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Start to plan a trip like this Taylor's Alberta Blog

Saturday 30th September 2017

Today was a relatively easy start; as our flight from Heathrow wasn't due to depart until late afternoon. Each of us from our group were making our way independently to terminal five (T5) at London Heathrow; which is British Airways' very own terminal. Some of us in our group travelled by train and others by car, bus etc. I myself was fortunate enough to have my partner drive me down to the airport; which was very much appreciated!

Our group and a representative from British Airways arranged to meet and introduce ourselves at 14:00 at departures. As we had a meeting and set time, I was very concerned with being punctual. I must tell you that the M1 southbound proved to be rather stressful in regards to the travel process. During our two hour car ride, we came across seven accidents (at least). We encountered five in our direction (south) and two on the northbound side of the M1. The congestion was of course aggravating but it's also not ideal before ones holiday. Business or pleasure. Luckily, the time we allowed ourselves to get down to the airport was sufficient enough.

Once I arrived into T5, I made my way to the Club World check-in counter. This is British Airways' Business Class desk. This particular counter is zone H. That is the dead last check-in zone and is at the (right) far end of the terminal. For those who have or have not travelled out of terminal will notice it is a very long terminal. You do want to be sure that give yourself ample time to get yourselves from check-in, to the appropriate terminal and to your gate. Again, not only is it a long spread out terminal, but some flights may require you to take the monorail (as ours did) and there is also a variety of shops one van venture around. The check-in process went very smoothly and the staff seemed helpful, happy and very polite. However, I must admit our queue was a lot shorter than standard Economy Class check-in.

As we were travelling in the Club Work Class, we had priority check-in through security; which seemed very efficient. From there, we made our way to the BA Club Lounge. Again, this is a quite a long terminal and required a fare but of walking. Arriving at the is deceiving in size and is quite large!! However, I must admit that it is one of the busiest lounges I have been in. The staff again, were friendly and on top of things so to speak, and it was a "help yourself” type layout. That being said, in regards to the food selection, there was not that much of a variety.

As the four of us waited and checked the board for our gate assignment, being able to relax in comfort was quite beneficial. Once our gate number appeared on the board... we asked a BA staff member to kindly take several photos of us before we made our way. This was a specific request made by George, the BA member we said farewell to us in departures may I add.

From the lounge, we had to make our way to gates C. This required us to take the T5 monorail (this is the same transfer you would need to take to get to gates B as well). As we arrived at our specific gate, it became immediately apparent that our flight was delayed. It was not long after that we were informed we would be departing at 20:30...not our original departure time of 16:40. This flight change was due to technical difficulties; which can happen to any aircraft or airline. Due to the change in aircraft, this would mean we would now be flying from B rather C gates. After "killing time" in the lounge which was located directly near our B gate, it was time to board our flight.

Once on board we were met with enthusiasm and apologies from all BA staff members for this unforeseen circumstance. Not only did the plane go tech but two members of their crew fell ill. One of which had to taken to be taken hospital! All things considered, everyone was positive and very helpful.

Our seats were all together in row 6 and found them to be quite spacious. The food was quite good. I had the steak which I myself, to be quite tasty. We all also appreciated the wide selection of onboard entertainment that BA offered.

As we landed so late, there was little to online at customs and immigration. The only downside when we arrived was the time it took to receive our luggage off of the carousel. In hindsight...our lack of patience could have been more to do with our level of exhaustion at that point. After we (successfully) retrieved our luggage we were then met at arrivals and taken to our hotel, the Fairmont Palliser. This drive was an easy drive and took about twenty minutes.

At the hotel, we once again received warm welcomes and had a quick and seamless check-in. This was very much appreciated as it was just before midnight in Calgary. 6:48am, UK time. As we then made our way eagerly to our hotel rooms, we were in sheer delight at how lovely and spacious both the hotel and the room were.

The following morning is an early start. Beginning with a traditional Stampede breakfast where we will (finally) meet the rest of our group members. These are other agents from the Netherlands, Germany and Australia. After breakfast, we will begin our Alberta adventure!!

DAY TWO: Sunday 01 October 2017

It must be said that the bed at the Fairmont Palliser is one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in, with the exception of own bed at home! The beds were not only plush but the linens were lovely and were clearly of a high standard. I truly cannot fault any of the amenities the hotel offered here, at the Palliser. Not only is the lobby grand but the hotel itself is tastefully presented. With its location, the hotel enables its guests to be right in the heart of downtown Calgary. As it is so well situated, this hotel is an ideal location for those who wish to attend the Calgary Stampede. This event is iconic to Calgary and is known as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” The Stampede is a ten-day event which is held every year in the beginning of July. For those interested in all things Western... from Stetsons to chuck wagon races and cowboys of all ages, this is an event that you surely do not want to miss! Many of our clients have personally experienced The Stampede firsthand. Whether you are into country music or are interested in indulging in various culinary delights or a great family party... the Calgary Stampede is right up your alley! (For more on this event please contact anyone of our travel consultants and order one of our brochures for more information)

Keeping with the Stampede theme, the Fairmont Palliser kindly hosted a “Stampede Breakfast” in our honour for all of us on this Alberta Tourism trip. In true North American fashion, this breakfast was a feast fit for a king as it was very large. Offering an array of food, we were in awe of not only the portions they provided us, but the variety of food they had to offer. The hotel had put together a wonderful display, to say the least, everything from traditional bacon, eggs and sausage. Even eggs Benedict and of course... pancakes! For those who do not know, pancakes are a staple on the Opening Day of the Stampede. Calgary delights in the fact that throughout the city, a free pancake breakfast is “the norm”; which is offered to everyone to celebrate this annual festivity.
After our scrumptious breakfast, we met our driver, Milan who then transferred us from the hotel to Drumheller. This drive took a little over 90 minutes. As we made our way further outside of Calgary, inching towards Drumheller, it became quite apparent that the name “Badlands” was for a very good reason. This is because most of the terrain is very vast and sprawling. It is here, in the town of East Coulee where we had the opportunity to visit Atlas Coal Mine. This is a National Historic Site and is said to be the most intact coal mine in all of Canada. To this day, you will still find old mining equipment, wooden coal-mining tipple, wash house and the mine’s main office. To get into the spirit of what it would have been like to be a coal miner working in these particular mines, we were marched to the washroom and were instructed to put on our work clothes. These clothes were hanging up in the rafters and were hanging up high on hooks. Not too dissimilar to a pulley and lever system. Once we were suited and booted, we were each given a brass token where we had to hammer in our number which was tagged on our uniform. At the end of our “shift” we would then return our equipment, lamp and our token and would then collect our day’s wages. The hope here at Atlas is to show you not only what it would have been like for a day in the life of a miner, but how it was for many immigrant workers. Many of which were inexperienced but travelled here in hopes of a better life. These migrant workers came from Canada of course, but many from The States and across Europe.

Atlas coal mine was founded in 1911 and closed in 1984. The coal produced from Atlas was used for cooking and heating but coal from these mines was used to help fuel the Canadian railways. This was essential for the growth and development of Canada and for its time. Coal production became essential in order to produce a viable railway system and at the time, was revolutionary.

Once our interactive tour of Atlas Coal Mine was finished, we then boarded our mini-bus and made the short 5 minute drive to the East Coulee School Museum (ECSM); which lies in the Red Deer River Valley just outside of Drumheller. Here we learned a lot about a life of a coal miner as well as family life for everyone who has or had lived in the area. Visiting the school was a real delight. Much like at the Atlas coal mine, the tour guides were dressed in period clothing and really stayed within character throughout our visit. In the main hall of ECSM, they have wonderful photographs of immigrant miners who had work in the Atlas coal mine and who lived in East Coulee. What also made the photos so unique was the fact the museum had quotes and each of their stories on how they ended up working in the mines.
In the 1920s it is estimated that this area was home to 3800 residents, 900 being of Hungarian descent. Whilst at ECSM, we had the chance to learn how traditional Hungarian pasta was made. You may have guessed, but this area has deep roots within the Hungarian community; which they are very proud of. Like all immigrants, they wanted a better life and worked extremely hard and often times, in not too great of conditions. After our presentation, we were then treated to a “Mine and Dine” experience. A fantastic lunch was provided at the museum. This meal again, had a nod to Hungarian immigrants and would be similar to what the miner’s wages would go towards... eating and also hi-lighted what was served in the home. Traditional paprika chicken was served over Hungarian pasta along with stuffed cabbages filled with minced pork. I did not know what to expect but I can honestly say that it was absolute delicious!!
From East Coulee Museum, we then headed to the Royal Tyrell Museum. This is home to more than 130,000 fossils. It is here that the Albertosaurus (from Alberta Canada) was discovered by Joseph B. Tyrell discovered this specie of dinosaur. As you may have guessed, The Badlands are home to an abundance of coal. Buried within coal, are rich deposit of fossils. These fossils range from skeletons and bones, animal tracks and prehistoric fish. This museum is world renowned for their palaeontology. This exhibit boasts some of the most intact and astonishing fossils in the entire world. The Royal Tyrell Museum is a very interactive museum and allows its visitors to get up close to the displays. This is real gem form those of all ages who are fascinated with earth science.

Departing the museum, we make the hour and a half drive back to Calgary where we then were able to tour around the Studio Bell Museum. This is new museum to Calgary as it recently opened in 2016 and is in a very up and coming area within the city. This was spectacular museum which honours all Canadian musicians; from country western, rock and pop icons. On display you will find ornate stage costumes, instruments and music technology. Like many North American museums, this is a very hands-on museum. They encourage visitors to dabble as a DJ, play the piano or perhaps take a stab at playing the drums. Another notable aspect of the museum itself is their children’s workshops where they focus on performing arts.

After our whirlwind of museums, we had a quick change and were driven to Rouge Restaurant. Many consider this establishment to be one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Calgary. This high-end dinging experience focuses on farm to fork dining and prides itself on serving-up locally found food. As we were a rather large group of seventeen, we were given our private dining room and a set menu. Each course combined lovely flavours with fantastic presentation. This was truly a spectacular treat in the heart of Calgary.

After an exquisite meal, we then went for two brewery tours. First of which was the Dandy Brewing Company. Dandy is literally the smallest brew house in all of Canada. This is something they really pride themselves on but make a joke as well. Dandy was started by two friends who genuinely had a love for ale. After many years of discussion and ample attempts the pair of them collectively decided to quit their jobs. One a teacher, the other a chef, they decide it was now or never. Their love for not only beers but British style ales is their passion but is also what gives them their drive. The Dandy Brewing Company was established in 2013 and after many hurdles; Alberta brewing laws and financial constraints, the brewery is on the rise and is quickly gaining notoriety across Alberta.
Our last stop for the evening was at the Tool Shed Brewing Company. Yet again, we found a brew master with a love of beer. Where did his love of beer begin? You guessed...his tool shed!!! After starting to brew is own IPA in his backyard, the proprietor of Tool Shed left his place of employment in hopes of spreading his enthusiasm for beer!! Needless to say, it has paid off. You can found their brew in both British Columbia and Alberta.

DAY THREE: Monday 02 October 2017

Today we were up bright and early once again as we had to check-out of the Fairmont hotel. As we made our way outside to board the mini-bus, we were greeted with snow flurries in Calgary this morning. It was a bit uncharacteristic for the time of year but was actually quite pretty to say the least. Once we all boarded the bus we made are way towards Sidewalk Citizen Bakery for breakfast. This bakery is known as a food lover’s paradise and is located in Calgary’s East Village. Patrons entering this eatery will be enamoured with their culinary delights but will also appreciate the building itself; as it is housed in an old mattress factory.

After breakfast, we headed to Canada’s largest living history museum, Heritage Park Historical Village. This is a treaty seven land; which is a treaty settled over 700 years ago. The park itself is spread out across 127 acres of prairie and First Nations land. Once again, this all boils down to the Canadian railway system; which helped to shape and form Canada as it is today. Due to the fact that Canada’s provinces were all separate entities, British Columbia made it known that they would not join Canada as a country until they were joined by railroad all way across to Alberta. In the early 20th century construction planning for the Canadian railway developed, and the race was on! The history behind this (protected) land is deep in history. Heritage Park continues to have a working steam locomotive which will transport its passenger a mile through the park itself. This train, the River Forth, offers its passengers the chance to live in a bygone era and are wined and dined in luxury service. The car itself is pays homage to the roaring twenties and gives guests onboard top-notch service and a beautiful sit-down meal. Heritage Park is open all year round. Visitors will be able to experience Canada throughout the years. Here you’ll find a working bakery, blacksmiths and restaurants. Those working at the living museum dawn traditional clothing for the era they are portraying. They have even made a replica of Nellie McClung’s home. For those of you who have not heard of Nellie, she was part of The Famous 5. These five women fought for women’s suffrage within Canada. The reason that a replica was to be made is because McClung’s actual home in Calgary houses the ambassador of Colombia!
Inside Heritage Park Historical Village, is Gasoline Alley. This gallery is also important to Canada’s history because much like the train, the automobile played an important role in shaping Canada’s history. Inside Gasoline Alley, you will find nostalgia steeped in history. The entire collection was previously owned by one person, Ron Carey. For any car or history enthusiast, this collection of petrol pumps, cars and automotive signs is truly unique. Mr. Carey donated all of the memorabilia which you will find here, in Gasoline Alley. To give you an idea as to the size of the items you will find on display… Carey owned 54 gasoline pumps; which are all currently housed within the museum. The artefacts on display range from the turn of the twentieth century all the way up to the 1950s.

After all of the sensory overload, it is time for lunch. After our group was split into two, we had the opportunity to experience Calgary’s 17th Avenue Food Tour. This experience began in 2006 and has continuously indulged foodies to no end. On my groups tour, our first stop was to Pulcinella. This is an Italian pizzeria that prides itself of creating traditional Neapolitan pizza. What makes a pizza an actual Neapolitan pizza are not only their certificates hanging on the wall from Naples (which is a must), but they must be cooked in a woodfired oven. Shortly after, we then walked down the street to Kensington Riverside Inn. Riverside Inn is not only a small boutique hotel but it also has a fantastic restaurant. Once we arrived, we were greeted to a pint of beer and duck wings. Not being terribly into duck myself, I didn’t know what to expect. That being said, the jury is out and duck wings are delicious! After all of that food, one needs a bit of a hiatus from gorging on culinary delights… Our next stop is Naked Tea Leaf. Decked out in modern and Asian inspired décor, customers are greeted by warm welcomes and a wealth of knowledge about tea! It was here at the naked Tea Leaf the whole debate of about herbal and “normal” tea was put to rest. As an American, I know we do not take the tea drinking culture as seriously as the British. I can assure you that I can know give you an adequate breakdown of what is and is not tea! All tea comes from a tea bush. All tea is caffeinated and herbal tea isn’t actually tea. Who knew? In short, herbal tea is simply called tea because you seep loose leafy components in hot water. Green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea are all considered to be real teas, the only difference among the four is how they are processed. Our last stop on our food tour was to Crave Cupcake. This is a favourite go-to amongst those in Calgary. So much so that they have four locations just in Calgary and one in Edmonton. We were lucky enough to visit their flagship location and had a dabble at frosting our own cupcakes. Needless to say, I was a natural!

After both of our food tours, it was time to make the three-hour drive to Edmonton. Once we arrived, we checked in to the Matrix Hotel. This hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Edmonton. This is a great stop for those looking to be in the thick of it. After a little down time, we were off to Rogers Place where we were fortunate enough to see The Weekend live in concert. Breaking out onto the music scene in 2011, The Weekend recently had a top number one hit “Star Boy” which rose to number one in the charts in 90 countries. This was a special treat and thanks to Alberta Tourism, not only did we have our own private suite at the venue, we walked away with a truly memorable experience!

DAY FOUR: Tuesday 03 October 2017

After our lovely buffet breakfast in the hotel, we made the forty-minute drive from downtown Edmonton to Elk Island National Park. This is the only fenced in National Park in Canada. It is home to both four and two-legged animals but most importantly, it a bison sanctuary. The park was sanctioned as a conservation effort to combat the decline of the bison population. It was crucial to the success of the park to have the bison contained within the park. This was to prevent the bison from coming in contact with cattle. Should they do so, they may become susceptible disease. For the most part, they let the bison roam free but will sometimes lure them with hay to keep them in a concentrated area. Now the big question everyone has been thinking… what is the difference between buffalo and bison! The answer… nothing! Buffalo is a First Nations word which Americans have latched onto. Bison is the correct scientific term and is most commonly recognised. They are actually two types of bison. The Wood Bison and the Plains Bison. The former has a larger hump and they are most commonly found up in the northern territories. Currently, there are 500,000 bison in North America but 97% are found on private ranches. Elk Island is not only a refugee for bison but it is also home to elk and more than 250 species of birds. For those wanting to visit the park, a day trip is highly recommended, Alternatively, travellers may wish to have a picnic or even camp within the park itself. While you can bring (or rent) a tent, you may wish to rent out one of their oTENTik tents. An oTENTik is an A-frame tent and cabin in one and for a true “glamping” experience, they even come equipped with a USB adapter. There are no washroom facilities within these tents but they are located a short minute walk away.
After finishing our tour of Elk Island, we travelled back to Edmonton. On the way back into Edmonton, we were lucky enough to drive pass the Via Rail train; which was parked at the station. Many of our clients travel onboard this train which is Via Rail’s The Canadian service. This journey transports its passengers all the way from Vancouver across to Toronto. For those fortunate enough to partake in this rail journey, do bear in mind that the station is located a little over three miles (5.5km) from the centre of Edmonton. I say this for the sake of trip planning purposes because if your train departs in the evening there isn’t a lot around the station as it is on the outskirts of town. If, however, Edmonton is en route to your final destination, whether it be Jasper, Vancouver, Winnipeg or Toronto, etc, you may have to catch a taxi into town in order to grab a bite to eat.

Once we were back in the city centre, our next stop was Prairie Noodle Shop. Let me tell you, this place takes noodles very seriously. Diners are encouraged to indulge in both North American and Japanese fusion- style food. The Prairie Noodle Shop serves up ramen style noodles and also prides itself on its locally sourced food. This is a trend that I was quick to take note of as many eateries that we came across boasted on the fact that their food was locally sourced. Any number of times we were told by various restaurants that they serve food which is found less than 100 miles from their establishment. I personally feel that this a new wave in dining and should be celebrated. Not only does it ensure your food is fresh but it also helps local farmers and the economy.

Following our luscious meal, one has to burn off some of that meal, and we did just that. We headed to a fairly quirky and unique location… Axe Hole. This is an indoor axe throwing site. We had two hours here to experiment being real Canadian lumberjacks! After thorough instructions on how to properly throw and axe (one or two-handed), we were also advised on how to appropriately retrieve your axe from the target. Believe it or not, the threat of skimming your ear did crop up in conversation. After many failed attempts at making connection with the stump… I finally was successful! From then on out, I couldn’t not make the target. Much to my delight I even made quite a few bullseyes! You may not think axe throwing is very complex but truthfully, physics plays a key part in making the axe connect with your target. Various factors like: distance, finger placement and arm strength are what assist in a successful turn out. All in all, it was a real treat and was something none of us had experienced. That being said, I don’t think I will be taking up axe throwing in my back garden anytime soon!

Following our exhilarating axe throwing competition we had one of two options. Either tour two breweries (Blind Enthusiasm and Situation Brewing) or visit West Edmonton Mall. As we had already been to several breweries before, myself and a few others opted to visit the mall. West Edmonton Mall is the largest Mall in North America. It is so massive that there is even a roller coaster inside! One of my fellow travellers chose to indulge and actually went on the indoor rollercoaster; which costs $12.00 a ride. As it is the largest shopping centre in North America, of course there are tons of shops but there is also a waterpark, ice skating rink and a sea lion show. Needless to say, it was rather impressive!

In the evening, we visited Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm where we had what I considered to be the best meal thus far! Once we arrived, we were greeted by the owner, Tam, or Farmer Tam as she likes to be called. She gave us not only a warm welcome but also a wealth of knowledge. It was quite clear that this was her passion. After introductions, Tam walked us over to her garden where we picked and ate sorrel straight from the ground. This is a leafy lettuce that is quite tasty and tastes as if it has hints of lemon. Again, her enthusiasm for good quality produce was abundantly clear. Growing up in a farming household, Tam developed an interest in pumpkins. That’s right… pumpkins! Her incredible journey has awarded her North America’s furthest northern pumpkin patch. The farm is spread across 35 acres and is renowned for their culinary cuisine.

As our tour continued, we climbed aboard the farm’s train; which transported us to the “Fire Roasters.” Alongside the fire, we were given an array of hors d'oeuvres. Everything from fire roasted blue pumpkin to apple and kale wrapped in bacon was passed around and to wash it all down, local moonshine was provided. Once our nibbles were finished we made our way to the barn. As we walked in, our eyes were as big as saucers and we were completely in awe. The barn was decked out in fairy lights and stacks upon stacks of pumpkins lined the perimeter. Our host even arranged for a two-man band to play during our meal. It was truly magical to say the least. Before dinner, we made our way to table stations that the farm had put together in preparation for our arrival. On the tables, there were small brown bags which contained dried herbs. Tam instructed us to rub the bags between our hands to loosen the leaves from the stems. Once we had done so, Tam had us add a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon or rock salt and a pinch of ash (the ash is from previous meals cooked on their fire roasters). We then placed our spice mixture in sachets which they provided and this was then ours to take home. It was little touches such as this that made the evening so special.

Our dinner, as to be expected… was phenomenal. Long wooden boards were brought out with salad and placed in front of us for all to share. We once again ate sorrel from Tam’s garden, along with her homemade berry salad dressing. Our second course was the most tender beef you could imagine. It was also accompanied by her famous roasted pumpkin. Each course was paired with local branded wines, even ending our meal with Ice Wine. For those who have not heard of Ice Wine, this is a wine native to Ontario where they allow the grapes to freeze. Hence the name “ice wine.” It is a fairly sweet dessert wine and it is unique to Canada.
Not only is Prairie Gardens a working farm but it is something for the whole family to enjoy. Here you will find several corn mazes which you can take a stab at trying to navigate through, as well as stands serving confectionary delights such as ice cream, u-pick strawberry picking and even a petting farm. As it conveniently located only twenty minutes from Edmonton, this is fun day out for all or even an evening meal to celebrate a special occasion and is certainly worth a visit.

DAY FIVE: Wednesday 04 October 2017

Today we had an early start. Following breakfast in the Matrix Hotel, we then made our way to Edmonton Airport in preparation for our flight across to Toronto. This was our last destination on our trip. Toronto was the meeting place for all of us partaking in the Destination Canada trips. As this tour was hosted by Destination Canada, there were agents from all around the world exploring various Canadian provinces.

Check-in at Edmonton Airport was straight forward and very efficient, and we managed to make it through security within minutes. Many travellers will most likely agree that any hassle before you even board your flight is a nuisance. The terminal itself had a lot to offer travellers. There are many shops and places to eat; which is always useful when needing to pass the time before your flight.

Our flight to Toronto was with Air Canada. Having never flown internally with Air Canada before I didn’t know what to expect. I must say, that I could not fault any part of our experience. Unlike Europe, North American flights offer complimentary soft drinks. However, if you want any snacks or a meal, I would recommend doing so in the terminal. Alternatively, you can purchase sandwiches, crisps, hummus and pretzels onboard; which we ended up doing. To be perfectly honest, it was a bit of poor planning as to why we didn’t ate on the plane, but with the time difference and the time we were travelling, we knew we would be hungry by the time we made it to our hotel. As I mentioned, the service on the flight was very good and it even had inflight entertainment. Each seat had their own personal TVs but do know that if you do not have a pair of your own headphones, you will have to buy a pair from the airline.

Once we landed, our luggage arrived very quickly; which impressed me as Toronto Airport is quite big and bustling. Prior to our flight, we were each given a train ticket, as we were meant to take the train from the airport to Union Station (then taxi onwards to the hotel). However, due to technical problems the train was not working at the time. Therefore, we all had to find other means of transport. Myself and another traveller on the tour opted to take a taxi. I appreciate that this isn’t (always) the cheapest option, it appeared to be the most straight forward an easy option. As we landed just after five in the evening, the airport was very busy. Not to mention that the train was down, the taxi queue snaked along the pavement. That being said, although there were such long lines, the turnover of people for a taxi was rather impressive.

From the airport to our hotel (the Chelsea Hotel), costed the two of us $56.00 (plus tip). Again, not the most feasible option but we justified it by the sheer convenience. As you arrive at the Chelsea, one will note how large the lobby is. Apparently, this is the largest hotel in Canada. Once we checked-in and were greeted by the team at Destinations Canada, the evening was at our leisure to explore and take – in the sights around the city. As I am from the States (if you didn’t already know), I do not have the opportunity to see my family and friends all too often. Therefore, as I was only a quick 90-minute flight from my hometown of Cincinnati, my mother opted to spend three days with me whilst we were in Toronto. The rest of my evening was spent having dinner, drinks and catching up with my mother, who I hadn’t seen in a year; which was a real treat!

DAY SIX: Thursday 05 October 2017

This morning all of us travelling were split into four groups and assigned to various coach buses. From our hotel, each group went to different hotels for breakfast and for a sight visit afterwards. My bus went to the Hilton Toronto where we were treated to an impressive buffet breakfast. The Hilton, much like the Chelsea is ideally located in the heart of Toronto. The Hilton Toronto is located in the city’s Financial District, allowing its guests to be within reach to a range of shops and attractions. Staying at the Hilton, you will be able to walk to such sites as: the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum and the Eaton Centre; which is a large shopping centre. As we were guided through the hotel, we had the opportunity to go into three different rooms. Their standard guest room, a suite and one of their executive rooms. All of the three room types have recently been re-decorated and were tastefully done. Of course, the higher-end room types allow guests more room and comfort with things like a couch (sofa), for example. However, all three of them had ample space and large plush beds and wonderful views of the downtown area.

Leaving the Hilton, we then were transferred to Ripley’s Aquarium which is located next to the iconic CN Tower. The aquarium is home to 15,000 aquatic animals and North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel. In the tunnel, they have put-in what I consider to be a very long conveyor belt. This is a (slow) moving pavement that runs alongside the tunnel. I felt that this was a smart and efficient idea and would help move those along at e reasonable pace. This moving platform also helps to ensure that there aren’t too many people crowding around; which could potentially obstruct others from seeing inside the tanks. Those interested in visiting the aquarium, will be dazzled by its nine galleries. These exhibits showcase both fresh and saltwater creatures from around the world!

Next, we were off the Toronto’s old Distillery District. This area was originally home to Toronto’s whiskey distilleries. Here you will find beautiful early 19th century buildings lined with cobblestoned streets. Within these 13 acres, you will be able to immerse yourself in a multitude of cafés, restaurants, shops and more than forty historic heritage buildings. Whether you have visited Toronto or the Distillery District in person, you may have seen these streets once or twice before. This is because this area is commonly known as “Hollywood North.” Many Hollywood films are actually shot right here, in the heart of Toronto. This mainly boils down to production costs and often times, it works out cheaper to film in Toronto versus a big city in the USA. If you have ever seen the film, Chicago with Catherine Zeta Jones and Renee Zellweger, you have in fact seen the Distillery District… not the city of Chicago.

After an hour or so of exploring the Distillery District, it is a quick stop to the St. Lawrence Market. This market has been around for over 200 years and is home to more than one hundred merchants. Shoppers will be mesmerised with all things food. Anything and everything from bakeries, to artisan cheese shops, fish mongers, a handful of butchers and numerous stalls with fresh produce. Whether you are on a hunt for some locally made chutney, a particular spice rub for your ribs or perhaps some locally made Ice Wine, this is truly your one-stop-shop. The sights and smells are surely not to be missed here, at the St. Lawrence Market.

Taking in all of the enticing and inviting smells of the market, sure does work up one’s appetite. Therefore, our next stop was The Hot House Restaurant & Bar; which is located amongst Toronto’s financial district; right near St. Lawrence Market. We had a very nice pre-set menu offered to us and I honestly could not fault it. However, in true North American fashion…the meal was quite large but very tasty!! After lunch we meandered around the PATH; which are a network of underground walkways. These paths are all part of the largest underground shopping complex in the entire world. This underground compound helps to link downtown offices, shops and entertainment venues; without ever having to step foot outside! PATH stretches over 30km and is definitely worth a gander. If shopping is something you are interested in, the PATH connects to the Eaton Centre; which is Toronto’s big shopping mall. One thing to keep in mind when visiting the Eaton Centre, is the higher the floor, the higher the price tag. As you work your way up and down the floors, you will notice the more high-end retail stores are furthest up and as you go down floor-by-floor, the ticket price lowers as well.

To finish our amazing full-day experience of Toronto, we made our way to the waterfront. Here we were fortunate enough to embark on a one-hour harbour tour with Mariposa Cruises. If your itinerary (and weather) permits, I highly recommend boarding one of Mariposa’s cruises. From May to August, their tours are offered in: English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, German and Japanese. Many travellers may find this helpful to know that they cater to a variety of clientele. Cruising on the tranquil waters of Lake Ontario passengers will not only an audio-guide but will also be offered breath-taking views of the city’s skyline, island parklands and waterways.

Following our harbour cruise, it was time to freshen up for dinner. As this was our last dinner on our trip, it was sure to be special. Departing the hotel lobby, we boarded our coach buses one last time. From the Chelsea Hotel, we were then driven to the CN Tower for our meal. As you may know, the CN Tower is not only iconic to Toronto but to its skyline as well. The building stands over 350 metres high (1,150 ft.) and contains a revolving restaurant at the top; offering 360-degree views of the city. For those who are not too keen on heights, the views venturing up to the top might make one a bit unsettled. Whilst in the lift, I was quick to notice that it was glass. For many, this was a real delight and quite a sight. I on the other hand, had to turn around and clench my eyes shut. Pathetic, I know. Once we arrived off of the lift, we were greeted by the hostess who showed us to our reserved tables. Due to the size of our group (about 180 people), we were given a pre-set menu and a glass of white or red wine. I will say that our three-course meal was absolutely lovely. We were even given an amuse bouche to start with; which similar to type of bruschetta. The atmosphere is very intimate and rather romantic in my opinion. Definitely a place to go for a special occasion and certainly worth every penny.

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