Thursday 19 May 2016

My City: Mississauga

When I travel abroad, say Buffalo, I tell people I’m from Toronto. I’m not. I’m from Mississauga.

City Hall--photo via

The reason I state Toronto rather than Mississauga, is because most people haven’t heard of Mississauga. There are exceptions of course. There’s always someone who knows somebody who lives in Mississauga.

They say things like, “My wife’s best friend has family there. The McLaren’s. Do you know them?” I don’t.


 “Mississauga. Like Mississippi??” No.

montage via

The name, ‘Mississauga’, comes from the Algonquian Mississaugas, a First Nations tribe originally from the Georgian Bay area of Ontario. With the mighty Credit River flowing through its land, what was once a Toronto bedroom community, is now Canada’s sixth largest city. It's comprised of several unique villages, many of which retain their original charm.

Port Credit lighthouse photo via

The city’s population boomed as Toronto city-dwellers looked for places to raise families. Many made the move west—to Mississauga. They got more bang for their buck by living here, while commuting there. Today, thousands of Mississaugans still make the daily commute to Toronto for work. Many more however, now live and work in our city, thanks to over 50 international corporations with Canadian headquarters here, companies like Microsoft, General Mills, Wal-Mart, NCR, to name a few.

I’ve not written about my city. It’s high-time I do. This is therefore, an introduction to the city I have called home for over 30 years. And yes, I came west with family in tow. The first home in Mississauga was in fact a pretty tiny house, but it had a massive yard. There was lots of space for kids, grandparents and a dog to run around in. The driveway fit more cars than we owned, the neighbours were on first-name basis and did not mind their own business. It was life in what used to be the village of Cooksville.

And that’s the thing about this city--you don’t just live in Mississauga, you live in a village. One Mississaugan meeting another will always state the village he/she lives in. It might sound pretentious to an outsider, but here, it’s what we do.

I now live in Clarkson. My favourite library is in Lorne Park. Port Credit has the best summer festivals. Streetsville has the most charm, and on it goes. 

Streetsville photo via

I’ll be writing a bit more on Mississauga over the next while. For now, here are just a few fun facts:
  • 1974 was the year Mississauga became a city.

  • The city of Mississauga has only ever had 4 mayors and I doubt many residents can tell you who they were/is, with the exception of: Hazel McCallion. Hazel was our mayor for 36 years. Thirty-six! In the latter years of her political career, Hazel didn’t even campaign for the job. She put her name on the ballot and that was that. You either voted for her or you didn’t. We did.

  • Toronto Pearson International Airport, Canada’s busiest airport, is actually in Mississauga. When you fly into YYZ, it’s not Toronto you’re landing in. (No one ever tells you this!)

  • The “largest peacetime evacuation” occurred on November 10, 1979 when a 106 car freight train carrying explosive and poisonous chemicals derailed near Mavis Rd. and Dundas St.

  • We are home to Trillium Health Partners, comprised of two hospitals in Mississauga and one in Toronto. It can be a bit confusing with people showing up at the 'wrong' hospital on occasion, (yes, I've done this) but hey, it's top-notch healthcare and there's never a bill to settle. Never. Ever.

  • Square One Shopping Centre, with over 360 stores, is located at the City Centre and is one of Canada largest shopping malls.
  • Igor Gowzenko, a Russian Embassy to Canada employee, defected in 1945 with over 100 documents supporting Soviet espionage activities in the West. His actions had major ramifications. He lived the rest of his life under an assumed name, and wore a hood over his face for anonymity when making public appearances. After the whole spy broo-ha-ha thing, he settled in Clarkson, and is buried two blocks from where I live. 

Am I the only one who finds this fascinating?

Thursday 12 May 2016

Iconic Canadian Hotels

A bit of Canadian history:

July 1, 1867: Canada becomes a nation with four provinces in the east coast. In 1871 British Columbia in the west joined the party, or confederation as it’s known. There’s a vast amount of land between the east and west coast of Canada. A transportation system was needed to link the true north from coast to coast. So in 1881 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was established to complete the task. In 1886 the last railway spike was added and presto, the country was now on the move.

Last Spike photo via
As people began travelling for either pleasure or work, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it became clear they needed a place to eat and stay.  The solution, was to build hotels near the train stations, making it convenient for travelers to have hot meals and overnight accommodations. It was a clever way for CPR to secure further profits from customers they already had.

Initially centered around major urban routes, as the railway grew and expanded beyond the east-west line, magnificent hotels were built in pristine and remote locals--think Banff and Lake Louise. Tourists from around the world desperate to explore the remoteness of the Canadian Rockies began arriving. And they’ve never stopped.

The Empress, Victoria, BC photo via
The Canadian railway hotels of today, managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, are Five-star accommodations. On the outside, they look pretty much as they did when they were originally built. Walk inside and you are instantly transported back to a time of grandeur and luxury. It’s elegance and glamour from an era long-gone (sigh!)

Here are six of my favourite “railway hotels”, based purely on my on my own view and experience.

photo via
Situated in the spectacular setting of Banff National Park (Alberta), with the green-icy waters of the Bow River at its base, and snow-caped Rocky Mountain peaks surrounding it, the Banff Springs Hotel is Canada’s Castle in the Mountains. Opened on June 1, 1888, the Banff Springs Hotel was an instant hit with travelers looking for outdoor adventure, fine dining and luxurious accommodations. By the 1950s however, the hotel was in a state of shambles and there was talk of knocking it down. One movie star changed all that. Marilyn Munro stayed here in 1953 while filming, A River of No ReturnAnd the rest, as they say, is history…

photo via
Perched high on a hill overlooking the vastness of the Saint Lawrence River, and inside the walls of old Quebec, sits the majestic, Le Château Frontenac. During an era where promoting luxury tourism to wealthy travelers was the in thing for CPR, the hotel was built as a stop-over for rail travelers, offering luxury accommodations and ultra-pampering. It has hosted many famous people and events including, The Quebec Conference of 1943, which saw British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, President, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister, William Lloyd Mackenzie King, gather to discuss strategy for World War II. Today, Le Chateau remains the most recognizable architectural structure in the Quebec City skyline.

photo via
Situated in the heart of city and directly across the street from the rail station, the Royal York, was built to take advantage of rail travelers arriving in Toronto. Surprisingly, Toronto was one of the last places to have a railway hotel built. However, when the Royal York finally open its doors in 1929, it was the largest hotel in The British Empire. With 28 floors, it was also the tallest structure in the country. Its features and amenities were state-of-the-art at the time, with 10 elevators to deliver guests to their floors, radios in every room and...wait for it…a private bathroom in each room. 

photo via
Located in Victoria, BC, overlooking the harbour,  the Empress is the city's most famous landmark. In the summer lush green ivy climbs tightly up its facade. Once inside, the hotel’s majestic feel continues with the Bengal Lounge, decorated in Victorian-era, Indian style, a tribute to when Queen Victoria was Empress of India. Afternoon tea has been served at the hotel since it first opened its doors. Today, a visit to Victoria is not complete without indulging in this oh-so-British tradition. During the summer months, more than 800 guests and tourists are served daily. For many years the hotel went without a sign at its front entrance. When one was finally installed, it's rumoured an irate gentleman stated, “Anyone who doesn't know this is the Empress shouldn't be staying here.” Enough said.

photo via
What started off as a small log cabin overlooking Lake Louise,(Alberta), is today a magnificent, grand-luxury style hotel, in arguably, one of the most photographed spots in Canada. The Château served visitors from various stations along the railway line, as well as visitors dropping in for the day from Banff Springs Hotel, just south of Lake Louise. When the hotel was constructed in 1890, the vision was for, ''A hotel for outdoor adventurer and alpinist.” It's a vision that would be fulfilled as thousands of mountaineers from all over the world arrived to climb area mountains. 

Château Laurier

photo via

In the heart of Canada’s capital, overlooking the Rideau Canal and next door to Parliament Hill, sits a true Canadian icon and Ottawa landmark. From the distance the structure appears as a castle on a hill. Inside it’s all glamour and history, history, history. Notable guests have included King George IV, Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Nelson Mandela, and Princess Diana, to name just a few. The hotel was home to two former Prime Ministers, Richard Bedford Bennett and Pierre Trudeau (his son now works next door, dont-ya know). Famous photographer, Yousuf Karsh, lived in Château Laurier for eighteen years. Some of his famous portraits adorn the Château’s walls including, possibly, the most famous Winston Churchill portrait -- ever!

photo via