Published: December 28th 2011September 7th 2007
In September 2007, I took myself off on an amazing LSD (Look, See, Discover) trip to Canada. My final week was spent traveling from Ottawa back to Toronto along the scenic route.
The country is vast and expansive and really beautiful. It was the start of the Indian summer and the colours that the trees were turning were amazing. The forests are nothing like Australia, which is predominantly eucalyptus trees, rather they are a mixture of Maple trees, Plane trees and Alpine forest.
The Maple leaves turn bright red before they fall from the trees in the fall and this makes for spectacular photography.
I traveled along Lake Ontario, which is one of the 5 great Lakes. It’s amazing because the water is so vast that it has it’s own tidal system and even waves like the real sea (albeit not as large as the ocean). The shore line is beach sand. I initially thought that they may have brought sea sand in to certain parts where it is hugely populated, but that’s not the case. The sea sand occurs naturally, and the lake shores are called beaches.
The best place I stayed at was a place called Gananoque. I stayed at the Gananoque Inn Resort and Spa. It was awesome and I was able to fully relax and unwind.
The Gananoque Inn was established inn 1896. The Gananoque Inn occupies what was originally the Gananoque Carriage Works, a business founded in the 1870s. On Friday, April 5, 1907 a disastrous fire left one third of the hotel in smoldering ruins. Within a few weeks, debris had been cleared and much work accomplished to enable the inn to open for the summer season!
I spent three days in Gananoque. The second day I did the Thousand Islands tour, which is a three hour boat trip around all the islands and into the USA. I was blown away by the history and the opulence.
The Islands are a collection of more than 1800 islands -1864 to be exact. All of which are totally natural except for one, which is man made and was subsequently called the artificial island.
To become an official part of the count, an island must meet two criteria: it must be above water 365 days a year and it must support two living trees. Ferries or bridges provide access to Wellesley, Hill, Wolfe and Howe Islands.
Each island has its own individuality with features such as stately granite cliffs, soft sandy bays, tall dark pines and vibrant maple trees—it’s a sightseer’s paradise. Many islands are privately owned but ample public access can be found at island parks and villages throughout the region.
The 1000 Islands Region is an international tourism destination, encompassing communities on both sides of the US and Canada border along the St. Lawrence River and the eastern shores of Lake Ontario. The region takes its name from the more than 1000 islands that dot the lake and river along this international waterway. The region extends from Kingson to Cornwall on the Canadian side, and from Oswego to Massena on the US side, reaching inland to the foothills of the Adirondack mountains to embrace the communities that are west and north of the Adirondack Park, and the four NY Counties of Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence.
At the turn-of-the-century, George Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full size Rhineland Castle in Alexandria Bay, on Picturesque Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Beginning in 1900, Boldt's family shared four glorious summers on the island in the Alster Tower while 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six stories, 120 room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a draw bridge, and a dove cote. Not a single detail or expense was spared. In 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegrammed the island and commanded the workers to immediately "stop all construction." Louise had died suddenly. A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved.
Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love. For 73 years, the castle and various stone structures were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977, it was decided that through the use of all net revenues from the Castle operation it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Since 1977, several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating, restoring and improving the Heart Island structures.
After my stay in Gananoque, I ventured West along the scenic route – catching two ferries to a beautiful little town called Picton. This is one of the many wine country regions of Ontario. I stopped my car in the village and did a little walking and shopping. Sadly due to the fact that I did not have much space in my luggage, I was restricted from buying anything to take home!
I drove along the waters edge all the way back to Toronto, where I had booked my final three days just west of the city.
Whilst in Toronto I went to The Casa Loma Castle which was another fantastic place to visit. Casa Loma was built between the years 1911 and 1914 and it took 300 men and approximately $3.5 million to complete. The former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt, Canada's foremost castle is complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables, and beautiful 5- acre estate gardens. The castle has 98 rooms!
Pilliterri Vineyard was my next stop. The vineyard is famous for its award winning Ice- wine. The Ice wine harvest is done entirely by hand, once the temperature drops below – 10 to -13 degrees C and the grapes have naturally frozen to the vines. The grapes are harvested at 2 am – yes AM where they are immediately pressed. The natural water portion of the juice remains within the grape skins in the form of ice crystals, and a tiny but precious ration of highly concentrated juice is expressed.