■ The bohemian one-time home of a certain bride-to-be is now reachable by a new flight route
NO, it can’t be, I think, catching sight of a woman with dark, swishy hair and a cream cashmere coat clutching the arm of a tall redhead. I glance back as the couple stroll through Trinity Bellwoods Park and wonder, giddily, if I’m in the presence of royalty.
I’m not, of course. However, this Saturday’s nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have brought a frisson of excitement to Toronto, the former home of the Suits star.
It may or may not be the reason British Airways has just launched a three-times-a-week route from Gatwick to the Canadian city, joining our two nations in matrimony. Once known as Hogtown thanks to its meatpacking heritage, Toronto has seen a renaissance in the past decade or so.
Home to 230 nationalities, it is one of the world’s most multicultural cities and its clutch of eclectic neighbourhoods make for a bohemian vibe. Vogue has even named West Queen West the second coolest neighbourhood in the world, after Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa.
Located five blocks north of Union Station, this two-kilometre stretch is still one of North America’s coolest districts. From my base at Hotel X on the waterfront, which opened in March, it’s an easy stroll to Bathurst Street, where I hop on the 501 Queen streetcar to Trinity Bellwoods Park.
A self-confessed fan of celebrity haunts, I book a guided tour of Toronto’s coolest district led by Tim Benveniste, originally from Adelaide, Australia, who now calls Hogtown home (free but do tip, tourguys.ca).
‘This is where Meghan would walk Guy and Bogart, her rescue dogs,’ reveals Tim as we stroll through Trinity Bellwoods Park. He’s dignified in the face of my glee as I explain to him that we Brits have gone a bit Markle mad in the run-up to the wedding.
Next up is Nadège (cakes from £3.45, nadege-patisserie.com), a chic French patisserie where Markle came for her macarons.
We then sweep down Queen Street West, following the rumble of the red-and-white streetcars, past hip barber shops, designer shoe emporiums and canine boutiques like Timmie Doggie Outfitters, and even odd shops that sell Spider-Man bongs or witches’ poison.
We stop outside Terroni (mains from £10.30, terroni.com), an unassuming Italian restaurant where Markle would apparently go bandy over the peperoncini piccanti chilli sauce.
I’m reliably informed (by Tim and Hello! magazine) that Markle lived at 10 Yarmouth Road in the Annex, a trendy residential neighbourhood north of WQW.
Keen to get a glimpse of her old manor, one night I dine out at Kay Pacha (mains from £12.65, kaypacha.ca), a new Peruvian restaurant on St Clair Avenue West in the Annex. Although my Twitter feed informs me she’s in London, I still keep my eyes peeled over pisco sours and bowls of limey yellowfin ceviche — you know, just in case.
Markle aside, Toronto is brimming with homegrown talent, including Canadian rapper Drake. In March, he opened his latest foodie venture, Pick 6ix (mains from £10.30, pick6ixto.com) a beautiful teal-and-gold sports bar-cum-sushi house on Yonge Street.
Author and poet Margaret Atwood, whose dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale is now a popular TV drama, is another Torontonian. Largely filmed in the city, the drama returns for its second series on Channel 4 on Sunday, and features Ripley’s Aquarium (£17.70, ripleyaquariums.com), City Hall and the Automotive Building in its fictional Republic of Gilead.
Apart from stalking celebrity haunts, there’s plenty to do in the city. The brave can tiptoe around the outer deck of the tallest building in the western hemisphere, the 553m-high CN Tower, on the Edge Walk (£128, cntower.ca), a dizzying 116 storeys above ground.
A less vertiginous option is to take a ferry to Toronto Islands (£4.50 return, toronto.ca), the city’s rural escape across the bay, to explore by bike or kayak.
Alternatively, you could get to know the city through its cocktails. Toronto’s bar and dining scene is vast, so it’s well worth booking a walking/drinking tour by Erin and Dick, the founders of Drink Toronto (£86, drinktoronto.ca), who lead us through Ossington Village and West Queen West.
‘Ossington Avenue was once the meatpacking district and up until recently it was a sketchy kinda place,’ says Erin as we enter Böehmer (cocktails £8, boehmer.ca), a decidedly un-sketchy, ultra-stylish bar and kitchen, for bang-on rosemary sours.
On my last night, another informant (OK, a waiter) tells me about a bar in the Kensington Market neighbourhood that Markle allegedly frequented. Cold Tea (cocktails £7.40), one of Toronto’s many hidden speakeasies, is tucked down a dark, narrow alley and signalled only by a red light.
While there may be no Markle, this buzzing urban bar is just the job for a royal rendezvous.
Returns from Gatwick to Toronto with British Airways from £476 return, ba.com
Stay at Hotel X from £162 a night including breakfast. Visit seetorontonow.com