We’re now officially international travelers as we made it to Toronto, Canada without a hitch. We crossed the border at Buffalo, NY and had to wait in a line of cars to talk to a border patrol agent. The no-nonsense officer asked us a lot of questions: Did we really drive all the way from California? What are we going to do in Canada? Who are we going to visit? How are we all related? Lee and I presented our passports and the children’s birth certificates (the only ID necessary for kids under 16 who are travelling with both parents). The officer deemed us worthy of entry and in we went.
Just before we made the crossing, we visited Niagra Falls. It was a repeat visit for Lee but the first time for me and the kids. It was quite a scene to get there- we had to pay $15 to park and then go through a gauntlet of vendors selling souvenirs. The falls were spectacular but it was a little hard to take them in surrounded by thousands of tourists. This is what happens when you travel during high summer season!
Once in Canada, we drove to our airbnb.com home rental near Humber College. It was a mixed bag. On the one hand, we liked the space- two real bedrooms! a back yard! working WiFi! But on the other hand, we disliked the very dirty carpet and the permeating smell of mildew. Toronto is hot and humid and the place felt like it hadn’t been aired out in weeks. Lee immediately opened every window but still found it hard to relax with the stench. We were also disappointed that the place was billed as being “by the lake” but the lake was nowhere in sight. Lake Ontario is a few blocks away but I wouldn’t call that by the lake. Then we discovered that the dryer didn’t work so we were forced to bring our wet clothes to a nearby laundromat. I guess it was bound to happen after so many amazing stays at airbnb rentals that we were going to have a few lemons.
While we couldn’t use our cell phones any more for calling because of the exorbitant international fees, we were excited that we could still make FREE calls from gmail! This is truly an amazing service for anyone who signs up for a free gmail email address. You can make a call through your computer to any phone in the US or Canada. We’re also using Facetime, which is free when used through WiFi.
We began our tour of this lovely city by checking out High Park, a big park similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park or New York’s Central Park. The kids loved riding around on the trackless train, which was decorated with the Maple Leaf flag. Though it rained, they enjoyed the playground and playing in the wading pool until Arthur fell in fully clothed. I thought it was cool that the wading pool was staffed by not one but two young lifeguards. It’s great that the city thinks that’s a priority.
The next day, we decided to explore our neighborhood more and we drove down Lakeshore Boulevard West to Prince of Wales Park. This small neighborhood park on Lake Ontario had views of sailboats and a distant view of the downtown skyline. It must be nice for the people who live here who get to visit the park all the time.
We also drove to Casa Loma, Toronto’s midtown castle. It would have cost something like $40 for us to go inside so we decided to just drive near it and check it out instead. It was built between 1911 and 1914 by “financier” Sir Henry Pellatt. Now the city owns it and uses it as a museum.
Theo and I hiked dozens of stairs to get to the top of a hill and get a close-up view of the castle while Lee watched a sleeping Arthur in the car on the street. We weren’t disappointed by our effort. Theo enjoyed seeing a real castle up close and we both enjoyed the incredible view of the city.