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Great Escapes Canada in Spring
(Entered May 10, 2007)
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At long last, I finally made it back to Canada in a season other than winter. Just makes it so much easier to get out and do stuff! Last time I went home I intended to do stuff like skiing, snowboarding, etc, but instead ended up waking up at noon everyday and staying inside where it was warm. This time I managed to keep all my promises!
The first couple of days were spent recuperating from that long flight home. We relaxed, hung out with some friends and family, and celebrated my dad's birthday. After that we headed off to Niagara Falls! We took tons of pics, but here's one of the better ones showing both the American and Canadian 'horseshoe' falls.

niagara falls

And one of us standing in front of the fall's splendor.

niagara falls

While the falls themselves are still beautiful, the city of Niagara Falls has become way too touristy. I've been there a few times before but it was nothing like I remembered it. As we drove into the downtown area, we were greeted by a scene that looked like it came out of Disneyland. Weird tourist attractions were everywhere, and seemed to have no connection at all to the falls. Stuff like Dracula's Haunted House, and Spiderman/X-men rides and amusement centers were all over the place. There was also a casino and I think every single fastfood chain was represented. It was all a bit of a turnoff actually. Another disapointment was the Maid of the Mist, the boat that takes you close to the falls, was closed. This was the major draw for both Kumi and I. I've ridden it before and it was the highlight of the whole experience. We had to settle for going down some tunnels that went under and behind the falls.

niagara falls

It was pretty cool I guess, but not as exciting as you might expect. It was pretty narrow and crowded down there, I can't even imagine what it would have been like if Niagara Falls was in Japan!
We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel and our room had an excellent view of the falls (the top picture was taken from our balcony). The room was much smaller than I expected though. The room was supposed to come with a whirlpool, but it ended up being just a bathtub with a few spigots in it. The bed was big enough for 4 people though, and the hotel did have good food. We went to their restaurant for dinner and I had filet mignon and lobster. Needless to say it wasn't cheap!
The next day we strolled around the falls a bit more, then took off for Toronto.

cn tower

We arrived in the early afternoon and decided to head to the CN Tower first. Still the world's tallest structure, the view from the Skypod which is 147 stories, or 447 meters up, is pretty impressive. One of the cooler things was a glass floor you could step out on, making it seem like you were walking on air. Actually it was damn scary at first! They say it's stronger than concrete and able to support the weight of 15 hippos, but your mind doesn't trust it at all. Definitely not for people afraid of heights.

cn tower glass floor

Toronto is a huge city, and time was short so we didn't get to see any other attractions which was disapointing for Kumi. In the evening we met up for dinner with Alex and Junko (who used to live here in Tokyo), then went to their recently purchased house! They were nice enough to let us stay over for a night. No pictures unfortunately but it was a very nice place out in the suburbs. We spent the evening playing the Wii and chatting. Thanks again guys!
We got back on the road early in the morning after Alex cooked us breakfast. After a few hours we escaped from the superhighways and were back on the quiet, country roads which I love driving down. My family has been camping at the same spot since I was 6 years old, and even though the parks haven't opened for summer yet, we popped into Silver Lake Provincial Park just for old times sake, had lunch at the roadside restaurant and walked around the campsite for a while. Still looks the same!

silver lake

We also found various abadoned buildings including an abandoned motel near Silver Lake. I'll post them here just to make UK Mike jealous.

abandoned motel

I actually remember way back when this motel was open and running. I wonder what happened?

abandoned motel

There were almost no cars on the road with us which added to the scariness factor. Is it haunted?

abandoned motel

Kumi refused to enter any of the rooms with me, nor would take any pictures.

abandoned motel

Messy rooms, probably home to animals now.

abandoned motel

A toilet seat sits on an old bed....

abandoned motel

Broken junk everywhere. Would you spend a night here alone? I wouldn't.

abandoned motel

We continued down the road to what was definitely the highlight of the our whole vacation. I've known my friend John for almost my whole life, and have been going to his family's cottage since I was a little kid. I've been to quite a few nice cottages in Canada, but none of them compare with the Meyer's. No roads go here, boat or floatplane access only!

meyer's cottage

The three of us took a hike back in the bush to the first pond (as we call it), where we sat on a rock and chatted for a while, sometimes just listening to the silence and the wind. No human noises here. About 30 minutes after, Kumi suddenly pointed and said 'what's that'? It turned out to be a bear cub! Bear mothers are exremely dangerous and protective of their cubs so we left in a hurry even though Kumi wanted to take a picture.

cottage pond

My favourite method of transportation! We took a leisurely canoe trip after, and saw two bald eagles (who almost attacked us) and their nest, as well as a number of loons. Unfortunately those pics didn't turn out. The lake was calm and the air was cool, perfect canoe weather!

cottage canoe

We stayed overnight of course, and mainly just relaxed the morning after. It was too cold to swim but we did a little fishing and saw some more animals, including a couple of snakes.


On the way home, Kumi had a motorboat lesson from John, and drove us back to the marina. I had to cut the video short as Kumi's driving almost put me overboard! :-)

We were back in the city again, and the first thing we did was pay a visit to my sister in the hospital. I'm an uncle again! Here I am holding my second niece, Sasha. Congratulations Cathy and Tyler!

sasha niece

Here's my other niece Annabelle with her dad. Cute huh? Looks exactly like my sister did when she was the same age. She was quite shy and never seemed to warm up to me or Kumi though. I guess we weren't there for long enough.

tyler annabelle

The next day Kumi, my sister Liz and I headed out to Omega Park, which is kind of like a Canadian version of a safari. Instead of zebras, elephants and lions you get to see deer, deer and more deer. There are also a few wolves, bear and buffalo thrown in as well but the deer rule the park. They wander around and are tame enough to walk up to your car.


They expect carrots so don't disapoint them. Don't look for the majestic kings of the forest like those potrayed in Bambi though, deer are actually kind of ugly, smelly creatures up close. In fact, having the animals come up to your car all domesticated was vaguely disapointing. Seeing a fleeting glimpse of a deer in the wilderness is special, but that feeling was missing here.


We drove by a herd of bison who just ignored us unlike the deer. One big one looked like he wanted to charge the car though. Might have been cool had he done so.


The predators were behind fences, but I managed to get a nice closeup of a black bear. It being spring, and fairly cool, most of the animals were out and about. Don't get out of your car!

black bear

Wild boar and piglets! They mingled with the deer and sometimes ate carrots too.


Some Arctic wolves. The guy on the right kept staring at us. He looked hungry....
Overall Omega Park was a fairly interesting experience, but too much like a zoo, and I don't like zoos. The bears and wolves in particular were fenced up in really small spaces.


Skip ahead to the following day where Kumi and I headed to Jaques Cartier Park to try out Ottawa's disc golf course!
My buddy Scott in Australia recommended it to me, but I gotta say Scott, the course in Tokyo is 100 times better. Biggest problem is that half of the holes are unmarked! Holes 4 to 12 have no signs telling you where to throw, which direction to throw, or even where to start! There were a couple of park maps with the course marked on it, but they were vague and confusing, so we ended up skipping most of the holes. As for the ones we did do, we often found we were throwing towards the wrong baskets. Anyway it was nice to be outside I suppose. Here I am going for a put.

discgolf mike

And here's Kumi doing her best not to bogey. Whoops, a bit off though.

discgolf kumi

Other days were spent shopping for clothes (that actually fit me) and souvenirs, hanging out with friends and family, and most importantly, eating! Of course I went to my favorite pizza restaurant Lorenzo's! John and Ximena took me and Kumi there for dinner and treated us! I ate Canadian pizza a total of 4 times while back for 9 days! Yum.


Besides pizza, I also needed to go to Swiss Chalet and to my favourite Chinatown restaurant 'So Good'. Kumi and I both gained some pounds for sure.

pizza chicken

Time just flew by and before we knew it we were back on another uncomfortable flight home. But we'll be back! Thanks to everyone, especially my parents, for all your help.





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