Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trekking to Toronto

Last Tuesday evening Jamie and I began our trip up to Canada when I got out of work a little early so that we could put part of our journey behind us by nightfall.  If I was reading the maps correctly, the trip to Toronto was going to take somewhere around 9-1/2 to 10 hours so rather than get up in the wee hours of the morning I decided that we'd just hit the road Tuesday evening, drive as far as Albany which is a mere 150+ miles away, and spend the night at a cheap - but hopefully clean - hotel before starting out again in the morning.

The traffic was minimal and we made good time pulling into a Days Inn near the University of Albany just before it started to get dark.  I'd booked the hotel through HotWire and got it for a mere $40 so even though it was nothing to take pictures of or blog about, it was a decent enough place to spend the night. It certainly wasn't the type of place I've grown accustomed to lately but good enough!

Sleeping Beauty!

Rising bright and early the next morning - some of us more bright and early than others! - we were ready to hit the road again around 8:30.  Our direction of travel took us on Route 90 West (aka the New York Thruway) before we took a turn north on Route 81 towards Watertown and Fort Drum, a relatively large Army base which is home to the Army's 10th Mountain Division.  Not too far past Fort Drum we came across the last exit in the United States and Jamie started to get excited as she's been wanting to go to Canada for awhile now.

Last exit in the US before Canada.

My goal had been to reach the American/Canadian border by 1:00 p.m. at the latest and we did just that reaching the New York side of the Thousand Islands Bridge System right around 12:30.  We stopped for a little bit to fill up on gas (I had checked to see how expensive it was in Canada and decided that it would probably be a good idea to not buy gas there if I didn't have to as it was going for approximately $1.30 a liter) and take some pictures of the Welcome Center and the American span of the bridge.

Thousand Islands Welcome Center
Thousand Islands Bridge over the Saint Lawrence River
The Thousand Islands Bridge

Looking up at the spindly green suspension bridge that crosses the Saint Lawrence River, I was thinking that it was probably a darned good thing that my mother wasn't with us as she hates bridges and certainly would not have enjoyed this one at all!  

Crossing the Thousand Islands Bridge - still on the American side.

She wouldn't have liked how high it was nor would she have liked how narrow it was! 

Thousand Islands Bridge from New York to Canada

The entire Thousand Islands Bridge System extends a distance of 8.5 miles running from Collins Landing near Alexandria Bay, New York to Ivy Lea near Gananoque, Ontario; in other words, it's pretty big! I wish I had been able to enjoy the view more but alas, I was busy keeping my eyes on the road while trying to adjust to measuring my speed in kilometers rather than miles per hour.  It's trickier than you might think! 

Canadian border crossing near Thousand Islands, New York

Shortly after leaving the bridge behind, we approached the Canadian Border Crossing where we were fortunate enough to get a very friendly young lady who smiled broadly when, in answer to her question about our purpose for visiting Canada, I replied "Hugh Jackman is in concert in Toronto!"  She said that was definitely worth the drive though she warned me that driving in Toronto could be tricky.  It was going to be even trickier based on the fact that my GPS went into a vast nothing-ness at the American border as if the rest of the world didn't exist outside of America. I had rather suspected that might have been the case so was well-prepared with Google maps and printed directions. I dubbed Jamie the official navigator and off we went - into Canada! 

Welcome to Ontario, Canada!

I'm afraid my first impressions of the Great North were less than stellar as it started to rain shortly after we crossed the border and the entrance ramp to Canada Route 401 West (the only way to get to Toronto) was blocked off for some unknown reason. There was nothing for it but to take Route 401 East for close to 15 miles before we were able to turn around at the next exit and finally make our way west and in the proper direction. 

Canada Route 401 heading west towards Tornonto

My navigator decided to take a nap about an hour into the ride but I woke her up as we got closer to Toronto as she was going to need to start reading off directions for me on how to get to our hotel for the night in downtown Toronto.  Traffic was also starting to get heavy though you can't quite tell from the picture above. 

Toronto through the windshield.

As we drove into Toronto on the Don Valley Parkway, Jamie got a quick shot of the CN Tower in the distance and lots of power lines up close!  

We found our next stop for the night relatively easily and after parking the car in a very dark, very narrow, very low-ceilinged garage that cost $23 a night, we made our way up to the lobby and checked into our room. I had booked the hotel through Travelocity as one of their "Secret Deals" which meant I got it for a fairly decent price but again it was nothing to take pictures of or blog about. The Best Western Primrose Hotel in downtown Toronto is a'ight but that's about it.  I must say that the staff was friendly and they were good about changing our room once I told them the air-conditioning didn't work but I don't believe I'd stay there again should I ever find myself back in Toronto and in need of a hotel room. That said, it was pretty well situated in downtown and it was relatively easy to get to the places we needed to be and that had been my key consideration when booking it.

Jamie in Toronto

The first place we needed to be was the Princess of Wales Theater where Hugh Jackman aka Wolverine was putting on a one-man show so we hopped on a subway and then took a short walk down to the theater stopping along the way for a photo op!

The Princess of Wales Theatre
Hugh Jackman in concert in Toronto.  He was all that and then some!

As for Hugh Jackman, what can I say other than WOW! He put on an absolutely fantastic show - it was 90-minutes plus of non-stop singing and dancing and interacting with the audience. Jamie and I were sitting in what could probably be called the nosebleed section of the theater (the second to the last row in the upper balcony) but we still had a pretty good view of the stage.  No photography was allowed but my friend Jamie out in Washington state was nice enough to send me some photos to use that she got from another friend of hers. Jamie is a HUGE Hugh Jackman fan and I couldn't help but think during the concert how much she would have loved to have been there.

For those of you who only know Hugh Jackman from his role as "Wolverine" the man is so much more more than that and an amazing stage performer.  He began his love of musicals growing up in Australia and watching movies like "Sing, Sing, Sing", "Guys and Dolls", and "Singing in the Rain" with his very first role being in "The Music Man" when he was in high school.  He performed the opening scene from the show for us playing all eight parts of the traveling salesmen on the train and I must say it was quite impressive! Equally impressive was his rendition of "My Boy Bill" from the musical "Carousel". Honestly, "Carousel" has never been one of my favorite shows but if Hugh Jackman took it Broadway in a revival, I'm afraid I'd have to go see it - he's just that good!

I wasn't too sure how Jamie was going to like the show as even though she's also a big Hugh Jackman fan, I really didn't know whether or not she was going to like the music as Broadway standards aren't her usual fare and she didn't even really know that Hugh Jackman sang until I told her we were going to the show. As it turned out she loved absolutely every minute of the show and only wished that we had been able to sit closer - like in the front row! Of course, she knew how much those tickets cost and said she was just happy to be in the theater at all when you got right down to it.

Following the phenomenal performance we walked back down to the subway stopping long enough to take a picture of the illuminated CN Tower -

CN Tower in Toronto at night

And a couple quick pictures of Saint Andrew's Church - 

Plaque for St. Andrew's Church
St. Andrew's Church

We made it back to the hotel in time for Jamie to change clothes and make sure she had all of her stuff together before we took a taxi to the nearby Toronto Bus Terminal where she was boarding a Greyhound bus that would take her out to Winnipeg where she'd be meeting a friend of hers who had invited her out for the summer.  Her bus left at 1:00 which might seem like an odd time but it was the only schedule that didn't require her to transfer anywhere along the way.  This being her first long-distance bus trip, I wanted to try to make it as easy as possible for her - or as easy as a 1-day, 12-hour, 36-minute trip could be!

As we waited in line for her bus to board she struck up a conversation with another young lady who was also heading west and they ended up sitting together for most of the trip.  I waited until her bus pulled out taking her on the rest of her Canadian adventure before I walked back to the hotel to continue the rest of my Canadian adventure on my own.  In retrospect maybe walking alone through Toronto at 1:15 in the morning wasn't the best idea but I had no problems at all in getting back to the hotel.

Before calling it a rather late night, I snapped a picture from the hotel window and then climbed into bed and fell directly to sleep.  Ahead of me was going to be a 2-hour drive southwest to Niagara Falls but first I was going to have to navigate my way out of Toronto minus GPS and anyone to read the directions to me!  Obviously I was going to need to be well-rested!

Toronto at night through the hotel window.


  1. holy crap, here i am old and have never seen this stuff, thanks linda

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun, eh. Hope Jamie's long bus trip wasn't too horrible!

    I'm with your Mom..don't really go for bridges. Especially narrow ones.

    Never seen Hugh in a movie or anything. I guess I'm a nerd or something. Oh well.

  3. For some reason, I thought you had come in through the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, not the Thousand Island Bridge! lol I've never crossed there so it was a treat to see what the bridge looks like. It certainly does look high and narrow!! Yikes!

    I'm glad you were able to find your way to's not one of my favourite cities, much too busy and over populated for me. My brother Mike lives right in the downtown area and I always tell him I have no idea how he can live there! lol

    The CN Tower is always a nice sight to see, though, and I've actually been up on it, many years ago:-) As I get older my fear of heights is getting worse so don't know if I'd go up on it now. Had you heard, now you can go on the OUTSIDE of the viewing platform while attached with straps? No thank you!!

    I knew Hugh Jackman as an actor but had no idea he could sing and dance until he hosted the Oscars a couple of years ago! Sounds like he was a real hit and now I want to go see him too!!!

    Can't wait to see your pictures and read what you have to say about your time in Niagara Falls:-) Big hugs xoxo

  4. That bridge would not be my cup of tea either, as you well know! Your mother and I are very simpatico in that department!

    I'm afraid I would not be as brave as you to make that trip alone, once Jaime departed for Winnipeg... and without GPS. Yikes.

    After watching a few of Hugh Jackman's videos, I had no doubt that you would thoroughly enjoy the show! I can't wait to see more photos! Big hugs xo

  5. As usual one of your great retellings of the trek and adventure. I can only hope that there is a DVD of the show at some point or that I have reason to fulfill my threat of walking from WA to NYC to see it in person. Glad you and Jamie had a good time.

  6. jamie let you post a photo of her sleeping? at least she wasn't drooling or anything! lol

    don't ever do that to me! (kidding)

    smiles, bee

  7. What a fabulous trip you had and to meet Sweet Pea! Love your photos!

  8. Gosh, you did such a great job telling and showing that I felt like I was right there with you...almost! What fun!!! Jamie gone the whole summer? Wow! Lotsa good memories in the making.

    Big hugs, honey...

  9. Gee, I never, ever thought about the GPS and the meters and all that! We don't even have a GPS system. We have a '03 Chrysler Sebring that we bought new which has under 45,000 miles on it! Can you tell we don't go out much? Boogers.
    I'd do fine on the bridge. I worked with a woman who traveled a lot in her RV with her husband. When they came to a bridge she had to lay down on the floor in order to get through the anxiety.
    I hope Jamie has a camera with her!!!
    As usual, love your narrative and the photos!!!

  10. Wow! What a cool susprise to find such great pics of the 1000 Islands bridge and area. Ganonque is one of my favorite places in the world. Not that there's a lot to offer, but its steeped in tradition and memories from my summers as a kid and an adult. I wish I had known you couldn't get on 401W, I could have told you which way to go, along the 1000 Islands parkway toward Ivy lea and Gananoque and get back on 401W further down the line. You would have seen great water views of the St. Lawrence River. Glad you had a great trip, I can't wait to see more of the Falls area through your lens!

  11. I have a friend in Toronto who is always saying 'c'mon over', after reading this I may just do that! Great photos Linda.

    I never knew that Hugh Jackman could sing!

  12. I sawc the filmed stage show of Jackman in 'Oklahoma!'. Keep on trekking, Linda.

  13. You just had to say Hugh Jackman didn't ya....with pictures!! You and Jamie are conspiring to give me a heart attack. I knew it.
    Excuse me while I bookmark this post.

    What else were you saying?

  14. I have bestowed an award upon you. Come fetch.

  15. WOW!!! I didn't know you were seeing Hugh Jackman while you were in my beloved city!!!

    I miss Toronto SO much - thanks for the lovely pictures. I used to work at Roy Thomson Hall, across from the Princess of Wales Theatre and St. Andrews Church. The only show I saw at the Princess of Wales Theatre was The Importance of Being Ernest - which was fabulous.


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