It would be impossible for me to convey how much I enjoy travelling. There is something about planes, trains and boats that just get me, something about the sights and smells of a new destination and about the opportunity to be immersed in a different vibe.
I was able to take my young man to Toronto recently, and I could not be more grateful for the experience. We booked our flights and I hurriedly ran around collecting new luggage, tags, socks and travel sized essentials. I knew we would be carrying on, which also meant fitting every fluid we planned to carry in a medium sized freezer bag. I find it curious and delightful how easy it is to whittle down the things we need to such a smaller scaleable size when we need to-especially when it is in order to have wings.
As any good travel plan began, everything changed about a week before our scheduled departure. The meticulous agenda I had typed out (more as a means to visualize and organize my busy brain) had to be completely scrapped and everything had to be cancelled and re-booked. Luckily, I had the foresight to choose all options that allowed for such things without penalty. What had taken me months to plan, when faced with the need to reorganize-only took about 5 minutes to reschedule, re-book and re-plan.
Our flights that took us from the extreme west of Canada to the deep east were without much issue, the flights were fully booked and the delightful ground handlers for WestJet happily checked our bags for no charge in order to ensure there would be plenty of room for all the weary passengers to cram their gear in the minuscule overhead compartments. I take the liberty of bringing with me a travel sized packet of antibacterial wipes to try and cut down the transmission of things as much as possible in a self contained metal rocket with circulated air at 38,000 feet and was sure to wipe down our arm rests, screens, pockets, tray tables and seat belts when we loaded ourselves in our places. My young man, true to his mothers’ ways, earmarked the window seats always, to which I obliged. Ironically, he spent most of the voyage on Minecraft and movies, and would occasionally allow me to lean over his space so I could shed a tear or two over the absolute beauty of the clouds out our windows. “The earth is just so incredibly beautiful” he would hear me mutter, over the sounds of villagers and zombies moaning.
As we approached Toronto, I remarked on the expansiveness of the Great Lakes. You see them on a map, and sure they are large bodies of water, but to fly above one for quite some time helps to give perspective on their sheer enormity. Soon we started seeing the townships surrounding Toronto out the Plexiglas. These seemingly small pods of development, rising sharply northward, surrounded by vast squares of farmland and agriculture. We settled in to our Hotel at the airport, which was the first Holiday Inn I have stayed in for some years and was incredibly impressed to be honest. I feel like they have really upped their game in terms of cleanliness and design, customer service and amenities offered. I booked through Expedia and included the breakfast buffet for a ridiculous $4 extra and was amazed to see an unbelievable spread offered. There is literally something for everyone and all fresh. The pool was clean and well kept, indoors which I appreciated as it was not the warmest of days we arrived.
Our first stop the next morning was to find one of my siblings and head down to Ste. Catherine’s and Niagara Falls as I had never been, and I thought it would be a magical, mystical tour of what I thought was a large park and a boat. Sp imagine my surprise to see an entire Las Vegas like strip of road with every kind of child geared amusement attraction one could imagine. From Dinosaur mini golf to an upside down house, row upon row of arcade style video games and fast food restaurants. We made our way briskly through the dizzying amount of flashing lights and loud sounds of the main causeway until we reached the ferry port. As Niagara Falls straddles both the Canadian and American borders, you could look out over the water to see hundreds of people lining the American shores to board the boats in their blue plastic ponchos. The sun was out, the wind was light and it was a fair day to take to the high seas, so we purchased our tickets from the kiosk, joined the line to ride the gondola down towards the dock to where our seaworthy vessel awaited. The views all along the waterfront are absolutely magnificent, the waterfalls are an incredible sight to see, and become even more grand as we got closer. The very clever people at the boats guide all the tourists through organized line after line for various reasons, photo opportunities and souvenir stands. It is not obligatory to pay for the posed photo everyone must take whilst drifting through the line, and I didn’t feel especially compelled to do so. Eventually the line of lines whittled down to the actual boarding line and we all slid our red plastic ponchos over our heads. My son was rather miffed that we on the Canadian side got red, pontificating wildly over why the Americans were given blue (his favorite colour). To lay anxious hearts to rest, I had promised that one day, when he was older we too would travel across the border and don the blue rain gear. Once on the boats, steadily steering towards the waterfalls, the mist became increasingly dense as did the turbulent water below. After some hasty shots with the phone camera, I safely stowed my iPhone in my purse, underneath the very haute couture red poncho as the magnitude of the force of the water falling over the cliffs thoroughly engulfed us from all sides. A rainbow shone overhead as we drifted through the thick, heavy hair. It honestly felt akin to a spiritual baptism, to come out fresh anew on the other side. I very much encourage the experience to all ages.
The following day we picked up a rental car downtown Toronto and headed east, with our first stop being the world-renowned Toronto Zoo. My suggestion for anyone going is to get there before midday, wear very comfortable walking shoes and bring a backpack with water and snacks in it. The grounds are expansive and filled with some of the most beautiful creatures imaginable so you will want to walk the entirety of it to take it all in. Sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses are a good idea if going in the summer as it does get pretty hot, and a stroller works well for the little ones. We began at the gates and worked our way clockwise through the many pavilions and exhibits. Some of the more notable stops for us were to spend time with the Orangutans, in their cavernous dwelling; not necessarily to see them thriving because they absolutely were not. I sat on the bench and silently cried to see them, listless as though in mourning and it was really hard to see. I do realize that a zoo is not any animals’ natural habitat although it did leave me wondering if we were dangerously close to a time when animals will only exist or be safe, in relative captivity due to the activity of humans? I wanted to hug them, and apologize to them for everything we have done and continue to do; but surely did not want to make a scene and be dragged out of there by the authorities. So instead I gathered my emotions and my child and we moved along. Many of the animals did seem to be quite contented. For example, the giraffes-which were my number one “must see” because I just think they are akin to unicorns and have always wanted to go to the Giraffe reserve in Kenya were found to be in high spirits. The female was pregnant, and due the spring of 2020 much to our delight. The zookeepers did a great job to answer questions and teach us little nuggets of insight. My son was in awe, which made me happy. Lions, Hyenas, Zebras and the such were all incredible. The mountain gorillas were incredible to witness. We sat there for sometime, and interacted with them through a long tree trunk that they and us could both sit on (on opposite sides of the enclosure). We ran through our snacks and supplies and decided against trundling up the mountainside to try and catch a glimpse of the Canadian tundra group but did meander through Kangaroo alley before getting into the car once more, to get lost along the side roads of Ontario thanks to Siri on our way to Peterborough. I wish I could say the drive was uneventful, but seeing as my phones GPS led us completely astray, that was but wishful thinking. After meandering through every possible farm town outside of Oshawa, we finally rolled in to town to meet with family and swim in the hotel pool, which was the lovely Holiday Inn Peterborough right along the river. Again, very impressed with the quality of the hotel, and after receiving an upgrade to a suite with a river view, I have to say the location was impressive. The town itself reminded me of another little town in British Columbia’s interior called Penticton. We met with family and ate at Kettle Drums, situated on what I presume is the main drag of town. The outdoor patio encapsulates the natural growth of the trees that were planted within it and it made for incredible ambiance. I enjoyed a warm beet salad and home-made portabello mushroom ravioli. I recommend! We spent the days wandering the river and lazing in the pool, playing old time favorites like Sea Worm, Marco Polo and tag and ventured to a kitsch café for lunch with all sorts of mismatched diner chairs from presumably the 1950s and 1960s. Again, the menu was very good, huge thick sandwiches smeared with homemade hummus and fresh vegetables, and kid friendly options for the little ones. We spent the evening making home videos that made me very reminiscent of some of the happiest times of my youth. With monsters and beasts emerging from caves and gravestones, fairies bringing dark lords to the light side and magical spells being cast upon townspeople. May we always keep the imagination from our youth.
We then made our way even further east, and once again being led astray by the phone GPS to the small town of Napanee to continue on our quest to visit all east coast cousins. We were fortunate to find our way and enjoy a day out in pure Ontario countryside. ATVs and animals, time spent enjoying the warmth of the day. It was great to see all the kids get to know each other and enjoy the company. We were however under a huge time crunch to get the rental car back before it turned into a pumpkin so we loaded all our things, including a found turkey feather and drove back to the heart of Canada’s largest city.
I love Toronto, this I know now for sure, especially in summer. I haven’t really spent a lot of time there since my early twenties and so it was lovely to have the opportunity to get to know it once again, and give my son the opportunity to be introduced. We hailed an Uber after dropping off our rental car and went directly down to our hotel, the Westin Harbour Castle a four-star hotel on the Lake Ontario waterfront. We were stunned at the views of the lake, the islands and the ability to watch the planes land at the Billy Bishop Airport. The room was incredible, the room service was great and the on-property restaurant Toula is an amazing last stop for a nightcap or scoop of luxury gelato-the sweeping views of downtown Toronto at night are just stunning as it sits at the top of the building. A pianist began playing melodically as we stared out the window at the twinkling lights around us.
We spent the afternoon wandering through the Hockey Hall of Fame which is much more elaborate than it seems; complete with interactive games, movie halls and all kinds of recreated locker rooms and awards. We marveled at the hall that contained the Stanley Cup and even spent time finding some friends of ours who have had the experience of working hard enough to get their names adorned on the walls of the great silver chalice. It was amazing to see old jerseys from close to one hundred years old, and memorabilia belonging to those long since passed, preserved with care. We wandered out after taking a few slap shots and goalie saves and hailed another Uber to take us to Billy Bishop Island. Ever since my brush with the European Baron and his helicopter (See The One Life Movement book for more on that) I have wanted to go on another tour in a chopper. I found a company (also through Expedia) and booked us both a tour in the sky of the downtown, compete with circling of the CN tower. The whole theme of the trip was wanting to have experiences with my child that would give him good memories and lasting feelings about how amazing the world is and can be. When we work hard to focus on goals, we are able to achieve them, and enjoy everything the rewards offer. The tour was no exception. In the departures lounge sat a newly engaged couple that were video calling everyone they knew to share the good news of their engagement and the exciting adventure they were about to embark on. When our time came, the staff were incredibly professional and did a great job to strap us in, even with our varying levels of excitement and stress and the pilot whisked us up with the gentlest of ease, high above the city skyline. We were both in absolute awe the entire time. We could see as far as the eye and the horizon would allow. The sun still warm in the late afternoon sky as the propellers whirred above us. After the adrenaline rush of feeling ourselves hovered above the city skyline, we decided to walk around the waterfront and enjoy some authentic street pizza along Queens Quay. We took in the architecture, the enormity of the new buildings and delighted at the sights, sounds and buzz the downtown core had to offer.
We took to the Aquarium and CN tower the next day. I would suggest going early in the morning as both fill up quickly and have very long lines when crowded. Both equally worth it however. The Aquarium is filled with the most gorgeous water creatures I have ever seen. Sharks of every size, manta rays, fish of all kinds. Once you pass through a few of the pavilions they have cleverly created a moving conveyor belt that channels everyone through the underwater world in a slow and steady pace. We were looking up the entire time as our view filled with free floating wonderment all around us. There are many, many chances to get souvenirs and although some of us wanted to bring one of every animal home in stuffed animal form, I advised that likely our carry on luggage would not accommodate such a request and we ended up whittling down to a shark (along with a tiger that we had already acquired from the Toronto Zoo). Luckily, we landed at the CN tower on apparently a slower day, only having to wait in a slowly snaking line for 2 hours instead of what I can only imagine could be at least double that. The elevator to the Skydeck takes what seems like sheer seconds and has a glass bottom, so be prepared to watch yourself skyrocket to the top of the clouds. I had wanted to do the skywalk on harnesses but there is an age restriction on that. We have decided to return when all interested parties are of age. The view is almost as incredible as the helicopter ride and we had a chance to really see just how sprawling the city is. It is amazing to see what engineering and human perseverance is able to accomplish when working as a team. To create a city of 6 million people that is incredibly well functioning and strategically planned is nothing but art. Luckily our next stop was right beneath us at Rogers Center to take in the evenings Blue Jays game. Really, great planning on my part to hit up all three on the same day. They are all literally right beside each other. Very adventurous way to spend the day! After spending some time on the glass floor, staring 553 metres directly below us, we again descended in the superfast elevators and found our gate to the stadium. It happened to be Star Wars night, which was advantageous as we received free ball caps and regaled in being surrounded by every Star Wars character imaginable. We received “Wookie Cookies” and met astronaut Chris Hadfield, who also threw the first pitch. The game was awesome-amazing to be in a venue with that many people, watching the sun set whilst eating ball park food and wiggling in our seats to the resident DJ during intermissions. We decided to walk through town back to the hotel as it was a balmy August night and there were what seemed like a zillion people simply wandering, laughing, buying every shape and colour of illuminated balloon. People were already trying to sell their free Blue Jays hats on the street and many were sitting on the patios of cafes and restaurants enjoying the night life. The air felt so free, and so vibrant.
We both enjoyed our stays excessively throughout Ontario, and I’d like to thank all our relatives for spending time with us and showing us their beautiful province. I would absolutely recommend everything we did, and everywhere we went, so if you’d like more information just be in touch.
Kimberley Dickinson is a Nurse, Author of the bestselling novel The One Life Movement, Private Yoga Instructor, Mental Health supporter and Death Doula.
For more information on her lifespan inclusive services and skills please connect with her on www.athomewellness.ca
For inspiration, travel adventures and lifestyle content www.theonelifemovement.com
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