Toronto and Niagara Falls Tour

Trip Start Nov 04, 2011
Trip End Jul 27, 2012

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What I did

Flag of United States  , Ontario
Saturday, April 7, 2012

Up at 5.30 ready for our tour to Toronto and Niagara Falls. We needed to be at the bus stop by 6.45 which was a short walk down to Rene Levesque. There were 2 bus tours leaving and it was pretty hectic trying to get on the bus. Funny in hindsight as we all had allocated seats anyway! We found out our tour guide was called "William" and the bus driver "Sam".

We had to wait for a group of people who had gotten lost and gone to the wrong place for the bus. So we ended up leaving at about 7.15. First on the agenda was a Thousand Islands tour, a 3 hour coach ride from Montreal. We arrived at Ivy Lea at about 10 and the cruise departed at 10.15.  We had beautiful weather, sunny and clear blue skies, and the islands were very pretty. So many of them and some so small. We saw The Thousand Islands Bridge which connects New York State and Ontario. We even saw a little house on an island with its own letter box!

The Thousand Islands is the name of an archipelago of islands that straddle the Canada-U.S. border in the Saint Lawrence River as it emerges from the northeast corner of Lake Ontario. They stretch for about 50 miles (80 km) downstream from Kingston, Ontario. The Canadian islands are in the province of Ontario, the U.S. islands in the state of New York. The islands, which number 1,864 in all, range in size from over 40 square miles (100 km2) to smaller islands occupied by a single residence, to even smaller uninhabited outcroppings of rocks that are home to migratory waterfowl. The number of islands was determined using the criteria that any island must be above water level all year round, have an area greater than 1 square foot (0.093 m2), and support at least one living tree.

We saw the Boldt Castle, on Heart Island. George Boldt was general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. Some food terms I didn't know the history behind came from this connection including Thousand Islands Dressing and Waldorf Salad!  In 1900 the Boldts launched an ambitious construction campaign to build a huge masonry structure, one of the largest private homes in America. They engaged the architectural firm G. W. & W. D. Hewitt and hundreds of workers for a six-story "castle", a major international landmark. In addition four other masonry structures on the island are architecturally notable. Equally distinctive is a huge yacht house on a neighboring island where the Boldts had another summer home and a vast estate, incorporating farms, canals, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, and a polo field.

The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt's wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired Heart Island and the nearby yacht house in 1977, for one dollar, under the agreement that all revenues obtained from the castle operation would be applied towards restoration, so that the island would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. In the two decades after acquiring the property, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority spent some fifteen million dollars for restoration and improvements here, and work continues annually. At the edge of the island, a monument stone triumphal arch, in the style of Arc du Triomphe, originally intended by George Boldt to be the entrance way for boats, has been fully restored.

The cruise went for about an hour and we were back at Ivy Lea by 11.30. Next stop was Kingston a 2.5 hour drive away, where we stopped for a Chinese buffet at NorthChina Buffet. We were all pretty starving by this stage.  The food was pretty good, typical Chinese buffet, but no beef and black bean :(. The dessert selection was really good though, cakes, jelly, fruit and ice cream.... Mmm... 

We left the restaurant at 2 and it was a 2 hour drive then to Toronto. We went directly to have a look at the new and old city halls. We had about a half an hour here to get some pictures.  The City Hall of Toronto, is the home of the city's municipal government and one of its most distinctive landmarks. Designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell (with Heikki Castrén, Bengt Lundsten, Seppo Valjus) and landscape architect Richard Strong, and engineered by Hannskarl Bandel, the building opened in 1965.  It was built to replace Old City Hall.

Toronto's Old City Hall was one of the largest buildings in Toronto and the largest civic building in North America upon completion in 1899.  It was home to its city council from 1899 to 1966 and remains one of the city's most prominent structures. The heritage landmark has a distinctive clock tower.  The building is located across from Nathan Phillips Square and the new City Hall in the centre of downtown Toronto.

The last sight for the day was CN tower and we arrived there about 5. We had an hour and a half to spend here and lucky because we spent a lot of time waiting for the lifts both up and back down again. Nice views from the top and there is even a glass floor viewing platform. It took a little courage to get on it the first time, but easier as we got used to it!

The CN Tower is a communications and observation tower in Downtown Toronto. Standing 553.33 metres (1,815.4 ft) tall, it was completed in 1976, becoming the world's tallest free-standing structure and world's tallest tower at the time. It held both records for 34 years until the completion of Burj Khalifa and Canton Tower. It remains the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, a signature icon of Toronto's skyline, and a symbol of Canada, attracting more than two million international visitors annually.  Its name "CN" originally referred to Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower.

We left Toronto for Niagara falls at 6.45. We arrived in Niagara falls after 8 and our guide handed out the room keys. We were up on the 4th floor in room 410. The room was pretty nice and had two big queen beds. We dumped our things and got organised and then headed back out for dinner.

We had spotted the Big Texas Bar & Grill on the bus on the way past, so decided to wander back up the street to check it out. It looked good so we went in and got a table. The waitress told us they had only just opened on Wednesday so the menu was pretty basic, but she was very obliging and I managed to get a salad which was not on the menu.

I had a couple of vodka cranberries and a Caesar salad and chicken wings for dinner, a huge meal, which I didn't want but still ate. They had a band which played a few songs before we left and sounded very good. The place was getting pretty busy when we left too.  Back to the hotel where we showered and it was pretty late so off to bed!

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