Toronto

This place is big. Not that I wasn’t expecting it to be, but when the biggest city you’re used to is Newcastle, coming into a real big city can be a little overwhelming.

There’s the different style contributing to that, too. Road signs and layouts, crossings, and the whole grid-based layout of the streets are so alien to someone from an old country like England.

There are lots of coffee shops and juice bars, but no bakeries.

I’m four days in now with less than two to go. Thursday was the least eventful, but an exhausting one – I spent the whole day walking, around the harbourfront area and over on the Toronto islands. My feet will never forgive me.

I also took some time to go up in the CN Tower, which offers some incredible views of the city. They have a glass floor area up there, and I was surprised at how nervous I got stepping onto it. It’s a helluva long way down.

Friday was the big day, the one that’s on so many bucket lists: Niagara Falls. It’s strange how enthralling a load of water over rocks can be. I wouldn’t have expected it, but riding the Maid of the Mist right up into the spray from the horseshoe falls and getting soaked was the most fun I’ve had all week. I could have done without the Niagara’s Fury attraction (which involves an animated film followed by standing in a dark room while a machine throws water at you), and the Journey Behind the Falls was a little disappointing, but the falls themselves and the whole stretch of river is just incredible to see up close, and so worth this trip. I could certainly go for more experiences like that.

By comparison Saturday was pretty relaxing. I got the heavy walking done in the morning looking around the Eaton Centre then walking over to see the Kensington Market area. In the afternoon I did something else brand new – met up with some people I know through WoW who happen to live here, and caught a film then went to dinner. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, and I’m glad I overcame my nerves to go ahead with it.

And finally I come to today, which was filled by a trip to Toronto Zoo. It’s a strange phenomenon that you can be totally uninterested in animals for most of your life and then somehow be fascinated when someone puts them up on display and charges an entry fee. The zoo is big and it has a good variety of animals, though a lot of them were (understandably) lying in the shade and thus mostly out of view. The elephant enclosure seemed in a pretty sorry state, and it was… odd to see a cheetah running through a field of dandelions, but certain other exhibits make up for the minor disappointments. There’s nothing quite like standing a few feet away from an enormous grizzly bear while he plays with a beach ball in his pool. Zoos: something else I could do more often.

I head for the skies on Tuesday, and for tomorrow I have a plan to visit the Royal Ontario Museum, which should be interesting. I might fill in some more time by finally taking the open top bus tour around the city – odd, perhaps, to be doing that on the last day and not the first, but maybe it’ll show me something I would have missed.

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