by Linda Aksomitis
The waterfall tumbled over rock steps to a lush tropical garden; the green foliage a sharp contrast to the highrise of Sheraton Centre hotel rooms that formed the backdrop, and the Christmas decorations that filled the lobby. Indeed the 2.5 acre waterfall garden captured my attention the moment I entered the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.
Toronto, Ontario, is Canada’s number one tourist destination, whether it’s for business or pleasure, and the Sheraton Centre’s downtown location puts it at the centre of all the action. One of the world’s most culturally diverse cities, (residents speak over 100 languages and the city has a population from 170 countries of origin) downtown Toronto is a mecca for visitors, whether like me, you’re off to business meetings; or have tickets to a sports event at the SkyDome; or just want a weekend getaway with shopping, fine dining, and great entertainment.
I had plenty of reasons for making the Sheraton Centre first choice on my visit. Since it was the last week of November, I had prepared for a taste of winter and snow, however I had a pleasant surprise as it was shirt-sleeve weather. That didn’t detour me from checking out PATH, however, downtown Toronto’s 16-mile underground network of shops and services. The Sheraton provides direct access to PATH, with a staircase in the lobby, so my explorations began immediately–after all, I had a whole night before the conference and ”work” began.
I soon discovered there was also direct access to shopping on the main floor as well as underground, and in a half a block was at Toronto’s Eaton Centre–Canada’s best-known shopping destination, with 285 retailers.
The Toronto Eaton Centre represents the ”dream” of one of Toronto’s 19th century businessmen: Timothy Eaton, who opened his first Toronto store in 1869. Eaton founded two retail practices that were ground-breaking at the time: first, all goods had one price (no haggling) with no credit given, and second, all purchases came with a money-back guarantee (a practice expressed in what would become the long-standing store slogan of “Goods Satisfactory or Money Refunded”).
Eaton, however, is likely best remember by generations of Canadians for the Eaton’s catalogue, which he started in 1884. By World War II the T. Eaton Company employed 70,000 people, and Eaton had revolutionized the retail industry. For downtown Toronto, today’s six-storey glass ceiling structure is an unmistakable modern landmark.
There’s also a lot of history right across the street from the Sheraton–the Old City Hall, built in 1899. This National Historic Site is still an impressive building, with gargoyles, turrets, and grotesque stone carvings, all in the Romanesque Revival style. Inside, the painted murals (first floor) by George A. Reid and the stained glass window produced by Robert McCausland symbolizing the Union of Commerce and Industry, are just a few of its distinctive features.
When I finally returned to my hotel room I was pleased to see the impressive towers of Toronto’s new City Hall from my twelfth floor windows. Below me skaters enjoyed the warm evening on an outdoor rink, and Christmas lights twinkled on the trees in the park.
While location may seem to be everything, I can guarantee it’s just one of the features that make the Sheraton Centre a great destination. My Sheraton Sweet-Sleeper bed was superb–and the pillows perfect. I fell asleep almost instantly, which is the mark of a good hotel for me.
Of course, there was lots to check out in the hotel too. The next evening I had time for a trip to the 24-hour fitness centre and indoor/outdoor heated pool. Indeed, with the incredible weather, it was awesome to swim under the panels into the outdoors part and spend some time enjoying the night air.
The best way I’ve discovered to relax after business meetings is with an hour or two at a spa, and the Sheraton’s Senses Spa & Massage Clinic was perfect. The Vichy Shower treatment did the trick, and I was ready to dress up and meet a friend to relax over cocktails and some fine food.
While I’d bypassed the convenient Lobby Cafe in the morning, in favor of some Tim Horton’s coffee–right outside the hotel–I headed to Traders to sample a few of the 25 different draught beers and single malt favorites they offered. The hours disappeared quickly between the view of the waterfall garden and hum of conversation. While I wasn’t up to a sixteen ounce New York Sirloin at Le Biftheque Steakhouse, I certainly enjoyed my ladies’ size and all the fixings.
As usual, Toronto was a great place to visit, especially when I had all the comforts of home at the Sheraton Centre–I’m glad I made it the focal point of my stay!
For More Info:
Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=271
123 Queen Street West * Toronto, ONTARIO M5H 2M9 * Canada
Phone: (416) 361-1000
City of Toronto
Official web site: http://www.toronto.ca/index.htm
Toronto Eaton Centre:
Copyright September 2006 by Linda Aksomitis. All rights reserved.