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This is what I discovered when I retraced Meghan Markle's footsteps in Toronto

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made their debut as a couple in Toronto

Sharnaz Shahid

With royal wedding fever taking over the globe, there's no denying that the world is gripped by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's love story. Having met through a mutual friend in London, the lovebirds split their time between Harry's home in the UK and Meghan's base in Toronto, Canada when they embarked on their much talked about romance. And how did they keep their long-distance romance going? After the announcement of their engagement in November, the loved-up couple revealed how they made it work. "I think we were able to really have so much time just to connect and we never went longer than two weeks without seeing each other, even though we were obviously doing a long distance relationship," explained Harry during their post-engagement interview. "So [that's how] - we made it work."

View of Toronto's skyline

Here at HELLO!, I was lucky enough to retrace some of Meghan's steps at her Canadian stomping ground, an inconspicuous city which no doubt helped the pair keep the first three months of their relationship under wraps - the place she also called home for seven years.

Trinity Bellwoods Park

A hipster’s paradise located in the west end of Toronto, bordered by the very trendy Queen Street West to the south and Dundas Street to the north. With lush green views and numerous dog walkers, I immediately felt a sense of calm - clearly a hangout for friends to unwind after long day’s work where you can also listen to ambient street music and mull over drinks.

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The former actress would walk her dogs at Trinity Bellwoods Park

The vibe was palpably atmospheric, yet, the place managed to be low-key at the same time. The two streets - Queen and Dundas - were lined with buzzy restaurants and unique vintage shops. The iconic park, which was once home to Toronto’s first university, is also home to flea-markets, yoga sessions and several white squirrels. Just a two minute walk away lies a Japanese supermarket called Sanko, which could easily be mistaken for a warehouse due to it’s large mural, depicting giant robots, colourful patterns, sushi and a rainfall, drawn with traditional Japanese painting and anime. During a chocolate walking tour with Tasty Tours and Tour Guys, I learnt how multicultural the city is - it has been named the most diverse city in the world. I understand why Meghan calls Toronto her home, having often talked about the perils of finding her voice as a mixed race woman, whilst aspiring to be an actress in America, which she detailed in her now-defunct lifestyle blog, the Tig.

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A hidden Japanese supermarket called Sanko

On the walk, I stumbled across various gems - little cafes such as the SOMA chocolate store, Le Dolci and Odile Chocolat, which make exquisite hand-made truffles - even favoured by the likes of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall! Also located around Trinity Bellwoods Park, was French patisserie, Nadège, which caught my eye as it was one of Meghan’s most regular hangouts - she would have no doubt headed inside after walking her beloved dogs Bogart and Guy.

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Nadège is popular among the locals

Food and night life

When it comes to food and night life, the streets located close to the park were unexpectedly unpretentious. Terroni, another of Meghan’s favourite go-to places, clearly has a warm atmosphere, while Böehmer restaurant boasts a gorgeous open space, decorated with guitars and a classic motorbike for a rock 'n'roll feel. I can imagine, during TIFF, this place is littered with A-list celebrities, who are able to devour delicious food sourced from local farms as well as international wines. Noce, which sits quietly opposite Nadège, is one of the city’s most popular Italian restaurants - so much so that Meghan’s Suits co-star Patrick J. Adams and his wife Troian Bellisario were often guests there during filming. Other notable guests include Harry Potter actor Jason Isaacs. The kitchen offers a wide selection of Italian snacks to match the extensive wine list along with seasonal and traditional cocktails. But if you are looking for something a little more casual, then Spanish-based Carmen and Toronto’s finest The Good Son are also ones to visit.

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Cold T was a place Meghan would come with her friends

And although we know Meghan has enjoyed several get-togethers at Soho House Toronto, the future royal has enjoyed nights at various other locations in secrecy. One of her go-to places with her girlfriends was sultry cocktail bar, Cold Tea - a hidden gem which is located inside Kensington Mall with a single red light above the door. Here, this popular Kensington Market bar had an incredible speakeasy vibe where the bartenders treat their guests to specialty cocktails based on your liquor preferences – you could even request the “Bartenders Choice" for $18.

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Suits was filmed in downtown Toronto

I can see why the Los Angeles-native fully embraced her adopted city of Toronto where Suits, the legal drama in which she played feisty paralegal Rachel Zane for seven seasons was filmed. Her home in the Annex boasts a quaint, bohemian vibe - the purple coloured two-storey house in Seaton Village could easily have gone unnoticed. Streets in this area are lined with distinctive tall narrow houses, close to Bickford Park -another place Meghan has been spotted taking her pooches for walks - and vintage style shops and cafes. Toronto certainly holds a special place for head-over-heels-in-love Harry and Meghan; it was the place where they made their debut as a couple at the Invictus Games in 2017.

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Suggested place to stay

Hotel X Toronto by Library Hotel Collection, this is the newest luxury lakefront hotel in downtown Toronto. Situated on the historic Exhibition grounds, the hotel is a short drive away from Air Canada Centre and Nathan Philips Square - both places Harry and Meghan decided to make joint appearances at. This place is perfect for families and couples alike, who are looking for a luxury five-star experience in the area. The extraordinary hotel, which was actually initially supposed to host Meghan and Harry last year during the games, boasts impressive views of the skyline and lake. Prices for Hotel X Toronto start from £162 per night based on two sharing with breakfast.

Other sights to see

Take a short trip to Niagara Falls and the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. To make the experience unforgettable, take a £83 helicopter ride over the falls with Niagara Helicopters. Also a Toronto CityPass provides access to key attractions across the city including the CN Tower, Case Lomo, Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada and Toronto Zoo or Ontario Science Centre.

Flights

The new British Airways Gatwick to Toronto route has now launched. This is the airline’s first service to Canada from Gatwick, which will run three times a week in the summer with fares in World Traveller starting from £476 return.

For further information about Toronto, visit Tourism Toronto at seetorontonow.com.

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