Toronto and the amazing Niagara Falls

21 11 2011

Since young, I have always been attracted to the amazing pictures of the majestic Niagara Falls and was hoping that one fine day, I will be able to take in its beauty with my eyes and experience the wonderful work of God. However, the thought of flying so long to “the other end of the world” puts me off. After so many years of procrastination, fate has brought me to the wonderful city of Toronto, all thanks to the need to attend to some personal matters.

The western side of Canada which includes Vancouver and the Rockies have always been the more popular destination amongst people in Asia. Rarely do Asians visit the east coast for vacation. Even if they do, most people primarily are looking at Quebec city and Montreal, and often see Toronto as a transportation hub, quite similar to how people view Frankfurt in their Europe trip. So I was quite thankful that personal matters have forced me to be grounded to Toronto for quite some time, giving me ample opportunitites to explore the city and appreciate the nice city.

Unlike the other Canadian cities or towns which I have visited over the past 2 weeks, Toronto is much more vibrant. As a girl who is so used to the city life, I was very much attracted by the “happening” Toronto, with a good mix of sightseeing, scenery, culture, fun and shopping! The modern CN Tower allows me to have a great view of the city and its famous skywalk, the majestic and romantic Casa Loma castle, the famous AGO museum, the and of course the busy Eaton Centre provided me with countless hours of great shopping, and many more.

What’s more, the amazing Niagara Falls is just a hour plus drive away from Toronto city centre. When I saw the falls, I was overwhelmed by its majesticity. The beautiful horseshoe falls and the pretty American Falls are both amazing and left me speechless except for the occasional “wows wows”. To experience the power of Mother Nature and wanting as near to the falls as possible, I took the Maid of the Mist which brings me to the base of both the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. What I can say is that the experience is WONDERFUL! I enjoyed the whole ferry ride, getting really up close to the 2 falls and seeing the beautiful rainbows across the falls. After spending time walking around the falls, I headed back to the little town of Niagara near the falls, which looks like the Universal Studio themepark, with eclectic restaurants, contemporary hotels, veritable theme park with the Skylon Tower, Ferris wheels.

I was also quite lucky that my stay in Toronto coincides with the annual Nuit Blanche festival (literally means “white night”). This is an annual all-night arts festival where many museums, private and public art galleries and cultural institutions are opened to all free of charge, with free music/dance/film performances and many interesting activities. I had a great time hanging out with friends the whole night, going from one museum to another art gallery, partying, cycling and really having a night full of fun, fun and more fun!!!

After having so much fun in Toronto, it was finally time to say goodbye. It was an emotional farewell and I do hope that I will return again to the wonderful city of Toronto real soon.

Tips:-

– If you have the time, make a trip to the Distillery District which has many vibrantly restored Victorian Industrial buildings. It’s one of Ontario’s hottest tourist attractions and home to live theatres, galleries, fashion, design and jewelry boutiques, unique cafes and award-winning restaurants.

– At dusk, Niagara Falls are lit in the colours of the rainbow so try to schedule your trip around later part of the afternoon. Start with the Maid of the Midst ride as it closes at around 5 plus. After the ride, you can spend time at the falls for photos and then head to the town for dinner. As night falls, come back to the falls again for the night show. On Fridays, there is fireworks so it’s best you schedule your visit on Fridays.

– The Niagara Peninsula is a great blessing to wine lovers. The freezing winter enables the grapes to freeze naturally, enabling the region to produce one of the world’s best Icewine. You can take a tour of the vineyards. For Icewine, make sure you buy Inniskillin which is the best Icewine in Canada (but more expensive though).

– From CN Tower, walk to Rogers Centre and the train museum opposite. Then walk towards the waterfront. There’s a man-made beach there overseeing Lake Ontario and Toronto Island Airport. If you are lucky, you will be able to spot some swans swimming gracefully in the lake.

– Toronto has this vast underground shopping and pathways (called The Path) linking each buildings in the city and the Skywalk (linking the city to CN tower). I love this as it shelters me from the sun and the rain (and in winter the cold). For the map, go to the metro station and ask for a metro map (which will include the map of the Path ~ the best Toronto map that I have seen so far).

– For those wanting to see the rainbow flags, head to Church Street.

– Prices that is shown generally exclude taxes so don’t get a shock when you are asked to pay more than what you see.

Food:-

– For dessert lovers, head down to Dufflet (the downtown shop is at 787 Queen Street West, west of Bathurst). You will not regret the additional calories.

– For morning tea (Dim Sum) by the lake, try Pearl Harbourfront at 207 Queens Quay West. However, be forewarn that it is extremely crowded during weekends and reservations are required (if you don’t reserve, you are unlikely to get a seat).

– There are 2 chinatowns in Toronto (the Old Chinatown and the East Chinatown), so if people tell you Chinatown, make sure you check out which particular Chinatown they are referring to. The Old Chinatown is the famous one though (the one along Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street), and I love all the nice Chinese food there. I have tried a couple of restaurants there and they are pretty good.

– Toronto has a good community of Jewish. Try the Jewish bagel. I am not a bagel fan but I love these.

Shopping:-

– For shopping, walk along Yonge Street to Dundas Square (at the junction is Eaton Centre). It’s like the Fifth Avenue in New York. Champ Elysees in Paris, Oxford Street in London, George Street in Sydney and Orchard Road in Singapore. Eaton Centre itself is a shopping wonderland.

– If you are looking for outdoor shopping, head to Dons Mills’ which is Toronto’s first open air mall. It has many branded stores and is a nice place to walk around during the summer and autumn time. As it is slightly away from the city centre, it is also less crowded. For details of how to get there, see the website.  http://www.shopsatdonmills.ca/en/Pages/default.aspx

– There are also a couple of outlet shopping in Toronto (the largest being Dixie Outlet Mall). Of course, outlet shopping is always best in US.

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