Back in March 2014 I took one of the most incredible trips yet, which I know I tend to say about every trip, but genuinely, this was an amazing experience. I pushed back the start date of my new job to allow me to have three weeks to visit Toronto and North America. It was one of those trips that started as ‘let’s just go visit this one place’ and finished as ‘how many different places can we see whilst we’re out that way’. My Dad and his partner Gill had moved to Toronto seven months before our trip and had of course offered for us to go and stay with them, which of course was the reason we we’re going and the best part of the trip! Whilst checking out flights and greyhound routes we decided to add Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston onto our trip as well. That escalated quickly!
Always one to like a plan of action I booked flights, hostels and greyhound tickets a month or so before we left and we had a pretty good idea of things we wanted to see and do. We flew there and back with Iceland Air, both ways included a quick stop in Iceland which broke the flight up at least, and the flight path flew us over Greenland which was just incredible. It’s so vast, so white and so beautiful, somewhere I’d like to visit one day.
greenland from the air.
I’m not easily overwhelmed by places anymore but driving through the city of Toronto at night, despite the rain was incredible for me. Perhaps mixed with the emotion of seeing my Dad again for what felt like the first time in ages and a slight bit of jet lag, but Toronto just blew me away. All the bright lights, ridiculously tall buildings, busy roads and the CN Tower, I’ll never forget that feeling. The apartment they were living in was absolutely amazing too, on the twenty second floor of a fifty storey building, incredible views of the city and in particular the CN tower, from our bedroom window, it was absolute luxury for us. The novelty of going to sleep and waking up with the blinds open to see the giant CN tower never wore off, the buzz of the city below just adding to the atmosphere.
our first, rather foggy, view of the cn tower and rogers centre from the apartment.
We spent a couple of days exploring the city on foot which was a great way to discover lots of brilliant street art and interesting shops, as well as try out our winter woolies due to it still being winter in Canada and the average temperature that week being about 2 degrees! Despite the cold we spent hours walking round, exploring Queen Street and it’s wonderful alternative boutiques, vintage filled basements and hipster central clothing shops. Dundas St and Yonge St brought street wear shops and the huge Eaton Shopping Centre, full of high street brands, designers and much much more. One morning we caught a street car up Spadina Avenue and onto Bloor Street to Honest Ed’s, more a cultural icon than a good place to shop, but we spent a long time browsing the ridiculous amount of bargains and getting lost on the different floors, walkways and staircases!
incredible shop front.
Another fantastic place to visit is Kensington Market, with shops open every day it’s always a good time to visit, but the best day is ‘Pedestrian Sunday’, held once a month the streets are, as you probably guessed, closed to all vehicles, so shoppers can easily dawdle from store to store without having to check for traffic, brilliant! The stores are mostly vintage, alternative and culturally inspired, plus there are some great trinket, book and food shops as well. The harbour front is another great place to explore, in the summer there are loads of boats, canoes, outdoor cinema etc. but in winter it offers a great view of the frozen Lake Ontario. Just up the road on Bremner Blvd is the Steam Whistle Brewery, offering a great tour and free beer tastings, always a winner, it’s a great place to pick up a souvenir for the beer fan in your life.
frozen lake ontario.
Unfortunately we were a couple of weeks too early for the baseball season, so the next best thing? A guided tour of the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The tour lasts an hour and you see so much in that short space of time, including the hospitality suites and press box, as well learning so much about the history of the stadium. Whilst we were there they we’re setting up for an indoor dirt bike competition so that was pretty awesome to see. The stadium hold tons of different concerts and events so as a former Event Management student it was super interesting to learn about the logistics of all that side of things.
home of the blue jays.
Two sports we did manage to schedule into the trip was a Marlies ice hockey game at the Ricoh Centre and a Toronto Raptors basketball game. Both were absolutely a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Tickets for the Maple Leafs, Toronto’s big ice hockey team cost a fortune and not knowing the first thing about the sport we decided it probably wasn’t worth it, so we went to see the Marlies instead, who didn’t disappoint at all! They’re basically the team that the Maple Leafs pick their future players from so they’re all really good! It’s a pretty violent sport and people were getting slammed up against the sides and fights were kicking off all the time, so entertaining to watch. The basketball game we saw was also absolutely amazing, even though our seats were pretty far back we had an awesome view of the court and the match was so intense! The Air Canada centre is a brilliant venue as well, the stadiums are just so big out here so they’re really amazing places. If you’re into sport at all checking out a match is something you just have to do whilst in Canada or the US.
The Distillery district is filled with Victorian era architecture, restaurants, cafes, shops and my favourite building, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. It was so quiet when we went down there and has some great photo opportunities, but on an evening and especially throughout the summer the place is buzzing with live entertainment and busy restaurants. On the way to the Distillery district there is St Lawrence market, such an incredible place to stop for lunch, we were taken there to try a peameal bacon roll, unfortunately it really didn’t look appealing to me so I declined, but apparently it’s great and is a must try when you visit the market! There was absolutely loads of different stalls, bakeries, sweets, fish mongers, butchers, cheesemongers, it was crazy how much choice there was! On Sunday they hold an antiques market there as well which I’d have loved to check out.
street decor in the distillery district.
st lawrence market.
One of my favourite things we did on this trip was go to the CN Tower for dinner one evening. What a brilliant experience that was! The menu is fairly expensive so I’d recommend this as a treat, but it’s so worth it. The food is brilliant and the view whilst you eat is just awesome, the elevator ride up is over so quickly, but you travel some serious height in that short amount of time. The restaurant revolves so slowly as you’re eating that you don’t even notice it’s happening until you realise that your view has changed from Lake Ontario to the city! We booked a table for just before sunset so we could take in the view during the light and dark, a very clever idea if I do say so myself as the views were incredible.
the cn tower on a cloudy day.
view of the city from the cn tower.
We spent one incredible day visiting the beautiful Niagara on the Lake which is a lovely quaint town, filled with lots of lovely little shops, cafes and cute houses. We spent ages there walking round and taking lots of pictures, as well as having lunch at a really great cafe that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of! But it was great and we tried perogies for the first time which were super yummy! After walking through the walk and along the lake we continued driving along to Niagara Falls itself. I’m so glad we visited the falls in the winter because it looked so impressive. So much of the water was frozen it was like nothing I’d seen before, as I mentioned earlier I’m not easily overwhelmed much anymore so I think maybe just seeing a big waterfall in the summer I might have been slightly disappointed, but in winter it looks awesome. We must have been there over an hour taking so many photos and selfies, as well as going down to stand under the waterfall, which wasn’t really that impressive but was fun to do. The rainbows that form over the falls look so pretty and make great photo opportunities so we definitely made the most out of the trip! Once we’d had enough of watching the intensity of the water crashing underneath us we walked down to the American border and crossed over to see the falls from the other side, but mainly to take some pictures across the two borders! The town of Niagara itself is like a miniature Blackpool/Vegas, filled with fast food restaurants, flashing lights and shop fronts with huge decor and statues out the front, such an odd thing to find next to such an incredible natural thing like Niagara Falls! Apparently one meal up a very tall tower wasn’t enough for us, as we then decided that we’d also do the same thing at the Skylon Tower! The scenery of course was completely different and if you’re a fan of dinner with a view then this is a must! The falls are lit up by different coloured lights on an evening which makes it look amazing, unfortunately photos don’t pick it up at all, but it’s really a great experience if you’re sticking around for the night.
niagara on the lake.
On one of the last days of our trip we took an amazing day out to Blue Mountain to go skiing, having only ever skied in England at an indoor place and Sammy only ever having had four lessons, it’s safe to say we were a bit nervous about our first time on the slopes! We spent all day out skiing and by the end of the day I was feeling pretty confident about the whole thing, for some reason we did decide it would be a good idea to tackle a tame looking black slope, which turned out to be horrible and I spent nearly the whole thing on my bum, but crying with laughter at the same time! We had some brilliant mexican food at a restaurant there for lunch before heading back out to the slopes, I think I hated the ski lifts most out of anything, I was so worried about falling over getting on or off and we saw so many people do it! Luckily we all survived and had an amazing day out, I think I slept nearly the whole car journey home!
the dreaded ski lift, but with such beautiful views.
On our last day we had lunch at Smokes Poutinerie which was awesome! It’s basically like cheesy pasta but with gravy, so wrong but so right! We then took a drive along the coast through, Little Italy, Little Greece, Little every single other country in the world, it’s crazy how many dedicated areas there are to different cultures, so great to see. We finished at Scarborough where there isn’t much to see, but the views of Lake Ontario are great, and we met a feret there that followed us along our whole walk! I wish we’d had longer to explore as the city is so big I think you could walk round for weeks and still not have seen everything! I was lucky enough to be able to go back to Toronto in the summer which was a completely different experience, I’ll be posting about that trip soon as well.