Showing posts with label Ontario. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ontario. Show all posts

Monday, March 11, 2013

Canada: Niagara Falls & winery visits at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara Falls, at the border of Ontario, Canada and New York, USA, is on the bucket list of many travelers. It's actually a popular day-trip from Toronto, Canada. In fact, we visited Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town known for its wineries, during the Philippine Airlines (PAL) inaugural flight to Toronto.

The day actually started quite nice since the sun was out. We visited Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin in the morning to try out their famed ice wine. So what is ice wine? It's a type of dessert wine, really sweet. What makes it sweet is the manner in which the grapes are harvested and processed.

The grapes are allowed to freeze and are usually harvested early in the morning, before the sun comes out, to maintain the cold temperature since the grapes start to thaw by sunrise. Because the grapes are frozen, the water in the grapes freezes, but the sugars do not. So when the grapes are pressed, it produces a smaller amount but more concentrated must (juice) which ferments into a much sweeter wine.

Lunch was at Inniskillin, where we were served salad, salmon and prairie rice, which is not actually rice, but an oat known as Cavena Nuda. It cooks and tastes like rice. But the flavor also reminds me of white corn. I regret not taking a few kilos of Cavena Nuda with me to the Philippines.

On the way to Inniskillin, We also made a brief stop in Fort George, the scene of several battles during the War of 1812, a war between the British and the Americans. Opposite the Niagara River is Fort Niagara in New York.

We also passed by the Living Water Wayside Chapel, the smallest chapel in the world as per the Guinness Book of World Records with only six seats. Yes, some people actually hold their intimate wedding ceremonies there.

We also drove through the town center of Niagara-on-the-Lake before proceeding to the falls. Too bad the afternoon weather didn't cooperate when we visited the Niagara Falls.

By the time we arrived, it had started to rain. So it covered the view of most of the falls. There are actually three falls, two on the American side and one on the Canadian side. They say the view is best in the Canadian side. Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the most powerful waterfall in North America. No doubt, because we definitely felt its thunder as we went behind and stayed very close to the falls.

The Journey Behind the Falls offers you an observation platform and tunnels near the bottom of Horseshoe Falls. This attraction is accessible via elevators from the street level entrance. Fees vary depending on the season. From April to December, it's $15.95 (13+ years) and $10.95 (6 to 12 years). It's cheaper from December to April at $11.25 and $6.95 respectively.

If you want an overhead  view of the falls, you can visit Skylon Tower or the Minolta Tower. During the summer months, you can try the Maid of the Mist, a popular boat tour of Niagara Falls.

After exploring the area, we motored back to Toronto.

How to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto
Toronto is about two hours away from Niagara Falls, approximately 133 kilometers. There are various ways to get there. But the most popular would be renting a car, taking the Niagara Airbus or Megabus, or joining a guided tour. The guided tours are convenient options since they usually include visits a winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies direct from Manila to Toronto. Thank you for inviting me to join the inaugural flight last November!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Canada: Kingston Fortifications & Royal Military College of Canada

The first thing I researched when I learned I was joining the inaugural flight of Philippine Airlines to Toronto was the nearest UNESCO World Heritage Site to Toronto. And that was the Rideau Canal, which has several component sites from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario.

Kingston was the nearest city, a three-hour drive from Toronto. And since we had one free day during the trip, we decided to rent a car and drive over to Kingston. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate that day. But we still decided to go for the adventure! 

Once the capital of the newly-united Canada from 1841 to 1843, Kingston was being prepared for this important role that was however cut short when Queen Victoria decided to move the center of government to Ottawa. In fact, a grand neoclassical Kingston City Hall was completed in 1843, one of the major landmarks of the old city center. On the way to the Kingston Fortifications, we saw a view of this historic skyline from across the Rideau Canal and St. Lawrence River. I was hoping we'd get to explore its weathered stone houses and historic streets, but the rains prevented us from doing that.

Our first order of business was getting to any of the Kingston Fortifications which is part of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site. Fort Henry was closed for the winter. So our next choice was Fort Frederick on the grounds of the Royal Military College of Canada. The RMC is itself a very venerable ensemble of architecture and worth a visit if you like old architecture.

We had to brave the rains and cold to get to the Point Frederick, the southern end of the RMC grounds, where Fort Frederick is located. The two forts, together with Cathcart Tower, Shoal Tower and Murney Tower formed the Kingston Fortifications which protected the entrance of the Rideau Canal.

According to UNESCO, "The Rideau Canal is a large strategic canal constructed for military purposes which played a crucial contributory role in allowing British forces to defend the colony of Canada against the United States of America, leading to the development of two distinct political and cultural entities in the north of the American continent, which can be seen as a significant stage in human history."

We were wet and cold from the rain, and hungry since we missed lunch. So we called it a day and drove to the nearest fast food. On the way back, we stopped by the outlet mall off the Ontario Highway 401 exit, before driving back home.

How to get to Kingston, Ontario from Toronto
There are regular bus trips from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario. If you choose to drive, it's a 262-kilometer drive via ON-401 East.
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