Despite dorming with seven other guys, it was pretty easy to get access to the bathroom. I took a shower, got dressed, and set off for some breakfast. The first thing I got excited about (I was a little too visibly happy about this) was all of the black squirrels running around. In the mid-Atlantic, where I’m from, all of our squirrels are brownish grey. It was cool, okay…
Now, I’m one of those people that will walk a million miles to get somewhere. “It’s not that far.” Sorry to those of whom I’ve traveled with. Mapquest has a really neat feature where you can put in the addresses of a bunch of places you want to go and it’ll route you the most efficient path. So I plugged in a bunch of landmarks I was interested in and got a little map to use. Two of the places – the Art Gallery of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum were a little out of the way, so they were going to be “if there’s enough time afterwards” places to check out.
I headed towards CN Tower to see about doing the Edgewalk around the top of the building, but at around $200, it was out of my budget. Nonetheless, it was a cool and there were banners around celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Nearby were the Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre (since renamed to Scotiabank Arena,) home to the Blue Jays, Raptors, and Maple Leafs sports teams. Just around the corner was my next stop, the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Entry was $20 plus the program I got with it. I don’t remember how much extra that was and I’ve since lost it, so we’re going to pretend like that just didn’t happen. This place is a must for any hardcore hockey fan and still really fun for the casual fan too. Between the displays of equipment through the ages, memorabilia from the Olympics and Miracle on Ice, and of course a few Wayne Gretzsky shrines, there was plenty of stories and stats to get lost in. My favorite section was the temporary exhibit of goalie masks even if they didn’t have a display for Olaf Kölzig, the Washington Capitals goalie I grew up watching. Towards the end, you come into a room that displays the trophies won by the best defenseman, best goal scorer, and the coveted Stanley Cup.
By the time I left, it was the afternoon, which means a socially acceptable time to have a drink. Outside of Steam Whistle Brewing is a pretty neat train display and a lot of people wandering around. A middle-aged gentlemen with a walker asked me to help him get across the train tracks that were running through the sidewalk. I gave him a quick assist while I listened to him speak in the most stereotypical Canadian accent I have ever heard. He was incredibly polite and spouted out a few “eh” and “aboot”s during our brief walk together. We wished each other a good day and I headed inside the brewery for a tall pilsner. Despite it being a Saturday, most of the people in there looked like they were coming right after work, dressed up a little and chatting like colleagues more than friends.
After my mid-day cap, I continued on to check out Old City Hall and (new) City Hall to get a picture of the Toronto sign. I passed through St. James Park where I saw a bunch of people walking their dogs around with little boots on their feet. I somehow managed to arrive at the Toronto sign and snap some pictures just moments before two tour buses rolled up and a few dozen people poured out to take over the area. Somewhere in the mix of things I had strolled into St. Lawrence Market. I didn’t get anything to eat, but I did enjoy a lot of people watching and the sights and smells of the market. Just observing is one of my favorite things to do when traveling.
Around dusk, I took a walk along the waterfront and stopped for dinner at The Goodman Pub. It was pretty empty so I sat at the bar and I had a much better experience than the reviews for the place suggested. The only weird thing was a woman at the end of the bar ordered a beer with ice cubes (since going to Thailand, I’ve learned that it’s not completely uncommon.)
My late night exploring took me through the shopping district, back around the CN Tower, which was lit up with various colors, and back towards my hostel. I had put some mileage on my pedometer so going to bed was welcomed. Remember my normal looking bunk mate from last night, well now it’s a short, chubby, older guy that has decided to get ready for bed wearing nothing but a very revealing set of briefs. Please don’t have nightmares about that image…
When I woke up, I checked out and grabbed a chai latte and muffin from Starbucks. Carlton was written on the cup. I chuckled. When I got to my car, my GPS wouldn’t turn on after a few minutes of trying. No big deal, I had just arrived two days prior so I just used memory to get back to Queen Elizabeth Way – a straight shot back to Niagara Falls.
I wanted to spend some time on the Canadian side of the Falls, so I found some parking and started walking around. This side was much better than the American side. There were tons of restaurants, bars, arcades, things to do, and people venturing around. Was it because it’s a weekend day or is this all the time? Let me know in the comments if you’ve had the same experience. The Canadian side also affords you a visit of the horseshoe falls, the most famous of the falls here. I got a few pictures in and stood in awe at the amount of water that dumped over the falls, it’s incredible.
My phone still wasn’t working, so I stopped in a café to pull up their Wi-Fi and try to map my way home. I put together a plan to get me back one city at a time, using Wi-Fi at the different stops. This plan was going to add 2-3 hours to my former plan, but there was no way I’d get back through countryside New York and Pennsylvania without Apple Maps. As I approached the border guard, he asked me the standard questions and after I answered them all, he told me to turn off the car and pop the trunk. I complied and this guy took a solid few minutes to rip apart my trunk. It was empty, save for a few tools, a blanket, and my spare tire. He let me go without much of a courtesy. Eventually, when I got near the NY/PA border, my service came back. Turns out, the phone bill was past due so once I got that situated, everything went back to normal.
I was a little grumpy because of the phone situation and border guard leaving my trunk a mess, otherwise I would have spent some more time on the Canadian side of the falls and probably more time in Toronto before leaving. I’ll be back sometime, hopefully sooner than later.