For a person as curious as me, I am always out on some sort of discovery. No wonder travel writing appeals so much to me because it gives me the opportunity to explore interesting new places all the time. But of course my inquisitive mind never rests, so when I am not traveling out of town, I venture out locally right here in my chosen home town of Toronto to investigate the nooks and crannies of my city.
Over the last few years I have had an opportunity to explore many different cities in many different ways, by walking, through driving tours, sightseeing buses, architectural tours, even boat tours or by taking public transit; but one of my very favourite ways is to discover a city by bicycle. With a bike you can get almost anywhere, you cover more ground than by walking, but you are still able to stop at any time and admire a particular detail up close. In addition, it helps you burn a few calories, a consideration that is becoming ever more important as my waistline expands.
So I had already done bicycle tours in Montreal and Vancouver, and I was wondering if there was a company in Toronto that offered organized bicycle tours. On the website of my good friend Bruce Bell, a renowned Toronto historian and tour guide, I finally found a link to a company called “Sights on Bikes”. That sounded interesting, so I started investigating their website and contacted one of the co-owners, Jordan Feilders, to tell me more about his company. He suggested that I come out to Sights on Bikes Deluxe City Tour to experience Toronto first-hand in one of his organized bicycle tours.
Punctually at 10 am I was waiting at the southwest corner of the intersection of Yonge Street and Queens Quay. Another lady dressed in bicycle attire came up to me and asked me if I was about to participate in the bicycle tour. I confirmed and she introduced herself as Susan from Florida who was up here in Toronto to join her husband who was here to attend a conference. Just minutes later our tour guide Jordan arrived and welcomed us.
Ever nosy I asked him to tell me a bit about his background and he indicated that he is a graduate of the University of Toronto in International Relations and Environmental Studies. Three years ago he started Sights on Bikes together with two friends, initially as an Toronto idea for a cool summer job during university. Since then Jordan has taught skiing in Jackson Hole and also worked during the winter at a lobby firm in Washington, D.C. In the summer he returned to Toronto to run his company and he is on the road with visitors virtually every day.
Jordan took us to a locked storage container on the parking lot and retrieved three bicycles as well as helmets for us. Sights on Bikes’ bicycles are extremely comfortable touring bikes with six gears that make sight-seeing an easy and painless experience. We started cycling up Yonge Street and then turned east on the Esplanade, one of Toronto’s premier restaurant streets that at one point actually used to be at the waterfront of Toronto before the harbour area to the south was filled in.
Our next stop was the St. Lawrence Market, one of two major markets in Toronto. This market was actually Toronto’s first permanent city hall and jail house between 1845 and 1899. A police station also used to be located on the first floor. In the late 1800s the market building was altered radically after the construction of Toronto’s City Hall at Queen and Bay Streets. The central portion of the original market building (the South Building) has survived and the original council chamber of the former city hall today houses the Market Gallery. Susan and I had a quick peek into the market hall and admired the wide assortment of food retailers.