Niagara, Toronto and the hospital

Jul 17th, 2012, 06:26 PM
  #1  
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Niagara, Toronto and the hospital

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!
hlphillips2 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2012, 03:34 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2011
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Glad you had a good time, inspite of your unscheduled sampling of Canadian health care. Do plan a return visit.
ELiz_Travels is offline  
Jul 18th, 2012, 05:53 AM
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looks like you got the only rain day we have had all summer...

glad you sorta enjoyed the trip...
garyt22 is online now  
Jul 21st, 2012, 04:30 AM
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Next time in Toronto, consider a visit to the St. Lawrence Market for the fresh produce and exotic imported foods you were seeking. It's on Front Street East and you could have walked from your hotel. http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/about_us
Nearby, a basement tavern called C'est Wha? provides an education on the flourishing microbrew industry in Toronto http://www.cestwhat.ca/ The name is sort of a French pun, by the way, or maybe Franglais.
Southam is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 03:45 PM
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Curious about the hospital...how much did they charge? What hospital was it and was it recommended by the hotel? I've had one experience getting sick (in Spain) but the doctor came to the hotel.
Morningglory47 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 09:31 AM
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Glad things worked out (hospital visit notwithstanding. I'd also second Southam's recommendation of C'est What for an education in beers. Microbreweries are popping up almost as often as new wineries and there's quite a good selection spread across the province.

As far as getting out of downtown is concerned, if there's an event on at the Rogers Centre, it can be an exercise in patience-building to get onto the Gardiner Expressway. As for your GPS getting confused, what make and model. I'm downtown regularly and have never noticed any problems along any of the streetcar routes.

In any case, your trip sounds like it worked out well. Come on back anytime

u

p.s. For the next time, Highway #8 (the scenic route from St. Catharines to Toronto) is the Escarpment-hugging road you would've traveled getting from Angels Gate to Peninsula Ridge. It's two-lanes pretty much its entire length except around Stoney Creek as opposed to a multi-lane highway but is well worth the extra bit of time if your schedule permits.
UTour is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 06:32 PM
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Southam - the irony is that I wanted to visit St. Lawrence Mkt! It was on the list that I couldn't find (which turned up three days ago). I asked the hotel staff where to find "the something market" and he pointed out Kensington on the map. The name was vaguely familiar and the description in the book matched what I had in my mind. Oh well, poor planning on my part.

Morningglory - it was US$550 and to be paid up front, they were very clear about that. The hotel offered to have a dr come to us but I knew I just needed an IV. They didn't recommend a location - we just found the closest one on GPS. I believe it was Toronto General Hospital. We've visited one in The Bahamas and had a great experience too, although the billing situation was quite different in that we paid at the end and it was significantly more (also for my DD having dehydration issues - yes, it must run in the family

UTour - we were using my Garmin and DHs cell phone GPS - with a special international add-on plan purchased for the trip. The info they were giving was completely conflicting which didn't help (should have just used one, but when the cell phone needed to reboot twice I brought out the Garmin). We were far away from the Rogers Center, I think it was just normal evening traffic and us not knowing where to look with the streetcar cables. We were driving on Dundas or Queens Street (can't recall) for what seemed like forever. I loved that drive from Angel's Gate to PN Ridge! I didn't realize it went all the way to Toronto!
hlphillips2 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 04:40 AM
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The conflicting routing may have just been a result of conflicting routing methodologies between devices. Assuming you were heading toward the Gardiner Expressway from Kensington Market area, it'd be a bit of a wash whether to get on at Spadina (east in the opposite direction from where you were intending) or Jameson (west end of the Exhibition). As far as navigation is concerned, I trust my Garmin. With one funny exception by Caroline Cellars in Niagara on the Lake while plotting wineries, it's never led me astray.

Looking back at your original post, it became obvious that you were heading back out on a Monday; yeah, that's Toronto weekday traffic you were experiencing. Outbound, it's worst between 5 & 6 but it's not uncommon for the going to still be slow later. If you're downtown heading out, it's best to get on the Gardiner at Spadina because the Jameson on-ramp is closed from 3-6pm. Unless there's a major accident on the Gardiner or Lakeshore Blvd., these are your two best routes out of town as every east-west arterial road south of Bloor Street has streetcars.

HTH
u
UTour is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 09:29 AM
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St Lawrence Market is best experienced on Saturday morning and is pretty much closed on Sunday and Monday... so Kensington was your limited choice...
garyt22 is online now  
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