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Trip Report Niagara, Toronto and the hospital

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Thanks to everyone for assistance in planning our trip to Toronto, Niagara Falls and the Niagara wine region. We had a wonderful time despite a hospital visit on our last day. Overall Toronto is extremely navigable and friendly, and definitely could see returning there someday.

We began our trip at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side early on Saturday morning. We'd timed our U.S. departure to arrive by 10am and were there by 9:30. We easily found the Maid of the Mist, but it should be noted that as soon as you cross the Rainbow Bridge into Canada, take the first right, then right again, then park wherever you can. The Maid of the Mist is pretty soon after that, and there is not much more parking for quite a while, at least not that we could find easily on the main road next to the falls. We parked in a $20 lot which was probably a mile away. It was a pleasant, picturesque walk at least! Rode the Maid (the line started at the top of the stairs so we were worried it would be a while, but 10 min later we were ready to board) and were back on the road by 11 am.

Next stop: wine tasting! We started at Vineland Estates and had a quick bite to eat. Unfortunately they didn't offer a flight of wine with lunch, but the cheese tray was excellent. This also was probably the best icewine we tasted but sadly I didn't buy any - it was our first stop and I was holding out! Then we visited Megalomaniac (great!), Organized Crime (wonderful small winery), Hidden Bench, Angels Gate (fantastic view and great food), Peninsula Ridge. Most places waived the tasting fee if we bought wine, though the fees were higher than I'd expected for tasting. Fortunately since we'd planned to buy everywhere, we had no qualms about tasting most of what was available. Wish we'd bought more icewine and Riesling but DH prefers reds ;-)

Onto Toronto! Tried to take the lake view road but unfortunately we missed the turn. I think it's probably the first right after the bridge over Lake Ontario, but by the time I'd figured that out we were well on our way on the QEW. Just as well, since we spent more time enjoying wine and scenery than we'd planned. Got to the Hyatt Regency with no problems - thanks to those who mentioned the parking was tough to find. It's off a side street but it took two of us looking to get to the right spot! Checked in first, then parked. We'd paid extra for a room with a view, and even requested a room with a balcony if one would be available. We weren't disappointed - the room was lovely with a view of the CN Tower. Plus we could see Lake Ontario in between buildings and even could see parts of the islands. Two flaws however - our room also overlooked the pool to the left (a bit off-putting that some folks could watch our every move) and there is no furniture on the balcony. The balcony is huge, it's amazing and we paid extra for it, and yet no place to sit. DH called downstairs to ask if we could at least have some pool chairs moved up but no dice. We ended up lugging the two room chairs out there - they weren't light but it was worthwhile. That evening we sat for about an hour and watched the lights changing on the CN Tower, and watched the crowds below us. BUT before that... we saw War Horse and went to dinner. The play was completely amazing. Worth every penny. DH had researched a few dinner options but they were rather far away, and we were both starved by then. We ended up at Verona directly across from the hotel. Service, drinks & food were all very good.

Next day: Toronto walking tour! Toronto reminds me a lot of Chicago - there's a big city that's really not that big once you navigate it a bit, and it's surrounded by a lot of fun little neighborhoods. We walked to the subway station to get our day pass ($10.50 per person, but 2 for 1 on weekends), and took the trolley towards Kensington Market. Due to construction we had to walk most of the way, but that was a fortunate accident as we ended up at Le Gourmand which was recommended to DH. Fantastic breakfast! Wished we'd been able to eat there twice. Highly, highly recommend. It's right by a big thimble and tape measure on the ground which I also thought was pretty cool. Kensington Market was a bit of a disappointment, but I suppose I expected it to be more of a market (like a farmer's market) than a bunch of shops. We were there around lunchtime and still only half of the places were open. Wasn't at all as described in our Fodor's Guidebook, but the book is a bit old! Took the trolley then to Cabbagetown which was very nice. The Fodor's book had a nice walking tour inside that we followed and enjoyed seeing the old homes. Then subway to The Danforth which is a great place for food! I couldn't believe all the options (best choices were between Chester & Pape). Ate at Pan on the Danforth which was marvelous. Best.Service.Ever. And the place was packed which is generally a good sign. It began to pour then which put a damper on our options for the rest of the day. We had a glass of wine and ate a long meal, which meant postponing Casa Loma. After a lot of hemming and hawing, and the rain finally stopping, we ended up at the waterfront. Timing was bad though, and everything was wet so we just walked along the edge and decided to head to the CN Tower. For reference, you can have the fee up the tower waived if you have reservations at 360. However you have to pay for a very pricey entree per person - we'd hoped to get away with appetizers and a bottle of wine or two, but no dice. So we just paid the $50 for the two of us and headed up the elevator... Great views even after the rain. A must see as a touristy destination. Headed back down and rested at the hotel with a bottle of wine on the balcony for a bit. Watched the sunset and headed to Bloor Street to a place called Pauper's Pub which was recommended. It had a really cool deck, but the piano bar is only on Saturday nights. On our way back to the subway we spotted some karaoke at Puck N Wings and felt compelled to stop. It was a lot of unexpected fun! The whole area was a lot of fun on a Sunday night, though I can imagine it would be packed with youngsters on the weekend. Lots of cool bars & architecture.

Next day: ugh. Woke up not feeling great and figured I was just hungover, but in retrospect I think it was a bug. Long story short I ended up so dehydrated we went to the hospital. Got an IV for a few hours, dozed and woke up feeling much better. I must give props to the Canadian healthcare system for seeing us so reasonably quickly and being clear with the costs, plus general helpfulness. Leaving the hospital it was 7pm and I'd hoped that meant lessening traffic and ease getting to the QEW. Not at all. As wonderful as public transport is, driving is a nightmare. Many streets weren't marked, along the trolley routes it was hard to see stoplights amongst the overhead wires and signs just weren't obvious. We tried to follow GPS but for some reason the system was frequently confused (maybe interference with the trolleys?). At least we made it home by midnight, safe and sound and my health is improving. I would have preferred to spend the last day seeing the Distillery District, Casa Loma and exploring the underground pedestrian system. There's a reason to return!

Again thanks for the great advice and if anyone has questions please ask!

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