A trip down memory lane and beyond - Toronto

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

19th May 2021

By Elle Summers

Having overcome the struggles of catching a connecting flight to Toronto – it was a very easy process, even if I did speak to about six people in the airport just to make sure I was going in the right direction – my arrival was simple, especially as now being on an internal flight meant I didn’t need to go through passport control. From here, my travels were to change pace slightly. Having left my best friend behind in New York, I was now set to stay with family friends and spend nine days exploring the city by myself.

Despite not being overly keen of spending 24/7 in my own company, I made the most of my time in Canada. And one especially good thing? Now I’d crossed the border, I was legally allowed to drink again! The first item on my itinerary was to use the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus to get about, and so armed with my tickets, I got the subway into the centre of the city to find the pick-up point. I would definitely recommend this method of sightseeing, especially to those travelling alone somewhere unfamiliar. The buses are set up with headphone ports so a pre-recorded guide can give you information about the different streets and locations you pass, whilst you’re free to get off at any stop to explore before re-joining the bus tour at a later time. The first destination on my list? The CN Tower. Much like enjoying a view of the New York City skyline earlier in my travels, I wanted to head to the highest point of the city to appreciate the view. Despite not having the same kind of hyped ‘wow factor’ behind the reveal of the skyline as the One World Trade Center, the CN Tower did definitely deliver in terms of the view. Although I’m never good with a glass floor, my experience trying to walk along it in Tower Bridge is a whole other story, I was able to lean over that section enough to take some photos without having to face my fear completely and walk on it. I ended the experience by heading right to the top of the tower to an exposed part, again, I was too worried to walk right up to the railing edge, but I’m glad to went up all the same.

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

Another location I stopped off at from the bus tour was Casa Loma, a Gothic ‘castle’ style mansion in midtown Toronto, that is now an historic museum and landmark. This site was the dream of Sir Henry Pellatt and took three years and $3.5 million to construct. The mansion itself was beautiful, with lush indoor gardens and room upon room full of lavish collections and art to enjoy. The history of Casa Loma was also incredibly interesting to read about, for after Sir Henry left to retire in 1925, the house became a grand hotel before ending up a museum. One fun fact is that it the stables, now connected to the main house by a series of tunnels under the road, housed a secret sonar production and research facility where ASDIC devices were built during World War II. These sonar detectors were used by convoys bringing vital war supplies across the Atlantic to detect the precise location of enemy U-Boats at a distance of a few kilometres and helped secure a safer supply line to Europe.

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

No journey to this side of the world would be complete without a trip to Niagara Falls. My family friends had hired a car for the weekend, making our travel there very easy. I must say, upon arrival it was not what I was completely expecting. Before pulling out to the water’s edge to view the Falls we drove through the epitome of a run-down British seaside town. Although it was not the right time of year for this area to be buzzing with life, the bright neon lights were enough to put me off. However, once faced with this natural beauty of the falls themselves my mind was changed completely. My main lasting memory of the experience was the sheer noise of the water as it hit the bottom, it was indescribable!

During my time in Toronto, I also went to watch a Baseball game – I’m fully aware I did this the wrong way round, what with viewing an Ice Hockey match in Philly! But after the Philadelphia Flyer’s sorry defeat a few weeks before, the Baltimore Orioles brought it back for the Yankee’s, winning the baseball 5-6. Again, I am probably not the most reliable source to comment on these sporting experiences, as I still am not exactly clear on how the scoring works! My family friend that accompanied me was none the wiser, and so I spent many of the breaks in the game trying to google the rules to have some clue what I was actually watching.

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

The last highlight of my trip was my day out to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Despite getting lost just trying to find the toilets and being directed back up the stairs to an area which visitors were actually allowed to use by one grumpy employee, the day was an enjoyable one! There was a very interesting exhibition on about war time photography which was very humbling. I also thoroughly enjoyed some lovely paintings of rural locations in Canada by The Group of Seven, who were some of the first Canadian artists to capture the nature beauty of their surroundings.

The rest of my time in Toronto was spent enjoying luxury food, such a beautiful steak one night, drinks at fancy cocktail bars, a VIP cinema experience where they bring food and drink to your seat, a night at a board games café and lots of late nights catching up. Although my exploring was done mainly by myself and the pace of the itinerary had slowed slightly, I did thoroughly enjoy my stay. One final piece of advice to anyone thinking of heading out to Canada – head to a Tim Hortons, it’s a must!

And so, my time in Canada had come to a close, and it was time for me to return to American soil to meet my family who were joining me for the last two weeks of my tour. Washington DC, here I come.