Sunday, May 15, 2016

Toronto

Toronto skyline.Toronto, the capital of Ontario Province, was our third stop of a trip. Alёna has been to Toronto once before and I have visited it multiple times, but I wanted to take our kids to it for one reason in particular among others — it’s a home to the world’s third tallest tower — CN Tower. In fact it held the record of the world’s tallest tower for 34 years.

Streets of Toronto.Toronto is a very short drive away from Niagara Falls and so we had more than half a day available to us at the time when we were fully checked in into our hotel.

From the top.We stayed at DoubleTree Toronto Downtown where we ended up on a 3rd floor with pretty much no view of anything. We typically book the cheapest available room — this time it was a room with two double beds — and hope that our Diamond VIP status will raise us to a high executive floor. This was a rare time when this bet failed — double rooms only go as far as the 6th floor and the hotel was fully sold out. Oh, well.

CN Tower. I really need a shift lens.As I said earlier our main objective was a visit to CN Tower. CN Tower has a revolving restaurant at the top which is while quite expensive is worth a visit for the experience. The earliest dinner time is 4:30pm and that’s the time we made our reservation for. There was no point eating lunch, so we stuffed up on marinated olives and croutons that we bought several days earlier at a winery near Seneca Falls.

Dinner at 360 Restaurant.So as we were done with “lunch” we set out for a walk to CN Tower. The distance was a little bit more than a single mile, but our Anюta often prefers to walk on her own, so we had a good long (time-wise) walk ahead of us. To my delight though Toronto is a city where streetcar system is one option of public transportation. As last time in Lisbon I’ve taken way too many pictures of those trams.

Us at the stop. Not a stellar picture sadly.When we arrived to CN Tower we were able to skip all the lines because of our reservation to 360 Restaurant at the top. We have been sat at one of the tables by the window and Arosha couldn’t quite grasp the concept of not sitting on the heaters by the perimeter of the restaurant and his table getting away from him. I kept telling him that they are not spinning when he clearly saw that they are moving. After a short while he finally figured out that it was the table that was moving after all.

Admiring the view and Anna vs ice-cream.Anna on the other hand has managed to fall asleep in her stroller right at the last moment and was in a pretty bad mood when we had to wake her up and sit at the table. I think only a sight of french fries eventually calmed her down.

Lower level observation deck.Meanwhile Arosha was really admiring the view — quite a change from little Arosha who probably wouldn’t care at all. He still has a pretty serious case of fear of heights, but having glass windows separating him from the abyss seems to completely alleviate all his fears.

Glass floors.The dinner was, while good, quite expensive. I was charged 75 dollars (albeit Canadian1 ones) for a piece of steak, Alёna was charged $65 for her salmon and we split a steak for kids for $40. And again, we didn’t have to pay for the ride up the tower and the experience was definitely worth it. I think Arosha will have lasting memories of the place.

Toronto trams.After the dinner we walked down to the lower floor which has a portion of it made out of glass. And there is nothing below it but a far away ground on which the base of the tower stands on. I was wondering if Arosha’s fear of heights would prevent him from getting close to that, but again, glass seemed to do the trick as he was the first one to jump onto one of the glass panels.

Toronto trams.After the walk back to the hotel we did a mandatory visit to the hotel’s pools and that was the end of our first day there.

Toronto skyline from Polson Pier.On the second day I wanted to find a place to photograph the skyline of Toronto WITH CN Tower included, but somehow the city seems to totally lack any other observation decks, but the one on CT Tower itself. So instead we set out to drive onto one of the peninsulas that extend into Lake Ontario from the city itself. And we actually managed to find one such place relatively easy.

High Park.There is a place called Jennifer Kateryna Koval’s'kyj Park which is located on one such peninsula. While the place itself was quite dirty and small it gives one a great vantage point to photograph Toronto’s skyline from. The day was very clear without a single cloud in sight which makes for a pretty uninteresting composition, but I still think that Toronto’s skyline is very distinct thanks to CN Tower … ehm, towering … over everything.

Brewhouse.Since it was morning and we were done with planned things to do we decided to turn to TripAdvisor for … yes, advice. We ended up going to High Park which seems to be a large green park right inside the city à la Central Park. Kids played on the playground, Arosha managed to climb atop of a pretty high stump of a tree by himself as he always does and so on. And then we got hungry.

Lunch at Amsterdam Brewhouse in Toronto.We looked through the list of highly rated restaurants and spotted two breweries on it. After calling both of them and asking about the parking situation we set out to Amsterdam Brewhouse which was located right on the shore of the lake. And after a nice lunch we walked along the shore boardwalk for more excellent views of the tower which was not far away. And then a stroll through a train museum, another brewery upon entering which I was just handed a free glass of beer and we were spent.

Boardwalk by the shore.By the time we got back to our hotel it was pretty late and I was sad to find out that another famous place, city hall, which we left for the last because it was one block away from our hotel closes at 4:30pm and it was quite well past that. So we figured we’ll eat our dinner and even though we can’t get inside we’ll just walk to the front of it anyhow. We ate dinner at a nearby Korean restaurant and walked over to city hall as planned.

Rail museum.There is a big square in front of it and kids enjoyed climbing all over large letters that spelled out Toronto. And then I spotted that somebody walked out of the front door of city hall. I ran towards it with Arosha hoping that we can slip inside and so we did.

Toronto City Hall.The interesting thing to do is to point somebody’s attention to a diorama on the wall and ask them to guess what is made of. I’m guessing nobody gets it right. When you get closer you realize that the whole composition is made out of nails of different sizes. It’s actually pretty impressive looking.

Diorama made out of nails.And on that note our trip and exploration of Toronto was complete. The next day a long road and Montreal awaited us.

Climbing all over Toronto.

  1. Canadian dollar was worth 79 US cents at the time of our visit. []

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Niagara, Toronto, Montreal Road Trip

Canada 2016 road trip map.For this spring we decided to forgo the trip to a warm sandy beach in favor of a road trip in our own car to a cold Canada. Our kids haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet and I wanted them to see it. Another big factor is a matter of having to purchase four plane tickets which comes out to quite a bit of money for a type of vacation I enjoy the least — laying on the beach, doing nothing.

The total round trip ends up being 1,200 miles. One other option that we have considered was going to Great Smoky Mountains again, but it’s quite a bit farther away and we all have been there. I wanted our kids to explore something new and it’s always interesting to see those new to them things through their eyes.

We tried to beak the trip up into many parts so we wouldn’t have to drive for very long periods of time in a day. Our first stop of the trip is the Finger Lakes region of New York state. We’re going to spend 2 nights1 in a hotel in Seneca Falls and try to do a hike or two along one of the lakes. The drive there is 271 miles long and we hope to do it on the first eve of our vacation.

Our second stop is going to be Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. We plan to get there on Saturday, April 23rd. We are going to stay there for 3 nights2 at a resort that we’ve been to before. There is a lot to do and see at Niagara Falls — the falls themselves (although Maid of the Mist is not running yet for the season), butterfly observatory and horseshoe bend among other things.

Our next stop is Toronto, which is really close to Niagara. We’re going to spend 2 nights3 here. The main thing that we want to see is CN Tower and have a dinner at a spinning restaurant at the top. Hopefully nobody will get dizzy this time around, unlike it was in Berlin.

The drive from Toronto to Montreal is going to be the longest — 336 miles. We might stop at The Thousand Islands region for a break. Montreal itself has a lot of old cathedrals to explore and had a nice World Fair site if I remember correctly. We’ll spend 2 nights4 here.

And one our way back home we’ll spend 1 night5 in Albany, the capital of New York State. And even though we have driven through Albany before I have never seen the capitol building of the state that I’ve lived in for the past 20+ years.

On the final note on all of the hotels — they all have pools — an important thing to have when traveling with kids as we have established. Also the Canadian Dollar at the time of the writing was worth only 73¢ of US currency. Hooray for strong US dollar — it makes it cheaper to travel beyond the border. Should be a fun exploration road trip with kids. I only hope Canada has proper diesel for our car.

  1. Hampton Inn Seneca Falls — 2 nights for $258 with taxes. []
  2. DoubleTree Fallsview Resort — C$450 for 3 nights with all the taxes. []
  3. DoubleTree Toronto Downtown — C$504 for 2 nights with all the taxes. []
  4. Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville — C$427 for 2 nights with all taxes. []
  5. Hilton Albany — $172 for the night with taxes. []

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