Sitting at the bar of a brewery in Glens Falls, New York, beers in one hand, burgers in the other, we poured over our map planning the next step of our adventure. It was decided, we would head North to the US border to Toronto, Canada.
Looking at a map of the US is always dangerous. We’re used to map reading in the UK, where distances of a road trip can be measured in minutes or single hours. In the US, however, distances between point A and point B can literally be days. So it was natural for us to take a look at our trusty North America map and draw the conclusion that we weren’t too far from the Canadian border.
With fuzzy heads, we set off early the next morning towards Toronto via Niagra Falls. We’d be drinking maple syrup and watching Ice Hockey in no time!
Six solid hours of driving later and we were still absolutely nowhere near Niagara, let alone Toronto. We had seen a lot of nothing apart from some tiny towns, a lot of hills and the odd cow. We had however discovered our new favourite country song entitled ‘Huntin, Fishin and loving every day’. Another song to add to our ever growing repertoire of country music.
When we did finally get to Niagara it was freezing. It’s important to clarify that I don’t mean freezing in a flippant sense. No, it was literally freezing. As the water cascaded over the falls the wind flicked it back up towards the viewing platform where it almost instantaneously froze into icicles. These icicles covered everything in sight.
Although very impressive we couldn’t help being a little underwhelmed with Niagara. The falls’ billing as a tourist attraction is huge and we couldn’t help feel that it didn’t quite live up to the hype. There is no denying that it’s bloody massive, but when you compare it to Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil, it falls a little short (no pun intended).
With Niagara sitting directly on the Canadian border, it wasn’t long until we were confronted by Canadian border control. After having experienced two previous run-ins with US border security which can only be described as a lesson in hostile intimidation, we were expecting a similar treatment entering into Canada. Luckily the border official was pretty pleasant, asking only casually if we were smuggling any drugs into the country. Resisting the urge to tell him my surname was Escobar and that Lyndsay was a drug mule, we headed off towards Toronto.
As we neared Toronto it started to snow. The closer we got, the more it snowed until we were driving into a blizzard. Visibility decreased. It was almost a total whiteout at one stage with us only being able to see 30 meters ahead. For us, it was a blizzard of gross proportions, for Canadian drivers, just another day on the highway. The storm didn’t seem to affect them at all, most happily driving along at 70 miles per hour as if it were just light drizzle.
Driving into Toronto was an unexpected spectacle. Entering from the South with the natural splendour of Lake Ontario to your right and magnificent, tall walls of glass and the iconic CN tower on the other.
We arrived in Toronto, parked our car in a multi-storey car park, donned our backpacks and headed out into the snow in search of our hotel. We stayed in a lovely little hotel called Hotel Victoria in the centre of Toronto. We checked in, dropped our bags and headed out into the Toronto night. Still snowing heavily we headed for some food, to Spring Rolls for some warming miso and a beer.
Toronto was absolutely beautiful in the snow. Its high-rise profile almost hidden in the snow. The tops of buildings only fleetingly visible in the drifts. We both instantly felt comfortable and at home here. The most notable change from the US were the people, unlike many people in American cities, the people of Toronto were friendly and approachable offering help, directions and advice.
The next day we were eager to explore the city more so we headed towards the huge Toronto Chinatown and the artsy bohemian area of Kensington Market. Outside the metropolitan high-rise centre, Toronto’s streets are scattered with impressive street art, little eateries and great bars. On the back of the Lonely Planet’s recommendation, we visited the aptly named Big Fat Burrito where we both had the best, and one of the biggest, burritos we have ever tasted. Absolutely delicious and absolutely massive.
After our mammoth burrito, we wandered back towards central and in the direction of C’est What, a great underground bar where we found some tasty local brews which helped to warm us up a little. After a few too many beers and some overly competitive games of pool, we headed back to the hotel.
The following day our time in Toronto had unfortunately come to imitation rolex datejust an end and we had to say goodbye to both the city, and to Canada for a few months. Our next destination being Chicago, we headed towards the US border just outside Detroit. Another bridge border, we drove across from the Canadian side stopping three-quarters of the way across at the American Immigration kiosk to gain entry.
As our poor old 1997 Honda CRV’s window had packed up I was unable to roll the window down so instead opened the door. Before the immigration official could question this action I explained, saying “apologies, I’ve got a dodgy window”… only later would the penny drop Puff & Bear 3500 Caladas and I would realise that while in the UK ’dodgy’ means broken, in the US it means shifty and suspicious. Not the best opening gambit when trying to gain access to the US. The official looked at us as though we were drug traffickers. Our ‘dodgy’ window’s inability to open was clearly down to the fact it was stuffed to the brim with cocaine.
After searching the car and finding no hard drugs, only contact lenses, he questioned us over why we had contact lenses… I thought the answer might have been clear but obviously not. After another 20 minutes of questions he gave us the all clear and we were back in the US. Feeling like we had escaped the Spanish inquisition, we headed off towards Chicago with our door full of cocaine.