3.5 hours with in-flight entertainment and birds-eye views of the world below you for £200?
My time in Toronto started with a mini-adventure: manoeuvring the subway with 2 oversized suitcases. I would have been fine had it not been for the elevator being out of service... You know when you wheel a suitcase onto an escalator and it’s not quite balanced on the step? Try that with two 23kg bags. I didn’t know quite what to do as I saw them start to fall into oncoming people-traffic, but I know anything would have been better than what transpired. I held on. Yes, I kept a tight grip of the handles in a vain attempt to stop them from falling over, which resulted in me following closely behind them. Time seemed to move in slow motion as arms flailing, I stumbled backwards, grasping wildly at the sides (and getting friction burn in the process). People on the opposite escalator reached out to me, trying to give me a hand- but by the time I’d reached out too, they had been propelled in the opposite direction. Once my bags and I had finally stopped bumping down the steps head first, I had to get myself the right way up, pick up the bags, pick up all the things that had fallen out of the bag
and get back in front of said items before I reached the top of the short escalator. Needless to say, I did not manage it, but some kindly commuters helped me out. Note to self: avoid taking two suitcases on escalators AT ALL COSTS.
My stay improved rapidly after that. I was couchsurfing again with some people I met on the internet- a lovely Taiwanese girl Peggy, her husband Mark and her sweet sister Megan. As soon as they saw how tall I was, they insisted Megan sleep on the couch instead of me. So I had my own room, in a lovely apartment right in the heart of the city. We had breakfasts and dinners together and they treated me like a guest at all times, not even allowing me to do the washing up. Incredible!
I spent my first afternoon just wandering around the city, getting my bearings. It was about a 30 minute walk down to the lake-front, and the roads were fairly busy with rush hour. I definitely had a reverse-culture shock after Blackfalds! So many people! So busy! Everyone so stylish and smart! So much going on it was overwhelming. And that’s just after 3 weeks of living in the country. No wonder most people raised on the prairies stay put. I walked and walked and walked and walked- when I got home, I calculated I’d walked 7.5 miles in all. My only respite was going up the CN Tower. Instead of paying $22 just to go up to the lookout, I went to the revolving restaurant at the top for dinner (which included free entry to the lookout).
The food wasn’t bad- I just ordered a glass of water and a main course- but the views were spectacular. It was a great introduction to the city, and I didn’t feel conspicuous going alone- even couples were just sitting there, watching the view go by out the window. I timed it so I hit the observation deck in time for sunset, and sat watching the colours intensify as time ticked by. Unfortunately in the process of taking a self-timed photo, my camera fell off and landed on the lens. There goes camera number two. But other than that, it was a great evening.
The next morning I was musing about what to do with my camera- repairs take at least a week, I couldn’t afford to buy another
new one, but how could I not take photos in Niagara Falls?! To my disbelief, Peggy insisted I had her old camera. So now I have three cameras! I spent the morning with Megan, getting a guided tour of the city. St Lawrence market was a highlight (take me to a food market anywhere, and I 'm happy).
Next stop was the Rogers Centre- I’d scored tickets to the Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins baseball game, and so spent a very pleasant few hours sitting in the sun, reading my book- and occasionally cheering and clapping whenever anyone got a home run. I’d never watched a baseball game in my life, so while I didn’t really know all the rules, it was a great experience. It was also school day, so the stands were packed with school kids, all cheering and waving banners from their schools. I walked back up through Kensington Market- a hippy Camden-esque area before collapsing back in the apartment.
Summer appears to have arrived in Toronto (at least for the time being). With temperatures hitting 28C, I decided a trip to Toronto Island was in order. I had no idea it would be so beautiful!
Megan and I caught the 10-minute ferry ride over to the island, which was originally a spit coming off the mainland, and now houses an airport, several yacht clubs and summer homes. We wandered the length of the island over the next few hours, along beautiful beaches (including one ‘clothing optional’ beach) and along a boardwalk that made the most of the arresting views of Lake Niagara. Finally we stopped for a picnic before catching the ferry back to the city.
Since this was my last big stop before I left Canada, I spent the next 2 hours trying to find souvenirs. There was not a single gift store on the whole of Yonge Street, the main shopping street! Maybe that’s testament to how Toronto handles tourism, I don’t know. I caught the metro up to The Royal Ontario Museum, which offers free entry for an hour on Wednesdays. It was very similar to the Natural History Museum (on a smaller scale) and since I was pretty exhausted from all my slow walking (Megan has little legs!) I glanced at a few of the exhibitions. My favourite was the dinosaurs- they had a special exhibition of the largest and best-preserved fossilised dinosaurs nest and eggs, and you could see the little baby dinosaur embryos which was pretty cool! I decided to give the art gallery a miss (also free on Wed evenings) and went back to the apartments to pack.
The next morning I bid my farewells and eventually made it to the station, for my train/bus to Niagara Falls. Four stops left!
It is 3:30am, I am awake and on my way to the airport. Hmph. Remind me why I chose a 7am flight to Toronto again? Miraculously there are 2 other YWAM staff catching flights at the same time so I catch a ride with them (for free) While my original plan was to get the train across Canada, I felt I'd seen most of it in our road trip to Moose Jaw (prairies are prairies, right?) And be honest, which looks better to you: 4 days sitting in the same spot watching field by field go by for £300