Eastern Canada’s great cities adventure

by Caterina Zordan  from Italy

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Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto by Caterina Zordan

My last great trip was Canada. I got there in November with my boyfriend for holidays and we had a mission. We wanted to visit the most important places of the Eastern Canada in two weeks: Montréal, Ottawa and Toronto, plus Niagara Falls of course. We organized all our Canada’s transfers from home to be sure not to waste time once there. It sounded like a great adventure, and so it was. We were almost always on the road by coach to get the places we planned, covering a lot of kilometers and sleeping really a little. But it was totally amazing.

So, in November 4th , after a long flight from Italy,  we landed in Montréal, but we didn’t visited it because we immediately caught a Grey Hound to Ottawa, where a friend of mine was waiting for us. The first week in Canada has passed quite relaxed because we stayed the whole time in Ottawa, living at my friend’s home. We had enough days to visit the city and to try typical foods. We’ve been lucky because we got Canada right in time to see the foliage, so the first thing to do if you go there in Autumn is walking around enjoying the amazing colors of the trees, the last Sun and the last lukewarm breeze of that period of the year, before the big chill.

Sunset from Alexandra Bridge by Caterina Zordan

Ottawa is placed in the region of Ontario and it is the capital of Canada. It’s a city full of culture and it has something European on its architecture and way of life.  Talking about museums, a really nice place to see in Ottawa if you are interested in the history of aviation is the National Aviation Museum, where you can walk among a lot of authentic old planes and learn a little also about space travels and modern aviation. Another site of interest is the Canadian Museum of Nature. We spent there a couple of hours learning about sea giants’ and dinosaurs’ fossil skeletons, Canadian fauna like wolves, mooses and beavers, meteorites, minerals and precious stones straight from Earth core. Apart from flora and fauna, if you also want to know about the “First People” you should really cross the beautiful Alexandra Bridge, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the river Ottawa, and get the Canadian Museum of Civilization, placed in Gatineau, in the Quebec region. Here you can find costumes, history and artifacts of the native people of Canada. The wooden totem you can see are absolutely stunning.

Crossing again the bridge and going back to Ottawa, Ontario, another beautiful place to visit is the Parliament with its Peace Tower: from its top you can be so high to see an amazing panorama of the city and also of the river crossing it.

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Niagara Falls by Caterina Zordan

Walking a lot and sightseeing may be tiring, especially with cold temperatures, so it’s important to have a break and eat something: the beaver tail is a typical dessert made by frying a soft batter and seasoning it in a lot of ways, but the traditional one is lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar. If you want something salty instead, you should try poutine, a special kind of recipe with potatoes.

Other interesting districts to visit in Ottawa are The Glebe, Little Italy and China Town, where you can taste super freshly made spring rolls, and if you want to do some shopping just go back to the Centre Town and spend some time at the Rideau Centre or at the Byward Market for something more traditional.

After staying in Ottawa, for us was time to leave for south-west, straight to Toronto. We travelled during the night because it was cheaper and we didn’t waste a day. When we finally got there it was time to have an American style serious breakfast: pancakes with maple syrup. In fact, Toronto is very similar to the American metropolis, with a lot of skyscrapers and a melting-pot of cultures, mostly from Asia.

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Toronto skyline from Ontario Lake by Caterina Zordan

First thing to do once there: go to the CN Tower, take the elevator and go straight to the top of the World. This tower in fact is one of the highest towers on the planet! Obviously from here you can see the whole city of Toronto under your feet, especially if you are brave and go for a walk on the Glass Floor. I suggest to put aside the feeling of vertigo and look down because it’s really an exciting experience. Another great view of the city you can enjoy is the skyline from the lake Ontario: you just have to catch a boat to Ward’s Island, which is really cheap, and when you are in the middle of the lake you can see the whole city in front of you. Better if you do it at sunset! Want a taste of Toronto by night? Nathan Phillips Square is perfect and always full of people.

For some serious shopping you absolutely have to visit the great Eton Center and if you are looking for something more little and traditional you can go to the picturesque Saint Lawrence Market, where you can find a lot of Canadian foods.

Before leaving for the village of Niagara, the Royal Ontario Museum really worth a visit: we spent there the whole morning, fascinated by the collections of archaeology, geology, paleontology and zoology. There are also a lot of exceptional finds from Korea, China and Japan.

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Toronto, just outside the metro by Caterina Zordan

The last night in this city we had our dinner at “Little Sheep Hot Pot”, in China Town. It’s an amazing Mongolian all-you-can-eat restaurant where you cook by yourself the ingredients you ordered in a big pot full of spicy or veggies boiling broth. I absolutely suggest this place, it’s been such a funny experience!

After Toronto, it was time for us to leave again: the day we planned to go to the Niagara Falls we had our breakfast at “Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake” shop. In this place the best and most genuine Japanese cheesecakes are made and they are so good and soft that so many people want them and most of the time you’ll have to stand in line before you can buy yours. But you will not regret it. Breakfast is not complete without a coffee: the best ones are sold at Tim Hortons.

But let’s now talk about the falls: as you can imagine, they really are a wonder of nature and to have a first large view of them you can go for a walk on the Rainbow Bridge, which crosses the river Niagara straight  to the USA and if you are crazy like we are, you can also pay a VISA and cross the border to walk on the American side, in Buffalo, state of New York. Another way to experience the magic of the falls that I suggest is to buy a cruise on the Hornblower boat which will bring you straight to the falls: we got completely wet but it has been breathtaking being almost under the falls! If you don’t want to get so wet you can enjoy a beautiful view of the falls from Queen Victoria Park area. In any case, it will be an exciting day.

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Toronto, view from the Cn Tower by Caterina Zordan

The last part of our Canadian adventure was going to Quebec region, back to Montréal. Another departure and another long night travel on a Grey Hound to our last stop. We arrived in Montréal in the morning and after a shot of caffeine and a French breakfast we started to sightseeing. The region of Quebec is francophone and when you are there you have the feeling of being in France, not really in Canada.

Montréal is the only city in Canada to have preserved an Old Town and the most important spot here is Place Jacques-Cartier. I have to say I think it’s better in Summer, because with the big chill there aren’t many people and the shops are almost all closed. And so it is for the Botanical Garden, which is bare and under maintenance during Winter.

Anyway, thanks to the bad weather, the cold and the snow, a huge amazing Underground City has grown and here you can literally find any kind of shops and restaurants, and of course all the people of the city hiding from the hard Winter outside!

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Montréal, Place Jacques Cartier by Caterina Zordan

If you don’t mind the cold temperatures, just do like we did one day and go for a walk among the trees up to the Mont-Royal, the great hill of the city.

Talking about food, I have a lot of places in Montréal to suggest you: Lola Rosa Café is a small but really cute place where to eat very good Mexican food, also with vegetarian and vegan options. We loved it. Deno’s Restaurant is perfect if you want a French style breakfast. For a sweet break go to Les Glaceurs-Glaces and Cupcakes where you can eat delicious cupcakes. For something Asian there are two places that we loved: Nu-do, at the food court in the Rideau Centre, which makes fresh handmade noodles, and Qing Hua Dumpling in Chinatown, where you can eat the really best dumplings.

After Montréal our two weeks Canadian adventure came to the end and we had to fly back to Italy, so grateful and with the mind full of intense memories. It has been a beautiful trip that we’ll never forget. And now…ready for the next departure!

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