Toronto and beyond...

19th Jun 2021
Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul

The past year has been difficult for all of us, more so for travel enthusiasts like me. However, with better vaccination roll outs, things seem to be getting better already. The Quebec-Ontario border in Canada opened up on the June 11,2021 (after remaining closed for about 8 months) and well I did not want to waste any opportunity of crossing out another destination off my bucket list, the NIAGARA FALLS. It was quite a spontaneous trip and to be honest unlike my other trips I decided to make up a plan on the go.

I booked a shared car ride through KangaRide from Montreal to Toronto (cheapest mode of transport!) for June 19,2021. It was a 6 hour drive to Toronto with occasional halts for refreshments on the way. As I was travelling solo, I had booked a hostel (All Days Hostel) for my stay for 30$/per night. It was a decent and clean hostel with an awesome location in terms of closeness to public transit (I cannot drive, phew!), a supermarket and MacD (24h service).

Day 1

Having reached about 1 pm on a hot afternoon, I googled for some beaches closeby and the Scarborough Beach caught my attention as it had more to offer in terms of scenery and vistas. I took the green line (Line 1) subway to Kennedy and then the 12A shuttle to the beach. There are shuttles available from other metro stations such as Walden, Victoria Park station on the green line as well. TIP: Get a PRESTO card (6$) from any subway station upon your arrival and recharge as per your need.

Summer vibes at the Scarborough Beach.

Photo of Scarborough, Toronto, ON, Canada by Sneha Paul

The Scarborough Bluffs are magnificient escarpments dating way back to the last Ice age! Stretching along Lake Ontario, the beach is huge and you could have a blast with you gang or enjoy your solitude watching seagulls (or a fox in my case!) and listening to the rythym of the waves..

Companions for the day!

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul

Close up view of the Bluffs. The alluvial deoposits from these formed the Toronto Islands.

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul
Day 2

There are a number of public transport options from Union Station in Toronto to reach Niagara Falls, the cheapest being taking the GO train to Burlington and then the Number 12 GO shuttle to Niagara Falls Bus Terminal. Caution: The Falls are about 4 km from the bus terminal. Tip: Plan your trip via the GO route on a Sunday and you can complete the round trip for 10$ (instead of 36$) using the Sunday Funday pass.

The beauty of the Horseshoe Falls in one frame.

Photo of Nïagara, Ontario by Sneha Paul

Well, as for the falls, I wish I had enough words to express its beauty, size and grandeur. Although, the boat tours were not operating on the Canada side due to COVID-19, I did enjoy 'Journey Behind the Falls' tour and the Zipline activity. If you are visiting the falls for the first time, I would reccommend doing all the activities if your budget permits.

Left: The two smaller falls of the Niagara family. Right: The Rainbow bridge connecting Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada to Niagara Falls in New York, USA.

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul

As for the Journey Behind the Falls tour, you descend 175 feet and walk through an observation deck and a tunnel and are then exposed to the thunderous vibration of the Horseshoe Falls. The strength of the gushing water is an experience not to be missed plus you get a free poncho as a souvenir! As for me if I had to summarize my experience at the Falls, I would say I was humbled.

The Journey Behind the Falls experience.

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul

After enjoying the Falls to my heart's content, I headed towards Clifton Hill, which apparently gives you a mini Las Vegas experience (there actually is a casino) and is a perfect place to buy souvenirs, have a hearty meal or enjoy a ride on the Niagara Skywheel.

Clifton Hill: Niagara's own Las Vegas.

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul
Day 3

It was the last day of my trip and I decided to explore the city of Toronto. I began my morning heading towards the Union Station as any part of the city is well connected from this subway/train station. My first halt was at the CN Tower (world's tallest structure till 2009) that follows you pretty much anywhere you go around Old/Downtown Toronto. One of the major highlights of Toronto for me was the Metra Car or trams as they are known in Kolkata, India (and needless to say I prioritized places which were accessible by street cars!). My next halt was Nathan Philips square which forms the forecourt to the Toronto City Hall and is adorned by an equal mix of old stone buildings and modern skyscrapers and the 'Toronto' sign as well..

Left to right: CN Tower, Toronto street cars and 'Toronto' sign at the Nathan Philips square

Photo of Toronto, ON, Canada by Sneha Paul

Next on my list was exploring the hippie and artistic side of the city. I made my first stop at the Distellery District which is the best-preserved collection of Victorian Architecture in North America. A home to over 40 heritage buildings and courtyards, boutiques, artisan shops, it definitely is a break from the big city vibes of Toronto.

Distillery District. The art installation on the right is made of locks put up by couples as a token of their love for each other.

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul

The second stop was perhaps the most vibrant neighbourhood in Toronto, the Kensington Market. One instantly gets the Bohemian feel of the place with the street packed with junk jewellery, affordable 'hole in the walls' and cafes and ofcourse Marijuana dispensary! You can also find Columbian, Chineese, Portugeese cuisine here; but if you want to try something different, go for the Jamaican-Italian fusion eatery, Rasta Pasta (anything with the Jerk chicken is recommended!)

Jamaican Jerk chicken from Rasta Pasta

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul

After a fulfilling meal, my last stop of the day was Polson's pier. The ultimate place to watch a dramatic sunset with the Toronto cityscape in the background, you can find photographers lining up with their fancy cameras to capture the beautiful colours of the sky. For me it was the perfect end to my improptu trip and the rekindling to my briefly dormant desire to travel.

Sunset in Toronto as seen from Polson pier

Photo of Toronto and beyond... by Sneha Paul