One thing I noticed is that flights to North America starts at dawn. Ours were at 5:50 am. God help us wake up in time for checking in. We made it in time. August 7 was the magical date for our vacation to Canada. To get yourself prep up with what to expect in Canada, please see my previous post: Prepping up
It was my 1st trip with ANA airlines and I must say I like it. The food was not bland as the usual fare and they have Häagen Daz for dessert 🙂 Second, I think long haul airplanes have upgraded their entertainment system. Now, you can select the movie/TV series to watch. Last time was a big screen at the front and we all have no say on what movie to watch. Our stopover was in Narita, Tokyo. I had a ball shopping for sweets at the airport during our layover and Francis had to point out that we are going to Canada, not Japan (lol). If you haven’t been to Japan, you must! I will be posting my trip soon.
Our returning trip was with United airline. In my US trip (see previous posts), I didn’t get a decent flight but I still took my chance this round. It was not bad. Maybe because I had someone to keep me company 😉 I still say it’s unfair that we could only take one checked-in luggage (23kg) per person.
Round trip costed 2,789 SGD
For the domestic travel, I would say the train was more comfortable journey even though it takes 3 more hours. The VIA rail for boarding is within the city train station in both cities. Check in is just giving your boarding pass (provided in advance via email) to the conductor and then head to your assigned train car number. No custom or immigration checks, no scanning of luggage and yourself, free 25kg luggage plus free WIFI on board. It is less hassle. One way costed 70 CAD.
Porter airline to Toronto lands on an island, south of downtown. There is a ferry that takes you to the mainland, about 5 mins ride + waiting time. One way costed 142 CAD. I had to wait till both train and plane fares were on sale. Regular rate were 120 CAD for train and 200 CAD for plane. Like their Facebook page to get updated with their promotions.
Thus, my total flight would cost 3k CAD. Yes, it is expensive. No, I am not doing this on frequent basis.
By the time I arrive in Toronto, it was 10pm. My relatives were waiting for me to arrive from the ferry. It is nice to be with people who knows the area, and of course, meeting my relatives. They were very nice. They showed me how to use the public transport and even toured me around using their car. They took me to places with good food, I believe they are considered as “foodies”. Because of that, I would say I had excellent food experience in Toronto. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Toronto train system is called TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). You either buy pass or tokens. Tokens is inserted at the entrance. The token is valid only for 1 ride. It doesn’t matter how far or near you go, it have the same fare (2.7 CAD). Passes comes in day (11 CAD), week (39.25 CAD) or monthly card. It really depends on how often to do you travel. For me, since I tend to go only 1-2 round trips and less than a week to tour around, I went with the tokens. You can buy them in any train station. 7 coins for 20 CAD
Places I have been
First stop was Niagara Falls which was about an hour ride from my relative’s place. I am really glad that I have folks here so I don’t have to worry about travel. For those who need public transport, there are several tour groups/buses that can bring you to the falls. Some of them are:
There is an outlet mall just 15 mins way from the Falls. We, by chance, had a quick bathroom stop, and the unplanned window shopping led to buying bags and wallet from Kate Spade lol They had a 40% discount on top of the outlet prices. I finally got my 1st branded bag with a good price 😀
After the sidetrack shopping, we then head to the Falls. The view was breathtaking, especially when you are on the boat heading towards it. I got the Maid of the Mist ferry ticket, which was 19.95 CAD. You can get a small discount if you arrived early, unfortunately, we missed it by 15 mins. Don’t be shy donning on the cheap plastic rain coat when boarding the ferry, you will be thankful after getting wet from the water works. I felt the power of the water pounding, it is definitely source of electric energy! (tidbit: US and Canada have shared the Niagara water for electricity generation for nearly half a century!)
After getting myself slightly wet, we then head to Niagara village. One thing to note that parking can be a pain since locals also come here to relax in the village. We were just in time for the Peach festival: peach pie, peach ice cream, peach milkshake, everything peach are sold at the village center! I also tried Cow’s brand ice cream of salted caramel, it was delicious. (another tidbit: Niagara is famous for its ice wine – its a sweet light wine made from frozen grapes harvested in winter. Price can be expensive but if you are curious on the taste, go for it)
The next stop was back to Toronto for my 8pm 16 Scandals comedy show at The Second City. Ticket was 32 CAD and it was worth it. There were some inside jokes that I couldn’t get immediately but overall, they had great punch lines and sarcastic jokes.
Second day was another food festival! This time it is Greek theme: gyro in pita, roasted quails, Greek yogurt, rosemary lamb pie, real Napoleon pizza (super thin crust) and churros (just coz). I love gyro and rosemary lamb pie! My relatives have a neighborhood Greek bakery named Athens Pastries so I also tried the loukoumades, mini dough balls – it is really good when its hot!
My relatives are foodie people. Everyday meal have different food theme. I had a taste of Chinese boneless whole chicken (the bones are delicately taken out and the chicken is cooked whole), Mr Jerk for Jamaican jerk chicken and pork, Caribbean food at Nicey takeout shop, Iranian food from Khorak supermarket, good porridge at Porridge King, and peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery, St Lawrence Market (it is not really bacon but it is pork ham). The corns are so sweet, they doesn’t need salt or butter for seasoning. Corn is now my favorite veggie (or grain). St. Lawrence Market is something you should check out if you like food market. They have different variety of cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables. It was interesting to see food that is not common in Asia. The whole trip was gastronomical good!
And now to the usual tourist attraction. It is a good idea to purchase the City Pass if you are planning to hit all or most of the featured attractions. You can definitely save if you total the entrance fees. Price is at 70CAD. I decided to go to these places:
- Toronto Zoo . Go for it if you love to see animals, especially the ones found in Canada. Sometimes, they can be shy and hid far away (from your camera).
- Casa Loma Castle.This would be my 1st visit to a castle. It is not as tall and grand as the European versions but I like it.
- CN tower. You can get a 360 view of Toronto skyscrapers.
- Ontario Science Centre – don’t bother unless you have kids. This is more for kids educational interactive play.
Shopping wise, I went to Yorkdale and Toronto Eaton Centre Shopping Mall. They are huge malls so it will take maybe half a day to leisurely explore each one. Toronto also have underground walks that interlinks several malls. It is a lifesaver during winter. I didn’t try to explore too deep in case I get lost.
Overall, I love my Toronto experience. Now, off to Montreal for some french adventure!
More updates: We have been visiting Toronto more frequently since we moved to Ottawa. Here are more places we visited:
- Evergreen Brick Works is a quarry turned park and farmer’s market.
- Pacific Mall is a Chinese mall filled with mobile shops, Asian clothing, kitchen wares, hair salons, bubble tea shops and food court.
- Harborfront Center in downtown Toronto for a nice walk on a sunny day and, if you want, stop by the Purina Paws Way to see if they have any event going on with your furry friends. Harborfront also host entertainment shows so check out the website before heading out.
- Snakes and Lattes Board Game Cafe for a geeky afternoon of playing boardgames with friends.