We took a bus from Guelph to Union Station in Toronto the next morning, and grabbed some lunch at La Bella Managua before making our way to Patrick and Cayleigh's. They lived in a townhouse in a leafy suburb which was conveniently close to a metro station. It was great to see them again, and we spent a good few hours chatting with them over dinner. It was even nicer that they had offered to put us up for 5 days!
The CN Tower was our destination the following day - I'd only ever visited it once as a kid, and I only remember it being huge. It still is.
At 553m high, the tower took 40 solid months to build (24 hours a day, 5 days a week). It's a celebration of Canadian graft, and the view is still breathtaking, especially on a nice day - which this was.
The tower has a skywalk and edge walk, but after zip-lining between two buildings in Cebu, these didn't really have much of a "wow" factor for us. We made do with the glass floor (the world's first) which is pretty terrifying anyway. The rotating restaurant in the tower is also pretty good, and obviously a window seat is a must. Readers will be left to decide who went for the steak, and who chose the fish...
A beer was in order afterwards, and it came courtesy of the Steam Whistle Brewing Company, located 100 metres behind the tower. How handy!
That evening, Patrick whipped up a fantastic BBQ for us and some friends they'd invited around and whose names we have shamefully forgotten.
A bit later on, our hosts had some friends going to a nearby bar called The Riverside where a motown group called The Intentions were playing so we tagged along for an impromptu boogie. Who knew motown could be so much fun?
Every weekend there's a farmer's market at the Evergreen Brick Works, about 6 miles away from Patrick and Cayleigh's. There are all sorts of craft and food stalls selling a hugely diverse range of goods, almost all hand-made or cooked on-site. These included organic apple pie dumplings which Gilly loved.
Out the back of the Brick Works, there's a mini nature reserve which is lovely to stroll around in the sun. Despite it being the end of September, it was still really warm.
The walk must have sparked some sort of urge to go hiking in everyone, as we decided more was in order. Our destination: Rouge Valley. The Vista Trail here felt truly autumnal.
Around the world each year, various cities hold the Nuit Blanche arts festival. Toronto is one of these, and it happened to be on that very night, so we took the metro to the centre to take a look. The festival encompasses installation art around the streets as well as various interactive exhibits and people dressed up in neon or masks, mooching amongst the crowds.
Our immersion in Canadian culture continued the next day as Patrick took us to a Toronto Blue Jays game. Neither of us had seen baseball before, but it was simple enough to pick up. They were playing the New York Yankees, which was a bit of a result for us as I had always wanted to watch the Yankees play since my sister bought me a t-shirt as a kid. Baseball is a long game though, and the home crowd were less than enthused, with one guy near us trying to drum up a chant of "LET'S GO, BLUE JAYS" every five minutes, only to be met with apathy. We had eaten a hot dog and were feeling generous so we humoured him every so often in response, until towards the end even he was only half-heartedly droning it.
These guys can really hurl a ball - most were upwards of 90mph. Sadly, despite the half empty seats and the amazing vocal support from the home crowd, the Blue Jays lost pretty badly. Still, another cultural sporting event has been ticked off the list and it really isn't as dull as a lot of people make out. Also, their clean-up crew which looks after the pitch in the fifth innings is crazily quick.
We all headed out to Banjara in the evening for some Indian food. And beer. Well, it was still the weekend.
On our last full day in Toronto the art galleries we'd been considering visiting were closed, so we instead took a metro over to Kensington Park. It's in quite a bohemian area, so you naturally run into sights such as a car covered in graffiti and filled with soil.
A burger for lunch was followed by a last home-cooked meal for dinner with Patrick and Cayleigh. That night we suggested going to a comedy night at a place just down the road. They'd never been to it, and at $10 for about three hours' comedy it was definitely cheap but probably not the best gig ever hosted (I cannot remember a single act), but it was a fun evening nonetheless. We'd crammed in a lot of Toronto in just five days, but it was again the local hosts that made the trip special - taking us to places we'd never normally have thought of visiting.
The next stop on our year-long journey was to be our last. We were heading to New York to meet up with my sister and aunt, and my cousin Kathrine was also going to fly over to join us all.