Canada by Gerry O’Hare

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If there is a cleaner city in the world that Toronto, I haven¹t seen it. And it is also astounding for its great value, for unbelievable venues and of course a short journey away one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Niagara Falls.

With the introduction of direct schedule services to Toronto by Air Canada, it was an opportunity not to be missed when the noble call came to sample the airline’s services and the pleasures of Toronto and surrounding countryside.

Firstly the plane. Economy seat-configuration is 2-3-2 and, talking to passengers used to long-haul flights, it was a welcome from the old days of 3-5-3. In Superplus, or business class the seats were 2-2-2.

But perhaps the biggest and most welcome surprise is that all the services are one class. The “pleb” in economy shares the same eats and service as the “toffs” in Superplus, which was quite excellent.

On arrival, it was a short 15-minutes to our city centre hotel, the Strathcona. A small hotel by Canadian standards, surrounded by skyscrapers, it was the equivalent of a family hotel at home.

The rooms were quite spacious and room service was up to scratch. Breakfast was a challenge.

With just a long weekend to see the sights, it was off first thing to Niagara Falls. You won¹t be disappointed. It will leave you searching for a word to describe this thundering sight (awesome came to mind).

The number of times you have seen the Falls in movies and TV just does not prepare you for the real thing.

We had picked a day when the sun was shining. Our first real sight was a helicopter trip, lasting about 10 minutes, that takes you over the Falls. Awesome.

The trips, which are a must, are run by Niagara Helicopters. From the sensation of lift-off to the excitement of soaring above the turbulent rapids and cascading waterfalls, your ride is a unique and spectacular experience.

Underneath you are the whirlpool and rapids, the river and the gorge, the Rainbow Bridge, Queen Victoria Park, the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls. However most visitors opt for the “Maid of the Mist”.

An open deck ferry, which ploughs right up to the falls and gives you an unbelievable great view of the American falls, Rock of Ages, Cave of the Winds and of course the main Falls.

The roars of the passengers getting a right good soaking are as loud as the Falls themselves. The good news is that very passenger receives a plastic rain coat-which you can keep as a souvenir.

All too soon it is over and you return to land. However you can also visit the underground at the Falls at the Table Rock Complex where you descend by elevator to 38 meters below the gorge embankment and really hear the thunder of some million gallons per minute cascading down.

After all this excitement lunch was held at the breathtaking Skylon Tower, a 236-metre high revolving restaurant.

On the return to Toronto a refreshing stopover at the world famous Inniskillin winery for some of their finest Sparkling Icewine.

Here, unlike other wine tours, you are given a map, which sets out a trail for you to do your own thing before sampling the wines. There are many ways to tour Toronto.

We choose a walking tour and our guide over a period of two hours showed us the delights of the city. Toronto is a multi-cultural city and you know why after visiting Greentown, Little Italy, Little India, Chinatown and many more.

For shopaholics it is a dream. With all he world famous brands on offer. Stores are all air conditioned-it was 85F when we were there in June. Across the lake boat trips will bring you to the Toronto islands, 820 acres of parkland and waterways, just a 10-minute journey.

The Harbour front Centre at weekends is a hive of activity with stalls and musicians. Jazz lovers won¹t be disappointed. But the highlight of the trip must be the evening dinner at the world famous CN Tower.

At a height of 553.33m it is the world¹s tallest building and free-standing structure, the new wonder of the world and yes, awesome. The breathtaking views as the restaurant revolves round the city bring you all the sights you visited earlier in the day. And as night descended and the lights came on it was bewildering.

The food was great also. All to soon and sadly it was time for the journey home. We only had a few days to sample the delights and indeed on reflection got only a small taste of what¹s on offer.

We shall return someday (as MacArthur once said). And for a longer trip.

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