Traveling across Canada–Toronto to the Maritimes!

We left Niagara Falls crossing Lake Erie across the Canadian border.  Traffic to Canada was no problem.  However, from Canada to the US the traffic back up was ridiculous.  If you ever plan on making this trip seriously consider another location to re-enter the USA!

A note on the time line–our trip was August-September of 2011.  

Since we were in a RV with beaucoup (practicing my français) storage areas, a refrigerator and two dogs, we were a bit cautious going into Canada.  The same rules carrying produce and foreign products apply—just like airline travel into a different country.  I cooked or gave away all my fresh food the night before we left Niagara Falls.  This included the beautiful purple crackerjack cauliflower from Cohasset, but oh well.  I carried the dogs shot records along with vet certtification they were healthy.   Then, as an extra precaution, a friend told us to be sure to stop at the duty-free before crossing the border.  He said that seems to grease the border check.  Luckily, we needed a bottle of good whiskey for the visit to this Canadian friend.  H’mmm.  On retrospect, interesting coincidence!  (No Pictures Allowed at the border–reminded me of toll booths beside a big store)

 Bottom line, the crossing was no problem.  They didn’t ask about pets.  They were most concered about fresh vegies and fire wood (Mountain Pine Beetles are decimating their forests too).  After checking our passports—new rules apply so we needed to bring the real thing—we sailed through customs and were on our way to our first stop– Toronto. 

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This was the start of a very strange trip—so like America in many ways.  In other ways, the country is quite different.  The highways were actually superior (except Montreal–more on that later).  But not speaking, reading or understanding French left us feeling we definitely were “not in Kansas anymore.”

Lucking, almost on a whim, we stopped at Target in Niagara Falls and picked up a TomTom GPS with English, French and Spanish.   It saved our trip!  Toronto had signs in French with some English.  Toward Quebec, it was totally French!  (I could have used my TomTom to go grocery shopping there!)

As soon as we arrived in at Toronto KOA campground we encountered a major obstacle—our engine “broke” at the gate.  Not just a little, but big time, OMG broke!  First an earthquake then this.  Was someone sending us a message?

Sure, things happen, so I include this to explain our rather unconventional 3 days in the Toronto area AND how wonderful people can be.  Here we were, on the first day of our trip across Canada, dead in the water—read that stranded– at the KOA gate in a foreign country. We had planned in-depth tours downtown and exploring the countryside using our little dinghy car.  Now we had a major mechanical problem.  But we found a great Freightliner repair nearby- Currie Truck Center in Alliston, Ontario.  Their mobile truck helped us get the RV started and limp the 10 miles to the garage.  Then they saved our trip!

We had three problems—1) our “house” was broken so we had no place to stay, 2) it was summer-hot in Toronto so we couldn’t leave the dogs in the car to tour 3) our whole trip depended on repairing the RV so we could get on with our trip.  The folks at Currie Truck diagnosed the problem and patched up the RV so we could take it back to the RV park each night—giving us a place to stay– then we brought it back to them the next morning to continue the repairs.  We did all our sightseeing with the dogs in the car.  We may have missed some things, but we never have time for all our plans.  This worked out great. 

That takes us to our first day touring the Toronto area.  Instead of the city, we headed north to the Georgian Bay—technically part of Lake Huron.  Our first stop was the Wassaga Beach Provincial Park on Notawasaga Bay.  This is the longest fresh water beach (8.6 mi.) in the world.

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Beautiful white sands, renown for its sunsets and as a topper, the only dog beach we found in Canada.  We even found another Airedale there.  And the people we met clued us in–the frozen raw food we like to feed the pups in some pet stores.  (Along with all kinds of fresh veggies, we found that too!) 

Next we headed to Collingwood, where the Niagara escarpment (a World Biosphere Reserve) meets  the bay.  The town is covered with wonderful wall art, thanks to the Art on the Street project.

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 At 90 feet, on a tiny island off the coast, the 1850’s lighthouse guided mariners to the once busy Collingwood seaport in Georgian Bay for 124 years.  

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Our last stop this day was Collingwood Millennium Park at the north end of the harbor .  It was built as an overlook of the Bay and the escarpment.  All those red berries in the top left picture—they’re rose hips!  This place must have been a mass or rose blossoms earlier in the season.

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The next day we headed in to downtown Toronto, the largest city in Canada and the capital of Ontario.   Even though it is a first class metro area, it had a placid feel.  On Lake Ontario, the long waterfront was a series of parks.   At Grawski Park, huge swans gave us a show against the city backdrop.

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Dating back to the late 1700’s, this is the Canada’s economic capital and one of the financial centers of the world. It is also the home of the CN (Canadian National) Tower. 

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This was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1995 and is the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere.  It also “towers” (pardon the pun) over the skyline so it’s just about impossible to find a picture of city center without catching a glimpse of this building.  But sometimes the shot was just too pretty to pass up!

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The Tower and the omnipresent street cars, with the spider-web of electric trolly lines over the streets, are classic Toronto.

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Along with a beautiful skyline.

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Montreal also has great whimsical street art.  We finished our visit with the car exploding from the side of a building,

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and the giant thimble on a street corner.

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Next we head toward Montreal, passing pastoral farms. And wow! We find more round, plastic coated hay bales much like we saw all over Iceland.  (The white plastic did make the Icelandic hay a bit more fun!)  Have I missed something or is everyone doing this but the US?

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We also started seeing farmers markets—at the farms along the road.  We started replenishing our veggies with food right out of the garden.  Yummy!

Folks at the RV park warned us to gauge our travel to miss the worst of the Montreal traffic.  It’s supposed to be a real rush hour challenge. And with our 40 feet of RV pulling our day car, this might be interesting.

The adventure continues!

Catch you next time!

Alberta