Review by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams, The Chef’s House, Wikipedia Commons, St. Lawrence Market, Intercontinental Toronto Centre

Editor’s Note: Although millions live in the GTA, it is still an international and local tourist attraction, as is Niagara Falls. In advance of the CIAS in Toronto, I asked Ottawa resident and Travel Editor to whip up an impromptu piece about an outsider’s tourist view of some attractions in town and in the area. There are many more beyond this, and we will surely return to this popular destination and some of the great driving destinations within reach of this city and its residents.

Downtown Toronto and Niagara, in a 2013 Mazda CX-9
2013 Mazda CX-9. Click image to enlarge

The opportunity to drive to the Toronto Autoshow is always interesting for auto writers who live nearby (assuming you consider a 400-km drive from Ottawa “nearby”). You get to test out a vehicle, write a review and take in the show, so it’s all good.

If you also knock off the occasional travel piece, Toronto and environs offer so many destination opportunities that you’ll be hard-pressed to narrow them down. My partner and I didn’t really have plans once the Autoshow’s Media Day concluded, but we knew we’d stay an extra day somewhere downtown, and that we’d dash down to Niagara for a couple of days to visit relatives.

Our transportation would be the seven-passenger 2013 Mazda CX-9, refreshed for this model year with the Kodo “Soul of Motion” styling that originated with Mazda’s Shinari Concept. It gives the big CX-9 a sleek and eye-catching look in the Mazda zoom-zoom tradition.

Downtown Toronto and Niagara, in a 2013 Mazda CX-9
The Intercontinental. Click image to enlarge

However, here I have to invoke the “notwithstanding” clause, as initially we stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel on Front Street courtesy of Infiniti Canada who’d invited me to Toronto to cover the new Infiniti Q50 sedan.

The Intercontinental is one of a chain of prestige hotels you can find around the world; not super luxury, but high-end enough for sure. The Front Street location is excellent for downtown exploring, and of course is handy to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Rogers Centre and the CN Tower. No free wi-fi, however, in this top-drawer establishment.

Our room on the twelfth floor faced south, which meant a fine view of the trains, the Steam Whistle brewery, the tower, the baseball stadium, Lake Ontario and the giant woodpecker sculpture (you can’t miss it). It all seemed very Toronto.

Downtown Toronto and Niagara, in a 2013 Mazda CX-9
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid at the Toronto Autoshow. Click image to enlarge

The Q50, which made its Canadian debut at the Toronto show, turns out to be a voluptuous sedan that replaces the hugely successful “G” vehicles from Infiniti (G35, G37). It’s an all-new design that will migrate to future Infiniti models. The new “Q” designation will be used for all Infiniti sedans (QX for the utility vehicles).

Also courtesy of Infiniti, we dined at the swank Bymark restaurant on Wellington Street, Owner and celebrity chef Mark McEwan (By Mark, get it?) has crafted a chic downtown eatery that surely the Infiniti folks saw as complementing the stylish Q50. The restaurant is highly rated, and is noted for its “contemporary touch with a core of classic cuisine.” I had lamb and it was a good choice; the donut-like dessert (deep fried crème brulee) seemed a bit Tim Hortons, though.

Our second night was spent at The Cosmopolitan Hotel on Colbourne Street, just a couple of blocks north of Wellington. We’d pre-booked this hotel as I’ve used it many times, mainly because of its good location, kitchenette-equipped rooms (in case you want to prepare some food), excellent beds and quiet environment. It’s a bit new-agey, but you can take or leave that (again, though, no free wi-fi. Don’t get me started…).

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