After a chunk of time in the US, I have to say it feels good to be back in the Great White North basking in the warm glow of the metric system, multi-coloured money, and unnecessary apologies. We came back into Canada trough Detroit and into Windsor, Ontario, where we had lunch with my Uncle’s sister, her son and daughter-in-law, and their adorable children. The visit was lovely but short because Jennie and Sean had to get back to work and we had some more kilometers to cover that day.
Our next stop was Niagara Falls, Ontario. Apparently Niagara Falls is the “honeymoon capital of the world” but I have to say that’s kind of sad. The falls themselves are beautiful, amazing and well worth seeing, but the town is, frankly, pretty awful. Stretching perpendicular from the valley is an ADD-inducing strip of tourist traps, each with 3-dimensional facades covered in neon colours, flashing lights, and speakers blaring ads, music, and other obnoxious noises.
One good thing on the strip is the Sky Wheel, a London Eye-like ferris wheel which gives aerial views of the falls.
And, of course, a trip to Niagara Falls wouldn’t be complete without a trip on the Maid of the Mist.
The non-touristy part areas of Niagara Falls are pretty bleak. We visited Queen St, the “arts and culture” section of town, at about 4:00 on a Thursday afternoon in the height of tourist season and it was like a ghost town. Most of the stores we closed and there was basically nobody around. We even passed a theatre that, according to the posted schedule, had a performance of Rent starting in 15 mins, and there was nobody in sight. It felt like we’d somehow wandered into a dystopian movie.
While in Niagara we managed to get a quick visit with one of my clients, who works for one of the wineries there, and got to hear all about her recent business trip to South-East Asia. We got some good suggestions for that part of our trip. She also was nice enough to set up a couple of wine tastings for us, which were amazing.
On our way out of Niagara Falls we managed to get a much needed reprieve from the chaos and stress of the town by visiting a little Buddhist monastery that is open to visitors on the weekends. It was basically the antithesis of the tourist strip.
From Niagara we went clockwise around Lake Ontario, past this crazy pirate ship, to Toronto.
In Toronto we rented a little studio apartment next to Chinatown and Little Italy and stayed for five nights. It was not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but it was cheap, clean and included a kitchenette, free parking, and free wifi. Toronto was just OK. Sorry to anyone with a deep love of Toronto, but it just doesn’t quite have the charm that some other big cities manage.
Which isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves. Some highlights include Honest Ed’s Bargain Centre, Mill Street Brewing’s Coffee Porter, the little museum at the CBC building (which included some old broadcasting equipment and some old props from their shows), and tasty dumplings in Chinatown.
We also got to see a crazy thunder storm, which we were luckily inside for. The lightening was coming so frequently that the sky looked like it was a strobe light. We even managed to get a couple of bolts of lightning on video:
We’re also pretty sure we saw Jack Layton’s hearse. It was a police escorted funeral precession and he apparently passed away in his home in the same neighbourhood that we were staying in. We were sad to hear that he passes away, especially so young, but it was sweet to see articles of remembrance in Toronto’s neighbourhoods. We left Toronto a day too early to be there for his funeral, but did get to watch it on TV. It was really touching, and I felt like it truly reflected what he stood for.