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Tina & Paul's Blog
A Tale of Two Winners...
When I first heard that I had been the lucky person whose name had been drawn out of the hat, I was gob-smacked and I guess like most people wondered if it could really be true. I remember entering the competition, but I never thought that I might actually win... but here we were on our way to Toronto. So it was true, I really had won a 2 week trip to Ontario, plus a load of Berghaus goodies to fill our suitcases!
Landing in Toronto we were shocked to be hit by the heat. 30+ degrees isn't something that I associate with Canada, but like the UK, they were in the middle of a heat wave which lasted for our whole trip. So we made the most of it and spent our first evening having dinner and a sunset stroll along the harbour front, before heading back to our hotel, the Fairmont Royal York - a sister hotel of the Savoy in London! We really were doing Ontario in style!
We had been to Toronto before and seen most of the main sites, like the CN Tower (I definitely recommend this), so we decided to have a leisurely day and jumped on a ferry over to the Toronto Islands as we hadn't managed to visit these before. The ferryonly takes 10 minutes and there are several an hour. It was the perfect way to get over the jet lag. We spent the day strolling around the islands admiring the views of the Toronto skyline and having a dip in the lake at one of the many beaches. There really is something for everyone, you can also go kayaking, cycling, swimming and for families with young children there is even an old-fashioned funfair!
The next morning we picked up our hire car and headed up to the Blue Mountains. It's a great little resort, and reminded us a little of the Disney villages. Quaint hotels and shops surrounding a lake with the Blue Mountains (Europeans would refer to these as hills!) in the background. This is a ski resort in winter but has many activities for families in the summer too, from hiking, and crazy golf, to a high wire adventure and a summer toboggan ride. The nearby Scenic Caves had been recommended to us so we spent the afternoon there exploring the cave complex and admiring the views over Georgian Bay. The following day we decided to stretch our legs and hit the trails on the Blue Mountains. These gave us stunning views over the local area and out to the lake which stretches as far as you can see. Having returned to resort, we treated ourselves to a well-deserved ice cream, 'the kiddie scoop' would have been more than enough! We ended the day enjoying the hotel’s outdoor pool and hot tubs.
On the way up to Tobermory, we stopped off at theBruce Peninsula National Park to do a bit of the famous Bruce Trail. The Cyprus Lake and Georgian Bay trails wind around a couple of smaller lakes before popping out on the edge of Georgian Bay. You really would be forgiven for calling this a sea, as I did many times. It extends far beyond the horizon and is a gorgeous deep blue. I just wish I had taken my swimsuit on the walk... Tobermory itself is a quaint fishing village, and our hotel (the Tobermory Princess) had fabulous views overlooking the harbour and the lakes. There is another park within walking distance, where you can stroll through woodland before popping out on the lake shore once more for more fabulous views. There is also a viewing tower, which is great for getting an overview of the area, and getting your bearings.
The next stage in our tour was to head over toManitoulin Island on the Chi Cheemaun Ferry. We were staying at the north of the island, in Little Current, yet another lovely harbour town. This is linked to the mainland by the Little Current Swing Bridge. This year was the 100 year anniversary of the bridge, so they had lots of things going on including a fabulous parade of classic cars. The harbour front is a great place to admire some really spectacular sunsets; they were totally different both nights that we were there, one night the setting sun turned the bridge into a brilliant golden colour. The pace of life on Manitoulin is a little slower than elsewhere, so there is a really relaxed atmosphere. Whilst there we took in more great hiking trails, the Cup & Saucer and Bridal Veil Falls. Both are highly recommended.
Leaving Manitoulin it felt like we were on our way home, as we were now heading south, but we were still only half way through our trip, despite having seen and done so much. Our next stop was my favourite. Killarney really is a secret little gem of a place and it is well worth making the drive up from Toronto, even if you don't have time to explore many other places. Things started off exceptionally well, as on the drive through the Park we saw a bear with her cub by the roadside. It was only a fleeting glance, but it put a smile on our faces that stayed there for days! We never thought that we would be so lucky as to see a bear, let alone a mother and her cub. The people at Killarney told us that most people will see some wildlife on the drive through the Park so it really is worth keeping your eyes peeled.Killarney Mountain Lodgereally is an amazing place to stay. You feel a million miles from anywhere (there is only 1 road in and many supplies still arrive by boat), but you still have everything you need for a thoroughly comfortable and enjoyable stay, as well as fantastic views as it is right by the lake. On our first day there we headed out on their Cocktail / Sunset cruise. Wow what a treat! It was just us and one other couple so we each had our own section of the boat in which to chill out and take in the views. We were really spoilt - fresh fruit platters, cheese and crackers and drinks aplenty. We anchored up near the Indian Rock and did a short hike to get some great views out over Killarney. Then it was back to the boat for a dip in the lake before dinner and heading back to the Lodge. It was a perfect afternoon and evening - chilled out, amazing views and great company. The following day we had booked onto the Silver Peak canoe and hike. I really recommend this for anyone who likes to be active, as you really get into the heart of the park. It’s a short drive to the start point then into a motor boat for a 20 minute cruise along the waterways to where you pick up the canoes to cross another lake. This is then followed by a 4km hike up to Silver Peak. It starts off as a gentle meander through the woodland, with a bit more effort needed once you start going uphill! The views make the effort worthwhile. You have a stunning outlook over the park. As it was a really clear day we could see all the way over to Sudbury, about 50km away. Then after a delicious picnic lunch, provided by the Lodge, it was time to repeat the morning’s activities - at least we were going downhill this time!
Leaving the tranquillity of Killarney behind us we moved onto Huntsville, just outside Algonquin Provincial Park. We stayed at Deerhurst Resort, where you are spoilt for choices: golf courses, tennis courts, hiking trails, swimming pools and the water park in the lake - all great for families. Meanwhile the hotel equally caters for the business conference side, without it feeling like they encroach on each other. Algonquin Park is a little bit of a drive from Huntsville, but the Park is enormous (almost 3,000 square miles!), you could spend a week here and you would still only see a small part, so our day here only gave us a tiny taster. We decided to walk the Mizzy Trail as this walk offers the best chance to see wildlife. But the wildlife had more intelligence than us and the animals were obviously enjoying shady spots to shelter from the 36 degree heat... We did however see many beaver dams and mousse tracks - and not just in the ice cream... (For those that are wondering that’s peanut butter cups and fudgy bits in vanilla ice cream.)
Our final stop was Ottawa, where we stayed at the Lord Elgin hotel, finishing the trip in style. That evening we enjoyed an amazing light show projected onto the parliament buildings. The following day, we took advantage of the free tours that they offer of parliament. It is very much based on Westminster in London, with the green and red seating for the lower and upper houses. We also managed to take in the Changing of the Guard ceremony that takes place outside parliament each morning. We were very lucky as it was more ceremonial than normal as there was a change in the head of the armed forces that day. The soldiers look just like those at Buckingham Palace, with their red jackets and bearskin hats.
Ottawa is much smaller than Toronto, and far more relaxed, making it very accessible on foot. On our final day we were a little sad that such an amazing trip was coming to an end. There was just time for a last bit of sightseeing, so we headed off to Rideau Hall, the home the Governor General (the Queen’s representative in Canada). There were more soldiers in bearskins and lovely gardens to meander through where there are many trees that have been planted by our royal family and other visiting dignitaries. A wander through the shops for some final souvenirs before heading back to the hotel to pick our up our bags before heading to the airport for our flight home...
We were very sad to leave. Thank you to Ontario for a fantastic trip.