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The CN Tower

If you’re visiting Toronto, I suppose you can’t really not go up the CN Tower. I’ve been in towers in the last two places I went to, as well: the Tour Montréal and the Peace Tower, which is part of the Parliament building in Ottawa. (One of the things I liked about the Montréal Tower was the fact that the educational displays in the Olympic stadium were completely out of date – there was no Taipei 101, no Petronas Towers, no World Trade Center; it did, though, have the BT Tower and Blackpool Tower.)

At 553.33 metres, the CN Tower was the world’s tallest free-standing struture on land from 1975 until 12 September 2007, when it was surpassed by the still-incomplete Burj Dubai. When completed, the Burj Dubai will be over 800 metres high.

I got a very slightly cheaper ticket for the tower at my hostel – I paid $20 as opposed to, I think, $23. The weather had been overcast for my two previous tower ascensions, and Tuesday in Toronto was no different; it also wasn’t too bad.

The thing you notice first about the CN Tower when you see it up close is the concrete it’s made out of: it looks decidedly aged – it appears yellowed, like paper – or like milky tea – and its surface is kind of streaky, presumably with layers of concrete. The stuff it’s made of suggests cheap tenement housing more than space-age phallic symbol. There weren’t many people waiting to get in when I was there, so I went through the rather convoluted entry procedure quite quickly. You get photographed against a green screen and given a card. No one told me what to do with this card, so I never received any photograph. You also get put through some bizarre decontamination thing. It’s like an airport metal detector gateway, but you’re made to stand there as a series of air jets shoot you from the side. Don’t ask, ’cause I don’t know.

CN originally referred to Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower. [T]he abbreviation is now said to expand to Canada’s National Tower rather than the original Canadian National Tower; however, neither of these are commonly used.the abbreviation is now said to expand to Canada’s National Tower rather than the original Canadian National Tower; however, neither of these are commonly used.

Source: Wikipedia.


In the lift an attendant greets you and tells you that you’re shooting upwards, covering 300-odd metres in 59 seconds. I feel a bit sorry for the people who work in the lifts, repeating the same brief spiel endless times a day to apathetic tourists.

The main observation deck contains a café, numerous coin-operated binoculars, another green screen for you to be photographed against, toilets, the lift up to the ‘Skypod’ and steps down to the (more or less) open-air walkway, the lifts down and the glass floor. And, of course, lots of windows.

The view is, naturally, impressive. Apparently, on a clear day you can see all the way to Niagara Falls, which is on the other side of Lake Ontario. The view when I was there was somewhat reduced by the clouds and general moisture in the air, but it wasn’t at all bad. The best part of the view is probably all the nearby skyscrapers of the commercial district. The observation floor is about as high as the tallest of them (the Skypod is another 50 metres or so further up, but I didn’t go up – partly because of the additional cost ($9), partly because there was a good chance it was actually in the clouds). Also of interest is the view of the island containing the small City Airport and the long, parky peninsula. I could also see my house (well, hostel).

A few unusual CN Tower world records:
• 1980: Donn Reynolds yodelled from the Skypod roof for seven hours and 29 minutes
• 1984: Wearing pads, stuntman Roger Brown fell down 1760 steps in one hour and 51 minutes
• 1986: “Spider Dan” Goodwin climbed the tower’s 335 metres of windows twice in one day
• 1999: Ashrita Furman of New York climbed up 1899 steps in 57 minutes – on a pogo stick

Source: CBC.ca.


Downstairs, I made a circuit of the outer walkway. The side that is exposed to the wind is pretty darned windy. It’s not very good for taking photos, though, as it’s enclosed with a mesh. Also on this level is the glass floor (which apparently can hold eight hippopotamuses). I’m pretty good with heights, and I’ve never experienced vertigo before (except when I’m in bed … but that’s another story). When I stepped on to the scratched horizontal windows, though – well, I freaked out a little. I didn’t feel very comfortable, took a photo of my feet and the base and stem of the building below and left. I went back later to make sure and didn’t feel so nervous that time.

In a way, going up a tower is dull. Once you’ve taken a few photos, you’ve pretty much exhausted all that the place has to offer. However, the novelty of looking at the world from your elevated perspective wears off slowly – if at all – and it’s easy to just make continual circuits absorbing the view.

The CN Tower was built in 1976 by Canadian National (CN) who wanted to demonstrate the strength of Canadian industry by building a tower taller than any other in the world. It was an ambitious project that involved 1,537 workers who worked 24 hours a day, five days a week for 40 months to completion. Key project team members were NCK Engineering as structural engineer; John Andrews Architects; Webb, Zerafa, Menkes, Housden Architects; Foundation Building Construction and Canron (Eastern Structural Division).

Source: cntower.ca.


Over the time I spent in la Tour CN (as they say en français), glittering sunlight gradually approached the city over the water. I thought that if I could kill time for a while it might be worth hanging around to retake all my photos and go up to the Skypod – but the sunshine was approaching very slowly, and so I left. And unlike on the ascent, it took my ears a while to adjust to the change in pressure – but I was content.

Categories: Travel
  1. savasana
    19 October 2007 at 1:07 am

    “(except when I’m in bed … but that’s another story)”

    And when do you propose to tell this one? You can’t just leave that hanging out there without an explanation lol!

    The glass floor does get to many.

  2. 23 October 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Sometimes I have vertiginous daydreams, fantasies, visions, miscellaneous musings – whatever you choose to call them – whilst in bed.

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