25.05.2012 - 28.05.2012
After a final day in Buffalo I returned the car, 1935 miles driven in the week, and caught a Megabus to Toronto. 2 hours late, meant an arrival in Toronto after 12:30am and I found myself more than happy that the subway runs an hour later than in London (the English version, not the Ontario one).
Buffalo. Note the two Statues of Liberty on the building roof of the second photo
I found Toronto a bit of a slow burner. Yes, there were some nice neighbourhoods and it is probably somewhere great to live, but as a tourist for a few days I admit to being fairly underwhelmed. I walked for a couple of days around Little Korea, Little Italy, Greektown, Downtown and many other areas. I saw a building which looks like a giant IKEA table gone wrong. I was impressed by the scale of the tram network (or streetcar, if you are local), but whilst it was all very pleasant I didn't find a hook. Nothing to really pull me in and enthuse me. I was, however, gleefully discovered by a number of mosquitoes. Ah cr*p. It is already that time of year again.
The one thing that everybody knows about Toronto is the CN Tower. For 34 years it was both the worlds tallest tower and free-standing structure, though since overtaken by the ridiculous megalith that is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. For me who likes going up things, it was something to climb and as several people had told me that you can climb the stairs, I was really excited. It turns out the whilst you can, indeed, climb the stairs – all 1776 of them – you can only do it twice a year, and for charity. I asked; I pleaded; I went up in an elevator. I only went as far as the main floor, 350ish metres up – a further 10dollars and 2 hour wait would have risen me an extra 100metres to a much smaller visiting dome, but I didn't think it would be worth it. Now, if they had let me go up the stairs.... I also looked at the people doing an outside walk above where I was standing, 365 metres up. Watching a few on the video was enough to make my legs go funny, but I would have happily attempted it if it had not cost an extra 200 dollars and had a waiting list of almost 12months. As it was, I had to make do with the “normal” viewing platform and view (not too bad), and looking through the area of glass floor to the ground below, with the evil wish that somebody would play a loud recording of cracking glass to freak out the many people gingerly looking down.
Being outside and looking down through the glass floor of the CN Tower
The following day, after passing a convention centre surrounded by people at a “Hydroponics conference” which judging by the smells outside appeared to be nothing less than a meeting of marijuana growers and smokers, I took a ferry across to Toronto Island and spent a pleasant few hours wandering around. With my new found ability to affect the weather in full-swing, I bought a pair of sunglasses about 3minutes before the glorious 28degree bright sun of the last few days was replaced by increasing dark clouds and much cooler air. Ho Hum. I met up with friends of friends, and also had a wonderful evening with the mythical mtlchica, somebody I have known here on TP for 8 years, but had long suspected didn't really exist.
Returning to my second hostel of the town (it had not been possible to book anywhere for all 4 nights, and Couchsurfing had led to offers only for the middle 2 days, meaning 3 potential moves) and there was still no toilet paper. Time to move on. So the next morning I went to Ottawa. For reasons unknown, Canada's often overlooked capital city of Ottawa agreed with me fairly early on. I enjoyed walking alongside the river and the famous Rideau Canal; Ambling through the Byward Market, and gazing at the famous Mamam spider which I have not seen for a few years - at one stage on it's European tour, I seemed to stumble upon it in a different city on an almost monthly basis. I watched the jet black squirrels playing on Major's Hill Park and spent the night somewhere which several people think I ought to have spent many more nights than I actually have: In jail.
The following morning I explored Parliament Hill, whereupon I walked straight into a (free) guided tour of Parliament, regularly passing Ministers and lobbyists in the corridors without so much as a glance, and passing doors labelled things like “2012 CM Budget meeting” behind which you could hear often lively discussion underway. This was a tour of the real working parliament and not just a few rooms used on special occasions, and whilst there was a metal detector at the entrance and some police around it was still surprisingly low key in terms of security. The Lower chamber was in use, but we saw the Upper one, as well as the Peace Tower. I left, hurriedly, after almost decapitating Andrew Scheer, the Speaker of Government, after being told by the guide to wave a stout wooden pole in a certain way for reasons that now elude me, whereupon he happened to walk right around the corner right into it. I saw him just in time and changed my angle, whilst he also saw it and half ducked. My tour guide looked simultaneously sheepish and horrified. The rest of the group scared and amazed. Me, relieved. Slightly worse reactions from either of us, and I would currently be an international incident. I took that as a sign that it was time to leave Ottawa - and rapidly - before I ended up facing an attempted assault charge and more time in jail.
I have never seen black squirrels before, so it was interesting to see, whilst (below) is the Ridea Canal
Leaving Ottawa in glorious summer sun, barely 10minutes later and we are in thick grey swirling drizzle and fog. But it passed and the remainder of the train journey to Montreal was uneventful until a few minutes outside when my arrival-weather curse again hit and a huge downpour flooded Montreal for an hour or so. By the time my connecting train left, it was just about over. But the clouds were going my way. I have said it before in Southern Africa, in Japan, in Russia, and in the Sahara when it started snowing. And probably many other places, but I again started wondering just to who I should apply for a new job as a weather delivery man.
Reading the paper the following morning, Montreal had received 75mm of rain in 30minutes and large parts of the city were flooded or not functioning, the sort of downpour which will crop up in conversation for years to come (the comparison given was to a famous storm in 1987, which dropped an extra 30mm but took 4 times as long to do so)
Thus it was that I arrived in Quebec (or Quebec City as it is sometimes know to avoid confusion with the province of the same name), with the two traditionals fully in place: It was pissing it down with rain, and I was an hour late.
I'm not used to seeing such signs: normally these places are much more hidden
Somebody asked if Clive was along for the ride, and i can happily confirm that he is, although was a bit scared meeting some Canadian cousins because they were all so much bigger than he was!