We arrived at the home of Pops and Annie feeling exciting, tired and hungry. Our hunger must have been showing on our faces as delicious home cooked meals were forced down our throats in almost constant succession, quickly undoing our backpacker weight loss experienced over recent months. To say we ate in Canada would be an understatement, we were absolutely spoilt with food, and if we weren’t eating we were drinking, drinking everything in the Pop’s bar fridge within a few days – we were certainly making up for lost time, what better way to catch up over a Vino!
For a capital city Ottawa is interesting, far more interesting than Australia’s capital Canberra at least. We hoped to visit Parliament Hill to ask the ministers “where all my Pops taxes go”, at his request, but they mustn’t have liked the look of us, or suspected that our impending question would cause too much riff raff, they turned us away. Instead we found entertainment in the protesters on their soapboxes out the front who proclaimed “without God we will self destruct”, leaving us wondering if Pops taxes are going to stop this man from blowing up?
What Ottawa lacks in beauty it certainly makes up for in culture and Canada is an ethnic melting pot of rich societies from all over the world, with Toronto being the most multi-cultural city in the country. With a distinct neighbourhood for each of these ethnic groups whether they be Greek, Italian, Chinese, Korean or Caribbean, Toronto has a place for everyone and the biggest advantage of this is the enormous variety of food on offer, like the scrumptious dinner we had at restaurant Southern Accents, indulging our tastebuds in exotic Caribbean-New Orleans Jambalaya flavours. Or dinner at an Austrian Schnitzel house with Schnitzel’s the size of your face!
One place that was busy, and most likely always is, was the lanky, so impossibly tall it will break your neck to look up at it, CN Tower. At 553m into the sky this tower provides incredible views. We were lucky enough to score free tickets, thanks Alfie! With grubby windows covered in fingerprints and a restaurant blocking half the view we would have felt ripped off of the CAN$32 it costs to reach the top. The open platform below would have had better views if it weren’t for the metal mesh obscuring photos. Listening to the sounds of the city so far below was quite mesmerising, the quiet hum of the traffic, and the wailing of the sirens seeming so distant and almost lost within the buildings. And nothing is more humorous than watching a bunch of frightened tourist’s crawl their way onto a glass floor shaking and moaning “what if it breaks” peering at the aquarium roof hundreds of metres below. Nonetheless the expansive vista we did see was remarkable and allows one to grasp how tremendously far this city stretches itself into the countryside and how many condos there are along the lake, this is condo city!
Toronto seems like an idyllic place to live, with the suburbs beginning relatively close to the city centre, nothing seems too far away. Leafy suburban streets lined with magnificently restored Victorian and Edwardian homes are within close range of downtown and all the retail, food and nightlife action that comes with it. Pop’s showed us his old home in The Annex, so central and convenient to both the immense University of Toronto and the fancy shopping district including his old Advertising office on Bloor Street. We were also lucky enough to get a glimpse into the life of a wonderful Torontonian family with Annie’s daughter Jennifer, husband Jonex and two young sons Miles and Jaxen, who invited us over for a delicious champagne breakfast to celebrate father’s day at their cute home in Cabbagetown. We couldn’t have thought of a nicer way to end our time with such wonderful people in this great city.
The falls actually consist of three separate falls all coming from Lake Erie as it drains into the larger Lake Ontario, and is the most powerful waterfall in all of North America. Canada has the most impressive section called Horseshoe Falls, while the United States has the elongated American Falls and the tiny in comparison Bridal Veil Falls. Both countries have harnessed the energy produced naturally here through the force of the water in massive hydroelectric projects to create power. While the Hydroelectric scheme is no Itaipu Dam separating Paraguay and Brazil, it generates a remarkable amount of energy supplying power to a good chunk of both Ontario and New York States. Not only do the hydroelectric projects provide clean energy they also help to prevent the falls from disappearing. Niagara Falls is retreating backwards at a rate of almost half a metre every year, and according to our guide Matt, through the hydroelectric scheme they can control the rate of water flow in order to slow down this erosion. They actually turned the falls off, literally plugging the system, back in 1969 when they built a dam so engineers could check and reinforce the American Falls which were starting to collapse. What an amazing sight to have seen what lies beneath all that water.
Staying at Matt’s house, a short drive from the Falls, we were fortunate enough to experience a good ol’ American Rib-Fest, a carnival of food! Matt directed us to a nearby field where we found a cavalcade of trailers with smoke bailing out in every direction, wafting the great smell of ribs into the suburbs. This traveling meat festival moves around Canada with each trailer competing for the prize of “Best Ribs”. It was great fun getting our fingers dirty sampling this tender succulent meat, along with the greasy “Bloomin Onion”, a giant onion of deep fried goodness, while watching a hilly billy rock band in kilts perform. Feeling full (very fat) and content we came to the realization that we ate far too much on this trip to Canada.
Next stop to the big bright lights of the concrete jungle, New York…
Click here to see our photo gallery of Ontario, Canada.