NIAGRA FALLS & TORONTO by Jackie Hall

On Friday 26th October 2018, I was delighted to join a small group of Travel Agents on a 4 night break (hosted by Jetset) to Canada’s largest city, Toronto – Its motto is “Diversity Our Strength”.

We met at Gatwick Airport and introduced ourselves over a Bacon Roll & Prosecco in the No 1 Lounge facilities. We flew Economy Class with Air Transat and enjoyed the priviledges & services of Option Plus (approx £50 each way) – an additional 23 kg of checked baggage,check in at exclusive counter, priority boarding, priority baggage handling, on-board comfort kit – blanket, eye mask, neck pillow, a set of natural wood earbuds, an alcoholic beverage & a meal from the bistro menu.

We arrived into Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal 3 where we were met by Brian, a Toronto Canadian Tourist Board Representative. Brian took us on the shuttle train to Terminal 1 where we caught the UP Express train to Downtown Union Station in a reliable 25 minutes. We hopped in taxis from Union Station to the Chelsea Hotel (CAD 12.00) where we were based for the next 4 days. We had just enough time to unpack & freshen up before an excellent supper at the Scaddabush Italian Restaurant (just across the road), advisable to book as very busy at peak times.

The following morning, breakfast was at leisure, followed by the Niagara Falls Tour – departing the bus station (10 minute walk from the Chelsea Hotel) at 10.00. We were told to layer up with clothes to accommodate both cold and warm periods throughout the day… and to take extra socks in case our feet got wet! On route to the falls, we visited Niagara-On-The-Lake, often described as the prettiest town in Ontario. Niagara-On-The-Lake is a well preserved 19th Century Village in the heart of Ontario Wine Country – hence, we were invited to take part in some wine tasting at a local vineyard.

Niagara is deemed one of the greatest natural spectacles on the planet and despite seeing Niagara Falls on a very grey, gloomy & wet day, it was certainly spectacular. A hearty lunch at the Shereton Hotel with one of the most iconic backdrops in the world was very much appreciated. After lunch, a cruise on the Hornblower left everyone soaking wet but worth it. Our guide (Fred from Greyhound) drove us to Table Rock (top of the fall) for some more photo shots and allowed us time to browse around the gift shop. 17.30pm we boarded the bus for our very long journey (2 hours 30mins due to traffic) back to the Chelsea Hotel. A quick change of clothing and off out for supper at Red’s Steak House (just across the road).

Sunday morning was an early rise for breakfast at the Shereton Centre Toronto followed by a brief site inspection – perfectly situated in the heart of downtown’s Financial and Entertainment districts, this four-star hotel is ideal for every visitor. All of Toronto’s attractions, from Eaton Centre (shopping) to CN Tower, are within easy reach of this family-friendly hotel. We had a Toronto city tour in a private luxury mini bus where we could sit back and enjoy the sights of the city’s fascinating past and vibrant present unfold. Jazz Brunch at the Hot House Restaurant & Bar, one of Toronto’s destination food and wine eateries, located in the historic St. Lawrence neighbourhood. An afternoon visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada – An awe-inspiring interactive attraction consists of 9 carefully curated galleries, featuring one of the world’s most extensive jellyfish exhibits, the longest moving sidewalk, stingray and bamboo shark touch pools, and daily live dive shows. Returned back to the Chelsea hotel for a little relaxation and refresh before dinner at Pappas Grill for some traditional Greek food in Greek Town, a 15 minute taxi drive.

Monday was another early start with breakfast at the Chelsea, followed by a site inspection of this property – the largest hotel in Toronto with 1590 rooms. This hotel is centrally located surrounded by good restaurants and will suit all walks of life. It will appeal to families too with a swimming pool and a waterslide (limited opening times) on the 2nd floor as well as an adult pool situated on the top floor. From the Chelsea Hotel we hopped on the private luxury mini bus to meet the Sales director of the newly completed Bisha Hotel Toronto (Part of the Loews Hotel Chain) for a hosted lunch & site inspection. A very high end hotel (used by lots of celebrities) that prides itself on its unique exquisite rooms and an amazing rooftop restaurant & infinity style pool with stunning views. After an amazing lunch, we boarded the mini bus again and made our way to the historic distillery district for some beer tasting and a glide around on a Segway – a fun way to travel about.

Monday evening was very chilling!! Just before Halloween …. a cold night with a biting wind, we did The Original Haunted Walk of Toronto Tour….ghosts, graveyards, hangings and haunts. Heard some of the most spine-tingling ghost stories from the earliest days of the city, including haunted theatres, unsolved mysteries and the terrifying encounters at Mackenzie House. We will never look at the city the same again! It was good to end the night with dinner at the Marche – located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Marché impressed me with its extraordinary open atrium atmosphere and its open-market setup, which offers a wide range of fresh products, all of which are prepared right before your watchful eyes.

Our last day started with breakfast and a site inspection at the Fairmont Royal York. A Toronto landmark, Fairmont Royal York is located in the heart of Toronto’s downtown shopping, entertainment and sightseeing districts, across from Union Station. A very impressive, excellent standard of hotel. It is currently undergoing refurbishment to the reception/lobby and ground floor restaurant – not a problem though as they have masked everything very well & rerouted guests within the building. After the Fairmont we did our final site inspection at the Hyatt Regency Toronto hotel. Located in the heart of the Entertainment District, just steps away from theatres, sports & entertainment venues, galleries, museums and shopping. A very clean & comfortable hotel that serves all individuals including families very well. A short walk from the Hyatt and we were at the foot of The CN Tower – This tower defines the Toronto skyline at 553.33m (1,815ft 5in), the CN Tower is Canada’s most recognizable and celebrated icon. The CN Tower is an internationally renowned architectural triumph, an engineering Wonder of the Modern World, world-class entertainment and dining destination and a must-see for anyone visiting Toronto.

Our final afternoon allowed us some free time to spend either shopping or sightseeing. I took advantage of our one and only sunny day to enjoy the scenery from the harbour front. I sat on the beach, yes, a beach (manmade) in Toronto for a wee while and then walked the full length of the habour to Billy Bishop Airport. I walked through the terminal tunnel to Toronto Island and caught the free ferry back.

An exhausting 4 days but nevertheless a fantastic trip. Thank you to Jetset.