Canadian Contrasts; Toronto Is a City of Architecture, Fine-Dining and Culture That Is Fast Winning Praise as Good-Time Venue. DAN WARBURTON Samples the Jewel of Ontario and the Offerings of the Surrounding Countryside

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IT offers far more than just moose and Mounties - Ontario is a contrasting region of glistening skyscrapers and expansive forestry. Within a matter of kilometres the concrete jungle of Toronto becomes rolling countryside, the cosmopolitan waterfront gives way to vast expanses of wilderness and modern civilisation is replaced with a lust for the outdoors. "You can go to some parts of Canada and not see an electricity pylon, road or person in any direction for 50 miles," our waiter Lewis says in an accent feathered with a London whisp as we sit in the Moroccan restaurant Sultan's Tent. And it's not hard to see why. This is a gigantic country where tourist attractions tower more than 1,500 feet over the city, where lakes encompass areas the size of entire European countries and six-lane highways stretch further than you could possibly hope to drive. With a population of just 2.5million, the sheer scale of Toronto stuns the senses. From the moment you touch down at Toronto Pearson International Airport the ever-shifting face of the city is obvious to see. Developers are seizing on lax planning guidelines to construct a crop of new luxury hotels, pioneering art galleries and design studios. Steel complexes are under construction on almost every corner. Even the city's Royal Ontario Museum has undergone a massive revamp, fusing the historic architecture with modern sharp glass structures that protrude from the original 1912 building, like "crystal growing from the rock". As we make our way along the edge of Lake Ontario into Toronto's outskirts, mist cloaks the skyline but is unable to mask the daunting structure of one of the world's tallest buildings, the CN Tower. Dominating the skyline, the 1,815ft landmark offers breathtaking views of the sprawling city. A split-second ride in the glass lift to the Observation Tower allows a birds-eye view of the Rogers Stadium and the numerous skyscrapers that regularly double for New York in Hollywood blockbusters. Different districts highlight the city's diverse and multi-cultural locations. China Town neighbours the upmarket Yorkville while the redeveloped Distillery District offers theatres, art galleries and restaurants just streets away from the city's Little Italy. But despite the massive pool of cultures, one religion is set aside by all Canadians - ice hockey. The Toronto Maple Leafs rule the roost in Toronto, but the sports franchise has to compete with more than 9,000 restaurants, 125 museums and galleries and 1,200 clothes stores for the attention of tourists. During our three-night stay in the city, we stayed at the 270-room Delta Chelsea hotel located at the heart of the city in the aptly named Downtown district. Perfectly located, a pool and gym allow guests to work out with a breath-taking view of the city's skyline on the top floor of Canada's largest hotel. The city - like our sharp-witted waiter at the playful Sultan's Tent Moroccan restaurant - has a deep-seated British history. Every street corner is littered with a token of Britain's colonial rule. Our animated and charismatic tour guide Bruce Bell - yes, we had a tour guide - walks confidently around the city with an unchallenged knowledge of its history. He spills out anecdotes of the city's rich British colonial history and gives details of the city's proud gay scene.

But Bruce is more than just an informative guide. His celebrity status is confirmed on his visit to the final destination of the 200-year-old St Lawrence Market which exemplifies the city's multiculturalism through 120 stalls offering food from across the globe (including the Canadian pea meal bacon sandwich with mustard from the world famous Carousel sandwich bar). In a colourful corner of the market, Bruce's face is enshrined on a painting which plays testament to his unrivalled knowledge of the city. EVER had a back-seat driver screaming in your ear as you try to navigate your way around a complex route? Me too. But try it when you're scaling a five foot rock-face or fighting your way From 33 through the wild Canadian forests. …


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