Monthly Archives: May 2014

Toronto Day 9: The End Of A Big City Adventure

 

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Today was a lazy kind of day, we slept in, took our time getting ready, I even spent some time writing the Niagara post. We only had one major thing on the Agenda today and that was the Royal Ontario Museum that had previously evaded us. It was our last day in Toronto so we had to see it today.

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After a leisurely lunch we walked over to the museum. Admission was included with our Toronto City Pass but we paid an additional charge to see the special exhibit; China, The Forbidden City. Unfortunately I couldn’t take photos so I have nothing to show. I will say that it was a pretty neat exhibit, though for $11 I was expecting to see a Terracotta Warrior.

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My advice to those of you who wish to visit this museum, give yourself an entire day to explore. We thought 3 hours would surely be enough time but it wasn’t. We were not able to take our time in each section of the museum and half way through we realized we had to prioritize the exhibits we wanted to see most. In the end we had skipped the majority of the second floor and one exhibit on two other floors. I was a big fan of the Egypt exhibit and learned a few things about their burial rituals.

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After a mandatory visit to the gift store we headed across the street for much needed coffee. Once we returned to the apartment Bobby went out to do laundry while I worked diligently on the blog post. It was about 8pm when we headed out for our last dinner in Toronto, my mother was very generous and offered to pay for us to return to Scaddabush (Love you!) and so we did!

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The food was just as perfect as the first time, we enjoyed our last evening in the big city and chatted the night away. Then we realized we hadn’t packed yet and our flights were first thing in the morning so we headed back home and gathered our things.

The next morning we got up at 6am (again I didn’t sleep much), it took a street car, one subway transfer, and an express bus to get to the airport. 2.5 hours later we were back in Winnipeg!! Thus concluding my adventure in the big city, I have a feeling I will be back in the near future though ; )

I hope that these accounts of my adventures have been either entertaining, informative, or at the least enjoyable. My goal has been to motivate people to get out and explore the world around them, far too often we spend all our time in one corner of the world, be free my pretties, take a chance, get lost, have an adventure!

Until the next time!


Day 7 & 8: A Trip Within A Trip – Tripception!

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Day 7:

To top off our very exciting time in Toronto we decided to take a two day trip to none other than Niagara Falls. Being in Toronto we were not too far away, the trip only consisted of a one hour train ride from Union station to Burlington, from there we took a one hour bus ride to Niagara. The entire trip cost $18.00 with the ‘Go’ regional transit system (a bit cheaper than VIA rail).

Most of the transit systems I have encountered in Ontario allow passengers to transfer from subways to street cars to buses with ease, for example you can exit the subway straight to the bus station and not even have to show a transfer. Though it is possible for people to hop the fence and get on the bus with out paying, if transit authorities ask to see your ticket and you cannot produce it there will be a heavy fine. As was the case on the train to Burlington, a man came through the cars checking tickets, two girls across the isle from us were asked for their tickets, one girl said her friend had the tickets and was in the washroom. Apparently they were in the city for the weekend to celebrate her 20th birthday, when her friend came back she confessed they had not purchased tickets. We overheard the man lecture them about what they had done and at the next stop they were escorted off the train and each given a fine.

Another exciting point was when we got off the train at Aldershot, one stop too far. We only realized this when we couldn’t find the correct bus to transfer to and asked the ticket clerk. The lady instructed us to go back one stop and mentioned that if a transit authority checked our tickets to have them call her and she would explain the situation, allowing us to not have to pay for the extra stop. We managed to get on the train leaving to Burlington just as it was about to leave, this detour did mean we had missed our connecting bus but because the Go system allows for travel with in 4 hours of purchasing your ticket the only reprimand was that we would arrive in Niagara an hour later than originally planned. At the bus station we did unfortunately have to wait 50 minutes for the next bus but we took that time to eat our packed lunches and stretch our legs. Our bus was one of those double-decker tour buses, we lucked out and got front row seats on the second level, giving us an awesome view of the trip.

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On hostelworld.com we had booked a room at The Diplomat Inn for $20.00 per person. The bus we had taken from Burlington dropped us off about a 10 minute walk away from our hotel.

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We had a slight hiccup when we received our room, the room had not been cleaned from the previous guest. The owner apologetically changed our room for us. What had happened was that he had stepped out to help a tourist find the bus station so his father watched the check in desk. Unfortunately this very elderly man did not speak much English, was very hard to understand, and did not know the proper check-in procedures and gave us a room that was not ready for new guests. It was a genuine mistake and we did not hold it against them. The new room was freshly cleaned, well dressed, and met our expectations of a $20.00 hotel room.

After dropping off our gear, which consisted of a change of clothes and a bag of snacks that we had packed for the train, we wandered down the street to the main attractions. The first thing we noticed was that prices for most of the shops were raised from regular, ie. Starbucks had increased their prices… and on the other hand Tim Horten’s had slightly lower prices due to Ontario’s Harmonized Sales Taxes. Niagara was much more touristy than I was expecting with shops like Hersheys, Hard Rock Cafe, Wax museums, carnival rides, haunted houses, and thousands of gift shops etc.

Online at niagaraparks.com I found these passes that cover admission to 4 attraction plus a 2 day bus pass on the WEGO transit system, all for $50. We chose the ‘Nature’ pass as I was really looking forward to seeing the butterfly conservatory and this pass covered the cost for it. The ‘Nature’ pass included; a Hornblower Niagara Cruise, the Butterfly conservatory, the Whirlpool Aero Car, and the Flower Showhouse. Because the weather mentioned rain for our second day we decided to do the outdoor activities first. We headed straight for the cruise to see the falls up close and personal!

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Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls; the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls, that straddle the boarder between Canada and the United States. They are located on the Niagara River, which drains from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. The combined three falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, with a vertical drop of more than 165 feet (50 m). Horseshoe Falls is also the most powerful waterfall in North America, measured by vertical height and flow rate.

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This is the view from the boat of the Horse Shoe Falls. After this point we got drenched and it was too wet to take out the camera.

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This is the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

I recommend anyone going to Niagara should wear comfortable sandals as our runners got drenched and then we had to walk around with soggy feet for the rest of the day…very uncomfortable. Our next stop was the Whirlpool Aerocar, we took advantage of the WEGO bus pass that is included to get there.

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The Whirlpool Aerocar is a some-what vintage cable car that takes passengers across the Niagara Whirlpool. The Niagara Whirlpool is a natural whirlpool located in the Niagara George. The attraction itself is 2 years shy of a century old, but the conductor informed us that over the years almost every piece of the cable car has been replaced with newer pieces. There was only two other tourists on the cable car with us so we got a nice quiet ride, though it takes less than 15 minutes so it was over rather quickly. I’m not sure I would go out of my way to see this attraction but our pass included it so why not?

We decided to have dinner next, because it was not peak season most of the restaurants were not busy so finding a table was easy. We decided to be really touristy and eat at the Rainforest Cafe. It was kind of cute in a childish way, decorated like a forest with animated animals and all.

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I don’t know if I will be in a hurry to return to this restaurant as it was super way over priced and the food was OK, nothing special. There was also a loud thunderstorm that happened every 30 mins and the elephants and gorillas would freak out every 15 mins. A lot of families with small children ate here, I can see how this would be fun for kids. Another aspect of this restaurant that was iffy was that every beverage you ordered was around $13.00 because it came with special souvenir cup/glass, for that reason I just had water, and tried to order the cheapest thing on the menu.

After dinner we browsed the gift shops and carnival-like attractions. You can be prepared to spend at least $10 on any thing here; the ferris wheel, haunted house, mini golf, everything was $10 or more. At the Hershy’s store I found heaven…

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That’s right, 1 lbs of Reese peanut butter cups. Drool.

Earlier our inn keeper had mentioned there would be fireworks in the evening over the falls to celebrate the American holiday; Memorial Day. After our fill of the main strip we decided to get a good spot for the fireworks, we ended up sitting on the tone fence that surrounds the ‘Secret Garden’ (which I recommend a stole through during the day) this gave us a great view above the crowd of people.

I want to share a moment I had waiting for the fireworks to start. There was a point where conversation between Bobby and I ceased and we were silent for some time when it hit me; I was sitting in front of a magnificent natural wonder, with my best friend, chatting about our thoughts and worries of what the future holds for us as if sitting in a cafe. I have to remind myself that in my life I have been able to experience amazing things that not every one can say they have, and I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded in life. It was breath-taking.

Afterwards we returned to our hotel for the night, we ended up walking because apparently the WEGO transit isnt as useful as they make it sound, but we were probably only a 15 minute walk from Clifton Hill. One thing I have to comment on about the hotel is that though they advertise T.V. and WiFi, neither are very reliable, the T.V. only had a handful of channels, all airing news stations, and we never managed to get the WiFi working, even after talking to the front desk.

Day 8:

In the morning we packed up, checked out and got breakfast at Denny’s, a little pricey for breakfast but we needed fuel for the day, I ended up packing up some of my pancakes (which were topped with pecans and bananas). Our first attraction for the day was the Butterfly Conservatory!! The moment I had been waiting for, can you tell I like butterflies??

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Located down at the end of the green line of the WEGO transit, about a 10 minute drive from the falls, finally we had a use for the bus pass. The conservatory houses over 2,000 butterflies, made up of 45 different species. Since captive butterflies usually have a life span of 2–4 weeks, the conservatory imports up to 3,000 butterflies per month from world butterfly farms in Costa Rica, El Salvador, the Philippines, and Australia.  Butterfly food is served in the form of plants at the conservatory such as Lantana, Cuphea, Zinnia, Ixora, Liatris, andPentas. They are replaced every 2–3 weeks due to the amount caterpillars eat.

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If you wear bright colors and perfume, and move slowly some may even land on you. I even had them land on my hair hah.

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After reluctantly leaving the conservatory (Bobby even agreed to go around the conservatory a second time just for me) we headed to the Floral Showhouse, which was on the the other side of the falls.

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The Floral Showhouse is one of the cheapest attractions in Niagara at $5, since it was apart of our passes we decided to give this attraction a fair chance. The building is mostly a greenhouse, calling its soil home are orchids, succulents and other tropical plant species that are on display throughout the year.

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The green houses also contains a small pond with fish and turtles, as well as ‘tropical’ birds, they mostly looked like Finches to me. It was decided that when I have a house, there will be a heated greenhouse, and in it will live my pet birds that I have always wanted…maybe even some butterflies! Apparently the greenhouse was constructed to help populate the Queen Vitoria Park with plants and flowers as it required many high-quality plants for its development.

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An interesting surprise on display at the Floral Showhouse: The Titan Arum (Amorphophallus Titanium).

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Found in the rainforests of Western Sumatra, the Titan Arum can reach 8-10 ft in height, producing the tallest flowers in the world. In 1989 only 21 flowerings had been recorded, in 2012 Canada had its first bloom, at the Floral Showhouse in Niagara, worldwide it was the 151st recorded bloom. The plant emits an unpleasant odor when it is in bloom to attract the insects that pollinate it. The smell has been compared to that of rotting meat, which attracts carrion-eating beetles and flesh-flies giving it the nickname ‘Corpse Flower’.  The plant also has an underground ‘corm’ or tuber that can weight up to 200 lbs, the largest in the plant kingdom. The staff at the greenhouse were very excited to educate guests about the plant, and were highly anticipating it to bloom (the bloom only lasts about 12 hours). They estimated it would be in bloom Wednesday…the day after left Niagara Falls…Once we were back in Toronto I found a local news report saying it had indeed bloomed on Wednesday.

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This is the life cycle of the plant.

Since the greenhouse was south of the falls, a view we had not yet seen, we took a walk along the river. I think this was my second favorite view of the falls (1st place going to the view from the boat), you could get so close to the edge of the falls, watch the water rush over the rocks, and witness it crash at the bottom lifting up into white clouds of mist.

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There was even a rainbow!

For lunch we sat on a ledge nearby and ate what was left of the food we had packed, how many people get to have a picnic in front of Niagara Falls?

With all of the attractions finished we decided to take a walk over Rainbow Bridge and cross over into the United States. Why not? This is when the WEGO proved very useless, they didn’t provide useful information on the routes or the schedule so we ended up walking to the bridge. Apparently it also costs $0.50 to walk into America…Anyways, as if on cue, the moment we touched American soil it started raining. Thankfully we kept our ponchos from the boat tour and every thing but our feet stayed dry. We walked over to the two major look out points on the American side of the falls, definitely not as impressive as the Canadian view but they do let you get a lot closer. The walk took us through the New York State Park, there was even a pedestrian bridge over the river. For travelers who wish to see the falls from the ‘Falls View Bridge’ make sure you bring a dollar, there was a large crowd so we skipped this look out and opted for the free ones further down the path.

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This is the Horseshoe Falls from the American view.

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The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls from the American View.

We had about two hours until our bus would leave from the depot back to Burlington where we would catch the train, we decided to grab some fast food for dinner instead of a sit-down restaurant due to our time constraint. At the burger joint I started a conversation with the cashier and he mentioned, to our surprise he did not enjoy growing up and living in a tourist town, weird hey? I figured it would mean you always have some thing to do, and you could just move if you don’t like it. I think its better growing up with the options available to you rather than not, oh well.

This is the point when I got super fed up with the WEGO system, there was apparently a bus, purple line, that would take you right from Clifton Hill to the bus depot, except the stop for the purple line wasnt on the list of stops it makes, nor could we find definite information on when the bus would arrive next. Fear not! For I have a smartphone and a data plan! Except their website is just as helpful as a bag of rocks, but it did mention an app I could download, use the GPS and figure out when the next bus is! “Perfect” I thought to my self, only to find they charge $1 for the stupid thing, and who knows if it will actually work! Frustrated and worried we might miss the bus if we wait for it and it never shows up, we started walking, it felt like a long 15 minute uphill walk. When we got to the bus depot we had about 10 minutes before the bus arrived…on the walkover however we were passed by the purple line bus…Good thing I like being active…

We managed to get the front seats on the second level of the bus again and sat back to enjoy the ride home. This time we got off at all the right stops. However there was an incident involving Bobby on the train, apparently when he scanned his card at the train station (it’s sort of like a prepaid travel card) it hadn’t gone through properly. So when the transit authorities came through checking every ones ticket’s it didn’t register as if he had paid his fare. As we know from the previous day this is a serious offense and comes with a $100.00 fine. He didn’t panic however, just calming answered the man’s questions and it was clear that he had tried to pay, but a malfunction on the machine did not register it, so he got off with a warning. We were both so thankful that the stern looking transit authority man must have been in a good mood or an understanding mood and let it slide!

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Finally back at the apartment, exhausted, we settled in for the night with great memories of our Trip within a Trip.


Day 6: Fun With Science

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Today we woke up early to try and visit two locations; The Ontario Science Center and the Royal Ontario Museum. Due to its location we took the transit system. The center has several hundred interactive and passive exhibits throughout the buildings, and an IMAX theater. They feature geology, the science of nature, astronomy, how to play music, human anatomy and communication, as well as miscellaneous artifacts of science.

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General admission is $22.00, a movie at the IMAX theater is an additional $13.00. Of the 5 attractions included in the City Pass, this was my least favorite, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t my favorite. I feel this is a great attraction for families who enjoy interacting with their children while participating with the exhibits. Most of the exhibits are still interesting for adults but definitely geared towards children. If I was below the age of 18 I would most likely love this place, and it would be a good place to have a good time with your children, unless your the type of parent who wants to just let your kids run wild …then this is not the place for you.

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My favorite part of the Science Center was their “Tree Lane” exhibit, there was some really interesting information about trees. Maybe my interest in this area came from going out to the lake most weekends of my childhood.

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We got a little over involved with one of the exhibits and ran out of time to go to the Royal Ontario Museum, instead we headed home for lunch and made preparations for our two day trip which commences tomorrow!|

To occupy our time for the remainder of the evening we went to the movie theater, since the movie we wanted to see was only in the VIP theater we watched it from the comfort of couches and had private waitstaff serve food and drinks! If you are a Scene member you can purchase these seats for the same amount of points as a regular movie so it was well worth it.


Day 5: Off To See The Animals!

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After quickly meeting with some one to drop off a package at the heart of downtown Toronto, we stopped at a Starbucks for a quick breakfast, and from there we headed off to start our activities. The Toronto Zoo!

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The Toronto Zoo has over 5,000 animals representing over 500 species, there are over 10 km of walking trails in which I’m sure we covered almost all of them as we didn’t skip any thing (took us almost 5 hours), across 287 hectares (710 acres) and seven geographical regions. Making it the third largest zoo in the world and the largest in Canada. General admission is $28.00…I’m sorry I keep saying this but the City Pass saves you so much money…

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While we were there we saw lions, and tigers, and bears…oh my. We also saw giraffes, rhinoceroses, penguins, and many many more animals. Food was a bit expensive, like any other tourist attraction, lots of gift shops with overpriced items…and unfortunately lots of children. We had a good time though, got a little too much sun, and a good work out. The zoo also has an interactive center for kids, a small water park, camel rides, and ‘zoomobile’ that makes getting from one zone to the next faster. You can expect any thing here to cost at least $8, the zoomobile, a popsicle, a soft drink, food…all $8 each. We brought snacks with us, and if we had thought ahead we could have packed a lunch as they have several picnic areas available.

It also costs $10 to park at the zoo, we took the bus, the only down side was that due to regular maintenance being performed on the subway line we had to take a shuttle bus for a large portion of the trip making our travel time slightly over an hour… Once we got home we lathered on the aloe vera lotion for our burns, remember boys and girls always wear sun screen! After regaining some energy with iced coffee Bobby recommended dinner at Scaddabush.

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Scaddabush offers traditional Italian cuisine with a modern twist. They hand make all of their pasta and mozzarella cheese in house. If you already like this restaurant you can skip this…This is the best food I have ever consumed! I loved every morsel of food we had. We started with their “Naked” mozzarella which is served with focaccia crostini, San Marzano tomato jam and sea salt, as well as the “Charity Bread” more focaccia bread, rosemary, and garlic butter served freshly baked. The name was coined as the net proceeds of the charity bread go to a local charity. For drinks I sipped an iced cappuccino, Bobby had a blueberry cosmopolitan. First to arrive were the drinks, I was impressed, both drinks were very delicious, next the appetizers arrived and it didnt matter what else happened, I was in love with this restaurant.

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For entrees we shared an order of Pesto Pollo; fettuccine, sauteed chicken, baby spinach, semi sun dried tomatoes all in a basil pesto cream sauce, with an order of Zucca; butternut squash ravioli, hazelnut butter cream sauce and roasted squash. I don’t even have the vocabulary necessary to explain how much I enjoyed these dishes. They are now my all time favorite, the best part was we still had dessert to order!

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It was the perfect way to top off a wonderful day, and if my wallet will allow I will most likely eat here again before I return home.


Toronto Day 4: The House On The Hill

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After sleeping in, Bobby and I made our way over to Casa Loma. For every other attraction we have walked but today we used the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), $3 and we had access to the street car, then used two subway lines.

Casa Loma translates to ‘House on the hill” and was the former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt, complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables, and 5-acre estate gardens. There are self-guided audio tours available in multiple languages included with the price of your admission ($24). The Gothic revival style house and gardens in midtown Toronto is now a museum and landmark, Casa Loma was constructed over a three-year period from 1911–1914. During the depression that followed World War One, the City of Toronto increased Casa Loma’s annual property taxes from $600 per year to $1,000 a month, Pellatt, already experiencing financial difficulties, was forced to auction off $1.5 million in art and $250,000 in furnishings. Sir Henry Pellatt was able to enjoy life in the castle for less than ten years, leaving in 1923

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The red building in the background is the stables and garage that are attached to the main house by an underground tunnel! We managed to spend at least 2 hours touring the grounds, the city pass, worth your money.

We hit up New York Fries for lunch and headed to the Royal Ontario Museum, except they told us they would be closing in an hour (even though the website said we had until 8:30pm), so we headed home. On the way we stopped by one of the many dog parks in Toronto and played with the puppies.

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I’d love to see more of this in the Peg. For the remainder of the night we will be sipping on wine and preparing for the weekend adventures!

 


Toronto Day 3

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Today’s adventure began with a visit to the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada! It is one of the newest attraction in the heart of downtown and is Canada’s largest indoor aquarium.

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Admission was a bit expensive for this budget traveler at $33.90 a person but it was a good time. They featured many species that live in the great lakes and then some more interesting species including many sharks, jellyfish and stingrays. We spent a good 2 hours in the aquarium, they had many interactive stations and things to get kids interested…which I may or may not have participated in >.>

For lunch we sat on the patio of a Boston Pizza and shared a butter chicken pizza. Right beside the aquarium, dun dun dunnnn was the CN Tower which we had access to through the Toronto City Pass ($55 +tax if you are a Costco member), regular admission to the CN Tower is thirty some thing dollars, considering we have 4 more attractions I feel the city pass is well worth the investment.

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Some of the views from the top.

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The CN Tower is the worlds tallest building at 181 stories and was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

There are several things to do at the CN Tower besides observing, there is also the “Edge Walk” on the outside of the building, a glass floor which I was irrational terrified of, the “Sky Pod” encase you want to be even higher, a theater which was playing a short film on the future of planes, and an interactive theater which threw the spectators around, sprayed water at them, and left them thoroughly confused….it had absolutely no connection to the CN Tower as far as we could tell BUT was still fun and part of regular admission.

After all the excitement it was time for some cafination at a local coffee shop. We passed by this cool building “Paws Way” an event center dedicated to the celebration of pets. Although it is sponsored by Purina…I would love to see more things like this, especially in Winnipeg where people can enjoy exhibits, activities, attend agility and training lessons, and other pet related events WITH your pet!

Lastly there were two random points I wanted to share:

1. Who ever predicts Toronto’s weather needs some assistance…it was supposed to rain all day for the last two days and instead was sunny, and when it said it was going to be sunny…it was cold and raining. It just makes planning really difficult.

2. Every day I have been here I have run into the “Believe Man”. The Believe Man is apparently well known by Toronto residents, he stands on the same corner near the Eatons center and hands out information on his religious group. The notable thing about this man is that as you walk by he shouts “BUH_LEEVE” at you while throwing his arm straight out at you. Needless to say this startled me the first few times.

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For the remainder of the night we will be sipping on some apple cider drinks : )

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Toronto Day 2

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Today had a very exciting start with a tour of Complections College of Makeup Art & Design, which pretty much made up my mind. The tour was super informative, answered all of my questions and all around just made me super excited at the idea of taking classes here!

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Afterwards we walked down to the St. Lawrence Market, in 1803 Lieutenant Governor Peter Hunter created a Saturday farmers market. To this day there is still a farmers market every Saturday and a permanent market place very much like the Forks Market in Winnipeg with specialty stores selling goods ranging from freshly roasted coffee beans, cheese, hand made jewelery, to caviar, meat and fish.

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Later we had lunch at a nearby restaurant ‘Jack Astors’ which was really delicious. Next, we moved on to the ‘Distillery District’ in east down town Toronto. It contains numerous cafés, restaurants, and shops housed within heritage buildings of the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery, and comprises more than 40 heritage buildings, and is the largest collection of Victorian era industrial architecture in North America. The Gooderham and Worts Distillery was founded in 1832, by the late 1860s it was the largest distillery in the world. It produced whiskey mostly for export on the world market.

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After stopping at a cafe for ice lattes we headed home to regain energy and have an early dinner.

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For our evening entertainment we went to the free hours at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Every Wednesday from 6:00-8:30pm entrance to the art gallery is completely free, unless you want to visit the special exhibits then there is a charge. We saw some pretty interesting pieces, some pretty weird pieces…

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Though we haven’t visited it yet, we have seen the CN tower in the skyline several times, tomorrow is the big day for that though.

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