There's a lot of reasons to travel. One of the best is to interact
with new people and occasionally make friends. We're sometimes bad
about that, but sometimes we follow through and actually get back in
touch with people. Sandy, one of our table mates during our Princess
cruise in January, was one of our success stories in that we did in
fact contact her back. Even more amazing; she replied! Long story
short, we still talk and we took her up on her offer to come visit her
at her home in Toronto, which is the genesis of this trip.
I had wanted to go back to Toronto since the last time we left the
metro area in 2009. We went to Canada's Wonderland, but my wife and I
never really saw the city proper. Instead we had ended up lingering on
the northern suburbs and cruising on the 407. I wanted to show my wife
the city's skyline, visit Toronto Island, and dawdle around gawking at
things. But the city was always a little bit too far to justify for
most of the next 24 months, especially since we could take urban
excursions to the likes of Detroit and Chicago with less driving. And
so we never had a really strong reason to go. Visiting Sandy, though,
was a real reason. Plus, we could spend some time going to the small
and often missed amu***t parks in the Toronto area. Win-win!
We left early in the morning on the 24th and drove straight through
(gas and food stops excluded) to her house north of the city. She has
quite a very nice home, and the neighborhood is outstandingly located
within walking distance of the Metro system and literally just a
couple blocks away from full-on skyscrapers and urban sprawl. I guess
in a technical sense it is more "suburbia" in the sense that having a
performing arts center and tons of 40 story condo complexes
practically within earshot can be, but you could never tell that
they're actually there within her small oasis. She has her two ungodly
cute dogs and has rooms themed to her British heritage, including an
English pub in the ba***t replete with a suit of armor, dart board,
and picture of the queen. Just too cool.
We had a very brief lunch after arriving and then headed for metro.
From the station nearest to her (Fitch), it isn't too long to get to
Union Station in Toronto and the heart of the city. We embarked on a
walking tour past the Rogers Centre and CN Tower, down to the
lakefront, and then back into the center of the city, down through the
financial district and over to Dundas Square, and for a snack at
Toronto Eaton Centre. Sandy gave us a great amount of information
about all the places we saw; I would have had no idea which building
was the new City Hall, much less which was the old. Her acting as a
sort of guide was really, really cool.
After quite the walk, we headed back to the house for my wife and I to
change clothes and get some things together before heading out again.
This time, Sandy drove us over to the Greektown section of town on
Danforth, where we ate a pretty delicious meal at the Astoria Shish
Kebob House. I made the unfortunate choice of buying the large serving
of pork souvlaki, which was such a devastating amount of tasty
protein, it practically ruined my appetite for the rest of the trip.
The service was a touch on the spotty side, but the food was generally
unimpeachable. Dinner was over, so it was time for a show.
We wanted to show Sandy a good time and get her something for letting
us stay with her, and Cirque Du Soleil just happened to be town, so we
offered to pay for tickets. It was both her first time to see Cirque
and my wife's - as for me, I've only see Alegria a couple years ago in
Detroit, so I'm not some sort of super expert on the shows, but I know
I like what I've seen. This show, Totem, was held in the "Grand
Chapiteau", AKA its circus tent. Its a much more intimate experience
than seeing the arena show, for sure, and I think I much appreciate
the idea that it is sort of a throwback to the classic circus with the
I'm not going to really bother to post a great long review of the show
because I feel ill equipped to do so. I'm not really someone who is
familiar with production shows of any sort or circus acts. I will say
this much though; it is an entertaining show with tons of really jaw
dropping acts, incredible costumes, and really amazing sets. The
projection system used for the stage was really cool along with the
amazing robotic "scorpion bridge" that curls and moves in stunning
fashion. Sandy was entranced. My wife's fears that the clowns would
take interest in her disappeared over the course of the show and were
replaced with the delight of watching the spectacle. I thought it was
rad. We spent a decent amount of money on tickets - not an exorbitant
amount, but a decent one. And there's no question we got our money's
(We very nearly ran into disaster though entering the facility: The
parking lot we used cost $20, and there were no credit cards taken at
the lot. We scraped together $18 in mixed US and Canadian currency
along with another dollar in spare change before we got waived
through. Also in classic fashion, Sandy is apparently just like I am
and lets the clock in her car run 5 minutes ahead, which made my wife
and I even more terrified than we should have been. In fact, we sat
down and had about 10-15 minutes before the show started.)
Post-Cirque, Sandy took us on a brief drive through some other areas
of town; nightclub districts, Yorkville, and other places that don't
immediately flash to mind. Hey, it was late! But there's some
beautiful architecture and some amazing people watching to be done,
even by automobile. We even swung through Dundas Square again and got
some pictures from the port area. By the time we got back, we were all
exhausted and ready for a nice long night of sleep.
Sunday started slow. We stayed in bed until about 9AM before making
the call to emerge into the daylight. Sandy had gotten up before us
and greeted us - her son (who we very briefly met the day prior) was
by the house sleeping off after a busy night working in club
promotion, so we couldn't be too loud. We had a very nice breakfast
though to get us charged up for the day ahead. I also got to talk to
our other tablemate from the cruise, Paul, via phone. He reminded me
to keep supporting his side in English football (Norwich City) - will
In theory, we wouldn't do as much walking as days prior for this day.
It didn't seem that way when actually on our feet.
We made our first stop for the day in the area of the CNE park at the
permanent amu***t section known to all as Ontario Place. Our
business revolved chiefly around its one large permanent ride, the
Wilderness Adventure Ride. This would be the first of two parks that
we were going to on their season's closing day on this same day.
Located on the far end of the park, it is a totally custom and very
large and heavily themed Arrow flume dating from 1984. There's some
cheap looking animatronics that may not be entirely convincing as far
as action goes for the theme of mining or something, but the long
rapids sections are really cool and very different for a ride of this
sort. As far as long flumes go, it isn't very soaking either. More of
a misting. We all enjoyed it.
One thing we also looked for was the location of the new for 2011
Wacky Worm coaster. Where it was supposed to be on the map we instead
found an inflatable slide. Its my guess that the Wacky Worm is on the
road or in storage. Not sure what happened there, but we walked pretty
much the whole place and never saw it. Too bad, because we might have
considered the credit, even at the price of $5 (same as the much more
impressive log flume).
The entire space of Ontario Place is quite a big larger than I
imagined. There's a couple different small islands that it is made out
of, a marina, a large IMAX theater, the Molson Ampitheater (which is
also quite large), a small water park complex, and some general park
grounds with fish ponds and hills and whatnot. There's a few permanent
grab joints to get food from Pizza Pizza, Subway, and Baskin Robbins,
but there's also a few trailered food joints that weren't open. That
was too bad too, because we got ourselves hyped up on the idea of
getting beavertails when we saw the sign only to find the trailer with
them closed. It is definitely the kind of place that would have been
better served with a couple more permanent rides and perhaps some more
food, but it is in competition with another city associated property
nearby and a major theme park. I can see why it is a difficult sell on
expanding the offerings there. It did put smiles on our faces, even
with it being very quiet and not 100% in operation.
Bouncing out of Ontario Place, Sandy drove us near the harbor front.
We had some difficulty finding parking before finding a $5 lot a
couple blocks from the Westin Harbour Castle, and we sauntered over to
get on the Toronto Island ferry. I'm guessing this is the case because
it is late in the season, but there were very few ferries going. It
seemed extraordinarily packed.
-CENTREVILLE AMU***T PARK/TORONTO ISLAND-
Centreville is a small amu***t park operating on some of the Toronto
Islands parkland just a short boat ride from downtown. In all
seriousness, I love the Toronto Islands. They are gorgeous, they offer
great views of the skyline, there are restaurants, they absorb a lot
of people and no matter how packed the boat there is, you can find a
nice quiet corner all to yourself. And there's an airport. I can see
the airport being why people don't go about comparing this to Stanley
Park or what have you, but that's their problem.
The park itself is operated as an independent concession and is
intended to ostensibly be the replacement for another amu***t park
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