Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
97Trip End Aug 24, 2008
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We waited till the eleventh hour in Ottawa before booking our accommodation in Toronto, as we'd sent out a load of Couch-Surfing requests to which we were awaiting replies. Nothing happened, so we booked a hostel. Bit disappointing really: we were thinking that in a major city like that, there'd be at least one person who had signed up to a doss-on-my-couch network who was prepared to offer us a place to stay. Ho-hum.
The train to Toronto wasn't quite as luxurious as the previous one, possibly because the "Oh my God is this really standard class?" factor wasn't in play. Still, very nice, and we arrived in Toronto without major event, and headed for our hostel. After the protracted check-in procedure, we found the place to be pretty good really - private room with a fridge and microwave, kitchen with a well stocked communal fridge, free internet access, walking distance from the big name attractions, peculiar petrochemical solvent aroma in the towels and bed-linen...all mod cons really.
Checked in, checked e-mail, found an offer of a bed for the whole of our intended stay. Dammit. We asked the reception guy if we could have a refund (spun him a yarn about an old friend who we thought was out of town suddenly being available), but to no avail. Dammit. We've only just got here, we haven't even slept in the bed (hadn't even got round to jumping up and down on it by that point). Nope, it's "the policy", no refunds without three days notice. Dammit. Policy eh? The old no-wriggling-out-of-it standby of the man with no real argument to offer (and our dollars in his pocket). Death, taxes and "policy".
Fortunately, we'd only booked in for three nights (had been considering moving on to Niagara and staying there) out of our intended four, so we accepted the surfing offer, complained, bitched and whinged for a bit, then went to the pub. Pretty good pub, as it turned out (The Jersey Giant). It was trying to look like a British pub, but with the added bonus of having waitress service, as is pretty much standard in pubs this side of the pond. Decent food (we've learnt: order a starter between two people, and that's quite enough food for one meal), quite a bit of decent beer (Creemore Springs), then back to the hostel.
After a night on a very lopsided bed, we breakfasted on stuff we found in the fridge, then walked uptown to investigate transport to Niagara: Kirsty had read online about a company (Safeway Tours) that runs a cheap shuttle to the Niagara Casino for less than half the price of the mainstream tour companies. The deal, as it turns out, is that you can't take any luggage bigger than a handbag, it's $30 a person return, and each person gets a free $10 casino chip (which you can cash in when you get there). So, we went and acquired the smallest handbag we could find which would accommodate our monstrous camera from a cheapo luggage shop (about $4), then headed for the CN tower, stopping en route to take photos of the tower and other pretty buildings reflected in the conveniently placed shiny skyscraper.
From the railway station (where we went to book the next leg of our journey), there's a "Skywalk" (covered bridge for those not attuned to overblown marketing speak) to the CN tower. Inexplicably, from said Skywalk, you can see giant model woodpeckers on a telegraph pole. We took photos, but we remain in the dark as to their significance.
We emerged by the CN tower and after protracted debate, decided we would have the 'full experience' and bought tickets. This allowed us access to the two films - an interesting one about the CN tower and how it was built and a rubbish one about a logging company in a 'genetically modified super-tree' forest, which involved the seats moving and water being sprayed in the approximate direction of our faces (it hit Jacob in the groin, which was amusing to Kirsty at least!). We then proceeded through the really weird security (a kind of airport metal detector gate thing which blew air forceably into you - at least it dried Jacob's trousers) to the lift up to the main viewing platform. The view was incredible, particularly through the glass floor, which Kirsty's brain couldn't quite deal with - "I can see the ground, it's too far down, I'm not walking on that even if Jacob can". We also went up to the 'Skypod', which at 447m (1465 ft) is the highest observation deck in the world. The air felt kind of thin. No, really, we did actually find ourselves feeling a little light-headed and heavy-legged up there.
After marvelling for a while at the little tiny people down below, we decided that we should call it a day and head back for ground level. The walk back to the hostel past the huge buildings which had looked so teeny tiny from above was a bit strange. Despite exploring a market on the way home, we decided the way to go was tuna and baked beans and some local beers (Whistle Stop Brewery, Mill Street Brewery - mmmm). Suitably tipsy, we headed for bed, ready for the Niagara adventure the following day!