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Monday, August 15, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP: East Coast Odyssey - Toronto, Canada

Two countries, eight states, one province, four flights, seven hotels, and 2,511 road miles. It’s our East Coast Odyssey. Follow along for the highlights, the lowlights, and a few sites along the way.

This was a doozy of a trip, so it will be broken into several parts and serialized on the site over the next week or so. Make sure to come back for the next part in the trip.

The airfare was $274 for an open jaw. The first leg was LAX to BUF. The flight home was CHS to LAX. That’s an astounding fare that’s less than half the round-trip fare to many of these cities. We found it on AAA’s web site and flew on US Air.

One-way car rental from Buffalo, NY to Charleston, SC was $680 from Hertz for 17 days and was also found on the AAA web site. We received a Ford Taurus with 6,000 miles on it.

We had some really good times, some slow days, and a couple of very frustrating encounters. Now it’s time to get started.

There were scattered showers the day we drove up from Buffalo. It costs $2.25 and a traffic jam to cross the Peace Bridge into Canada. After that, it’s a 90 minute drive up to Canada’s biggest city.

Canadian freeways are very hard to figure out for this guy used to American highways. You need to know if you want to be on a collector road miles before your exit. If you miss it, it will be ten miles of backtracking to find it and you may miss it again. It took three tries before we could find where to get off for our hotel, all the while we could see it just off the road.

We stayed at the Quality Suites near the airport. It was a very nice suite with a large bathroom (grab bars but a standard tub) and a living room separated from the bedroom by french doors.

The girl at the counter was rather clueless though. We parked in a handicapped stall near the entrance. She said we’d have to pay eight dollars to park in the lot. I asked about the handicapped parking and she said we could park there...but still, go in the lot. I didn’t get it and I didn’t seem to get through to her, so I went into the lot where I took a ticket to get in.

After driving through all three levels of the parking structure, I didn’t see any handicapped spots, so I went to the exit and tried to convince the very limited English speaker not to charge me because there were no handicapped spots. After wildly gesticulating towards my handicapped placard, the attendant let me through without paying the eight dollars.

Back to the front desk where Miss Deer-in-the-Headlights still didn’t understand but her manager finally said I could park in the handicapped spot at no charge. Then she told me (right in front of the other woman) that the girl who sent me to the lot “didn’t know anything”. Great...why is she manning the check-in counter then?

We got our room and headed to the Italian restaurant off of the lobby, called Graffiti. We had a good pizza and some drinks but the service was glacially slow. We had to chase down the waitress for everything, from drink refills to the check.

After a couple of days in Toronto, we found that this is the norm. Every restaurant we went to was the same. Extremely slow service everywhere with not a wit of care displayed by any server anywhere. Finally we caught on...if we’re going to get food and keep on schedule, we’re going to have to break down and eat fast food while in Canada.

After a night we went to downtown Toronto and headed to the CN Tower. It’s easy to find, just look. It stands out wherever you are for 30 miles around. It’s the tallest manmade structure (correction, was the tallest at the time of our visit - Ed) in the world at 1,815 feet tall...exactly three times the height of the Space Needle in Seattle. Visitors can get up as high as 1,465 feet.

The Sign Says it All

The tower is not only the world’s tallest building, it’s also one of its biggest tourist traps. Who can resist going up? I know we can’t and the good folks who run the tower (Trizec-Hahn) know that. $14 dollars will get you an elevator ride up after waiting in line for 45 minutes. But you’re only a little over 1,100 feet up. If you want to go all the way to the little pod at 1,465 feet you can...for an extra $7.50 and another hour of waiting in line for that elevator.

What you get is a great view and the satisfaction of being up so high. There is also a restaurant and bar and, coolest of all, a glass floor you can walk or wheel on with nothing between you and the ground but two inches of see-through glass and 1,100 feet of air.

We had a beer and experienced some more of that great service you get up here. Maybe the waiters had to move slower in the thinner air...

The Sky Dome From the CN tower

The Sky Dome, home of the Toronto Blue Jays is next door to the tower. An unlocked door (don’t tell anybody) let us in for an impromptu tour of the stadium. It’s nice and functional but very sterile and bland. Wheelchair users will be glad to know that you pay extra for accessible seats here.

There was a game that day but after wandering around the stadium and watching the Blue Jays warm up, we decided to skip it (with the lax security, we probably could have stayed around and watched it for free).

We decided to wander around downtown and see what we could find...which was not much. The streets were pretty lifeless and the few restaurants that were open (on a Saturday) didn't look too inviting. Other that the crowd filing into the Sky Dome for the game, it was like a ghost town.

Graffiti was decided on for dinner again. Same service, different day. Except this time I noticed a large group arguing with the manager trying to get a free meal because of the slow service. Hey, don't they know this service is normal here? (We also tried a Golden Griddle the next day along with the other two sit-down places mentioned here with the same results)

After another eventless night, we checked out and headed on, leaving the "New York of Canada" behind as we headed onto part two of our Odyssey.

Next on the schedule: Niagara Falls.

The CN Tower is completely accessible and wheelchair users can skip the second line at the top but not the bottom. An attendant must be contacted for that as well as for access to the outdoor observation level.

Copyright 2001 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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