Day 17 – Across Ontario

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Our hotel at Niagara Falls offered a view of the falls but no breakfast was included. It did offer an $8.99 buffet breakfast but we decided we did not need that much breakfast, especially as Majella had been more than satisfied by the meal at Planet Hollywood last night. We rose at 7:00 am, showered, made and drank coffee in the room, and then headed for the car at about 8:20 am, expecting to pick up breakfast along the way. We noticed that it had rained over night and the sky looked as though there would be more through the day as predicted by the forecast we had seen earlier.

We had seen the whirlpool below Niagara on our 1998 trip to the USA side and thought we might like another look from the Canadian side. We drove downstream on the river road that passed our hotel. Along the way we spotted a ‘family restaurant’ that offered breakfast for $3.99. Majella pulled across the road to check it out but the only life we found there was a couple of squirrels. It was well past opening time but there was no sign of action. We continued down the road to the whirlpool, arriving at the same time as a tourist bus, which made the viewing area a bit crowded. The concessions there were not yet open but we were able to check the view and grab some photos before heading off again.

Wayne and Nancy had recommended Niagara on the Lake so we decided that we should take a look at that before heading around the lake toward Toronto and on to Kingston. We were conscious that we had no Canadian currency which would make small purchases like coffee or breakfast more awkward than it need be because of the need to use US currency or cards. That made finding an ATM a priority so we looked for one as we went along. We passed one bank on the way to Niagara on the Lake but it was on the opposite side of the road and we were past it before we could pull across. As we entered the shopping area in Niagara on the Lake we saw another bank that appeared to have an ATM in the wall. Majella stayed to look in some windows while I went for a closer look. There was no ATM, just a night deposit box and the bank was still closed. I walked the length of the shopping area and back, saw and smelled coffee shops and bakeries where we could get breakfast, but found no sign of an ATM. We got back in the car and pressed on to the lake shore. By that time Majella was desperate enough to eat dry cereal for breakfast and had a bowl of the cereal we still had with us. I had a dry bagel that also remained from an earlier shopping effort.

On the way back to the main road we tried the bank we had spotted on the way in. It was still closed but it did have an ATM. However, I was not prepared to try my card in a machine that wanted to swallow it and had no visible sign that it recognised VISA or anything other than its own cards. We drove on cashless.

One of the interesting things we noticed on the way back to the main road was the way that the bunches of grapes in some vineyards were neatly hanging from the bottom of the vines while others were more similar to what we see back home. I’d first noticed what I thought were dead leaves at the bottom of some vines but when we were travelling a bit more slowly at one point Majella noticed that they were bunches of grapes. Both light and dark varieties appeared to have been trained to grow in a fashion that must make harvesting much easier.

Once back on the motorway we managed to avoid being drawn onto the toll roads but Majella did have to drive through moderately heavy rain along the way. Combined with the solid traffic that made it one of the more difficult sections of driving we had experienced. As we approached the Toronto area, we saw warnings that the road was congested. We decided to get off the motorway and  try our luck with the local roads and banks. Soon after we exited we spotted a Walmart in a complex with other stores and a bank. Majella went to check the fabrics in Walmart while I tried the bank. I found an ATM that looked more hospitable and extracted some cash. Majella had less success with fabric in what was a limited selection Walmart – perhaps Canadians are not into quilting and craft. We were able to buy some meat and salad makings for lunch but declared the bread on offer in Walmart inedible – even the ‘baguettes’ were soft to the touch, which is not our preference. Luckily the same complex had another supermarket with acceptably firm bread so we picked up a couple of rolls there. We had coffee at the local Starbucks before getting back in the car and rejoining the motorway for the drive around Toronto which we passed without seeing through the mist. It was 10 km or more from us at the nearest point.

Across that whole region we were surprised by the number of what appeared to be residential towers and by the frequency with which they appeared to have been built in groups of up to four towers that were identical or obviously related by design features. One pair that really got our attention in the Mississauga area west of Toronto had varying widths and appeared to have a spiral design. Both towers narrowed in the middle and then went wider toward the top but in different patterns.

Once we were past the Toronto area we started looking for somewhere to eat our simple picnic lunch. I’d spotted a couple of possible locations on the map I’d downloaded but catching the right exit was a problem. We were driving on a 4 lane express route with a further 3 or 4 lanes outside for entry and exit. To get off we first had to transition to the outer lanes and then exit. We eventually managed to get off past Pickering and followed a local road until near Ajax we found the Lynde Shores Conservation Area where we pulled off and ate a quick picnic lunch. The area has extensive trails and boardwalks and, had the weather been more inviting, would have been an interesting place to spend more time walking and enjoying the wild life. In the short time we were there we saw squirrels and several different types of birds without leaving the entrance area.

I took over driving from that point. Our good judgement in not staying longer was confirmed by the rain that began almost as soon as we got back in the car. Fortunately it did not rain heavily or for long. We made the balance of the journey to Kingston without stopping. The road narrowed to two lanes each way and the traffic lessened but there were still plenty of trucks and other drivers who seemed to find my driving at the limit an impediment to their progress. The countryside became less flat and much more rural. We reached Kingston before 4:00 pm and checked in without issues.

Once we had dropped our baggage we headed out to see what we could see. Our host had suggested taking a cruise and we thought the sunset cruise at 6:00 pm might work for us. In the meantime we went to see historic Fort Henry. We didn’t bother with the tour but did drive to the top of the area and down into the park to catch some photographs. From there we drove back into town and parked thinking that we would book in for the 6:00 pm cruise and explore the town until it was time to board. The cruise was off because they had switched to Fall schedule with just 2 early cruises.

We set off to explore the downtown area. On the way in we had spotted a bakery near the bottom end of town and made for that to see what we might find. Majella thought that if we could find some decent bread we might have a simple dinner in our room with bread, meat, cheese, some salad vegetables, and a bottle of wine. Pan Chancho bakery offered a selection of interesting breads and we picked up a nice crusty French-style loaf and a pain au chocolat for dessert. We walked further up the main street and spotted the Mug & Truffle a few doors up a side street. It claimed to have the best fair trade coffee in town so we decided to give it a try. Majella had hot chocolate that she rated second only to one she had in Gympie a year or so ago. I had coffee which was also good. We continued up and down the street. Majella looked for shoes, eye ointment, and dinner food without success – see her post for the sad tale.

We expected to find a supermarket on the way back to our room and did eventually succeed with that. We bought cheese, salad vegetables, and a bottle of Canadian rose wine. Back in the room we ate our simple but tasty dinner and settled for the night.

Distance today was 445 km. For Australians, the notion that you can drive that far beside a freshwater lake and have driven probably less than half its circumference is astounding. Who has that much freshwater? Tomorrow we have a shorter drive to Montreal.