A Travellerspoint blog

August 2015

Toronto

August 2nd - 23rd

We opted for a 3 week stay in Toronto to give us sufficient time to explore both the city and surrounding area and as usual, give us some stability for Alyssa and her schoolwork. As it turns out, most of the above was accomplished.

Our accommodation was a 3 bedroom Townhouse in Little Portugal, just on the fringe of Downtown (We could walk to Downtown in about an hour). Our house has all the modern amenities; gas stove, high speed internet and a wonderful back room where both plenty of bouldering (Alyssa) and world exploration (Nick) took place. Sadly though for Alyssa, no TV was present so she had to resign to watching TV shows on Youtube after dinner each night.

The world of Bouldering

The world of Bouldering

As we arrived on a Sunday, we promptly found the nearest Supermarket (about a 20 mins walk away) and then prepared the week's worth of study. Our host left us an extensive list of activities in the neighbourhood, one of which was a Farmers Markets on the Monday afternoon which Ronnie and I attended. It turns out that there are 3 Farmers Markets in the area, all in different locations, on different days and for the most part, with different vendors. As usual, the first week was mostly schoolwork and the occasional walk around the neighbourhood. Thankfully for Alyssa there was a wonderful park/playground just across the road which was frequented regularly when her school work was completed.

Our first trip to Downtown was on a Friday via the local Streetcar. We caught up with an ex Townsville friend, Mark McGregor who was in Toronto for 6 weeks as part of the organization group for the PanAm and Para PanAm games. He recommended we catch up at a great and cheap Thai restaurant and we ate, drank and just wondered how Townsville was copping without us. We also visited the famous St Lawrence Markets where meat, poultry, seafood, breads, pastas, fruit, vegetables, you pretty much name it was sold by the numerous vendors.

St Lawrence Market

St Lawrence Market

On the weekend we decided to partake in our usual activity of renting a car and travelling into the countryside. Our Saturday destination was the small town of Fergus, about an hours drive West of Toronto. The reason was the 70th Annual Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games. Highlights were the Tug of War, the hammer and stone throws with competitors from all over the world, Highland fling dancing, bagpipes (we missed seeing/hearing the Red Hot Chilli Pipers) and a Guinness World Record attempt for the most Cabers tossed at one time. Thankfully for the 15,000 people in attendance a new record of 69 was set.

Fergus

Fergus


Parade

Parade


Caber toss World Record achievement

Caber toss World Record achievement


Outdoor curling

Outdoor curling


Tug of War

Tug of War

Sunday's destination of choice was Niagara Falls, a mere 90 min drive away. A few things should be noted about Niagara Falls. Firstly, the town of Niagara Falls is tacky. Its basically a small version of Las Vegas, mostly with a view of the falls but it definitely feels over commercialised and out of place. Secondly, the falls are amazing. They may not be the highest waterfalls in the world, but the sheer volume of water cascading is intense. The Canadian side provides the most complete view of both the American and the much more impressive Canadian falls. We cannot really fathom visiting the falls from the USA side without crossing the border to get a better view of the Canadian falls to gain a greater appreciation of the amount of water that flows over the waterfalls (more than a million bathtubs per second). Afterwards we promised to take Alyssa out for lunch and we visited the Rainforest Café, a themed restaurant that is designed to depict some features of a tropical rainforest including plant growth, thunder and figures of rainforest animals. To enhance this theme, some of the figures are animatronic. Our lunch order was misplaced and took longer than normal to be delivered so we were provided with a complimentary sparkling Volcano dessert.

Niagara Falls 1

Niagara Falls 1


Niagara Falls 2

Niagara Falls 2


Rainforest cafe

Rainforest cafe


Sparkling Volcano dessert

Sparkling Volcano dessert

The following weekend we ventured Downtown for our second and last time for the Inaugural Annual Sweetery festival were a wide variety of sweets and drinks were on offer with many stalls hosted by the students of a Culinary School. Following the sugar fix we headed to the historic Distillery district, home to many of Toronto's hottest designer boutiques, unique cafes, artisan shops, art galleries and the Mill Street Brewery, the destination for Dinner along with a sample of a few of their beers.

Alyssa love

Alyssa love


Sweetery festival

Sweetery festival


Mill Street Brewery

Mill Street Brewery

Our last full day in Toronto we decided to attend the 130th Annual Canadian National Exhibition, the Canadian version of the show or Ekka which is actually one of the largest 'fairs' in North America. Highlights were the Mardi Gras Parade, International Sand sculpting competition, Rising Star talent competition and the Big Bang Theory Art exhibition.

Sand sculpting

Sand sculpting


Big Bang Theory Art exhibit

Big Bang Theory Art exhibit


Rules to Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

Rules to Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

Next stop ..... a 4 hour flight West to Calgary.

Posted by V3USA 15:55 Comments (0)

Ottawa

July 21st to August 2nd

The answer to the trivia question of 'What is the capital of Canada' is ....... Ottawa. After travelling from Montreal and Quebec City, predominately French speaking areas, we are quite happy to be arriving in Ottawa, located in the Province of Ontario and the familiarity of street signs in English.

Although we are staying in Ottawa for a week and a half, we are actually staying in 3 different places. We firstly booked an apartment in Kanata, a suburb in Western Ottawa for 4 nights, Wednesday to Saturday. The apartment is located in a fantastic neighbourhood with the grocery store about 15 mins walk away, bus from right out the front door and a park/playground/water play area right across the road. That said, as we are here during the week, school work is the priority but Alyssa did get a few opportunities at the park.

After our stay in Kanata we hired a car for a weekend in the country in the small town of Renfrew. Now Renfrew isn't on most people's radar but it is actually the birthplace of the National Hockey League. Hard to imagine for a town of 8,000 people but I digress. We are actually visiting Renfrew to stay with new friends Bob and Shelia. We met Bob and his son Dharma when we were travelling in the RV through Colorado. I happened to notice the number plate on Dharma's car showed British Columbia and I asked a few questions about Canada in anticipation of our future journey North. Long story short, after a few suggestions from them both on the best locations in Canada, Bob requested we stay with them for a weekend as they are only located an hours drive from Ottawa. The irony of our stay though was we stayed in their RV for the 2 nights, so the visit was a little reminder of our larger RV trip. The good news for Alyssa was their 10 year old grand-daughter Gilian was staying for the week so Alyssa and Gilian played together the entire weekend. Alyssa has made so many new friends on this trip.

After a great weekend with Bob and Sheila, we decided to drive a more country route back to Ottawa. Our journey took us through White Lake and Almonte, a small town on the Mississippi River (not the famous one). Here I was amazed to discover that it is the hometown of Dr James Naismith, who you may recall from our Boston blog was the inventor of Basketball. Actually, Almonte is a wonderful little town with a great atmosphere and laid back feel. A good couple of hours was enjoyed exploring the galleries, boutiques and antique shops.

Naismith

Naismith

Anyways, we arrive back in Ottawa and are staying in an apartment on the Northern side of the Ottawa River, Gatineau in fact, which is actually in the province of Quebec where you guessed it, they predominately speak French. What are the chances of that. Now here's the thing. Whilst we were staying in Montreal we often saw TV ads about visiting Outaouais, which is the French prenounciation of Ottawa...'Only a 2 hour drive from Montreal' they kept saying. Turns out the marketing was to only visit the Northern side of the river and not Ottawa itself. You see, we have never really stayed in a location that is separated by 2 cities, little alone 2 provinces and especially considering the 2 provinces are so different. Its kind of like alternate worlds. The good news is the apartment, although being across the river, is only a 15 minute walk to Downtown Ottawa so the need for public transport was redundant.

Being the Capital city you would expect Ottawa to have wonderful sites and plenty of history. This is certainly the case. The Parliament building is high on the bank of the river and overlooking Gatineau. It is located right near the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a building that looks like a castle directly from a Disney movie and the 2 are separated by the Rideau Canal, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and in Winter, when frozen, becomes the worlds longest ice skating rink. This 175 year old, 202 km long system connects Kingston with Ottawa through 47 locks.

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal


Rideau Canal2

Rideau Canal2

Gatineau (North side of the river) is home to the Canadian Museum of History and after getting a tip from Bob to visit after 4pm on a Thursday when entry is free, we ambled the 5 minutes from our apartment to visit. The Grand Hall of the museum is the architectural focal point and house the world's larges indoor collection of totem poles. The First Peoples of the Northwest Coast is an exhibition that shows traditional houses, contemporary and historical works of art, ceremonial clothing and also includes recreated archaeological digs that were undertaken between 1966 and 1978. The children's museum is a world of fun and discovery with activities designed to excite their interest in the world around them as they are presented with Passports on entry and have to collect stamps as they travel through the International Village.

Totum poles

Totum poles


Museum

Museum


Childrens museum

Childrens museum



Parliament Hill, overlooking the Ottawa River is where the Parliament building is located. The main building, known as the Peace Tower is the highest structure in the city and during summer the Northern Lights show is projected onto the Parliament building and is presented in both English and French. We caught the 30 minute show on our last night in Ottawa and it is a sight to see. Hopefully the couple of photos that follow, including a short video gives you an idea of how magnificent the production is.

Parliament hill

Parliament hill


Parliament building

Parliament building


Parliament building2

Parliament building2

Next stop ...... Toronto.

Posted by V3USA 17:13 Comments (0)

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