Montréal, Sunday 16/08/15

Toronto is perhaps the most multicultural of cities I have visited in North America. On the street you can observe people from all over the world and hear many languages other than the official English and French. The city is composed of many different districts, each with their particular characteristics, but which tend to melt and meld into their surrounding neighbourhood. 

So the Entertainment and Financial districts are both characterised by glass buildings which stand out across the harbour. 

 Along the waterfront, however, there are open areas, parks, art and concert venues and restaurants and cafés. A bit further back is Roundhouse Park, where you find the Railway Museum and the Steam Whistle Brewery in a plot containing a fully-restored locomotive turntable. 

Further North I passed through Chinatown to get to Kensington Market, an older district and home to alternative culture.   

 It is designated a “National Historic Site of Canada” and as well as the shops and restaurants the houses and gardens have an unrestrained atmosphere.  

In the nearby Art Gallery of Ontario there was an exhibition of work by Emily Carr, a Canadian artist and writer. She experimented with styles and techniques, while focusing on native culture and nature, as she cared passionately about conserving both. Here are two examples, (unrelated), of her work in both spheres.  

   I also admired pieces by a First Nation artist, Manasie Akpaliapik. This is one side of a multifaceted sculpture in whalebone.  

 Thanks to a recommendation from my Servas host, Dorothy, I took the ferry to Ward’s Island, one of the Toronto Islands a half-hour trip from the Waterfront. It is considerably quieter than the Centre  Island, which caters largely to families and children, and is free of cars, though there are plenty of bicycles and quadracycles. The weather was perfect and I’d taken a little picnic. Once again I was struck by the styles of houses and the flourishing gardens.  

Niagara Falls is best seen from the Canadian side, it’s said. It was certainly worth a day trip, but actually was not as accessible as the other great falls I have visited, unless you pay extra. So I took the boat, which means being herded around and clothed in pink.  

 The view of the “American Falls” and the “Bridal Veil Falls” from the boat are impressive.  

 The amount of mist, though, means that I took better photos of these and the larger “Horseshoe Falls” from the riverside.  

   Though not as high as Victoria Falls, nor as long or beautiful as Iguazu, the sheer volume of water is tremendous, and apparently they divert 30% for hydroelectric power. 

I had been warned, but as for the town itself, “tacky” hardly describes the alternative attractions on offer.  

 Perhaps I am a little hard on Niagara. 

On the way back to Toronto the bus stopped at Niagara-on-the-Lake, which, though full of tourists, was more like a Canadian version of Burford, (“Gateway to the Cotswolds”), with antiques and specialist food and clothes shops. 

For something completely different, on the recommendation of Dorothy, I met up with a group of people to hike part of the Bruce Trail.  This is a footpath running along the Niagara Escarpment. It was a guided hike of 17 kilometres, through forest and fields, with good company and charming scenery. Sometimes we would be walking through head-high grasses and flowers.  

 Other times we wandered shaded paths under the forest trees.  

 We even passed through The Hole in the Wall, which is not a now defunct restaurant in Bath, nor a gang of outlaws, but a crevice in the escarpment.  

Finally, on Sunday I checked out the Old Town and the “Krinos Taste of the Danforth” Greek festival on the street of that name, where I ate spanakopita, or spinach pie. I had a quiet evening before boarding the train the following day, bound for Montreal. 

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