Excited? You bet. After a gentle few weeks in Calgary and Edmonton we were about to embark on another mini-adventure, a road trip in Ontario down to St Catharines and Niagara Falls. Hopefully the weather would hold out and we’d remember how to drive as it’s been a little while.
Someone commented that they called it ‘Deadmonton’ as it was such a dull place, funny but not the city that we experienced at all. We found it full of life and great to explore, in fact probably more interesting than Calgary if we were pushed. Anyway, an early start to catch the Airport Shuttle bus had us wheeling our fabulous new cases through the Edmontonian streets in the dark and obviously being the first people on the bus. Easy bus trip and comfortable 3 hour flight to Toronto where Jo managed to both choose and watch a complete film. Only just though as it was finishing as the doors were opening and people were fighting to disembark.
Before we get going in Toronto I just have to tell you about our Airbnb host in Edmonton and his weird transformation. We had booked and been dealing with Bashir, nice guy and great host. I sent him a ‘thanks for everything’ message as we were leaving and was surprised to receive a reply from Casey. Once we’d realised that it was still Bashir we got another message this time from Kasey. Strange huh? Then when we got to Toronto and did the standard Airbnb review it popped up that he was now Kasey B! It appears that as we left he underwent some sort of character regeneration like Doctor Who. Wonder if this happens after every guest leaves?
Our plan had been to pick up a hire car and spend a night in an airport hotel before starting our little road trip off in southern Ontario and the Niagara peninsula. This is the area between the southern shore of Lake Ontario and the northern shore of Lake Erie and our destination was the town of St Catharines in the north east.
A night at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Brampton and a slap up dinner at the very reasonably priced Boston Pizza was all we needed to prepare for our mini-adventure. Toronto is a huge city, in fact its enormous. Did you know its the fourth biggest city in North America after New York, LA, and Mexico City? So we made a joint executive decision that Jo would take the wheel and I would navigate as the spaghetti-network of six-lane roads leaving the city looked fairly scary. In truth it was pretty easy and within 30 minutes we were out of the metropolis and crossing the Burlington Bay James N Allan Skyway onto the Niagara peninsula.
Once again we had a fabulous little Nissan Note hire car just like the one we had in South Island New Zealand and also Las Vegas, although this time it was called a Nissan Versa (we knew it was really a Note underneath though).
St Catharines and Port Dalhousie
Our Airbnb was actually right on Lake Ontario in a little town called Port Dalhousie. Very quiet and absolutely stunning, we arrived well early so walked out along the harbour and the old canal and relaxed on the beach.
It was just so strange sitting on the beach and paddling to think that it wasn’t the sea or an ocean but was just a lake. A lake? Ok it is one of the Great Lakes which are massive but even so it just seems so big. We should have known really as we’d had exactly the same thoughts when we’d been to Lake Michigan a few months ago.
Port Dalhousie has a few bars and restaurants but is famous for the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta which is an annual rowing championship held in Martindale Pond. They’ve also hosted the World Rowing Championships here on several occasions. Jo’s favourite part of town, apart from the beach of course, was Tim Horton’s coffee shop. It may be an understatement to say she’s their best overseas customer now!
Fabulous New Airbnb
Our home in Port Dalhousie for the next week was with the lovely Christine and Peter in their delightful house right behind the harbour. All of our Airbnb hosts are different of course and one of the things we most enjoy is getting to know people as we move from place to place. However, sometimes we meet the nicest couples and instantly get on like a house on fire. That’s what happened here. Christine works in the local wine industry and Peter is a graphic designer and it felt like we’d known them for years and made our stay fantastic.
The main reason for planning this trip to Southern Ontario from Toronto had been to visit the iconic Niagara Falls and that was the plan for our next day. But, and it’s a big but, the story of that day will have to wait until the next post. It was just TOO AMAZING to include with anything else and we have too many photos for you all to see. So hold tight and it’ll soon be here.
St Catharines Wine and Grape Festival
Port Dalhousie is right on the edge of St Catharines so we headed into town on the Saturday to try and catch some of the festival parade. The whole Niagara area is a hotbed of vineyards and wineries and there are just so many different wines being produced all over the region. It’s so massive that they have this huge parade once a year and as we wandered up from the car park we realised what a big deal it was. Thousands of people lining the entire parade route with camping chairs, tables, barbeques, the lot.
We particularly loved all of the fez-wearing fellas who were part of the St Catharines Shriners Club. They’re an arm of the local Freemasons who all wear their own personally decorated fez’s. Now we love a fez so it was great to see them all in marching bands, waving from painted floats, and best of all racing around in crazy little red cars! Very surreal. An army of Tommy Cooper lookalikes everywhere!
We also found it a bit strange seeing the local marching bands of Grimsby, Cambridge and Lincoln. Can’t they think of any names of their own??
It was a true family occasion and we spoke to so many friendly locals as the hundreds of floats and marching bands passed by, what a great morning. The sun shone and fun and laughter filled the air. It was brilliant.
The Fourth Welland Canal
On a day like this we just couldn’t stop so headed off after the parade to find the St Catharines Museum out on the Welland Canal. It’s actually the Canal Centre too, doesn’t sound that interesting does it but it was fascinating. There have been four canals between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie over the years, the first three actually went through Port Dalhousie. The current one runs right next to the museum and there are enormous great ships(or boats, not sure which is nautically correct) passing through constantly.
The size of these ships(or boats) is mind-boggling and most only have a crew of a dozen or so men. The canal forms part of the St Lawrence seaway and enables these big ships to get around Niagara Falls and down to Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland. So we watched a couple of these skyscraper-sized vessels pass through the lock before heading back to Port Dalhousie.
An evening meal at Murphys Harbourfront Inn and restaurant.Fabulous meal to finish a fabulous day which we decided couldn’t be over properly until we’d walked along the beach enjoying the incredible views of the lake and distant Toronto.
Coming next ………………….
Don’t go anywhere, we’re off to Niagara Falls to get absolutely soaked under one of the natural wonders of the world!
21.09 – 24.09.2016