28. Discovering Ontario gems. Part I – Toronto and CN Tower

What are the first pictures come to your mind when you say “Canada”? For me it is hockey, Niagara Falls, and CN Tower! I dedicated my latest road trip to discovering last two!

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Our round trip of roughly 1400 km

Riding on a highway

Drive from Montreal to Toronto is quite simple – about 550 km of a highway that takes about 7 hours to cover. The road that is knows as Autoroute 20 (Autoroute Jean-Lesage or Autoroute du Souvenir) becomes highway 401 in Ontario and goes directly to Toronto. And the road number is not the only difference. Many times I have heard that roads in Ontario are better then in Quebec, and I have always doubted that. The road surface is more or less the same, it is not perfectly flat road that you can find in Europe, harsh winters and big temperature fluctuations contribute greatly to cracks, waves in both Ontario and Quebec. But what is different, is the infrastructure. Roads in Ontario have slightly more roadsigns, barriers. But most of all I was impressed by OnRoute rest areas. They are located along the highway in Ontario about every 70 km. The company’s motto is “Turning rest-stops into best-stops”, and it is absolutely true. Huge modern complexes with big parking areas for cars, RVs and trucks, super clean inside, they feature a Canadian Tire gas station, Tim Horton’s and a variety of fast food restaurants, tourist information centers, comfortable dinning areas and a convenience store. I have never seen them being empty and I totally understand why, I have stopped there multiple times during my trip, super nice and convenient. I wish we had them in Quebec.

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The Turnpike Double, the longest truck-trailer combination you can see in North America.

I had a special point of interest on this highway. At about mid-way between Toronto and Montreal lies a small town of Odessa. It was originally named Millcreek, and was renamed to commemorate the British victory at Odessa in Ukraine during the Crimean War. I am from the city of Odessa in Ukraine. I was super happy to visit this small town called same name as my home town. And it is not the only one in North America, still 8 to go 😉

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Welcome to Odessa!
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Someone rides with style in Odessa!

Toronto

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Toronto greeted us with gray skies and traffic jams. I was crawling through local traffic getting closer and closer to downtown. After another turn I have seen it. The CN Tower! A true marvel of engineering. It was completed in 1976 and has been world’s tallest building for over 30 years. It is still the tallest in western hemisphere and 3rd tallest in the world. It was named one of the 7 wonders of modern world. Ever since I started dreaming about going to Canada, I was dreaming about seeing the CN Tower. It was such a cool feeling to see it myself finally!

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I quickly checked-in to my hotel and rushed towards the tower. It is even more impressive in real life then it is on pictures. Over half-kilometer high, being powerful and elegant in the same time. I could not stop looking up to the sky, it felt like the tower was touching it.

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The tower has two observation decks, and a restaurant (which did not interest me). The first one, called Indoor Lookout Level is at 346m above the ground, and the second, the SkyPod at 447m. The entrance fee is about $35CAD/person, but if you want to go to SkyPod too, it is additional $25CAD. The guy who was selling tickets warned us that the visibility was poor and only Toronto downtown is visible, so I decided not to pay for visiting SkyPod, although I really wanted to, I would not see more the from the lower level.

The high-speed elevator travels at 22 km/h and takes you up in about 50 seconds. It is a memorable ride by itself! Glass walls and partially glass floor makes it a very interesting experience.

The view from the observation deck is gorgeous. On one side you can see Toronto below you that stretches to the horizon. From this height it feels like SimCity game! absolutely unreal feeling, looks like everything around are toys. On the other side you can see lake Ontario and Toronto Islands and Toronto City Airport.

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Toronto downtown seen from CN Tower
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Lake Ontario

Other notable attraction is a glass floor. It is actually part of the floor that is made of glass. You can walk on it and see 350m abyss below you, and really have that feeling that the only thing separating you from it is a glass that is just a few centimeters-thick.

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Me standing on a glass floor 350m above the ground

It was a really nice experience. But I felt a bit disappointed, maybe I expected more. It felt very similar to the Sky Needle tower in Seattle that I visited earlier this year, but it lacked something. And that “something” was outdoor experience, I’ve been only inside the tower and have seen everything through a glass. But, I was traveling with my mom, and she saved the impression of the day! She duly noticed that there actually is outdoor terrace, and despite it looked as if it was closed to public, there were actually two people out there. The point is that all the doors were closed due to high winds, except for one rotating door that was not easy to spot. We pushed it.. and got to the terrace! It was totally awesome, to see Toronto from high above, like birds see it, be able to hear it, smell it, feel the wind (that was really strong that day!). I was totally happy! So if you visit CN Tower, outdoor terrace is a must-go!

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View of Toronto from the outdoor terrace

After the tower we still had a few hours and decided to explore downtown Toronto. Personally to me it feels totally different from Montreal. Toronto feels like a true North American city – sky-high buildings, concrete jungle, sirens, people rushing everywhere.

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Hello Maple Leafs fans!
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Concrete jungle of Toronto

Another interesting attraction in Toronto is the Yonge Street. It is famous for being world’s longest street. Its total length is argued to be 1,896 km, but it is “only” 86 km-long if you exclude highway 11 that the street turns to. And surprisingly, this part of Toronto is the worst place I have visited so far in Canada. First, it is dirty – construction sites, trash on street, second – the awful smell of weed is everywhere, third –  lots of homeless, dirty people, some suspicious individuals. One of very few places I have visited in Canada where I felt insecure and wanted to get out as soon as possible.

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Yonge Street

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Toronto is very impressive city. And what huge it is! It took me 1.5 hours to traverse it on a highway with just a light traffic. But I definitely need to make another, longer visit there, to be able to explore it properly.

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Toronto City Hall

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Nice clock on a Union Station (main train station of Toronto)
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Christmas is coming!

The next day we had another marvel of Canada to discover – the Niagara Falls.

To be continued…

 

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