The funny thing a-boat Canadians
Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
189Trip End Mar 16, 2009
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When we started planning the visit to Canada we looked at our big map on the kitchen wall and plotted many different sights across the country that we though might be interesting. We hit a few snags when we realised that the main sights in Canada are either in the west namely the Rockies and the area around Vancouver and then the east which spans from Niagara Falls into the massive state of Quebec. Between the two seemed to be a few thousand kilometres of very little. We considered first visiting the eastern Canada and then continuing down the US east coast and then re-entering the Canadian via Vancouver after our visiting to California. We were told this would require a multi-entry visa which was exorbitantly expensive so we decided to pick one side of the country and make the best of it
We arrived in Toronto after a short flight from London to some very unexpected weather, wet, hot and humid. We were expecting that during this time of the year temperatures would be hovering in the low 20's and winter would be fast approaching but clearly the last sew days of summer were clinging on. This phenomenon was not to last too long and by the time we left Toronto all the fleeces were out the bags.
Toronto, situated on the shores of Lake Ontario is much like many other cities is just a modern city and has no major draw cards which means many Canadians would tell you to skip the city all together. This might be true when you compared to cities like Paris or New York but when you look hard enough there will always be something interesting and unique to see, even a city like Toronto. We really only had one full day to discover Toronto so we got an early start after a free breakfast of traditional pancake and maple syrup and headed straight to the biggest phallic attraction Toronto had, the CN tower which in its day was the tallest in the world.
The weather was still a little gloomy with occasional spurts of rain but once we got to the top of the tower it started clearing quickly which made the view even more spectacular. The tower is a whopping 553.33m tall and you get to the top via a glass elevator; sadly there was no chocolate factory at the top. The observation deck sits at 342m (1,122 ft) and a short walk round the deck gives you great panoramic views of the city and lake which is so big it looks more like the sea. One floor below the observation deck is the newly installed glass floor which is not for the faint hearted
After the taking in the great views of the Toronto and taking a few hundred photos we made our way down to the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, since this is Canada's national sport we though it would be worth a visit. Needless to say the only thing South Africans know about ice is that we put it in drinks so we were expecting quite an education. What we never realised was that the sport was actually invented in Canada and that the Canadians are extremely passionate about the game. The sad thing we also learnt was that like in rugby, the sport South Africans are most passionate about, Hockey also has a big trophy namely the Stanley Cup, considered the holy grail of Hockey, and Canada have not won the trophy since 1993. If you were a hockey fan you could easily spend an entire day viewing all the paraphernalia, shrines to players and video footage. For us lawn based sport lovers the history of the game was very well presented and even exciting and well worth the $10 entrance fee, plus we even got to see the much sought-after Stanley Cup which even though was housed in a Fort Knox style safe and was behind an inch of glass might still have been a replica?
After a brief walk through the heated underground network of tunnels that connect many of the malls, hotels and stations in Toronto we decided to get up-side and enjoy the sun light while it lasted. We hopped on the ferry to the Toronto Islands and pretty much spent the afternoon strolling through parks and along the beaches. From the islands you get some amazing panoramic views of the Toronto skyline and the park grounds are filled with birdlife and hundreds of squirrels hastily collecting nuts before winter
By the end of the two days in Toronto we were beginning to notice some big difference (if you know what I mean) between the typical Europeans we had encountered over the past three months and the average person in Toronto. We'd heard that the US had a major problem with obesity and it seemed that this might also be a problem for their neighbours across the border.
You also quickly notice that all the major fast food chains are in abundance and most of these seem to advertise some enormous meal deals like the 4 stacker hamburger, that has 4 meat patties and 4 pieces of cheese between two buns. The fat intake in this little meal would be the equivalent of 200% of your daily allowance. To make this worse instead of just including ordinary fries the Canadians seem to love something called poutine which are fries smothers in a brown gravy sauce with pieces of blobs of melted cheese
But the real funny thing about Canadians that makes them a little different from the Americans is the way they pronounce some words. Mostly they sound just like American except when they say words like 'about' and 'out' which sound more like 'a-boat' and 'oot'. And of course there is there signature trade mark which to end sentences with the expression 'ay'. For example; "so where were you oot and a-boat today, ay?". Very funny stuff I tell you!
The hostel we stayed in for our two nights in Toronto had been voted as one of the top 5 in North America and had some amazing facilities like a mini cinema, laundry, great kitchen, internet and free pancake breakfasts. We sadly got given a bad room which was on the ground floor and faced an alley where a massive spotlight shone into our room and where the sound of multiple industrial air conditioners could be heard all day and night. So we did not get much quality sleep in Toronto through the nightly fights in the alley, bright light and air-conditioning drone but there was also something else preventing us from getting a good nights rest and we only figured out what that was a few days later. (read on to find out more....)
After our whirlwind tour of Toronto we picked up a rental car, no Saab this time, and headed for big falls in Niagara! It seems overnight the wind direction had changed and now the wet humid conditions were replaced with icy winds from the north, good news for us as this meant that fall was upon us and the colours would soon start changing.