Monday, October 16, 2006

Toronto and Niagara - Saturday

Saturday we slept in a bit since breakfast was untill 10.30am. The hotel had an excellent breakfast. Very good hash-browns, bacon, eggs, sausages, but also croissants, serial and bread. Accompanied by excellent coffee and fresh OJ we had a very good start of the day.

The plan was to drive from the hotel to Yorkdale Shopping Centre, park the car and take the subway to downtown Toronto. This time the plan worked, or in the words of the unforgettable Colonel Hannibal Smith (A-team) 'I love it when a plan comes together...'.

We got the day-passes and took the first train to Union Station. First stop: CN Tower. What else? So we took the Skyway and at the tower bought the tickets to go up. Piece of advice, don't take the experience, just the observation deck and (optionally) the Skypod. Use Wikipedia to read up on the story of the CN Tower and you save yourself some nice dollars.

The ride up is quick (at 15mph / 22km/u) and gets you to 350m / 1100ft / 113 stories) where the observation deck is located. It holds a number of things. Among others, a restaurant with an astonishing view, plenty of look-out oppertunities and a glass floor. Especially the latter is an 'interesting' experience for those of us who have never been on it.

During the ride-up I thought I spotted a Dutch couple, but didn't get a change to talk to them. While taking some shots from around the observation deck I ran into the male-part of the couple and talked to him for a bit. They were doing a North America tour and already visiited NY, Boston, Montreal and Ottawa. We talked some more on things to do in Toronto and said our goodbyes.

After the talk I had a voice mail from Joel. We was calling to see what the plans were to meet-up for dinner. We settled on the Old Spaghetti Factory (we have a bit of history there - not to be disclosed here...) around 5pm since the Leafs were playing the Flames at 7pm (that's the NHL ice-hockey teams Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Calgary Flames for those outside the Americas) and they all like to get a bite to eat before the game.

During that call Joel mentioned how cool it would for me to meet some fellow Dutchies on top of the tower. Well, he hit the nail on the head there. On the other hand, you can find Dutchies in northern New Hampshire on a mountain pass in the middle of May, so meeting a few on the main tourist trap in Southern Ontario wasn't that much of a strech...;-)

The views where amazingly clear and by far the best I've ever encoutered. We even had a very cool view on a strom rolling-in from the West (see the photo-link, just click on the blog-title). It turned-out to be a nifty rain-strom and we decided to let it run its course and watch it go by from within the observation deck.

Being a tourist-trap they smartly have the elevator down end in the middle of the gift-shop. All kinds of interesting looking contraptions can be found there. Some actually useful, other absolutely not, but almost all a bit overpriced. I find it a sport to find a useful, normally priced item and this time I acutally found something.

The tour of 'le tour CN' completed we headed for downtown Toronto and were looking for one of those Tour Busses that show you the major things in 2 hours. There was one directly on Front and John street. However, the booth was there, but no agent. We called the number and a friendly voice told us the agent was coming any minute. After about 15mins still no agent, so we decided to skip it and fall back on plan B - just do most of the items on foot.

About 2 mintues later the agent came running up, but since the tour wouldn't start until 3pm and took 'at least' 2 hours it would interfere with our dinner plans, so we decided to continue on foot. Since walking takes energy we stopped at Tim Hortons to get bagels and Hot Chocolate. I called dad for a bit and while talking to him it started to hail. OK, plan C.

Plan C: this plan uses one of Torontos nice features, the underground PATH-system that basically connects all the major downtown buildings and sights including the Eaton Centre, City Hall and some of the Subway stations. We entered at Union Station and exited at City Hall. We then continued our tour above ground to the Eaton Centre and stopped/shopped for a bit at Indigo bookstore.

Walking through the Bay (depaartment store of the Hudson Bay Company) we exited at Queen street and walked on Yonge Street heading towards the Esplanade where the Old Speghetti Factory was located. We veered off a bit to Old Town to get some perspective before heading to one of the must-see items if you want a taste of true Canadiana, the Hockey Hall of Fame in BCE Place. We took some interesting pictures there, including a few shots of a small World Press Photo exhibition (co-sponsered by two Dutch firms... go figure).

Since it was rapidly approaching 5pm we headed towards the Old Spaghetti Factory and put our name on the list since there was about a 40 minute wait. We headed to the bar to have a drink while waiting and it turned-out that Joel and Carolyn where already there for a few minutes and were quite a few place higher on the list already. So the change was made and after about 5 mintues our table was ready.

Since it was the 'Spaghetti Factory' we had to get sonme of that. While waiting for our order they brought some delicious bread and the garden salad is also a nice appetizer (oh.. don't go for the upgrade to a Ceasar - it's huge and the main course is more then enough...). The spaghetti was awesome and over and after dinner we had some delightful converstaion on about anything you can think of. As a desert we ordered some Spumonti, a small bowl of ice that is NOT on the menu so remember to ask for it the next time you're there.

Since Joel is a big hockey fan he had it in his mind to see what the scallopers would want for tickets once the game was started. He was looking for anything under $20. Yeah right!! Turned out the cheapest ones where about $100. Not much over the regular price, but steep for a game already in progress. No surprise, but still... So we decided to go watch it in a bar. Well, where is a sports-bar when you need one...

This was the start of an interesting adaventure. We decided to go somewhere closer to the Hotel (and closer to Joel and Carolyns place as well) and since they drove down we took their car. In a momentary lapse of reason (good Pink Ployd album by the way...) I forgot that my car was still at Yorkdale so we had to go back and get it. That nice little detour costed us most of the first period of the game (2-0 Leafs). While at Yorkdale we decided to quickly look for some swimware for me, but again finding something like that in the off-season when you're in a time-crux didn't really work. Well, for $50 CDN it would have, but to pay that just to take advantage of the Hotel pool-option was a bit much.

We then tried to see if there was a store at Yorkdale that showed the game, but unfortunately not a single one did. There was one on Dufferdin, but since we still had to drive we decided to drive to the same bar we had dinner last night in Sauga and we ended-up there during the intermission between the 2nd and 3rd period of the game (score now 4-3 Leafs).

We got a good spot at the bar and ordered some wings to nibble on during the game. Since it was about 3 hours after dinner already that was much appreciated. The Flames actually scored the equalizer before Leafs captain Mats Sundin - short-handed - scored his 500th goal in sudden-death overtime to clinch it for the Leafs.
Afterwards we watched the conclusion of the Montreal Canadians and the Ottawa Senators, which - sorry Sean - went to Ottawa after shoot-outs.

Now approaching about 10pm it was time to say goodbye to Joel and Carolyn and we headed back to the hotel. I watched some of the third game on Hockey Night in Canada, but fell asleep halfway through it.

A good end to an interesting day in Toronto.

No comments: