In the summer of 2018, my husband Dragan, our son, Aleks, who was 11 at the time and I visited Canada. We travelled west from Toronto to Vancouver. Having flown from Minnesota (see previous) we stayed with friends in Toronto and the view from the air approaching the airport was spectacular.
We caught the metro to downtown Toronto and since Aleks loves aquariums, Ripley’s Aquarium was a must. After all the sharks and fish in the aquarium we ran out of steam, so we’ll have to scale Toronto’s CN Tower another time. Looking up, I was amazed to see a group of people hanging from the top of the tower, doing an ‘Edge Walk’. If you have a head for heights, then maybe this is for you….
Our hosts, Darko, Dijana and their children took us to the beaches on Lake Ontario. Luckily or unluckily the weather was a bit windy and grey. The beaches, normally very crowded, were deserted that day, so it was very relaxing, walking the dog along the boardwalk. We stopped for an ice-cream and dropped in to the local second hand shop. A fabulous quirky mixture of just about everything! (It happens to be owned by Darko’s mum!)
Dragan and Darko, were due at a conference in Kingston the following day, so we drove with Aleks and Darko’s daughter, Anya to spend a few days in this pretty lakeside town. You know I think I had the best cup of tea ever in a hipster cafe in Kingston called ‘Sipps,’ when the two dads were at their conference. The kids had a lovely hot chocolate and muffins.
So Kingston is a very interesting place, great for sailing, home to the 19th century Military Museum, Fort Henry and it is located in the Thousand Islands area of Lake Ontario. Aleks and Anya became 19th century British Army recruits for the day at Fort Henry and they mustered with gusto, before collecting their meagre wages. (Canada was a British colony in the 19th century). A trip to Fort Henry with children is really good fun and very educational. There are lots of opportunities to dress up and take part in 19th century military life. I recommend keeping track of the events during the day, so that you don’t miss the canon firing and many other activities. As it is a Fort by water, it is very exposed with very little shade - I suggest wearing a hat and suncream!
We took a lake cruise around the Thousand Islands. It was very beautiful and I found the commentary very interesting, but the kids seemed to have an endless need for food and drinks from the galley!! Stunning what kids are able to consume in one hour when they’re a bit bored!
‘To count as one of the Thousand Islands, emergent land within the river channel must have at least one square foot (0.093 m2) of land above water level year-round, and support at least two living trees.’ - Wikipedia.
The smallest island is actually in the USA called ‘Just Room Enough Island’. The Thousand Islands have the Canadian - USA border running through them and were probably the inspiration for the famous salad dressing! In fact there are nearly 2000 islands, but I’m not sure 1,864 Islands sounds as poetic! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thousand_Islands
Luckily our hotel had a pool, because it poured with rain for more or less two days straight after that. The kids were therefore kept busy!
We headed back to Toronto, dropped our friends home and had a quick pit stop before driving to London, Ontario. We stayed with friends in London and they arranged various outings for us all, including a trip to Niagara Falls. The falls are big and it’s also big business, but with a staggering number of visitors, it needs the infrastructure and amenities there for everything to run smoothly.
Despite the crowds, we didn’t have to wait long and the boat trip below the waterfall was wonderful. Lots of spray and oohs and aahs, with everybody made equal in pink plastic ponchos!
For braver souls than I, a zip wire trip above the river with stunning views of the waterfall would be thrilling. If that’s not your thing, you can get surprisingly close to the water thundering over the top of the falls along the main walkway- a good photo spot (with a thousand unintentional photo-bombers.)
After the waterfall, we drove to the cute village of Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you’ve ever been to Britain, you may experience a deja-vu if you visit here, as this lovely place has British-style red brick shops, hotels and tearooms. Victorian Britain with a Canadian twist. Marmite, Walker’s shortbread and British tea can all be found in the local grocery store. It’s very touristy, but also delightful. The give away for me were the extremely exotic hanging baskets and plants!
In London, Ontario, we visited Eldon House, a beautiful Georgian and Regency building, which belonged to the Harris family for four generations. It is very unusual, in that the decor and furniture are mostly completely original. The house was given to the City of London in 1960. We hoped to have high tea here, but it was fully booked, obviously very popular! I loved reading about Amelia Harris (1869 - 1959) who went to school in Torquay, England.
So at this point, we were about halfway through our trip. Having said goodbye to our friends in London, we drove to Hamilton Airport to fly to our next stop, Calgary and the Rockies. I loved Hamilton Airport, it even had a small art gallery with local art on display. I think it reminded me of airports from the 1970s - small and charming.
My next Canadian blog post is about our stay in Calgary, the Rockies, Vancouver and Vancouver Island!