September 7 Toronto

Toronto_zoo (34) The rest of the photos for this day are here>

Moving so quickly across the landscape makes three nights in one place a true delight, so this morning was easy and relaxing.  With so much to see and do in Toronto, it is a bit daunting to decide how to spend the time we have, and the local guidebooks were full of choices.  It has been years since I visited a zoo, but I had heard that the Toronto Zoo is excellent, so that was on my list.  The other tourist site we couldn’t miss was the CN Tower. 

Sometimes traveling with Abby can provide some challenges, and on this day the zoo rules of no animals anywhere on site, including the parking lots, made things more complicated than we wanted to handle.  Since I was the one wanting to see the zoo, Mo dropped me off and went home to enjoy a quiet morning with Abby while I wandered alone through the exhibits.  It was a great time for both of us.  This zoo is well known for it’s excellent animal habitats, and was the first zoo to organize it’s displays by regions of the world.  In two hours, I didn’t have time to see it all, but two hours of steady walking felt great.

Toronto_zoo (6)The Tundra Zone is new and the resident polar bears were having great fun swimming and playing in their pools.  I know how incredibly dangerous these animals are, but watching the big guy do flips in the pool and swim on his back with his cute little belly showing was really endearing.  Another favorite was the gorilla exhibit, watching the family interactions. The baby of the group is just a year old, and his mom is every bit as busy running after him as any mom of a little one.  The story of George, the big daddy, and his heart-wrenching grief when his long term mate died just two weeks ago was riveting. The zoo felt serene and uncrowded, and the animals seemed relaxed and content.  It was a great experience.

Mo picked me up at noon, and after settling Abby into her safe crate with the air conditioner going, we left for downtown Toronto.  This city has a tremendous public transportation system, and public transport is a great way to see an unknown city in any country.  The Rouge Hill station was just a mile or so from the campground, with a big lot for parking, and the sleek, clean GOTRAIN ready to take us right downtown and back for just $5.30 each (so nice to be a senior).

Toronto_tower (24) Once downtown, we walked toward the CN Tower, sometimes visible and sometimes not.  I had the GPS with me, set to pedestrian mode, but the satellites weren’t too happy with the extremely tall buildings.  Something to note, satellite reception for a GPS isn’t very reliable in a city with skyscrapers all around. The CN Tower began as simply a reception antenna, but evolved into something much grander.  It is one of the seven man made wonders of the world, and the tallest structure.  The elevator ride itself is a wonder, and my ears were popping by the time we reached the observation deck.  There is another deck at a higher level, but that cost even more money, so we opted out of that one.  On the observation deck is the innovative “glass floor”  where you can walk out over the empty space below, on thick glass of course.  It’s a disconcerting feeling, dizzying and weird, even though the mind knows it’s solid, the eyes see nothing but hundreds of feet of space below.  The views of Toronto were magnificent, but the open portion of the observation deck was closed due to the heavy winds.

Toronto_tower (8) The Entertainment District was another area on our list, and was just a few blocks north of the Tower.  Toronto has a vibrant theater district, and we hoped to see a show while we were here.  It wasn’t to be, though, since all the good shows ended recently, and new ones aren’t scheduled to begin until next week.  The Royal Alexandria Theater was advertising a great musical of 80’s rock which sounded exciting, so it was a great disappointment to walk to the box office and be told the next show was in a week.  Ah well.  I laughed and told the agent he had saved us a ton of money.

The theater district was full of interesting people and sidewalk eating establishments, and we found a pub for a beer and sweet potato fries.  Our table right by the street offered a fascinating glimpse into city life.  By the time I finished my very good Moosehead beer, I was laughing hard at all the complexity and wonder of it.  Most people here definitely walk with a purpose, hard and fast and focused.  Almost everyone has either an IPod or a cell phone held to their ears, and the clothing can be any combination of crazy weird to slick suits.  Everyone is going in all directions, some on bikes, on skates, on skateboards, hailing taxis, jogging, walking, with a very few ambling a bit aimlessly.  I have no idea how the bikers and skaters keep from being obliterated by the crazy traffic in skinny or non existent bike lanes.

Toronto_tower (23) Walking back to the train at rush hour with the masses of humanity was fun.  These huge train stations can be a bit intimidating, but after a few misses we managed to find our way to the right platform and the right train.  At Union Station there is a wild combination of the GOTRAINs, the VIA Trains that seem to go to more distant locations, and the subway.  The signs for the platforms are all numbered the same, so you do have to know “how you are traveling”, which we didn’t at first.  I thought a train was a train, but not so.  The information person seemed to think I was a bit stupid since I really didn’t know what train I was looking for.  Gee, I don’t know, the one that goes to Rouge Hill?

Ahh city life. 

September 6 Killarney to Toronto

Killarney_to_Toronto (8) I have only a few photos of this day, and most of them are somewhat gloomy, but I did put them up on Picasa and they are linked here.

After the gorgeous day we enjoyed yesterday, this morning we woke again to gloomy rainy weather.  Deciding to skip the morning hikes in the pouring rain, we packed up the MoHo and headed for Toronto.  On the way, we happened to stop at a roadside information kiosk where the attendant told us about the Muskoga Lake Region.  She also was incredibly helpful and made phone calls for us to the Swift Kayak and Canoe Company where we planned to visit. 

On the way, we visited the charming little town of Muskoka Lake, and stopped at an area dominated by huge exposures of the Pre-Cambrian Shield. This is some of the oldest rock in the world, covering a large portion of Ontario and where much of the wealth of the province is derived.

Killarney_to_Toronto (11) Thanks to her information, we re-routed back north and through the lake district, and went to the main store selling the Swift Adirondack kayaks that I have been admiring on the internet for a time now. These kayaks are sleek and gorgeous, weighing only 34 pounds, with a cockpit that can accommodate Abby, and sealed bulkheads that will keep our gear dry.  The owner just happened to be in the store, and offered to ship to the US, saving us the 13 percent provincial tax.  It was an exciting day, and our boats will arrive in Oregon when we return after October 1st.

Even though we were traveling the beautiful lake district, with all the forests we didn’t see very much of the lakes and didn’t want to take more time to stop and visit.  It is a beautiful area, however, and I would have loved to spend more time.  The rest of the day was uneventful, as we navigated into the eastern part of the city of Toronto where we planned to camp at the city owned Glen Rouge Park.