Tue 16 Jul - Toronto, ON

Going to the island and to the beach for a swim...

Another hot and humid day is predicted so we awoke early to ensure we are underway by 8am before it gets too unpleasant.

Hans hit the streets earlier by 6am for a few local morning photos and to upload yesterday's blog from outside the Apple Store (its hi-speed wifi and always on) and then returned for breakfast.

Outside Bond Place hotel looking towards Dundas Square.

Dundas Square 1, looking west

Dundas Square 2, looking north

Der Strassenbahn or perhaps better known as a Toronto tram

Our destination for today was Toronto Islands and we headed to the ferry around 8am. It was a 2.7km walk to the ferry and we tried to walk different streets each time. Today we walked south on Church Street and along the way passed this construction zone (although half the city feels that way!).

Love the informal use of spare orange spray paint indicating way for pedestrians, a colour which matches Di's shoes.

At 8.30am we arrived at the "worlds ugliest ferry terminal" (in our opinion). Seriously, we've been on lots of ferries around the world, not all of them clean or new, but this quay for ferries to Toronto Islands takes the cake for ugly. The ticket entrance...

The waiting area. Hmmm....not sure how they could improve on it except to tear it down and start all over again. We waited for the 8.45am Wards Island ferry and looked more at the ferry and waterway instead.

The ferries are old and cute (you can see one approaching on the left of the photo below). On a day like this the open upstairs area is perfect, with wooden benches, a flow through breeze and good views. Di likes to choose her seat so got on first (before about 20 other passengers) to ensure she can take her pick. Hans just follows laughing...

Di found a shady seat facing forward at the front. Perfect. Not that we had much competition...

Hans tried some other seats out for size. Behind him are Toronto Islands - split into 3 major sections - Hanlan (furthest west) Centre and Ward's (furthest east) which is also our destination. Ward's Island is the residential section and apart from a local cafe appears to be non commercial.

We plan to cover quite a bit of the islands - first by walking and then if we choose a bike.

This is how we ended up walking the Toronto Islands in the end.
Toronto looks great from a distance with the morning sun. Hans looks pretty good too.

We walked without any major plan (or a map) and hit Lakeshore Avenue that took us to the most easterly point of Ward's Island. However when we got closer it was clear that not many people came this way. The only people we met were some bush volunteers who were poisoning a weed called Dogwood Strangler Vine. The path was quite overgrown and ended at an old wharf, also sprouting weeds.

OK, so the local hoons like this place - it really is ignored by tourists - except us of course.

Soon we found a better used path that led towards the Boardwalk and to Ward's Island Beach.

As the locals and some day care groups seemed to enjoy the beach, we also had to test the water of Lake Ontario for ourselves.

We had been told it never got warmer than about 14 degrees C in Lake Ontario but that must be in the middle depths because this was wonderful. Probably 20 or 21 degrees in the shallows. A self portrait on the water complete with shadow from the camera...

On a hot day when you're feeling sweaty what do you do? The obvious solution was change into your swimmers and join the locals. Di here is floating off into Lake Ontario to join the Canada Geese.

Hans too. Wunderbar.

We happily splashed and enjoyed the beach and water for about an hour. The water tasted almost fresh, a hint of salt only which was nice for swimming. We kept our swimmers on for a potential swim later and once we dried off put on our shorts and shirts and wandered further.

The island is full of grassed picnic areas with tables and big trees, and we found Ward's Island to be quite lovely. We had a mid morning snack at one of the picnic tables and then wandered westwards.

Our ferry had included a group of about 20 young children each with their first bike (with training wheels or no pedals). The carers were taking them on a "ride" today. We came across them several times and got distracted because they were just too cute. The carers tried them to create a long line but that only worked for a little while... Of course.

Crossing onto another small island we reached the bridge at the same time as the bike group. Each child got a turn to pedal/push themselves to the top of the bridge whilst being clapped and cheered on by their carers (and us and others).

This little guy needed an extra hand near the top (as the carer said to us his bike weighs almost the same as he does!). We loved it.

The view from the top of the bridge.

We are close to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (previously the Toronto Yacht Club). A bit of money was tied up here!

We took advantage of benches and shade and watched the world go by. This was a bench with a view back towards downtown Toronto. We watched the ferries come and go too. Nice and relaxing.

There is a boardwalk that goes from Ward's Island Beach all the way to Centre Island Beach and we got back onto it for a while so we could enjoy the close up views of the geese. The only downside of the boardwalk was that it is on the south eastern edge of the island and so we baked in the sun on the way.

By the time we reached Centre Island pier we needed an icecream. After choking on the price ($5 or $6.50 unless it was a cheap iceblock) we bought one each anyway. Even the guy who sold the ice cream looked embarrassed when Hans told him that the ice cream was not cheap. He replied that everything on the island is expensive. We believed him.

After finishing the supreme ice cream, we wander out on the pier.

This directional sign points to Niagara Falls, 65km away, and our destination for tomorrow.

Looking back for the pier you can see the lovely Centre Island beach. By now we are looking for shade so did not go for another swim. We also chose not to go biking or canoeing - the prices were very expensive (for example, canoe hire for one day is C$95.60... you can buy a canoe for that) and the equipment did not look great. Anyway, the paths and sights seemed better suited to walking.

Instead we sat in the shade near some fountains and watched the small kids run in and out while we ate the last of our snacks. You can't see the fountains in the photo below but this is the view back towards the entrance to Centre Beach. Far more commercialised than Ward's Island and less our style. They even have an amusement park here but we stayed away.

We were interested at how many people arrived at the island after noon, in the hottest part of the day. We had already made plans to leave around 1pm (latest 2pm) to do just the opposite. Must be our Aussie training to limit our time in the sun. Plus we don't need the extra Viatmin D - we have plenty already - but the locals say they need it so they seem to maximize their sun exposure when they can. They can get 6 months of snow here so we don't blame them.

Our ferry back to downtown Toronto left from Centre Island every 15 minutes and before long we were back in town walking up Bay Street towards Union Station to find the PATH (underground air conditioned walkway).

On Bay Street we found the new home arena, Air Canada Stadium, of the local ice hockey team, Toronto Maple Leafs. Hans had to take a photo.

We found the start of PATH just past Union Station and took this all the way underground back to Dundas Street. There is a lot of retail businesses in these tunnels so on the way we stopped at one of the many food courts underground for some lunch and also picked up lunch supplies for tomorrow. All good.

How about this heat? 33 degrees and high humidity. Back for a siesta in our room just after 2pm.

We set out again to explore at 5.30pm and headed to Chinatown, due west of us. It was a 3km walk and still hot so we took our time. We liked some of the businesses we passed along the way.

Chinatown feels a bit strange here. It's on a wide boulevard called Spadina when it normally is narrow dirty lanes. Chinatown was shifted when they built new City Hall and that might explain the "new" feel. The good news is that it was still full of cheap junk shops and hole in the wall restaurants, not all with customers though.


We found a dumpling house called... Dumpling House that had a crowd and cheap prices. Perfect for dinner. The ladies can be seen making fresh dumplings to order in the window.

Inside was pretty typical too...with our favourite condiments... No, not Di... Although...

And stuff shoved out of the way on a window sill...

Unfortunately the dumplings were not as good as the ones we ate in Montreal and we think the crowd was due to the cheap prices - $5.99 for 12 fried dumplings and $6.99 for 15 steamed shrimp dumplings. Enough food for us.

Back on the hot streets we looked for a pub or bar for a nice drink. We decided to try one of the patio bars on Dundas Square just next to our hotel and ended up in a very cool Japanese restaurant and bar on level 4 which used iPads for ordering.

Part of the drinks menu.

We scrolled through our drink choices, which were pretty reasonable priced considering the location - $7 cocktails and ($4.50 to $5.50 beers). Hans chose a Corona Extra for a hot day. Di chose a Piña Colada. We placed our order.

Di checks her Piña Colada against the picture. Looks accurate but a little light on the alcohol. Still yummy on a hot evening.

The view over Dundas Street from the patio bar.

And looking north on Yonge Street. Note that there is also an outdoor area downstairs which belonged to another restaurant and bar.

Today we probably walked 18km which is more than we expected in this heat wave. We were now feeling it at 8.30pm or so and decided to cross the road to home to put our feet up in air conditioned comfort. A very good day. Good night.


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