Summer on the Great Lakes for an Urban Oasis

  • 319 km travelled
  • 03 festivals
  • 01 extremely big falls

We thought this trip was an eternal pipe dream – not because it was hard to get to, or to find time for, but because it was nearly impossible for the most disorganized group of friends ever to plan a trip together. But we did it, somehow, and for that we each deserve a medal. A medal and a vacation. Which brings us to here.

Day 1
This is the life
When you arrive at a place called 1000 Islands, your first instinct is to spend as much time on the water as you possibly can. So that’s exactly what we did. We spent the morning getting the full tour, which included over 1000 islands – some of them as small as 2 square feet. After a fish & chips lunch break on shore we headed back out, because there’s no place you’d rather be when it’s 27 degrees. We checked out a few really cool shipwrecks, and our day as Ontario cottagers was complete.
Day 2
Old forts and fresh cookies
While in Kingston we stayed at a beautiful French Victorian bed and breakfast called Hochelaga Inn. It was hands down the best place I’ve ever stayed, solely based on the fact that they had freshly baked cookies available at all times – even 2am (don’t judge me). The first item on our agenda was Fort Henry, where Natalie was able to cross “going to a firing range” off her bucket list. Doing so while dressed in British military garb was just a bonus. We spent the afternoon wandering around Kingston – which has a European feel to it, with its winding cobblestone paths and tapas eateries lining the streets.
Day 3
All hail Wayne
Bryan and I woke up this morning with the same feeling a 5-year-old child gets on Christmas morning – but better. Today was the day we were to pay tribute to half the world’s hero: Wayne Gretzky. Although nothing could compare to Wayne, the maple sugar candies at the St. Lawrence Market gave him a run for his money. In fact, I’m currently looking into getting those imported back home on a weekly basis. Natalie was itching to check out the Distillery District, because Chicago was shot there, so we headed down towards the water for an afternoon of art galleries and patios.
Day 4
A city of towns
In Toronto there is literally a town for almost every nationality. There’s Greek Town, Korea Town, Portugal Village, Little Italy, Little India, and even two China Towns. We taste-tested and window-shopped our way through them all. That is, after we hit the up Toronto Island for a little R & R and a relaxing bike ride along the beach. This was necessary to recover from our lively encounter with Toronto’s night scene the night before. Later on we took in a play at George Ignatieff Theatre, part of Toronto’s Fringe Festival. Kiran overheard a woman tell her friend that Zoolander was playing at an outdoor movie theatre later that night, so we obviously headed over there, because who can resist Zoolander, really?
Day 5
Wine Country
We had our morning coffee at Sugar Beach, overlooking Toronto Harbour. After Kiran had her fill of sunshine we wandered up to Casa Loma. It’s a huge old castle with secret passageways that entertained us for far too long. Natalie – self-proclaimed wine connoisseur – was dying to get to Niagara-on-the-Lake, so we headed there next. It’s this cute little town that is literally almost solely wineries. We started our winery hopping at Inniskillin, but naturally felt the need to taste-test the others as well, which is why the details of the rest of the day became somewhat fuzzy.
Day 6
Maids and men of the mist
While in Niagara Falls, the first call of duty is obviously the falls. Thanks to Bryan’s smooth negotiating we got a helicopter to take us up to see it from above, which made me an instant Instagram hero. Unlike the shots of me in the yellow poncho on the Maid of the Mist. To dry off we went fruit picking in the Niagara fruit farms. It took a long time to fill our baskets, which may have been due to our eating-to-picking ratio, but we persevered and topped it off with a few fruit martinis.
Day 7
Foodie heaven
Since it was the last day of our trip, we thought we’d go out with a bang – on a jet boat. So we bid farewell to the beautiful falls at 80km/hr. We thought we’d take in a little history so we stopped by Queenston Heights, high up in the escarpment. After we grew tired of trying to get the guards to crack a smile we went to catch a play at the Shaw Festival. We ended the day back in Toronto, where we evened out our previous day of drinking with eating, at Toronto’s Summerlicious foodie festival.