TONI DAOUD, Chef Concierge, Sutton Place
16 years as a concierge
Regional Director, Les Clefs d’Or Canada (the associaton of professional hotel concierges)
What are three questions that you are asked most frequently?
Where is there good shopping? The Bloor and Yorkville area is a fantastic area to shop. For more unique and trendy shops I would visit the Queen Street West area.
What is the best restaurant? There are a number of excellent restaurants in Toronto. It depends on the type of cuisine, ambience and location you prefer.
Where is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)? The ROM is located at the south-west corner of Bloor Street and Queen’s Park.
What is your best piece of advice for travelers?
To travel around the city, I suggest taking the public transportation system (TTC). It is a very convenient and safe way to get around. It is also a good idea to check the weather, to pack seasonal clothes and carry Canadian currency with you.
What advice do you have on tipping hotel staff?
It is at the discretion of the guest to tip when an employee meets or exceeds expectations. The amount of the tip can be based on the what the employee has done for you. During the holidays, tips come in different forms, from cash to items such as flowers, chocolates, etc.
What are three special “hidden places” in Toronto travellers should know about?
The Distillery Historic District—a wonderful area filled with galleries, cafés, restaurants, boutiques and theatre. Queen Street West—located in the trendy area of Toronto. The street is lined with independent retailers ranging from vintage clothing, furniture and home decor stores, as well as restaurants. Mount Pleasant Village—discover old community charm with great antiques, speciality and collectible shops. This area is also very close to the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood, which has movie theatres, more shopping and restaurants.
What would an ideal itinerary be for a traveller interested in seeing the city?
When visiting Toronto, first obtain a city map from a concierge who can point out the major attractions in Toronto. A great way to familiarize yourself with the city is to start off with the double decker city tour; you will be able to see all the major attractions including the CN Tower, Casa Loma, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum and the St. Lawrence Market. Make a stop in the Yorkville area where you will be able to have lunch, brunch and/or dinner at one of many restaurants. To get a greater feel of the city visit the Entertainment District, Harbourfront, the Financial District, Yorkville, and the several different ethnic areas including Chinatown, Greektown and Little Italy.
Where is the best place to take a picture of the city?
The best place to take a picture of the city would be from the Toronto Islands. Simply take the ferry (located at the foot of Bay Street and Queens Quay) across to one of the three beautiful Islands and take a picture of Toronto’s skyline.
What is the best seasonal advice you would offer travellers?
In the Spring, experience great golfing in and around the Toronto area. In the Summer, visit The Beach neighbourhood and take a walk along the boardwalk. One of biggest summer attractions in the summer is the Beaches Jazz Festival. In the Fall, take a day trip up north and see the beautiful change in the colours of leaves. In the Winter, go skating at Nathan Philips Square, which is open to the general public and provides rental skates.
What are three activities you would recommend this holiday season for the following groups and why?
For business people here for a few days, I would recommend visiting Yorkville for last minute shopping or to get a head start on holiday shopping. Also, go cross country skiing in High Park and visit the One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale at Exhibition Place.
For couples here for romantic trip, I would recommend watching Wicked at the Canon Theatre or the National Ballet of Canada’s The Sleeping Beauty at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, as well as skating at Nathan Philip Square. For families with young kids, I would recommend watching the National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Aladdin the Magical Family Musical at the Elgin Theatre, the Santa Claus Parade and visiting the Toronto Zoo and the Ontario Science Centre.