Travel with Anumita into the many enchanting getaways and tourist delights of Canada. The Lion Safari Park in Hamilton is a 700-acre land with almost 1000 animals of different species. Lions basking in the sun, giraffes poking their heads at the windows, and curious ostriches were the highlights. The Ontario Royal Museum, one of the largest in North America, housed forty galleries with six million artifacts. A group of over 1800 islands, the Thousand Islands, were a fashionable retreat for the elite in the late 19th century. Today, the area is a hub for outdoor activities. The horse shoe falls of Niagara never gets old. Its majestic thunder could be felt and heard from the land. Here’s the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Summer is the time to take road trips. This time we decided to travel north towards Canada, Toronto to be precise. We live in Ohio, so the plan was to drive towards Detroit and crossover to Canada, and on the way back, drive to Niagara and drive south-west back to our state. Loading our minivan we set off early morning. My husband usually does most of the driving, and I chip in when he is tired.
As we crossed beautiful Lake Huron, we marveled of its unique greenish blue colour. Once near the tunnel to crossover to Canada, we took a wrong turn and realised we were still on American soil.
The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel
Getting lost is our tradition. If we do not get lost once during our trip, we do not consider the trip complete, so we factored that in our itinerary. We took the lined up to the Detroit-Winsor tunnel for our passage to Canada. The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is a highway tunnel connecting Detroit, Michigan in the United States, with Windsor, Ontario in Canada. It is one of the busiest crossing between USA and Canada.
After a long drive under the under the river and reading the changing signs on the walls of the tunnel, we emerged into Windsor, Canada. Other than the currency, the measurement of these countries are different. US use pounds and miles, while Canada uses grams and meters.
We were driving to Burlington, to visit relatives and the drive through safari. We passed many windmills on the rolling landscape. It was late evening by the time we were in the hotel. Exhausted after the drive we settled down for the night.
Lion Safari Park in Hamilton
Next morning, after breakfast we drove to our relative’s house. Lunch and lots of happy chatter followed. After our fill of food and family love, we decided to visit the Safari. The Lion Safari Park is situated in Hamilton. A 700-acre land with almost 1000 animals of different species. It can be toured both by the bus service of the park or by driving through it, in your own vehicle.
We opted for the bus tour. Once on the bus, it meandered along the paved road into different habitats of the safari. Lions basking in the sun, giraffes poking their heads at the windows, and curious ostriches were the highlights. Other than that Cheetahs, Rhinos, Hippos, Elephants and several other species of birds were all around. The baboons were the cheekiest of all. They were seen sitting on the cars and vans driving through as if taking short rides. The ostriches stuck their head at every window of the cars as if to examine the passengers. The kids in the bus were squealing with joy and adults clicking away with their phones and cameras.
As it was getting dark, we decided to return to the hotel. Next morning, we drove to downtown Toronto. Looking at the architecture of the high-rises, we noticed many buildings had glass fronts or glass balcony. This gave the buildings a gleaming effect. Parked in downtown, we decided to do a bit of walking around.
My son wanted to visit the Ontario Royal Museum. He was interested to see the skeletons of the dinosaurs. Walking along the sidewalk, I found myself standing outside a place called the Bata Museum. My hometown in India is a small place called Batanagar. It was one of the places where Mr. Bata had established a huge shoe factory. Now, I had to go in and take a look at this place.
It is the only museum in North America, which showcased the history of footwear. It housed 13,500 footwear from historical times. As a woman can not have enough shoes, I was curious to see all the interesting and fabulous display. An attached little store sells dainty and funny porcelain shoes for interesting décor for the home and office.
Ontario Royal Museum
My elder son was getting impatient; he was all ready to go to see history unfold at the Ontario Royal Museum. The museum was grand. Huge galleries filled to with exhibits after exhibits. The walk around downtown Toronto felt good.
This is one of the largest museums in North America. It is closely attached to the University of Toronto. It houses forty galleries with six million artifacts. A staggering number of visuals and research materials are found in this museum. A day seemed small to be able to go through everything over there. My son decided the galleries, which we really wanted to see. And we followed the map around.
The original building was constructed on the western edge of the property along the university’s Philosopher’s Walk, with its main entrance facing out onto Bloor Street housing five separate museums of the following fields: Archaeology, Paleontology, Mineralogy, Zoology, and Geology. The new main entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum, Daniel Libeskind’s The Crystal, first made of Deconstructivist crystalline-form is clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminum, sitting on top of a steel frame. The Crystal’s canted walls do not touch the sides of the existing heritage buildings, but are used to close the envelope between the new form and existing walls. These walls act as a pathway for pedestrians to travel safely across “The Crystal.” (Wikipedia)
The museum consists of Galleries Natural History galleries (Fossils and evolution, Earth and space), World Culture galleries (Canadiana, East Asian, Ancient, Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and South Asian, Middle Eastern, European, Costumes and textiles), Hands-on galleries and Institute for Contemporary Culture gallery.
We did not notice when it was time to leave, yet we had covered only a part of the huge number of displays. After an elaborate dinner at a friend’s house and we decided to call it a day.
The Thousand Islands
Next day, we drove northeast to take a cruise around Thousand Islands. The Thousand Islands are a group of over 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River, straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada. A fashionable retreat for the elite in the late 19th century, today the area is a hub for outdoor activities. It homes many elaborate island mansions. The ones which stand out are the German-style Boldt Castle on Heart Island, and Singer Castle on Dark Island, with its Gothic windows and secret passageways.
We reached a bit late in the afternoon, after meeting a friend for breakfast. We settled down and soaked in the natural beauty of the picturesque island and the marvelous mansions. The cruise was long and we enjoyed every bit of it. The 1,864 islands range in size from over 40 square miles to smaller islands occupied by a single residence, or uninhabited outcroppings of rocks.
There are few with a single tree or some shrubs with few birds perched on it. There are few islands with walk bridges built over it, where one island is in Canadian territory and the other in US territory. It was fascinating to see how geography and political lines came into play.
The Thousand Islands gave their name to the popular Thousand Island dressing around the turn of the 20th century. Local accounts state that the dressing originated when Sophie La Londe, of Clayton, New York, served the dressing at dinners for guests of her husband, a popular fishing guide.
Satisfied to the brim with the wonders of nature, we drove back to the hotel for the night. Next morning, after breakfast we drove down the Queen Elizabeth Way towards Niagara. It was drizzling. We had visited Niagara from the US side and the Canadian side several times before. It was the 4 th day of July, a very busy day for tourist. We could hardly find our way to park and stroll down the road to have a look at the horse-shoe falls. After an hour or so of driving up and down, we managed a parking place and walked out in the fine misted drizzle.
The horse-shoe falls of Niagara never gets old; it has a majestic beauty which attracts your attention every time you see it. Its thunder could be felt and heard from the land. We took few pictures and decided to drive across and have lunch. The traffic was at snail’s pace on the bridge, and it took us a good two hours till we could have lunch.
Tucking the beautiful sights and memories of our visit to Toronto, we made our way towards home. A six hours drive got extended to two more hours for the breaks. Tired, yet happy we returned home, late at night.
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Pix by the author.