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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Exploring Canada

Wednesday morning we drove further North along Lake Erie towards the Canadian border. We were a bit surprised by how late Canada was actually mentioned on the road signs, but fortunately we had a good map and did find the border crossing. Actually crossing the border was a breeze, there were no cars in line, only spent two minutes chatting with the border guard and were then directed to the customs house, where our passports were stamped within a minute. So all in all we spent about ten minutes crossing the border.

Our first stop in Canada was Niagara Falls, because everyone told us that the Falls are much better on the Canadian side and I can whole heartedly agree. For one you get the frontal view of the falls, which is very impressive, for another we got the chance to walk behind the falls in a tunnel and look out at the thundering masses of water flowing past. At first we were afraid that we had to postpone our visit to Niagara Falls. Because for most of our trip northwards we were following a huge storm which produced torrential rainfalls. However, fortune was with us and as soon as we cleared the Canadian border the weather cleared up and the clouds disappeared.

From Niagara Falls we took the scenic route to Niagara-on-the-lake a very picturesque village at the border of Lake Ontario. On our way we passed through many wineries and we even stopped at one to sample the exquisite ice-wine produced there. We were a bit surprised by the hotel prices in Niagara-on-the-lake. Because as it turned out it seemed to be a retreat for wealthier Canadians and thus almost exclusively sported very expensive hotels. Consulting the Lonely Planet my friend carried finally directed us to a cute bed-and-breakfast with two exquisite hosts. The place was decorated with bunnies in all shapes and was aptly called Bunny Hutch. To keep in line with the birding theme of the week I discovered a couple of bird watching magazines in the bathroom!

Next morning we were served a delicious Canadian breakfast and after some sightseeing continued northwards towards Toronto.

In Toronto we again used the Lonely Planet Guidebook to find an exquisite bed-and-breakfast. Located in Chinatown it occupied two old Victorian houses which were immaculately kept and featured impressive rooms and a very big breakfast. We did a lot of sight-seeing and walking around in Toronto and spotted a wide variety of interesting buildings. We also visited CN Tower, currently the structure sporting the highest public platform in the world. We had a great view in all directions and even saw Niagara Falls on the horizon. What we will never forget however, is our trip down the tower. Just when we wanted to take the elevator down, it stopped working. After some debating the guide agreed that it might be better to take the stairs down to the main observation deck (33 stories down). However, we were not allowed to descend the stairs alone. A security guard had to escort us. Of course this security guard first had to climb the 33 stories to reach us! After a notable wait, a couple of tourists started complaining, the security guard arrived with the elevator, that lazy bastard ;), and claimed it safe now. And thus we were finally able to leave the tower using the elevators.

On our trip back to the US we ran into a fair amount of traffic, delaying us almost a full hour, this was then made up at the border crossing where we again breezed through in under ten minutes! And silly me had been worrying about this border crossing for weeks before we started the trip… ;)

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