I love beautiful, elegant hotels; my husband loves golf. We found the perfect combination - Toronto! A few days isn’t enough to see all this exciting city has to offer but we did manage to take in a lot of the sights during a long weekend. Without doubt, the best place to stay in the city is the Windsor Arms, named the third best boutique hotel in the world by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. In the world! Located in Yorktown on a beautiful and quiet side street, the Windsor Arms is a charming, stately brick Victorian building. Built in the late 1920s, new owners purchased the property in 1995, gutted it and rebuilt it to look like the original.
Celebrities love this little gem of a hotel and you need to reserve months ahead if you plan to stay here during the Toronto Film Festival, which was actually first conceived and planned at the Windsor Arms. The lobby is plush and cozy. To the right is Lounge 22, a martini-making fantastic bar, and to the left is the famed tea room – more about that in a moment. Straight ahead is the Courtyard Cafe – scene of many famous performances, galas and events including where Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor. Beyond is Prime, the main hotel restaurant. As we looked about in wonder, the concierge took a personal interest in us – making sure everything was perfect, storing Larry’s golf clubs and handing over the keys to our room in just moments. Our Junior Suite, even though it faced the street, was serenity on earth. There were two large flat screen TVs, comfy furniture, a harp (!), a valet stand, an espresso machine, and a very comfortable bed complete with Frette linens. We loved the inviting touches. Plush robes and slippers were placed bedside, soothing music was playing, and we took note of our butler’s closet (available in every suite)., where daily newspapers, room service or other items are placed unobtrusively.
The hotel offers free Wi Fi, a scrumptious complimentary breakfast and a gracious turn down service, including one last tasty morsel each evening such as lemon bars, chocolates or cookies. I suggest taking a few moments to wander the halls ( there are only four floors and 28 suites) to see some very fabulous photographs of celebrities, all taken by Ron Galella, famous for his photo obsession with Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Shortly, we headed downstairs to the hotel’s tea room.
What a wonderful way to begin our weekend! Since 1927, tea at the Windsor Arms has been a luxury enjoyed by travelers and residents alike. Sink into the plush seats and indulge in sparkling wine, silver trays full of freshly made sandwiches and a feast of elaborate, handmade desserts. This is people watching at its best as every seating is usually full of decked out guests enjoying this exquisite indulgence. Guests may ‘borrow’ a fancy hat for a $5 donation going to charity. After tea, we took off for a walking tour of the city where we took in some of the many highlights – the Distillery District, the St. Lawrence Market, Yonge Street (the longest street in the world although we did not walk all of it!) and the Financial District. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and is made up of dozens of ethnic neighborhoods including four Chinatowns, Greektown, two Little Italy’s, and one each of Little India and Koreatown.
The next morning, I enjoyed touring Chinatown while Larry checked out Wooden Sticks Golf Course. There are really four neighborhoods with the ‘Chinatown’ designation. My guide grew up in the city and he led our little group quickly past hundreds of colorful shops – where for years, and even today, ‘jobbers’ made a living selling any sort of wares they could, crammed into tiny spaces. Visitors may hear 60 or 70 different languages in this bustling area. What is the difference between a seamstress and a physician? In Toronto’s Chinatown, one generation. The hard work of immigrants has led to an explosion of education, entrepreneurship and pride among Toronto’s Chinese citizens.
That evening, we feasted at Prime. Our beef tenderloin and dry-aged Kobe steaks were divine, and accompanied by a tasty side of crispy onion rings. Prime features a collection of paintings by Canadian artist Charles Pachter not to be missed. The course at Angus Glen Golf Club hosted Larry while luckily, I met Christine Korda, director of public relations for the hotel, in the lobby. What a delight! Christine filled me in on the vast array of amenities offered by the Windsor Arms and personally escorted me on a mini shopping trip just steps away on Bloor Street, one of the most exclusive stretches of real estate in Canada.
Rents here have put its ranking as the 22nd most expensive retail location in the world. Spending time visiting the shops of Cartier, Chanel, Prada, Hermes, Gucci, Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, Escada and my favorite – Royal de Versailles Jewellers – was quite a treat. That night we headed over to Rogers Centre where we watched the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Detroit Tigers (8-3). Looming over the stadium is the CN Tower, a communications and observation structure built in 1976. At 1,815 feet, it is the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Looking up during the ball game, I could see some very brave souls on the EdgeWalk, a special attraction ($175) where people, anchored somehow, walk on and around the roof of the tower. It is “the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk,” according to the brochure. I’d say one of the scariest too!
Our last day, we headed to Glen Abbey Golf Club. I enjoyed a hot stone massage at the nearby Spa at the Glenerin Inn. We enjoyed lunch at Eighteen at Glen Abbey, site of the Canadian Open and it was off to Houston.
For more information, go to SeeTorontoNow.com and windsorarmshotel.com. A Taste of Toronto Golf By Larry Shiflet With more than 2,200 courses in Canada, 650 in Ontario, playing golf in and around Toronto basically means making the hard decision of which one(s) to choose. Angus Glen Golf Club (www.angusglen.com) is a public course built partially on a farm owned by a Canadian mining magnate and completed by his son.
The South Course was completed in 1995 and the North Course in 2006. The Club has hosted a number of PGA Tour events. Novices, weekend players and serious golfers will all enjoy the 7407 (blacks) 6231 (whites) with a rating of 71.1 and the slope of 131. Woodsy and accented with lakes and grass bunkers, the fairways are wide and forgiving. The greens are meticulous and putt true to the line. Expect 3.5 to 4 hours of play. Summer green fees range from $135 to $180.
Wooden Sticks Golf Course (www.woodensticks.com) is an 18-hole public course designed by Ron Garl. It opened in 1999. The first time you play Wooden Sticks, the course guide is a must. It provides a full description of the course and the hazards. Wooden Sticks Golf Club considered one of the finest of the area. Similar to our own Tour 18, this course features inspirations from other famous golf holes; 12 of the 18 are inspired by the likes of St. Andrews, August, Oakmont and others. One of the signature holes, and iconic photo for the Club, is 17 which recalls the TPC Sawgrass island green and features a par 3. Each hole has its own magnificent view. Wooden Sticks is not an easy course if played from the tips, 7025 yards long with a 74.2 / 143.
Glen Abbey Golf Course, glenabbey.clublink.ca, designed by the famous Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1976, is one of Canada’s most famous golf courses. Each hole presents its own difficulty. The pond at 3 gobbles 15,000 golf balls a year – watch out! Unique to Glen Abbey are the “Valley Holes,” numbered 11 through 15. Particularly challenging is 11 where players tee off a cliff to a fairway 60 feet below on the valley floor. In 2000, Tiger Woods hit a ball in what is widely considered one of the finest of his career and the shot of the year on 18, the 72nd hole of the Canadian Open, to win by a single stroke.