Toronto and Niagara


19-22 July, 98 Miles

Neil picked us up from the dealer in his new vehicle – a humongous 4×4 pick-up truck. Kevin immediately started making “I’d like one of those” noises. What is it with men and their toys? 😉

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We were dropped off at our hotel so we could shower and change then picked up again later to go to a local restaurant with Neil and Grace where we caught up with all their gossip and planned the weekend. Tomorrow we would go to the Black Creek Pioneer village and on Sunday to Kensington where there were specialist food and clothing shops. Shopping’s not really our thing but it sounded like Camden market so would be interesting.

Black Creek Pioneer Village is a collection of buildings that have been gathered from various parts of the country, re-built and repositioned to show how people would have lived in the 1800s. Inside the buildings are artefacts from the period and more often than not there is someone dressed in period costume working. They were very knowledgeable and mostly very happy to chat and explain things.

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A lovely old barn

One of the first buildings was an early settler’s house. Later, as they had become more prosperous, the same settler built another, bigger, house and this was next door so it was easy to compare.

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This isn’t the bigger, improved, house!

We went into a much bigger house and asked if this would have belonged to a local landowner. We were surprised to be told no, it would have belonged to someone like an accountant or solicitor. It was very nice. The house was much bigger than we thought that class of person could have afforded at the time and was actually bigger than many modern UK houses. There were lots of nice possessions inside.

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This big wheel fascinated us. It was attached to a butter churn and one of the village employees was happy to explain it to us. It was designed to have a dog in it. A dog? Yes a dog. Turnspit Dogs were a short-legged dog that was bred to run and run and turned the wheel to provide energy for the house to drive equipment such as the butter churn or a roasting spit. This was an unusual wheel as it was rather larger than most and outside. These little dogs were usually in smaller wheels in the kitchen. The advent of electricity and other power sources replaced the need for the dogs and the breed became extinct.

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There was a printer in the village who was really enthusiastic about his work and very interesting to listen to. We asked him how he, and other employees, knew so much and he told us he’d been there a number of years and they do lots of research. Living the history, what a great way to learn. In today’s age of the Internet it was humbling to see what people used to have to go through to produce just one page of text.

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This was a state of the art oven at the time

After our interesting journey through history we went out to dinner at a local restaurant then wandered along the boardwalk in an area called The Beaches; very nice.

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The moon over Lake Ontario was spectacular and finished off the evening beautifully

The following morning Neil picked us up and we went back to their apartment prior to catching the bus into town. Today we experienced the whole gamut of Toronto’s public transport. The bus took us to the local train station where we caught a tube further into the City where we caught a tram to Kensington.

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Inside the tube. Grace isn’t singing despite appearances!

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Is this our tram?

Kensington is a vibrant, cosmopolitan, exciting place to be.

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We’re not sure how long this car has sat on the street but we assume it’s been a while…

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These kids loved the automatic bubble machine (as did many adults, including us).

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The CN tower dominates the skyline

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We bought meat and vegetables from some of the shops and had a tasty barbeque at Neil and Grace’s place to finish our time in Toronto. Tomorrow we’ll collect the bike and head to Niagara so I can finally see the falls.

Big thanks to Neil for ferrying us around and to Neil and Grace for their hospitality and company; we had a great time. We’re looking forward to seeing you when you next come to the UK.

The bike felt great after its service and we were very grateful to Andrew and the others at BMW Toronto for fitting us in at such short notice.

Niagara Falls is only a short hop from Toronto and our route took us through the centre of town.

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Another strange vehicle

I was unaware Canada made wine but we passed lots of vineyards on the way. Several people had recommended we take a detour to Niagara on the Lake which we did; it’s a pretty, if rather busy, little town.

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Niagara on the Lake

We had booked a room with a Falls View and weren’t disappointed with what we saw through the window.

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Our first view of Niagara Falls from our hotel window

There were two visitor attractions we wanted to participate in. One was the Maid of the Mist boat ride and the other was the Behind the Falls walk. We wandered down town and along the pavement that runs parallel to the river, looking over and photographing the boats as they headed towards the falls. They appeared to get rather close which was perfect!

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Boats have been running into the mist at Horseshoe Falls since 1846. Each of the modern day boats is named Maid of the Mist plus a Roman numeral and as we purchased our tickets we were happy to see there was a very small queue.

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As we approached the falls it got wetter…

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I had no idea how much the force of the vortex would spray us. It was like a mini-maelstrom and the little blue plastic covers were totally inadequate but we didn’t care, this was Niagara Falls! The weather was good so we didn’t expect it would take too long to dry out.

The opportunity to walk behind the falls is at the other end of the resort, near our hotel. In 1903 the Ontario Power Company completed a 24m tunnel behind the falls. By 1924 the falls had receded and a 55m extension was required. In 1932 it was discovered the walls of the tunnel were rather thin due to erosion and a new tunnel was bored complete with electric lighting. An outdoor observation platform was added in 1951 and it is this tunnel and platform that together comprise the modern day Journey Behind the Falls experience. There are two outlets in the tunnel that open on to the falls. The noise is thunderous and the spray comes into the little cave. In years gone by it was possible to get nearer the water but modern day health and safety dictates you can’t get more than about 15 feet away which is probably not a bad thing as it looked very slippery.

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At the observation point alongside the Fall

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The view from our hotel room was even more spectacular at night when they lit up the Falls.

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The following morning was bright and sunny and the falls looked completely different. The Horseshoe Falls creates its own little cloud of water vapour which, this morning, was going straight up.

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Right, time to get on the bike and head for Richland in Michigan to see our friends Brenda and Tom.

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