Niagara, Toronto and Chicago (Extended Version)


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North America
June 28th 2007
Published: June 28th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

Hey everyone! I've finally managed to get on the Internet for longer than 5 minutes - although I have to use a Mac which is a bit weird! Here is the long-awaited extended version of days 7 to 12. We pick things up in Niagara (wow... that seems so long ago!)

Day 7 (10/06/07)

We got up at around 9:30am on Sunday and while Iain surfed the net for a few minutes, I had a bagel made by the crazy Chinese woman who ran the hostel. Unfortunately we never actually caught her name but apparently she was married to a Scot so was fascinated by us, Iain especially, who she was very touchy-feely with! Anyway, after breakfast we went to see the Falls - about a 20-minute walk from the hostel. The Falls were very impressive but we were on the American side and apparently the view is even better from Canada. After taking several photos and videos we decided to go on a 'Gorge Trail Walk'. We walked about 3 miles along the river until we reached a bridge and then turned back. The walk was very pleasant but Iain wanted MORE!! So we walked to Goat Island where we got a better view of one of the waterfalls. After sitting next to a picturesque lake for a few minutes we headed back to the hostel. When we got back we went on the Internet to look up hostels in Toronto, our next destination. On the other computer was a young English couple called Mark and Fiona. We started chatting to them and pretty soon they were making us Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner! After dinner we all went back to the Falls together to see a fireworks display. Another British girl we met called Francis accompanied us. The display was pretty standard but it was something to do I suppose! When we returned to the hostel we stayed up for a while and chatted to Francis. Apparently she's a student at Glasgow University and knows one of Iain's cousins - small world! She had to catch a bus at 5am the next morning so we parted company and all went for a much-needed sleep.

Day 8 (11/06/07)

On Monday Iain, Mark, Fiona and I left the hostel in the morning and walked over the Canadian border to catch a bus to Toronto. It was a long 3-mile uphill walk and we were all relieved when we found the station - except Iain who doesn't seem to ever get affected by walking around with his bag on his back for hours on end! We used our travellers cheque cards to draw out some Canadian money and bought our bus tickets. The bus left at about 12pm and we arrived in Toronto, Ontario at about 2pm. We arranged to meet Mark and Fiona for a drink later that evening before checking into the hostel. Our hostel was nothing special. The lounge area was pretty nice and there was cheap Internet access but the rooms were pretty smelly and full of noisy Irish people who seemed to be constantly drunk! It was a pretty hot day and when we left the hostel to explore the downtown part of the city we were both stifled by the heat. We went down to the harbour to sit by the lake and cool off. On our way back into the city we considered going up the CN Tower (Toronto's biggest building) but I didn't have enough money on me and we'd been up the more impressive Empire State Building the previous week anyway. After walking around aimlessly for an hour or so we returned to the hostel, spent an hour or so on the Internet before heading out again to find a bar. The first one we came to was a few blocks up from where we were staying on a street called Church Street. They had Strongbow on tap so I ordered one and we sat in the beer garden. My friend Joe told us it was 'Gay Pride' week starting on the 15th June but they must have arrived early to warm up or something because the place was swarming with them! It seemed that everyone that walked past us was some form of stereotypical gay person. There were middle-aged men in vests and rolled-up jeans, young lads wearing tight clothes and walking down the street in a very camp manner. There was also the oddest-looking couple I've ever seen - a big Canadian guy with a beard and a tiny little Chinese fellow holding hands - very strange sight! We had arranged to meet Mark and Fiona near a place called Maple Leaf Gardens but they saw us in this pub on their way down. We decided to move on and went to a bar called O'Keefe's. We chatted for a while and had a few games of pool before attempting table ice hockey, which none of us could seem to get the hang of! At about 11pm or so we went back to our hostels and agreed to meet same time, same place the next evening.

Day 9 (12/06/07)

On Tuesday morning we had out longest lie-in of the trip so far. We usually got up when everyone else in the dorm room started stirring but in Toronto nobody moved until about 11am. We eventually left the hostel at about midday and again it was a ridiculously hot and stuffy day. We went to a place called Firkin's for a bit of brunch and I ordered my first Full Engish of the trip so far! The food took ages to arrive but once it did it was very nice. When we finished eating we decided to check out the pier and after bumping into Mark and Fiona sunbathing on the grass verge in front of the water we went for a long walk along the lakefront. Before we left Scotland Joe sent me a lengthy e-mail with a list of places to go in Toronto. But I suppose the heat and the fact that the public transport system looked pretty complicated prevented us from exploring the city as much as we maybe should have done. After walking and hanging by the lake for a few hours we returned to the hostel before heading out to meet Mark and Fiona. There didn't seem to be many restaurants and pubs in the downtown area so we ended up going to the same pub as the one we went to the previous night. Again, we stayed for a few drinks and couple of games of pool. It was starting to feel just like home! We said our goodbyes to Mark and Fiona as they were leaving the city the following morning, and went to bed. So overall our first full day in Toronto was pretty uneventful and the next day would follow a similar pattern (which won't make for very interesting reading so you can skip to Day 11 if you want!)

Day 10 (13/06/07)

After another long lie-in on Wednesday we decided to go for a walk along (you guessed it) the lakefront! Joe gave me the numbers of a couple of his friends in Toronto before we left and I had exchanged a few e-mails with his friend Lauren. Unfortunately we ventured so far away from the hostel on Wednesday that by the time we got back it was about 5pm and too late to call her as she had university classes in the evening. Anyway, when we returned to the hostel we went online for a while before heading out to what was becoming our local pub, O'Keefe's. We did the usual - few pints, few games of pool but actually had dinner as well this time. Otherwise Tuesday and Wednesday would have been pretty difficult to tell apart. Told you it wasn't worth reading!

Day 11 (14/06/07)

We decided to catch the 6pm bus to Chicago on Thursday - an epic 12 hour journey. After checking out of the hostel we went down to the lakefront (this is getting silly now!) We had a bit of food then went for a 'Farewell Toronto' pint in an Irish pub called McVeigh's. We headed to the station at about 5ish and bought our tickets. The journey was pretty uncomfortable and over the next 12 hours I didn't get more than half an hour's sleep. The problem was every couple of hours or so we had to make a stop and the driver turned the lights on. When we reached the American border in Detroit at around 12:30am we all had to get out of the bus taking all our personal belongings, then get our big bags from the luggage holder under the bus and line up at customs. They asked us a series of questions: What's the purpose of your trip to the US? How long are you staying? What are you bringing in? etc. Then we had to put our bags through an x-ray machine. The staff were very rude and treated us pretty badly. None of us were doing anything wrong but they almost made us feel guilty for wanting to enter their precious country. Anyway, they eventually let us in and we continued our journey, finally arrivng in Chicago at about 6am.

Day 12 (15/06/07)

We walked from the bus station to a hostel about a mile away and asked the guy behind the desk whether they had any beds available. He said we'd have to wait until 2pm before we could check in. We left our bags at security and set off towards the nearest harbour (what can I say? Iain's obsessed!) I was absolutely knackered and wanted nothing more than a few hour's kip. I was in no mood for walking along another bloody lakefront, so I sat on a bench and wrote my journal while Iain went for a walk for half an hour. When he returned we decided to go for some breakfast. We found a diner and I ordered a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich which was very tasty and seemed to wake me right up. We decided to check out a few sights as we still had 6 hours to kills before check in. We went to Millennium Park first before checking out the John Hancock Centre, the 4th tallest building in America. Millennium Park is famous for its giant reflective bean. It's a pretty perculiar sight but very cool. I was feeling wide awake by this point and looking forward to checking out more sights. We made our way to the John Hancock Centre. Our Lonely Planet guide to the USA said that the view from the building is just as impressive as the Sears Tower (Chicago's slightly taller and more famous big building) but the queues were shorter and most importantly it was cheaper! We bought our tickets and made our way to the top. It's no Empire State Building but it was pretty impressive. From the top we saw a couple of beaches and decided to check one of them out. I also bought some liquid bandage for my feet which were starting to look like a relief map of the Rocky Mountains! I'm not a big fan of beaches because I hate sand but I was looking forward to relaxing for a few hours before checking into the hostel. Iain went for a swim in the lake but I settled for dipping my feet in and doing a bit of sunbathing. After about half an hour, Iain's walking alarm went off and we were off again! We walked along the lakefront (*rolls eyes*) and slowly made our way towards the hostel. We finally checked in at about 2pm and after a shower went to look for a bar. I was having to drink beer in a lot of places because they didn't have cider and in the first place we went to I had to force a couple of Coronas down me! After a few drinks we grabbed some dinner at a pizza place - you can't go to Chicago without having a bit of pizza... actually I ended up having chicken and Iain had a sandwich! Never mind! I wanted to stay for another day in Chicago but Iain wanted to head on and I suppose after the Toronto experience we didn't want to stay anywhere longer than we had to. Still, it's a shame we didn't stay an extra day - Chicago's a cracking city. We finished dinner and I went back to the hostel - Iain went for yet another walk. And that was the end of a long, hard yet ultimately fulfilling day!

And that's also the end of a long, hard and probably largely unfulfilling blog post. Our second week wasn't a particularly exciting one but our trip got a lot better over the next 2 weeks. Stay tuned!

Ben





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4th July 2007

Some good readin'
Phew, I'm exhausted after reading that. You're lucky you weren't in Chicago ten days later, they had some really bad torrential rain. Would have been pretty crappy for you guys. Best of luck on the rest of your lakefront adventure! Take care.

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