I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Our Canadian Dream 2022 - Days 17 & 18 (Toronto and flight to Calgary)

Saturday 28th May

We had to get the RV back to the depot by 9am so it was an early start.  We said our farewells to Joanne and Steve and set off for the Canadream depot.  It should have taken us 30 minutes but it was longer as the traffic was heavier than we thought it would be, however it turned out that we just needed to have vacated the RV by 10am!  We said goodbye to Mokey I, and took a taxi to the Alt Hotel where we were staying the night.  We arrived at the hotel about 10am and fortunately they had a room ready which we could have.  It was a great room on a corner looking over the airport.  It took us two trips to get all our stuff from the foyer up to our room, but once it was up there I was able to repack and get rid of the carrier bags!


Once the repacking was complete we set off for Toronto.  The Alt Hotel is next door to the shuttle station, so it didn’t take long for us to be on our way to the airport and the UP train into Toronto.  The UP (Union (station) Pearson (airport)) train opened in June 2015 and completes the journey in 25 minutes.  Once in Toronto we made our way to the nearest hop on hop off bus stop, which just happened to be at the base of the CN Tower and next to the Roger’s Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play baseball.  We waited and waited for the bus and I twice rang the phone number on the bus stop only to be told that the bus would only be 10 then 15 minutes.  45 minutes later the bus arrived.  It was really full and we had to sit downstairs so made a decision to get off at the harbour and do the boat trip which was included in our bus ticket.  

It was the first day of the boat trip season and the first boat since the end of the 2019 season, thanks to Covid.  We had a very good guide who gave us an excellent commentary. The first thing was the Billy Bishop Airport which sits on one of the Toronto Islands. It can only take smallish planes but has flights to the US so its an international airport!  In 2019  it was ranked Canada’s ninth busiest airport and the sixth busiest Canadian airport that serves the US.  We were so lucky that, right on cue, a plane went in to land.  Billy Bishop was a WWII ace pilot.


There are 15 Toronto Islands with a population of 700.   The Islands are the largest urban car free community in North America.  There is a waiting list of 500 wanting to live on the islands!  Some of the islands are left as nature reserves, and our guide said that there were over 200 species of birds on these islands.  



The Toronto skyline from the harbour is pretty spectacular, and I can imagine it would be more so at night time.



Back on terra firma we made our way back to bus stop and there was a pretty empty bus waiting for us.  We went up on top and set off round the city.  We soon discovered why our first bus was so late as the city seems to be one big mass of roadworks and shut off streets.  Our trip, which should have taken 45 minutes, actually took 2 hours!

We passed Union Station which is the largest train hub in Canada.  (More on the station later!). Toronto and Montreal are the only cities in Canada that have subways, the others have overground transport.  



We had hoped to visit the St. Lawrence Market but didn’t dare get off the bus in case we couldn’t find another one.  The market has over 120 vendors and dates back to 1803. It’s a shame as I really would have liked to seen in from the inside.



We had hoped to visit the St. Lawrence Market but didn’t dare get off the bus in case we couldn’t find another one.  The market has over 120 vendors and dates back to 1803. It’s a shame as I really would have liked to seen in from the inside.

There is only one wooden house left in Toronto as the rest were all destroyed in a great fire in 1849.  



Half of Toronto’s population were born outside Canada and it is often referred to as the most multicultural city in the world with over 200 ethnic groups and over 140 languages spoken.
Half way through our tour we came across a protest march, it seems they were protesting for Freedom of Choice.  We followed the demonstration for ages as the driver couldn’t just turn off down side streets like cars were doing.  Our poor guide was trying to think of things to tell us, but was rapidly running out of things to say!


We passed the Casa Loma but, again, we didn’t have time to get off and see it.  The house was built for Sir Henry Pellatt.  When it was started it cost $3.5 million and took 299 worker three years to build.  Construction was halted during WWI and was never really finished with the third floor being left unfinished.  It has 98 rooms and covers 64,700 square feet making it the largest private residence in Canada in its time.

We got off the bus at the harbour as we thought we had time for something to eat, but realised that we didn’t so ended up having an ice cream before walking to the CN (Canadian National) Tower where we had tickets booked for 6pm. We arrived a little early and were sent to a corral with other 6pmers!  However, we were soon on our way up the tower, rising 1,1220 feet in 58 seconds.  It was pretty hectic up in the observation deck with tourists – I hardly heard any English spoken!  I managed to get some photos but my phone, which I use as a camera, was running low on battery so I had to be careful.  We also had tickets for the SkyPod which is 1,465 feet, that took about a further 45 seconds to get up to.  We were a bit disappointed with the view from the SkyPod as the windows weren’t really conducive to looking through let alone take photos through.  Back on the main observation deck there had been a big exodus and we could see a lot better.  Down the Tower, though the gift shop (I didn’t buy anything) and out into the world at ground level again.  









The tower was the world’s tallest free-standing tower in the world from 1975 to 2007 when the Burr Khalifa in Dubai was opened and was the world’s tallest tower until 2009 until it was surpassed by the Canton Tower in China.  It is currently the 9th tallest free-standing tower in the world and remains the tallest free-standing structure on land in the Western Hemisphere. 

We were really hungry as we had only had a cookie and an ice cream since an early breakfast.  As we had to go to Union Station to get the UP train back to the airport I suggested that we look there for food.  Waterloo Station had masses of eateries so why shouldn’t Union Station?  But it wasn’t that easy!  We walked along what it called the Sky Walk to the station and went into a very grand lobby.  There was hardly anyone there, the information desk was unmanned and there were no signs.  We went down a layer and there still wasn’t anywhere, but we did discover that trains arrive on one level and depart on another – I can’t quite work that one out!!  I found a lady to ask and she said that she thought there were food places on the lower, lower floor or something like that.  Anyway to cut a long story short we found the food hall.  It appeared that we had the choice of one restaurant which was called Union Chicken, so we decided on that!!  Funnily enough all that was on the menu was chicken, so we had chicken!  We both had chicken burgers which were excellent. 
 
Union Station is the busiest and largest station in Canada.  It was first opened in 1927 and has been rebuilt twice since.  It serves over 72 million people a year. The Great Hall, which we were lost in, is 76 feet long and 88 feet high.  It is made up of bronze, limestone, marble, tiles and translucent glass.  The departure area is under the tracks as has 17 gates each with escalators going to track level.  Stairways at the end of the Great Hall lead to arrivals.  We have visited Washington Train Station which we marvelled at for it’s grandness, Union comes in second and they both leave British stations standing.


We managed to find our way back upstairs and into the main lobby and then had to walk miles, well it felt like miles, back to the UP platform.  The train was almost empty and I think we both nodded off.  Back at the airport we caught the shuttle back to our hotel, grabbed a lonely baggage kart (trolley) and went back to our room.  It was about 10pm.  Richard went to bed but I needed to take full advantage of the free wi-fi to back up my phone and iPad.  I also needed to re-download all the Netflix programmes which were coming up for expiration – it was 1am when I put the light out.  

This photo is the airport at night from our room.



Sunday 29th May

We didn’t have to early a start as we didn’t have to be at the airport until 10.40am.  I finished the packing and we had a butter tart each which I had bought on Friday!

We loaded up the baggage trolley and made our wobbly way to the shuttle station.  Outside were lots of trolleys so we bagged another one which made life a lot easier.  

In the terminal we did a typical British thing.  We saw a queue and joined it.  We stood there for a while until I heard someone say that it was for the Air Egypt flight!  All the Air Canada desks were self service and we got in a bit of a muddle as it said that we had booked in two bags when it should have been three, but a nice lady sorted us out.  We went to bag drop off which again was self service.  Through security and again one of our bags was pulled aside as we had liquid items which were in our plastic bags and not theirs!  Their bags were smaller and I had to leave something behind (I can’t remember what it was!) also my sleep machine was a problem as they wanted it out of its bag to go through the scanner.  I have been travelling with the machine for 12 years and never had to do that before. 

A nice cup of coffee and a wander to our gate.  I wanted to see if they were going to check in hand luggage and saw a man in uniform at the desk so went to ask him.  It turned out that he was the pilot!  We had a chat about the flight and our trip, he was such a nice man.  When the correct uniformed people arrived I asked again and yes they were.  It makes it so much easier as nowadays you seem to be able to take two carry-ons on.  Some people do take the p*** though and almost fill an overhead locker with just their things.

We found this old guy in the baggage hall.




The flight was just over 4 hours and I spent the time catching up on the blog and some emails.  (A few days later I discovered that I had lost all the posts that I had written, I was NOT happy.)
It was rather nice doing an internal flight as when we got to Calgary we didn’t have the queues for passport control.  We collected our bags, found a taxi and headed to the Canadream depot.  Mokey II is bigger than Mokey I though still in the same rental bracket.  I was worried that Richard would hate driving it but he said it was easier.  We dumped our bags inside and headed off to the supermarket for supplies.  It was then off the Drumhella for the night.  The scenery getting to Drumhella was very flat with straight roads but as we arrived at the town we went down quite a steep hill into a river valley which made a nice change.



We drove on until we found our site for the night, our first private one of the trip.  It was called the Hoodoo RV Park, but more of that later.

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