Well, it was my final day in Toronto. I had to be out of the unit by 10am, so I managed to get up just after 8am and had a very long shower followed by eating a ton of bacon and bread (leftovers) plus leaving an unopened pack of gruyere cheese in the fridge (I was on a bit of a health kick in the end). I used up the remainder of the coffee, although I’d purchased a new sealed pack of ground coffee a few days earlier – so it was coming home to Oz.
I decided to make a final trip to the nearby Urban Fresh to pick up some snacks for the return voyage. I picked up some crisps and some chocolate bars and then returned to the unit for The Final Packing™.
I hung out in the apartment right up until 10am to try to take full advantage of having a place to relax. My return flight to San Francisco wasn’t departing from Pearson International airport until 6:30pm! So I had about 7 hours to kill with no place to return to. Luckily, the security guard at the desk downstairs agreed to mind my bags whilst I headed out into downtown for the last time. I decided to walk to the harbour side and to venture to the public ferry terminal to see if I could get a ferry out to the islands.
When I got there, there was a very long queue to buy tickets, so I decided to skip it, and instead located the hop on/hop off bus, just outside the MTCC on Front street. It ironically was on the looping route, and ended up taking me back via CN Tour, the harbour side and eventually heading east to the old town. The ticketing guy’s EFT machine was not working, so I rode along for a while without paying. My destination was Casa Loma in the northern hills that Tony had visited the day before.
We went past the Toronto flatiron building (predates the one in New York) and out past the location of where the old parliament building once stood. Eventually the route took us back into the city and then north towards the Eaton Centre. From here, it was quite evident how large the shopping centre really is – it spans the length of enough city blocks to integrate with no less than two metro stations. As we approached Toronto’s version of Times Square (Yonge-Dundas Square) we were beset by an oncoming parade in the form of a wave of hare krishnas.
The colourful parade had escorted mobile pagodas, which had been built anticipating the challenge of Toronto’s trolley wires. As each pagoda ran under the wire, the top collapsed down and then was pushed back up once clear. The parade caused us no real delay as the bus had reached a loop of the official route, and we waited for about 15 minutes before restarting the loop.
We were taking through a number of up market areas of northern downtown, and continued north. It wasn’t easy to take photos as the bus moved, so I don’t have a decent visual record of the route. It seemed to take nearly 20 odd minutes before the bus arrived at the Casa Loma stop, the northern most point on the route.
I walked uphill and located the castle in the hills. The area was exceptionally opulent; many old manor houses surrounded by a privacy screen of walls and green trees.
The main attraction is mansion modelled on some of the grand castles of Europe, built in the 19th century by a gas magnate, who clearly had more money than he knew what to do with. I sincerely think that the board game Clue/Cluedo was based on this strange castle/mansion.
There was a queue to get in, and the admission wasn’t a token amount, but I’d come this far, so.. I paid up ($25 CAD) and went inside. My plan was to start with the underground, and work my way up. The initial underground area contained a cafe, restrooms, a movie theatre and a wine cellar. The main attraction was a 400ft underground passage which crossed underneath the road outside to bring people up at the separate garage complex.
The passage was dotted with information panels documenting the history of the passage. The garage at the end of the tunnel had a number of classic automobiles as well a decent sized set of stalls for horses. I wandered outside to marvel at the size of the annex before retracing my steps back down the passage to the main house.
From here I decided to go up to the first floor, which was comprised mainly of a large hallway with a number of huge rooms.
There were a number of bedrooms, all appointed with period piece furniture, and exquisitely hand crafted finishes. The place was wide and expansive but constructed with narrow doorways as you’d expect from the time period. As I ascended further up into the next level, I started to encounter many items of military antiquity, as the house serves as a bit of a military museum.
The most impressive part was reserved for the very top level, what in most houses would be the attic. Instead, a large complex of passages led to access to the impressive Norman and Scottish towers. The queue for the Norman tower was far too long to bother waiting, however the (taller than the Norman tower!) was a reasonably short wait.
Access to the tower was principally via a spiral staircase, and then up another series of ladders to reach the very top. From here the view was very impressive indeed. I found my way back down, and then inadvertently followed a secret passageway the wrong way (down instead of up) and found myself on the ground floor in a study or office. From here I explored the expansive ground floor including this amazing dining room of floor to ceiling hardwood panelling, and some seriously impressive antique furniture.
They were clearly setting up for a wedding, so some areas were roped off. I walked outside to get some external photos, and look over the fountain and manicured gardens. I did another pass through the ground floor before making my way out to the front again. Here there was a plaque with information about the original owner of the mansion.
I retraced my steps back downhill to where the Hop On/Hop Off bus stop was located, and chatted to a couple of people from the Seattle area before an old London bus arrived. There was just enough room for me to squeeze on, and then we started heading back to downtown. A few stops later I was able to move up to the upper deck, for better views.
The rest of the journey took me through some familiar territory. We went through a university, and the hospital district. Slowly we made our way down to near the CN Tower, it really is the most obvious landmark in the city, you can see it for miles. I got off the bus at Front street (around 2:45pm) and walked back past Rogers Centre towards the unit to retrieve my bags. As I started my last journey back towards Union Station, I took a final photo of my familiar view of CN Tour:
With some difficulty, I pulled my luggage back to Union Station and paid for a ticket to the Pearson Airport on the UP Express. It was a little earlier than I really needed to leave, but I’d really kind of run out of gas by this stage. I could have eaten at a downtown location, but my heart wasn’t really in it.
There’s some serenity in removing the need to rush to an airport. I made it to the airport with plenty of time, I checked my luggage, completed my transit information and passed into the airport terminal through US customs.
I had dinner at a Wahlburger’s in the airport and then had an hour to walk around a little bit inspecting the shops. I bought Toni a fridge magnet, and spied a number of bottles of Canadian ice wine, but ultimately just hung around until boarding. The flight to San Francisco was uneventful, but I goofed big time at SFO, and spent a few hours in the wrong International terminal. I’d just feasted on a nice Japanese dinner (dinner 2.0) as it was about 8pm when I landed. Unfortunately, I spent a few hours waiting for an 11:30pm flight to Sydney in the wrong place, and when there was confusion about my boarding pass, the mistake became apparent!
I bolted with all the energy I could muster, and had to contend with security again. The people were very nice, and a guard asked me to ask the people in front if they would mind me cutting to the front given my predicament. No one objected, and I made it through in record time. An airline rep met me on the other side and ran with me to the gate. I made the flight, and then found out that they were holding for six other passengers. Oh well.
The return flight was uneventful except for continually being hit in the head by the veil separating the cabin from the meals prep area. We couldn’t land in Sydney due to heavy fog, we were instead routed to Brisbane. Once we eventually landed in Sydney I was told that I’d missed my connecting flight to Canberra. I was booked on the flight an hour later. Once I made it to the terminal, it turned out they hadn’t even boarded my original flight! Very pissed off.
I arrived back in sunny, bit cold Canberra and was greeted at the baggage claim by Damian and Toni. I went around to the school later, and picked up Jake who was thrilled. The trip was over.