This is the 3rd and final installment of my Ontario travelogue, taking us from Toronto to Niagara Falls, back to London and finally home to Whitehorse.
In the Yukon you drive for hours to get to the next town or attraction, but in Ontario there are towns everywhere and distances are short. From Toronto to Niagara Falls is only 80 miles if you go the shortest route, but along that route, the most interesting view is probably this one of the steel mills at Hamilton, seen from the 8-lane bridge that carries Queen Elizabeth Way (the QEW) across Burlington Bay.
A highly recommended detour takes you to Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the country’s gems in terms of historic sites.
This is the Prince of Wales Hotel, built in 1864 and now one of the most impressive buildings in the historic district of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Niagara-on-the-Lake was a battlefield during the War of 1812 when the United States and Great Britain were fighting for control of this part of North America. For a year, British troops at Fort George successfully fought off attacks from American troops from Fort Niagara, see here, but in May 1813 Niagara-on-the-Lake was occupied by the Americans following the bloody Battle of Fort George. In December that year, the entire town was burned by the American troops when they left.
Among the many intriguing graves at St. Mark’s Anglican Church is this memorial to 7 young men from prominent Toronto families who died when the yacht Foam sunk just offshore on July 11, 1874. You can read that story here.
Nanook did make this trip with me – here he is on the Niagara Parkway, headed for Niagara Falls 🙂
We had booked 2 nights at the Niagara Falls Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa, and on check-in just before 6:00pm were offered a complimentary upgrade to a Fallsview room. Opening the black-out curtains over the almost-floor-to-ceiling windows and seeing the Horseshoe Falls directly below was an experience that was shared hand-in-hand. OMG what a sight!
There’s a lot to do in Niagara Falls (including 2 casinos), but after a bit of touring and then nachos-and-beers at the hotel lounge we were in bed by 9:00. This was the view from our room the next morning at 6:30.
There were a few possible activities on the list for our full day in Niagara Falls but the only “must” was a ride on the Maid of the Mist, seen here passing the smaller American Falls.
Cathy had told me about the tacky part of Niagara Falls and of course I had to see that. This is the area known as Clifton Hill, home to Louis Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the Guinness World Records Museum and many other attractions of that type. We took a ride on the 175-foot-high Niagara SkyWheel ($10 each for 4 revolutions), then walked down to board the Maid of the Mist.
The Maid of the Mist was excellent and we both highly recommend it. We stayed on the lower level of the boat where I had some hope of getting photos. I shot with the Canon 7D for a while, tucked in a bit of shelter, then when we got closer to the falls, switched to a Vivitar ViviCam underwater camera. This is the first of the photos shot with it – I’m very pleased with its performance and quality, especially given its low price (under 100 bucks).
The power of the falls when you get close is incredible – the wind, the water are rather disorienting, especially up top where I went for a few minutes!
Another of the attractions we had on our list of possibilities was the Behind the Falls tour – you can see one of the viewing platforms at the bottom centre of this photo. We decided that after the amazing ride on the Maid, it wouldn’t be anything new. In fact, we discarded all of our other possibilities – that’s how good the Maid of the Mist was. 🙂
This was the view that greeted us when we went back to our room at 3:30 to get changed and rest before our pickup for a wine-and-dinner tour.
At 4:30, Tom from Niagara Vintage Wine Tours picked us up at the hotel. Over the next 5 hours we went to 3 wineries and finished with a wine-paired dinner at the 4-diamond rated Riverbend Inn & Vineyards. Everything about this experience was first class, from the staff at the wineries to the superb dinner, and we consider it to have been good value at $169 per person. Tom gets special mention – the former teacher’s knowledge about and passion for wine made him one of the best guides I’ve ever toured with (that’s not Tom in the photo, it’s Neil at the Pillitteri Winery, my favourite of the 3 wineries).
Late Friday morning, after a huge breakfast at iHop, we started the drive back to Cathy’s parents’ home in London, with many stops along the way. This is Whirlpool Rapids in the Niagara Gorge – the Niagara Aerocar offers a very scenic ride across the gorge just to the left of this view.
Another of the must-sees for me was the Welland Canal, and we eventually found a Web site that lists the arrival times of each ship at each lock (there are a few sites that pretend to but don’t really). At Lock 3 the Welland Canal Centre offers a large viewing platform right beside the lock, seen here looking upstream.
Once the downstream lock doors are closed, the upstream doors are opened, the water level rises and takes the ship up to the next level. So simple.
We saw 2 ships go through – here a cement barge that has just been raised continues its journey while the freighter Federal Weser, having just come under the famous Glendale Avenue Lift Bridge (Bridge 5), manoeuvers to enter the lock.
The Federal Weser in the lock, ready to be lowered. Very cool 🙂
Cathy was rather challenged by my desire to take backroads as much as possible – the GPS doesn’t have a “most scenic route” setting! Among the excellent sights, though, was this produce stand where we picked up some just-harvested peaches.
This is Hamilton from a much more scenic viewpoint atop the Niagara Escarpment. We stopped for a couple of hours to visit with more of Cathy’s relatives – it was nice to finally be able to put faces to more of the names I’ve been hearing for so many years 🙂
On our last day in Ontario, I went into London to see if I could get a photo of the house that my Dad and his family lived in in the 1940s. Luckily I took a photo of all 3 possibilities on Talbot Street, because this one, the one I thought least likely, turned out to be it 🙂
Sunday morning, time to head home. The airport at Calgary has been my favourite one in the world for many years, but London (YXU) is now in top spot. This little park in front of the terminal, guarded by a CT-33 jet, is a wonderful place to chill after checking in (there was nobody in line!). The viewing area is also excellent.
Off we go to Toronto in an Air Canada Express Dash 8. Until a few weeks ago there was a direct flight from London to Calgary which made things much easier, but it was cancelled.
Nearly-empty highways in the Toronto suburbs. Only on a Sunday morning do you see traffic like that!
Moving from our Dash 8 to an A-320 for the Toronto-Vancouver leg.
Lots of wind turbines over towards Georgian Bay. While driving up to Collingwood I saw a few anti-turbine signs, so not everyone sees them as a good power source.
This is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park, on Lake Michigan.
Green Bay, Wisconsin, is at the upper left of this photo.
We went into clouds for a couple of hours, and when it cleared we were over the dry country of the midwestern States. My guess is that this is a missile base, as it’s out in the middle of nowhere (I need to get the GPS add-on for my camera).
I took quite a few photos going across this area – crop patterns, canyons, watercourses, irrigation projects. I find it all fascinating. Cathy gives me a hard time about never getting the window seat, but I always say that she’s welcome to the window seat – that way she gets a view and an occasional head massage as I’ll be sitting in the window seat right behind her 🙂
I often wonder why some towns are located where they are…
It clouded over again as we neared the Rocky Mountains just north of the US-Canada border, then we got just a few breaks in the clouds as we neared Vancouver. This massive landslide is perhaps 150 miles northeast of Vancouver.
Back over the world I grew up in. The first house I owned (in 1970) is just out of the bottom left of this photo of the Port Mann Bridge, which is now being twinned after about 30 years of discussing it.
Back home – over Lake Bennett at 10:30pm.