A little late on this one but..
As I mentioned in my last post, after my visits to Six Nations and New Credit, I made my way to Toronto to enjoy a weekend exploring the city. And I can honestly say.. I never thought I’d love Toronto so much.
Toronto reminded me much of New York City — bustling, hectic, fun, with the whole world in one city. I think Toronto is more diverse than any city I’ve been to. Sure, NYC is diverse, but I felt like Toronto was less sectioned off than most cities. I didn’t just meet tourists, I met many immigrants who told me their stories throughout my time in the city. And it was a fresh reminder, to me, that people, not places, are what make any travel experience.
I opted against going to the top of it, and instead, rushed to get a tour of the Steam Whistle brewery, which my host the day before (during my visits to Six Nations and New Credit) had strongly recommended. The brewery was typical of most of my experience, but the service was probably the best I have had. I believe the tour was $10-12, and it included as many “samples” as you wanted (though they don’t advertise that).
The tour was made especially interesting as I was accompanied by a Turkish gentleman who has been living in Toronto for 10 years. He had decided to bring his wife and 3-year-old daughter and family friends into Toronto for the day, and after some boring time at the aquarium, decided to escape across the street for a solo brewery tour instead. He told me that his wife was Colombian and that when they got married they never even questioned how diverse their family looked because TORONTO is so diverse. His daughter speaks 3 languages already and understands a 4th. It’s the simple things that amaze me, I suppose.
I then booked a tour for Saturday through my hotel concierge desk (again, excellent service) and opted to spend the rest of the day enjoying parks of Toronto and getting some much needed rest in the hotel (as I had been traveling for 2 long days with very early starts).
My tour picked me up on Saturday morning and made its way down to Niagara Falls. However, before Niagara Falls, we were able to enjoy some wine tasting at a vineyard along the way. For my first time, I tried frozen grape wine, which is like a dessert wine, and supposedly, the Niagara region is a world leader in this specialty wine. It was very good but, indeed, very sweet.
And then came Niagara Falls.
First and foremost, I was impressed with the shops and hotels and practically the city of Niagara Falls. It was a true tourist destination, but it lit up like Las Vegas. Below is a shot of the city from the water (though not a very good one).
Secondly, being such a tourist destination, I expected it to be much filthier. However, it was incredibly clean, no trash on the sidewalks, and very green and well-groomed park scenery.
And finally, I was most impressed with the falls. When one tends to visit these places seen on TV, they can be underwhelming. However, it all lived up to the hype and more. I was just so at peace gazing at the falls (and being drenched in them).
About 8 people were on the tour by themselves (while the rest were families or couples). And being by ourselves, we were seated together at the front of the bus. I sat next to a pilot from Pakistan who had just become a father for the first time, and he was a very polite, very talkative man who kept me quite entertained until the jetlag hit him on the way back and he fell asleep. Another man I met and spoke with was from Indonesia, and he had come to Toronto for a Microsoft conference. He then introduced me to the man sitting next to him, who happened to be a man from South Africa who is soon to pursue his PhD in education. As we spoke, we learned we had similar interests, and we have remained in contact ever since, as he is now hoping to attend the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Annual Conference next spring!
I regret not getting pictures with my new friends, but I’m horrible about thinking about pictures in the moment, so here’s a picture of my lonesome self for the heck of it..
After our time at the falls, we made our way to Niagara-on-the-lake… a small, quaint town a little ways down river, where we enjoyed some of the most famous ice cream in Canada..
And gazed from gazebos toward Toronto across the water..
Finally, we made our way back to Toronto. We arrived back around 8:00-9:00pm, and I decided I would go check out some of the live music scene, based off of the recommendation of my tour guide from the day. While catching an Uber pool, the girl I was riding with happened to be going to a place a few blocks from my destination. However, as we pulled up to the venue that I was going to, she read the name on the building… “Ferraro?.. That’s who you’re going to see? My friend is the drummer for Ferraro!” She then opted to get out with me and introduce me to the band before they went on.
It was a very small venue, no more than 100 people, and it was great to experience the local scene. I also made friends with a group of Irish immigrants in their early 20s, which again diversified my time in the city.
For my last day in Toronto, I spent time exploring more of the city. Parks, universities, local favorites (see: best cheesecake in Toronto below)..
I also learned that the IndyCar races were in Toronto for the weekend! They had closed off a part of downtown for the cars to race, so I made my way to the fence line and watched those for awhile. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get those pictures to upload from my phone.
Overall, it was a wonderfully serendipitous time in Toronto, and I can’t wait to go back!
Until next time..