GENOVA TOURS 2014 ! (Toronto Walking Tours)

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WAVIER

 

Toronto Star Mar. 23, 2003. 08:33 AM

RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR

Whether it's for fitness, to get to work or just for pleasure, this is a city that walks (at least when the weather's right). Metropolis tells you how to get on your feet.

Get strolling
With spring upon us (finally), Metropolis celebrates the fine art of walking

 

MARGO VARADI
TORONTO STAR STAFF REPORTER

Torontonians do not do walking tours. Or at least that's the stigma. They're for tourists, we think. When we do attend tours, we often feel the need to apologize, as if we were crashing a party.

 

Most locals prefer a theme tour like. People here are more interested in looking at something in a different way, going back to those nostalgic places and finding something that's fresh and new.

 

But for a local, a tour can change the shape of the city. You see an everyday Staples store, but then a guide points to the mouldings, and suddenly it's the Pierce Luxury Car dealership from the 1930s. An everyday site gains meaning, becomes a living, breathing piece of history.

 

Tours help you get to know neighbourhoods you may only know the names of. Familiar parts of the city, such as Yorkville and the St. Lawrence Market, change shape when one looks through the eyes of an experienced guide. For example, Gibraltar Pt. Lighthouse may not seem spectacular but, according to Bill Genova of Genova Tours, it was once Toronto's tallest building.

 

And walking offers a sensory experience, smells, sounds, even touches, absent from the drive-by tour. You have the opportunity to look more closely at cityscapes and skylines.

 

Tour guides themselves tend to start their walks as extended hobbies, as a way to showcase a passion for the city. For the jaded local, their love for Toronto is inspiring. Many of the guides we spoke to were chatty types looking for an audience with whom to share their thoughts. Two of them compared their tours to giving birth, calling the participants their "children."

 

Whether you're single, love food or are curious about exploring Toronto's neighbourhoods, the following are walking tours created with your needs in mind.

 

 

Genova Tours

Old Town Tour of Toronto

 

Bill Genova seems like he could be a part of his own tour. The 62-year-old, who runs Genova Tours, appears to be a relic from Toronto's past, sitting at his St. Lawrence Market table, the only one covered in an old red cloth and a candle burning in a wrought iron stand.

 

He's come to the market for 60 years; as a boy, he helped his father buy wholesale produce for the family grocery store at 4 a.m. Now, Genova, a retired financial planner, gives tours of what he calls Toronto's Old Town. He also heads walks in other Toronto neighbourhoods, such as Kensington Market, and provides a nightclub tour highly recommended by Toronto Downtown Bed and Breakfast.

 

Genova has his own little corner of the market, beside Buster's Sea Cove. Stop in most of the businesses in the neighbourhood and they'll know his name. "My tours are for those who have an interest in times past," he says. "Most of the people who go on my tours are older locals, because they have time and memories they want to relive. A lot of younger folks have no time and few memories. "When I take people out, I try to give each place meaning, like pointing out the spot where William Lyon Mackenzie spoke."

 

Exploring the city with Genova is like taking a journey with your cigar-smoking Grandpa down memory lane, listening to his tales of how things once were. Expect to be overwhelmed with detail, and realize that once Genova gets going, there's no stopping him. It's evident that time and research go into his tours; they're a lecture of sorts, with Genova stopping quickly at spots to point out the origins of various buildings.

 

"Toronto was established as an imperial British garrison against the Americans. I love saying that. I remember singing `God Save The King in theatres," Genova tells us as he begins his overview of our city's past. "Ten generations have lived and died here."

 

He goes on to discuss the origin of our roads, saying diagonal streets were once used as native trails. We also learn that, located in the interior of the original St. Lawrence Market, most of which was destroyed, is the former city hall. Our guide laments that 25,000 buildings, including historical landmarks, were destroyed between 1950 and 1970.

 

Brimming with enthusiasm, Genova leads us through the city, his descriptions littered with phrases such as "When I was young ..." or "If you're old enough to remember ..." We learn that the area surrounding St. Lawrence was Market Square, the city's core, in which the taverns, hotels, financial and entertainment areas were located. Situated here was also the red-light district with its brothels, a.k.a. "oyster bars."

 

Walking through the Gooderham & Worts Distillery (55 Mill St.), built in 1832, is like experiencing another time and place. In light of this unique charm, many film companies have used the complex as a movie set Genova points to a dark doorway where Al Pacino was shot at in The Recruit.

 

Suddenly, a construction worker working on the distillery's restoration, notices our tour. He runs out of a building and excitedly shows us two old liquor bottles he has found. Another worker stops to tell us the sites we must see. The grounds are covered with pieces of history, such as wooden pulleys, evidence of the masterpieces of Victorian machinery.

 

Meandering through Corktown, we come to the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, built in 1848 as Toronto's first free school. Across the street are the original cottages of Irish workmen; the buildings are now considered desirable homes, for those with a renovation budget.

 

Looping back to St. Lawrence Market, everyone says their goodbyes, as Genova leaves us with a sense of history and a connection to the city's roots.

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto Sun Jan 12/05

 

Historic and tasty T.O.

 

Right now, the days are dark and the days are short. What a temptation to stay indoors. IF that's true for you, an outing may be just the thing.

 

Check out Genovatours.com and plan a two-hour walk, for example, the Marco Polo Tour Chinatown to Little Italy or a Little India tour that will get your legs going, your cheeks nicely pinked and your tummy tantalized.

 

Bill genova has been sharing his love of historic and tasty Toronto with visitors and residents alike. Get in touch with him by email at genova@sympatico.ca or by phone 416-367-0380.

 

 

Passage T.O. India
Can a trip to Gerrard St. E. conjure up the gorgeous sights of saris, jewellery and decor of India?

Yes, it can. Hop on a streetcar and leave your passport at home, writes Daphne Gordon

DAPHNE GORDON Toronto Star feb 19, 2005

I've been on a pilgrimage and I've seen the light. During a recent two-week trip to India, I had some profound revelations. A few included:

Fuchsia is the new black. Orange is the new brown. Purple is the new   rey.

Extravagant embroidery doesn't have to be expensive.

Shawls are the answer to everything.

There's no such thing as too much jewellery.

Modesty can be sexy.

 

My visit to India was so visually inspiring that I returned to Toronto longing for the flowing saris, heavy jewellery and embroidered accessories that I saw on the gorgeous women in New Delhi, the country's largest city, and in Goa, a resort area on the southwest coast.

 

As well, I've been wishing I could recreate some of the regal Indian interiors I saw in the hotels, magazines and stores there. I was particularly excited about the things I saw in India because so they would fit right into the boho-chic style that will be the hot look on Toronto streets this spring. Embellished accessories, flowing floor-length skirts and loose pyjama blouses will be key items for the creation of the luxe hippie style that Kate Hudson and Kate Moss have been exemplifying.

 

So off I went last week on a visit to Toronto's own Little India to see if I could relive my trip by surrounding myself in luscious colour, sumptuous fabric and extravagant embroidery. Would the selection and service compare to the upscale sari store I visited in Delhi? Would the quality compete with the beautiful items I found at a huge outdoor market in Anjuna, Goa, where Indian vendors displayed traditional wares alongside contemporary items created by expats living in Goa? Could I sample an authentic samosa or sip masala chai for quick refreshment while on the go?

 

In a word, yes. I found all of that, and more. While much of what's available in the neighbourhood has been imported directly from India, the mix is decidedly aimed at Canadian customers. For example, one chic new shop, Rang, features cushions made from Indian fabrics and hand-embroidered in India, but with a modern twist defined by the store's young designer, Trish Mahtani.

 

And at the grocery store, many packaged products make Indian cooking possible for those of us who haven't inherited family secrets. An example? Mini papadums — the crisp Indian snack made of lentil flour — in a resealable can.

 

But the best feature of Little India, a congregation of more than 100 stores along Gerrard St. E. between Greenwood and Coxwell Aves., is the fact that other countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also represented, making a trip to Little India seem like a whirlwind tour of the subcontinent, all in one afternoon.

 

The neighbourhood began developing in the mid-'70s, when a theatre on Gerrard St. E. began showing films made in India. That was before VCRs became affordable, and Bollywood films were wildly popular with Indians living in Canada.

 

To satisfy the craving for their homeland's popular culture, Indian families flocked from their homes in Brampton, Mississauga and other areas of the GTA on nights and weekends, to meet up with friends and see a film.

Restaurants, grocery stores and sari stores popped up to serve the many Indian families who visited the area, and these days, the neighbourhood claims to be the largest concentration of South Asian shops in North America.

 

While Little India has in the past largely been a destination for those with South Asian background — some of them coming from as far away as upstate New York — mainstream shoppers are beginning to discover its beauty, says Bill Genova, who has been leading walking tours (http://www.genovatours.com) of the neighbourhood for the past two years.

 

He's also been working with the Gerrard India Bazaar Business Improvement Area to help promote the neighbourhood outside the immediate community. "It's a little difficult because it's not downtown, like Chinatown is, so you've got to make a bit of an effort to get there," he says. But it's worth it, he adds.

 

Little India is a nirvana for foodies, says Genova, adding that while many items imported from India might be available in mainstream grocery store, they're much more affordable in Little India. Prices at the local restaurants are also affordable.

 

"For five or 10 bucks, you can eat like a horse out there," he says, noting that among his favourite food stops is the fast food joint Narula's Chat Dosa and Thali House (1438A Gerrard St. E.) Dosa, the crispy stuffed crepes common in south India, as well as thali, samosa and other vegetarian dishes are normally priced under $5, but on Toonie Tuesday, everything is $2!

 

Fashion is also a strong point, Genova says. Sari shops and stores selling fabrics dot the entire strip, and the variety is endless and fascinating.

As well, he includes shops that sell religious items, such as statues of Hindu gods and goddesses, on his tour, taking the opportunity to explain some of the mythology behind the Indian culture.

 

Unfortunately, one of the best shops for such items, Maharani Emporium (1417 Gerrard St. E.), has recently closed its doors, after a fire gutted its interior. The shop was a great source for books on Indian spirituality, ayurveda and cooking, as well as traditional music CDs. In addition to providing Indian immigrants with a source for their culture, it was a hotspot for Toronto's yogis and yoginis, and will be sorely missed. Word on the street is that the shop will reopen in a few months, after the extensive damage has been repaired.

 

While Genova's tour of Little India includes historical and cultural notes that would thrill any trivia hound, a tour guide isn't really necessary. I did my own unguided shopping tour of the neighbourhood recently and it wasn't hard to find amazing bargains, exotic treats and friendly service.

I did my research first by logging onto the neighbourhood's own site, at http://www.gerrardindiabazaar.com

 

The site lists shops, restaurants and services in the area and gives directions to the neighbourhood by both TTC and car. Taking the site's advice, I hopped on the 506 College (Carlton) car and headed east from Yonge St., jumping out at the intersection of Gerrard St. E. and Ashdale Ave. From there, the whole neighbourhood is accessible on foot.

 

 

CRAVE CANADA Web Site Feb 2006 

 

It's often hard to get a true picture of where you are staying on holiday, without local knowledge of the area. Luckily for people visiting Toronto, Bill Genova offers a perfect solution to this dilemma.

After retiring, Bill became an avid scholar of local history, researching into the past of the Greater Toronto Area. It became clear to him that the information he found on local buildings and events was unknown to even fellow Torontonian's. Mixing his intriguing stories with his knowledge of streets and the public transport system, Genova Tours was founded.

By booking a tour (well in advance) for your first few days in Toronto, the information offered will give invaluable help in getting the most from the rest of your holiday. Not only will you learn of Toronto's history and buildings, but also get your bearings of the surrounding area and transport links available to you.

A variety of tours are offered, depending on where you are staying and the season in which you arrive. Each journey is customised to your interests, including the districts in which you visit. Most tours take place on foot (so bring your walking shoes), covering areas such as Chinatown, Little Italy, Cabbagetown and St. Lawrence Market. Evening tours are also available to explore the nightlife and haunted graveyards.

Although two-hour tours are available, a day tour is thoroughly recommended in order to get the best out of your trip. As a popular member of Toronto's community, Bill will often introduce people and help visitors interact with the locals, no matter which district you visit.

For those of you who prefer not to walk, Bill now offers Van Tours to areas including Niagara Falls and Prince Edward County. A walking tour is recommended however in order to get orientated and accustom to the neighbourhood.

With tours starting at just $25 CAN, you’ll find Genova Tours one of the best buys of your holiday. That's why CraveCanada has recommended it as a must-do activity for Toronto, Ontario.

Tip:
Genova Tours are great all year round, although remember to wrap up warm in the Winter and bring a hat and scarf with you.


Website:
Toronto Walking Tours - Genova Tours
Phone Number: 416-367-0380

 

Article on Crave Canada web site at

http://www.cravecanada.com/things_to_do/article/000031/toronto_walking_tours.html

Bill Genova

Genova Tours
230 Rose Park Drive
Toronto, Canada, M4T1R5