A November 2002 trip
to Ontario by michaelhudson
Quote: Canada's second largest province at 1000 sq. km.
On the US border south of Ottawa, Upper Canada Village has a wonderful collection of original buildings from the mid-19th century.
What Toronto lacks in character it makes up for in size and vibrancy. There are a few historical building dotted around, like the Casa Loma, Union Station, and the Royal Ontario Museum, but the main attractions are more modern additions, such as the view from the top of the CN Tower, shopping at the Eaton Centre, the province's best nightlife, and the restaurants in the bustling Chinatown district.
South of Toronto, Niagara Falls is simply unforgettable, and only very slightly marred by the tackiness of Niagara. If you're in the area, spend a day in pretty Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the heart of Ontario's small wine growing region.
Kingston, on the northern edge of Lake Ontario, has enough to keep visitors interested for a couple of days, with a historical centre, some interesting museums, and the restored Old Fort Henry.
Ontario Travel is another useful source of information for the entire province, while Southern Ontario Tourism has lots of information on festivals and accommodation.
If you prefer a more leisurely pace to travelling around by car or train, the Rideau Canal runs for 125 miles between Ottawa and Kingston.Ottawa's centre is compact enough to explore on foot. Buses for the city's sprawling suburbs leave from the stands on MacKenzie King Bridge, behind the Rideau Centre. Bus no. 8 connects Ottawa and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.
The centre of Toronto is easy to walk around, though you might need to take the subway up to Casa Loma and back. Buses and streetcars integrate efficiently with the subway network, providing a relatively cheap and easy way to get around the city. Passenger ferries for Toronto islands depart from a terminal south of Union Station. Take streetcar nos. 509 or 510 to Queens Quay. The islands are nothing spectacular, but there are great views of the city skyline on the way across.
There were minimal queues when I visited the tower in late November but waiting times can be two hours and more during the peak summer months before you even reach the top. After buying the tickets a corridor runs around and above the gift shop level to the express lifts, stopping at a single file security checkpoint that looks like a standard airport metal detector but instead blows air out of six side ducts in order to reveal any hidden objects in your clothing. A bored-looking security guard glanced over my billowing jacket before gesturing in the direction of the lift.
Upon entering one of the six glass-fronted express lifts you are whizzed up the tower at a rate of 15 miles per hour. Operators provide commentary and answer questions -- "Has anybody ever vomited in here?" -- for the duration of the 58-second journey as skyscrapers slide into the lower distance and the ground disappears from view. When the doors open, you are 344 metres up and relieved.
There are four look out levels in the CN Tower. The lowest, the Glass Floor and Outdoor Observation Deck, is two metres lower than the Horizons Café and Indoor Observation Deck (where the first lift exits), down a flight of stairs. The 360 restaurant, which rotates once every 72-minutes, is directly above the Indoor Observation Deck, while the 447-metre high Skypod level is reached by taking a second lift – and joining another queue- from the Indoor Observation Deck. The basic ticket package includes the lower two floors only.
The signature view is of jutting skyscrapers positioned at varying angles, and all of different heights and designs. The TD Bank Tower, the reflective-black of the Toronto Dominion Centre, First Canadian Place and the twin towers of the Royal Bank Plaza stand out, confidently strutting upwards and outwards in a show of financial muscle filmed by thousands of camcorders each day. Just behind, the world's longest street, Yonge, appears intermittently in the gaps between buildings, passing the arched roof of the Eaton Centre and its three-storeys of shops and restaurants spread over 3,000,000 sq.ft. of shopping space at the start of its 1,190-mile journey through Ontario.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 9, 2003
301 Front St West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 2T6
Entering the WW1 section through a full size trench, visitors are thrust into a musty, pitch-black world of smoke filled horizons and sound effects encompassing machine gun bursts, muffled shouts and falling shells opening to an overwhelming array of battlefield remains: gas masks, rifles, grenades, helmets and flare pistols stacked beside trench signs from the ‘Vimy-Lievin Line’ and wooden memorial crosses.
An 1800-pound aircraft bomb is dwarfed by a life size model of an aeroplane once flown by Captain William Avery, who was one of the Allies’ top ‘aces’ with 72 kills. A German naval mine stands out of the corner given over to the 3,000 Canadians who served in the Royal Navy.
And then a highly symbolic 77mm German gun, deliberately destroyed by its crew in the face of the Canadian advance, dominates the display on Vimy Ridge, one of the most important events in the shaping of modern Canada. The contorted, mashed-up muzzle mirrors the pain and destruction of the troops who finally took the 7 –kilometre long, heavily fortified ridge at the expense of 3,598 dead and 7,000 wounded.
The standout exhibit upstairs in WWII is probably Hitler’s Car, a black Mercedes purchased in 1970 and complete with bullet holes caused by Allied strafing, which stands next to a bronze bust of Hitler seized as a war trophy by an army chaplain. More emotive artefacts include a concentration camp dress worn by a member of the French Resistance and a display on the 1,975 Canadian troops present at the Battle of Hong Kong. The 590 men killed in the initial fighting and later captivity are represented by an emaciated model of a POW, his broken, desperate expression in stark contrast to the huge pictures of embarking troops marching in long, smiling lines to the great adventure that awaited them.
Level 3 is dedicated to Canada’s Peacekeepers. Starting with weapons, uniforms and posters from the Korean War, where 516 of the 25,000 troops were killed, the exhibit continues with the development of NATO. As you cross a threshold a model of an East German guard flashes a torch and begins shouting. Sirens wail above the sound of running footsteps cut down by a sudden burst of machine gun fire. Past the collection of Warsaw Pact small arms, an explanation of Canadian Cold War participation is overshadowed by a Kiowa helicopter, which was used for observation purposes in the Canadian Artic. Gulf War uniforms and a Canadian crewed UN vehicle that was ambushed by 25 Serbs in Croatia follow, the latter covered with more than 50 bullet holes.
Canadian War Museum
330 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0M8
+1 819 776 8600; +1
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Rising 775-feet above the Falls Skylon Tower (www.skylon.com) markets itself as ‘Niagara’s most famous landmark’. Glass enclosed ‘Yellow Bug’ lifts slide up the outside of the tower to the three-storey circular platform at the top in 52 seconds. Far above the cafes, souvenir shops and amusement arcades back on the ground, an observation platform offers visibility up to 80 miles above two floors of dining options. The Summit Suite is cheaper than the Revolving Dining Suite, though you do get one rotation per hour as well as the bill if you choose the latter option. There is also an observation deck at the top of Minolta Tower.
The Casino Niagara ("Niagara’s Other Wonder") is located just off Clifton Hill. Open 24 hours a day 365 days a year, the casino has 150 table games, 2,700 slot machines, four restaurants and eight bars spread across a 100,000 sq. ft. area. The security staff at the entrance are under orders to check the ID of anybody who looks under 30, though you only need to be 19 to play the games, so carry proof of age with you.
If you want to experience going over the Falls in a barrel, try the IMAX theatre next to Skylon Tower (www.imaxniagara.com). Another option for those in search of a closer view is the Maid of the Mist (www.maidofthemist.com), a double decker steel boat that sails from a jetty at the bottom of Clifton Hill between April and the end of October. You’ll need the free raincoats again as there is no other way to avoid a drenching.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 9, 2003
Two hundred metres of tunnels run below the Horseshoe. Two and a half metres high and lit by yellow lights along the walls, the tunnels open to two arched portals. From behind the waist high fence 8-10 metres back from the falling water, up to 154 million litres of which drops every second, a constant white screen crashes into the depths just below. Closer examinations of the water are not recommended.
$7 Adults; $3.50 Children.
Behind the Grand Hall, which holds the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles, six houses contain exhibits from aboriginal cultures on the pacific coast, while on the other side of special exhibitions gallery A and B, the massive First Peoples Hall is currently nearing completion.
Other main exhibits include reconstructed streets from Toronto, New France, and the western provinces, a Postal Museum displaying every Canadian stamp issued post 1851, an interactive Children's Museum, and Canada Hall.
Don't forget to pick up a free floor plan in the Main Lobby, and allow at least 3 hours for your visit.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 10, 2003
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier St.
Ottawa, Ontario J8X 4H2
(819) 776 7000
The Great Hall, 20m high and lit by a 40-foot window comprised of 738 individual panes of glass, merely scrapes the surface of a building that cost over $40 million to construct and bankrupted its original owner almost as soon as it was completed.
Highlights include a conservatory with a Tiffany domed glass ceiling and Italian marble floor, a network of steam pipes to heat the estate’s flower beds, Canada’s first electric lift, and a bathroom with white marble walls and heated shower units that cost C$10,000 to construct in 1911.
The turreted towers at the top of the castle, reached by ascending a wooden staircase under the ceiling beams and then a tightly spiralling set of metal steps, provide some wonderful views of Toronto, though the locked windows don't make photographs very easy. Don’t miss the Oak Room on the ground floor, with its exquisite panelled walls full of spirals and pheasants holding ribbons, fruit, and flowers that took European artisans 3 years to carve.
Below ground level, the castle café was originally intended to be exercise room, while the three arches in the large gift shop were planned as lanes of a bowling alley. A corridor leads to the wine cellar, cooled by pipes full of ammonia and brine and the largest in North America when first built, and an unfinished swimming pool, no more than a concrete pit with an artist’s impression of what it was to have been - a mass of marble surrounded by full sized golden swans, arches, and cloisters.
The 800m-long tunnel to the stables is also located on this level. Passing a furnace where 800 tons of coal a year were burnt to heat the building, the stone tunnel opens to Spanish tiles and mahogany, with stalls bearing the letters of each horse in gold. Walk through to the garage and potting shed, where petrol cans and plants fill rooms the size of a school assembly hall. It's a truly remarkable end to a piece of medieval Europe on the outskirts of Canada's modern metropolis.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 17, 2004
1 Austin Terrace (at Spadina)
Toronto, Ontario M5R 1X8
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom