Friday 18 May:
We checked out this morning at 7:30 after another delicious breakfast, without waffles however! This morning they had muffins, very tasty as well. We walked to our Hertz Car Rental Station and drove off towards the Niagara Falls in a white Toyota Camry. The drive was smooth and we parked the car at around 10:30. The views were simply breathtaking! It's not the height of the falls that impresses but the volume of water that passes over the edge. According to their info board, 14 million bathtubs can be filled every single second with this water. It's an incredible sight! You have the option to book several tours; one where you can go to a viewpoint almost underneath one of the falls, and the other one actually takes you on a boot towards the Horseshoe Falls, as close as possible.
There are two main falls, the American Falls on the US side of the Niagara Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.
We walked along the boulevard from one to the other and back again. Depending on the direction of the wind, you can get pretty wet up there! Raincoats were flying over the counter in the gift shop at the entrance. After approximately 1,5hrs and possibly a 100 pictures later, we went on our way again. As we still had a lot of time, we didn't want to head for the Blue Mountains Resort directly and therefore decided to make a stop in Kincardine, a little fishermen's village at Lake Huron. It had a lot of charm and we all found the village to be cute and cosy. With its tiny red-white lighthouse, green and red maple trees and beautiful sailing boats in the harbor, it was a very picturesque sight. While walking over the pier, we were talking about fish I believe and I asked the very 'blond' question if there were also whales in that water... In LAKE Huron.. I immediately realized how retarded that sounded obviously and after we finished cracking up about it, we cracked up a little more and we eventually came up with different names for such whales. Since that moment we tell each other that Chameleon Lake Whales exist in the Great Lakes. They change color depending on their environment and that's why they're very difficult to spot, makes sense right? :)
From Kincardine it was another 150km to Collingwood at the Blue Mountains and we arrived around dinner time. The resort was like a small village, with rooms and apartments divided over several buildings and with shops and restaurants in between. We were staying at the Grand Georgian in a typical Canadian-style resort room: wooden furniture and carpet, queen size bed and a view on the garden. We went for Italian that evening and enjoyed a very good meal!
The day after we had planned to visit Fathom Five, a national marine park at the tip of Tobermory. It is famous for its shipwrecks and the many islands of which 'Flowerpot' is one. We took a glass bottom boot trip over the shipwrecks and with a stop at Flowerpot Island. There we had the chance to hike for about 2 hours and we visited the lighthouse, 'the' flowerpots and beautiful beaches. We were clever and took the exact opposite route as everyone else was sent to and therefore enjoyed a nice and quiet walk. It was absolutely stunning and very inspiring to see undisrupted nature as such.
Our trip to Tobermory was a sunny and fun road trip. We had some good laughs; one of them was about the Penny Motel. As we all know from the movies, you can find many motels throughout North America. Some look very cosy and neat and others seem to be made for truckers only. At one point we passed the Penny Motel where, on a white board with big red letters, we read that they had the most exciting, modern piece of equipment: Penny Motel with COLOR TV!!!! *giggles*
The day after, so on Sunday, we checked out of the Blue Mountains Resort at 11am and left our luggage in the car and in the parking garage. We aimed to hike up the 'blue mountain', although it would be better to call it be the 'blue hill' but alright, and with great weather and positive energy we walked and walked. The hill was steeper than expected, as was the burning of the sun on our heads. So, after a relatively short climb with many breaks, my dad and I decided to turn around to walk back as we had both gotten a headache and just couldn't bear the heat anymore. Philipp and Miriam continued to the top and we picked up the car and met them at the top at a parking lot. In the end, it appeared that the walk back was actually longer than the last meters to the top, but at least it was an easier one.
After a re-energizing snack and drink, we headed back to Toronto where we arrived in the late afternoon. We got a nice surprise when we came back to the Residence Inn by Marriott and got to hear we had rooms on the 18th floor this time! With again a spectacular view of the CN Tower!
That evening was a thrill! Miriam suggested to go to the movies, which is on its own a pretty unique proposition, and we asked the lady at the Hotel's Front Desk which cinema is the biggest and best; she recommended the Scotia Cinema at Richmond Street because they have an 'ultra AVX screen'! Uhm, ok, "what is that?", we asked. "Tja, I don't exactly know", she said. Hilarious! We then went for the IMAX experience and for the ones who don't know it I can tell you, it IS quite an experience! 'Black Shadows', the latest movie with Johnny Depp was playing and to start the journey they played the trailers of Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises. So, watch those trailers on your computer and then imagine seeing them on a screen of 22x16m with crystal clear images and a most powerful digital sound blasting in your ears: it's the ultimate cinema experience, besides the ultraAVX, and really puts you in the movie! Philipp and myself were so overwhelmed that we didn't know what to do but to completely crack up about it.
On Monday morning we took the ferry to Toronto Islands, a beautiful place where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You can see the amazing skyline of Toronto and the Islands themselves have many secret spots to discover which makes the walk a very exciting one. Although it was Victoria Day, one of Canada's national holidays, it wasn't overly crowded and very much enjoyable. We passed the Haunted Lighthouse, the 'Clothing Optional' Beach as well as cute little piers and harbors where geese and swans were peacefully drifting around in the water.
I was brought back in time and felt like a little girl again when I started swinging on the swing that we passed. I hadn't done that for years and years and it was so much fun! I could have seriously done that the whole day..
As if we hadn't walked enough, we continued to High Park after arriving back to the mainland. High Park is a mixed recreational and natural park, with sporting facilities, gardens, playgrounds and even a zoo. It covers 400 acres and is the largest park in the city. It was in this park that I saw a chipmunk for the very first time: they're much smaller and quicker than a squirrel and I managed to catch a sprinting chipmunk on my candid camera :) Completely exhausted we arrived back in the hotel after a delicious dinner in an award-winning Indian restaurant and I think we all went to bed with the same thought; 'only one more day left in Toronto'..
Wanting to make the most out of our last day, we got up on time on Tuesday morning and stuffed ourselves with eggs, bacon, yoghurt and waffles for breakfast. We had another long walk planned as we wanted to visit Casa Loma, up north from our hotel. It took us approximately 1,5 hrs to get there. In between we made a brief stop to wave at Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who happened to pass by on our route through Queens Park.
Casa Loma means Hill House and it belonged to Sir Henry Pellatt, a multimillionaire who took great risks and gained great fortune at a very young age. His 'house' consists of 98 rooms with secret stairways, large gardens and horse stables. We didn't have much time to walk around as we had booked afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 3pm that day. After an hour of exploring and listening to our audio phones, we took the metro back to our hotel to freshen up a little.
The afternoon tea was especially arranged for us as they usually only serve it on weekends. I guess it's helpful when you know the hotel manager :) With 2 stands with pastries and sweets and our own choice of tea, we enjoyed a relaxing and reflective afternoon. To top it off, we got a glass of champagne offered by the F&B Manager and toasted on our so-far fantastic trip.
In my next update, I will write some more impressions of Toronto and give you a heads up on Vancouver.