Discover what we got up to when we visited Toronto.
The next stop on our mini tour of North America was Toronto (don’t worry, I know this city is in Canada). I had never really thought of visiting Toronto before but Jon came up with the idea and I was persuaded once I knew we could visit Niagara Falls. And after some research I was pleased to find there was plenty more to explore in this great city.
You can’t miss the main attraction here which is the impressive CN tower which dominates the sky line. Everywhere you go you will see the tower looming in the background and from the viewing platform at the very top you get fantastic views of both the city and the enormous Lake Ontario.
We planned our visit for when the city’s beloved baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, were mid game. The tower is next door to their home stadium, known locally as the Sky Dome, so we were able to spy down on some of the action from above. Don’t forget to jump or timidly shuffle onto the glass floor where you can see right down to the ground below. Not one for people with vertigo, it made my knees wobble!
The Distillery District had been recommended to us as the go to place for trendy drinking and eating. We made the regrettable decision of deciding to walk there all the way from downtown, it’s further away than it looks and in over 30c heat we had almost collapsed by the time we arrived! My advice, get a cab.
After staggering into the first place we could find for a refreshing glass of water, then wine we were ready to explore. We got there on a Sunday evening so many of the quirky boutiques were just closing but we saw enough to get a great vibe from the place. The bars and restaurants stay open till late though so we had time to dig in to some tasty food, but more on this later.
My favourite place in Toronto itself is just a short ferry ride away across the water to Toronto Island Park. You feel like you are escaping the city when you arrive in this green haven. This is a huge and mainly car free island which is great as we were able to rent bikes and cycle for miles, stopping for drinks and ice cream along the way. You also get a great view of the city from a different perspective and a relaxing sea view from the pier or boardwalk on the opposite side.
In Chicago I briefly mentioned we visited an aquarium, well the one in Toronto blows it out of the water. We only decided to pop in because we had a city pass but I’m so glad we did because it is the best one I’ve ever been too. Another positive is that it’s open till 11pm so we had a late date night and these places have such a more relaxed feel when the crowds have died down and there aren’t so many kids running around causing havoc. The main attraction is an incredibly long underwater tunnel which feels like it could go on forever. From here you can really check out the sharks from up close as they glide over your head.
Finally, the main reason we made the stop in Toronto. Niagara Falls is actually not the easiest place in the world to get to if you don’t have a car. There is a limited train service with a number of changes which takes a while so we looked for some alternatives. In the end we struck lucky as Jon booked us Megabus tickets from Downtown Toronto to Niagara. The coach was fully booked so you need to book in advance but it was really easy and only took 2 hours each way.
Once there we were looking forward to getting a glimpse of the falls and you can’t help but notice their sheer size, they are hugely impressive and photos really don’t do them justice. I loved boarding the Hornblower cruise and heading straight towards the water gushing right at us. It was so fun getting soaked from all angles in our fetching red ponchos and you really get a sense of the power they generate from a different perspective.
Toronto was just as gluten free aware as Chicago which again was very refreshing to see. Unlike Chicago and also New York however was our ability to track down welcoming and appetising looking restaurants which were not the usual chains you would find globally. We did find a few gems though after a bit of hunting about.
El Catrin – this Mexican restaurant in the Distillery district had a long queue outside but pulled me in with its outdoor seating and funky decor. We had a humongous bowl of creamy guacamole here followed by corn tacos filled with juicy pulled pork and refried beans alongside my fave…a large jug of sangria!
Beer Bistro – At first this beer heavy looking restaurant did not shout gluten free but I was starting to get hangry so Jon forced me in. But once we were sitting down I had plenty of gluten free option to choose from. I ended up with a gorgeous gluten free duck confit pizza covered in creamy goats cheese and caramelised onions. Jon tucked into red thai mussels which I was mildly jealous about but luckily my meal was good enough that I didn’t feel left out. I could have even had gluten free beer if I had fancied it, but opted for a large white wine instead.
Towards the end of our stay we managed to find a small cluster of restaurants close to the stadium and chose Badali Bar and Cucina, a lovely little Italian. I ended up with so much choice again but went for gluten free penne pasta with chicken and a creamy garlic tomato sauce. Jon had serious food envy as his pizza turned up with no cheese!
Last but least I couldn’t leave Canada without trying it’s national dish – poutine! Essentially cheese, chips and gravy. This used to a staple uni food for me which could only be acquired from a greasy takeaway. In Toronto you can consume in nicer surroundings and it’s quite different too. Crispy crunchy chips, gooey melted cheese curds covered in dark and meaty gravy sounds strange but tastes incredible.
Finally we finish up our tour in New York, check back next week for the highlights.