myself, but if you do it right it’s no big deal. The best advice I have for dining by yourself is to either sit at the bar, or bring something to read at your table. (By the way, my chicken parm was tasty, but the angel hair pasta was gnarly. Nick & Tony's: 1 E Wacker Dr., Chicago; tel.: (312) 467-9449.
For lunch I went to the House of Blues, which was also just a couple of blocks from my hotel. I was joined by Terry Sasaki of the Osaka Tourism Board. Their U.S. headquarters is in Chicago, because they are sister cities. Mr. Sasaki is the man who arranged my visit to Japan last summer. He’s a nice guy, and told me all about Japan’s new boom. He said Japanese kids don’t play video games much anymore; now they’re into making robots, and competing against each other for who has the best. That’s why in July Osaka will host the Robo Cup. House of Blues: 329 N. Dearborn, Chicago; tel: 312.923.2000
After lunch I walked a few more blocks past Hotel 71 to the new Millennium Park. It opened on July 16, and covers nearly 25 acres. The area used to be old railroad tracks; now it’s a center for world-class art, music, architecture and landscape design. Among the park’s prominent features is the dazzling Jay Pritzker Pavilion, one of the most sophisticated outdoor concert venues of its kind in the United States, designed by Frank Gehry. Millennium Park is located on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, it’s a great place for a quick stroll, or just to sit on the bench and have lunch. Millennium Park is open every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The next day I walked back to the Blue Line. Would you believe I ran into Kathy -- my good friend Andy’s ex-girlfriend – and she doesn’t even live in Chicago. Small world! We chatted for a few minutes before hopping on the train back to O’Hare, where I caught my flight to Toronto.
I flew a United 737. It was more than half empty, and I had an entire row to myself. The flight took only 55 minutes. I enjoyed looking out of the window as we descended. I hadn’t been to Toronto since I was a little boy, so this was a real treat. It’s always an experience to go to a new place -- especially a new country. It seems funny to think that Canada is a different country, because it’s so close to the U.S. The nearest major U.S. airport to Toronto is Buffalo – just 104 miles away.
I cleared customs quickly, and headed right to the Airport Express bus booth. Downtown Toronto is a 30-minute drive, and taxis charge $35 Canadian. Although Canada has its own currency (of course), every place I went accepted greenbacks (U.S. dollars). Right now, 1 Canadian dollar equals 82 cents. So for Americans, everything is 18% cheaper. (It used to be a lot better).
The airport bus departs every 20 to 30 minutes, and makes 8 downtown stops. The first is the Westin Harbour Castle; then come the Royal York (Fairmont Hotel), InterContinental (Front Street), Holiday Day Inn on King, Sheraton Centre, Bond Place, Delta Chelsea Inn, and the Bus Terminal. The bus takes between 40 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on traffic and where you get on or off. It costs $15.50 ($12.85 USD) one way, $26.75 ($22.18 USD) roundtrip. If you’re traveling with at least two other people, it’s cheaper and more convenient to take a taxi. Airport Express: tel.: (905) 564-3232.
The bus ride was pleasant, and the downtown skyline was visible almost the whole way. When I saw my hotel, The Royal York, I got excited. I knew it would be amazing, and it was. Then again, how many Fairmont Hotels aren’t nice? The Royal York is huge (1,365 rooms), and it’s smack in the heart of the city. It’s the cities most famous hotel, and one of the nicest.
The hotel has a lot of history, and is a Toronto landmark. It was built in 1843, and has changed hands and uses a few times. It became a college, then a few different hotels. In 1929, the hotel opened as The Royal York. At the time it was the tallest building (28 floors) in the British Commonwealth. From 1988 to 1993 the hotel was restored to its original elegance. The $100 million project included refurbished guest rooms, public spaces, a health club and a skylit lap pool.
My room was awesome! It was a mini-suite with two TVs, a king bed (I slept sideways), and a desk with high speed ($12.50 USD for a 24 hour period). The bathroom had great amenities -- even a nice body sponge. I never had to leave the hotel, because there were 10 places to dine (including a Benihana), and the bottom floor was a mini-mall with everything from travel agencies to gift shops. Another plus: The hotel had a great business center, where the staff was very friendly (most Canadians are), and the prices were far lower than most hotel biz centers. Royal York: 100 Front St. W., Toronto; tel.: 416-368-2511. Fairmont reservations: 866-540-4489.
After checking my email, I wanted to explore the city -- fast. I asked the hotel concierge desk for recommendations for a first-time visitor with two hours to spare. The women gave me many options. Did you know Toronto is the third-largest theater center in the world (after London and New York)? The concierges suggested that because the day was so clear, I should go up the CN Tower. This is the tallest structure in the world. I thought the new Taipei 101 was the tallest, but it is actually the tallest BUILDING (1667 feet). The CN tower is indeed the world’s tallest STRUCTURE (1,815 feet, 5 inches). Yet although the CN Tower is Canada's most recognizable and celebrated icon, and defines the Toronto skyline, I had no desire to go up – I’m afraid of heights! I asked, "What about the SkyDome?" (That’s where the Toronto Blue Jays play). The concierge said there were hourly tours for $12 ($10 USD), so that’s where I went.
The weather was mild for Canada (in the 50s), but it chilly for me. I walked five blocks down Front Street -- the city’s main artery -- until I reached the Sky Dome. It was easy to find, because it’s right next to the CN Tower. Front Street was lined with parked trucks, all selling french fries. I was starving, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about (there were lines at each), but I didn’t have time. The last tour of the day was about to begin.
To be continued...
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Travelers who buy tickets with credit cards can typically get refunds from the credit card company if an airline fails. But those who pay with cash or by a bank debit cards don't have that protection, says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, one of several backers of the law's extension.
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Top five off-peak destinations for winter 2004/2005 |
Off-peak winter travel need not involve freezing your tail off in some inhospitable locale just to save a few bucks. In fact, we found a variety of destinations that offer temperate weather, plenty to do, and low-season prices during the winter. And if you don't mind frigid temperatures, we also pinpointed a couple places where the cold drives prices down but the local scene keeps on kicking. Click Here To Read Article
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