With the conference over, I only had one full day left in Toronto, and this was it. I’d gambled with CN Tour – it is quite clearly the most obvious tourist attraction in the city, and to really get the best experience you need good weather on your side. The weather leading up to the final full day (Friday) hadn’t been exceptionally encouraging with early rain and clouds dogging Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday afternoon, I heard that the queue to go up the tower was sitting on a 75 minute wait. Another tourist asked one of the employees what was the best time to avoid a long queue – and the answer was first thing when they open (9am).
So I rolled the dice – and won.
After waking up, showering and throwing down breakfast I walked the easy 5 minutes across Rogers Centre and arrived at the doors to CN Tour at about 8:45am. I walked in initially with some others but we were told to wait until they officially opened. We waited outside for about 10 minutes, but then we were able to go through security and head for tickets (some already had tickets and got ahead early). No matter, I still managed to wait for about 10 minutes and then ascend in the second elevator car of the day.
View from outside the elevators, into the gift shop
My plan was a simple one: get to the top ASAP. I’d purchased access to the LookOut Level at 346 m (1,136 ft.) plus access to the SkyPod at 447m (1,465 ft) high.
The elevators have glass sides and as an added bonus.. small glass panes in the floor. That’s got to be disconcerting to some folks – but not to me. It took close to a minute to ascend to the first viewing platform, and my ears popped at least twice on the way up.
Once I reached the LookOut level, I immediately went to the location where the internal elevator took people up to the SkyPod. The elevator wasn’t available immediately, so I chatted with the attendant for a few minutes. Once the elevator opened, it was myself and a cleaner who were the first people of the day to arrive at the SkyPod.
The views from the SkyPod surpass every other tower I’ve ever ascended. I was told that in winter on a clear day, one can see the mist rising off Niagara falls, around 200kms away. I walked around the tight enclosure inside the SkyPod taking photos from each direction. Given the liberty of not sharing the vista with anyone, I decided to film (video) walking around the entire SkyPod in a single take.
It wasn’t too long before I was descending back down to the LookOut level. The views aren’t nearly as grand, but there’s still a few things worthy – a glass floor which evokes a little bit of vertigo; an outdoor area where the breeze hits you on a windy day and a number of large placards and information walls, with heaps of information about the tower. I stuck around for a bit, just admiring the views before I decided to wait for an elevator back down.
Returning to terra firma, we are forced out through the gift shop (of course). I didn’t purchase, but found my way back out to the entrance. What to do next??
Directly opposite the CN Tour/Aquarium, as it turns out, is a train museum. From what I could tell, it seemed to be closed, however there were plenty of antique retired trains still displayed outside. I walked around for a bit checking out the area.
At this point, I went back to the unit and had a little snooze. I woke up around lunchtime, and after making sandwiches and coffee, decided what to do with the afternoon. It was a shopping agenda, and I made my way back to the downtown H&M to take a wild stab at trying to buy something for Toni which she wouldn’t hate. I’d already set an expectation that I wasn’t coming back with anything, so I wagered that the surprise would be worth the effort.
To prove how uncomfortable I am at shopping in women’s clothing stores, I snapped a selfie. I was due to meet up with Tony and Marty from Canberra to race some Go Karts at 2pm, so I headed to Spadina avenue which is about 10-15 minutes from the Sheraton where the guys were staying. I popped into Sonic Boom records and picked up two LPs and then texted to advise I was running a tad late. Turns out one of the guys was sick, and that they’d taken the Hop on/Hop off bus up to a castle in the northern hills.
With bags from shopping in hand, I decided to walk back to the unit to, at minimum, drop my stuff off. So that’s what I did. To be honest, I had no real plan of attack; so I opted to walk up to historic Fort York.
I crossed via a footbridge and entered the fort from the east through a large gate. I had a look at the still working cannon, and watched a marching band in full dress rehearsing. I went into the powder store, the officer’s hall before exiting out the west. Here I found a dedication to fallen soldiers, which was minimalist, but respectful.
I followed the sounds of Indy cars.. down to Exhibition Place. The whole area was fenced off with plenty of security, but it was still possible to see past the fencing. I found a neat spot at the head of a hairpin turn where I was able to take a few snaps of cars passing by.
I walked past Exhibition Place and out towards TD Echo Beach, but it was under severe redevelopment, so I turned back towards the harbour. I walked back through Coronation Park which was leafy and green. I found my way to the Lake Shore boulevard, and made my way back to the unit.
At this point it was time to start seriously packing my bags. I had to check out the next day by 10am and I didn’t want to leave it until the last moment. My route back would see my checked luggage going through to Sydney, so I needed to pack it carefully to avoid any breakages – especially for the vinyl.
The majority of my clothes had dried, so I was able to return with a mostly clean set of clothing, except for about two days’ worth of clothes that would never dry in time without a dryer.
Once I’d finished Skyping home for about an hour, I got organised and reached out to Tony and Marty to see what they had planned for dinner. I decided to head north to the fashion district across the train tracks. I’d read a review about a pizza place which looked quite authentic.
The restaurant was down an alleyway just off King St called Pizza Libretto. I ordered an entree while the guys made their way over.
I ordered a thin traditional pizza which was really huge, and I had trouble fitting it all in. Tony and Marty arrived and we spent a good hour or so chatting and eating. Then Tony suggested a return to the Hotel Rex, where there was a $10 cover charge. We sat in and drank beers until it reached about 9pm when I suggested catching a movie at the nearby Scotia Bank Cineplex. Marty was game, so he and I took off as Tony headed back to the Sheraton for an early night (with a bit of flu).
We decided to watch the latest X-Men: Apocalypse on the big screen. It was a nice way to wind up the last night in Toronto, and at around midnight, I walked back along familiar streets to the unit to rest a final night before gearing up for the return trek to Oz.