OTTAWA and MONTREAL,

We wanted to visit some of the important cities in Canada from Toronto. After some scouting around online, we narrowed down on a tour agency called Tours 4 fun. They were offering 3 day trips to these cities and so we booked with them. They cater predominantly to Chinese tourists . They did a good job overall.

We were picked up by the tour bus at Mississauga near the Chinese shops. Our first halt was at Kingston.

Kingston is a city in Ontario in Canada on the banks of lake Ontario at the mouth of the  St Lawrence river. It is known as The Limestone City…due to its 19th century limestone architecture. It was a military post in the 16th century. It is called Kingston in honor of King George III. It was the first Capital of Canada . It prides itself in having a robust healthcare system and is home to a variety of educational institutions. At Kingston we saw the city hall,good lakeside homes like retirement communities, a marina and a locomotive exhibit.

The city hall is an imposing piece of neoclassical architecture with a prominent dome.It is the seat of local government in Kingston. It overlooks Lake Ontario which has a beautiful marina with lots of yachts anchored there.

The City Hall and Lake Ontario

An antique coach and a locomotive exhibit at Kingston

After spending about an hour in Kingston, we headed to Ottawa.

Ottawa city, the capital of Canada is located in Ontario on the banks of the Ottawa river.

We reached Ottawa by noon. After lunch at a restaurant , we proceeded to see the Canadian Parliament.

The Parliament is located on Pariament Hill on the banks of the Ottawa river in downtown Ottawa. In the foreground of the parliament building is the flame and water monument called Centennial Flame. The flame burns continuously and works with natural gas  bubbling through water cascading underneath.  The flame prevents the water from freezing in winter. It commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.

The Canadian Parliament

The Centennial Flame

Next we visited the Museum of civilization  also called Canadian Museum  of History on the banks of the Ottawa River. It houses thousands of artifacts, archival documents, works of art and other ancient material relating to the indigenous people of Canada to the present time. Interactive shows related to Canadian History is another attraction at this huge complex.

Museum of Civilization

The Ottawa River seen from the museum

We next visited the Notre Dame Basilica…the largest and oldest church in Ottawa.

The Notre Dam Basilica

After the visit to the church, we proceeded to Montreal for an overnight stay.

Montreal is located in Quebec province and is predominantly French speaking.

We were put up at a hotel and next morning, we set off sightseeing Montreal.

Approaching Montreal….

We visited St Joseph’s Oratory. It is the biggest church in Canada built in Italian Renaissance style and has a copper dome which is one of the biggest church domes in the world. It is a National Historic Site. It is located on the highest point in Montreal located on Mount Royal.The insides of the Basilica is decorated with intricately carved murals. On display at the Basilica is a wall covered with thousands of crutches from those who were purportedly healed by the divine healing powers of Brother Andre.

Some restoration work was in progress when we visited and that can be seen in the picture

St Joseph’s Oratory

Next we visited the Olympic Tower….now known as Montreal tower, this is part of the Olympic games complex built for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.…..and is the tallest inclined structure in the world.

This tower is inclined more than the Leaning tower of Pisa and the cables that hold the retractable roof of the Olympic stadium is suspended from the tower. The opening shot of this blog shows this …..

There is an observatory in the tower that can be accessed by an inclined elevator from where one gets a view of the Olympic village.

Montreal Tower and view of Olympic village from Montreal Tower

The Biodome which is located adjacent to the tower was our next destination.

This housed the velodrome for the 1976 Olympics and the  track cycling and judo events were held here. After the Olympics, it was converted into the Biodome which showcases  four miniature echo systems.These are filled with plants and animals found in these eco systems and visitors can walk through the different ecosystems and enjoy nature under a roof. Some of the featured ecosystems are…Tropical forest, Laurentian Maple forest, St Lawrence Marine,Labrador coast and sub antarctic islands.

So one can imagine….the range of plant and animal life residing there…from the parrots and monkeys of tropical forests to the fish of St Lawrence River to the penguins and puffins of subantarctic zone…Its a different world inside the Biodome…

The Biodome from outside and inside

Some inhabitants of the Biodome

After visiting the Biodome, we continued our journey across Canada to yet another iconic city...Quebec…

See you next week at Quebec…the quaint city

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TORONTO

Hello friends,

This week we do Toronto. Since we were at Toronto for a month, there were lots of things we did and this blog is a sum total of this. Unlike in my previous blogs, here I narrate various visits and my regular readers may notice that it is not a continuous flow.

First thing that struck me was… as you alight from your flight and enter through the gates into the terminal….you see a large board…You are Welcome in Canada…this is something which I found unique….this board would surely have reassured many a foreigner stepping on Canadian soil with trepidation and uncertainty.This would apply more to potential immigrants who would like to chart a future in Canada. Very Immigrant friendly country!!!

We landed there at night and woke up after a long sleep overcoming jet lag.As I opened the front door and looked out, I wondered if I had landed in Canada or Punjab? Every person I saw was an Indian and most of them Sikhs…that’s how much this city has embraced our people and vice versa. Indian seniors sitting on garden benches and chitchatting while soaking in some sunshine to beat the biting cold, is a common sight.Travelling by public transport, you often hear telephonic conversations in Hindi and Punjabi. So if any of you travel to Canada…particularly Toronto, have no worries of feeling alien….you will feel very much at home.

OK…now let me get into specifics….

First let me introduce you to our friends in Toronto who were so kind to host us and also take us along sight seeing.

Our friends at their beautiful house in Brampton, Toronto

We did a lot of commuting in Toronto, partly by public transport and partly driven around by our friend. Here are some pictures of the local buses, trains etc…just to give a perspective…

The local city bus and bus stop

The double decker GO Train outer and inner view

For us Tim Horton’s is synonymous with Canada….where ever we traveled, we enjoyed their coffee and snacks. This restaurant chain kept us pepped up with energy during our long trips many times…So I decided to include a picture of one of their outlets for all of you to see. We sort of got addicted to their awesome coffee and I particularly enjoyed the pumpkin spice flavor which is associated with fall…the season we were there….

A Tim Horton’s Outlet

Let me start with our visit to Downtown Toronto .

We were dropped at the Toronto airport by our friend. From the airport, we took the Union Pearson Express train to downtown Toronto.

After getting down at Union Station, we explored the place on foot and decided to do a hop on hop off tour. Booked our tickets from the agent near the station and boarded the double decker bus with an open upper deck.

The Sightseeing bus

The bus wound its way through the streets of Toronto and we were in front of the

CN Tower… the iconic structure in Toronto.

We alighted there and wanted to go to the top of the tower to get a panoramic view, but unfortunately the queue was too long and we did not have time to wait for our turn . So we walked around, clicked some pictures.

The CN tower is a telecommunication tower and is the tallest free standing( not held by wires)tower in Canada. But it is the  fifth tallest free standing structure in the world.

The C N stands for Canada’s National tower.

It has an observation deck with floor to wall glass windows and a glass floor. Apart from that there is an observation point in the sky pod from where you may be able to see even Niagara falls or New York State in US on a clear day. One can also take a walk on the famous Edge walk…(a 1.5 mt wide ledge around the outer edge of the pod) attached to a safety harness. Apart from this there is a revolving restaurant in the tower which offers 360 degree views of the city and the landscape around.

The C N Tower

The entrance to the tower

Next to CN tower is the Ripley’s Aquarium and the Roger’s center.

The Roger’s center is a domed sports arena. Its unique design allows for the roof to be retracted under favourable conditions. Roger’s center is the home of Toronto Blue Jays… the baseball team….and that day we did get to see fans trooping in to the center to watch a match….most of them in Blue garb. The cutest thing was a poodle also dressed in a blue jersey hopping along with its master to cheer the Blue Jays!!!

After we finished with these views we boarded the bus again and hopped off at Casa Loma. Casa Loma in Spanish means” Hill House” It is a building resembling a medieval castle set in a garden. Due to its unique architecture, it is a popular filming destination. It houses a museum. It is also a popular destination for wedding ceremonies for which it can be rented out.

Casa Loma

Next we visited Lawrence Market which houses a variety of vendors selling food, flowers etc. We took a break here for lunch.

Post lunch, we took the cruise to the Toronto Islands.

These are a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario south of mainland Toronto. These are just offshore from the city’s downtown area. It houses the Billy Bishop Toronto city airport, an amusement park, yacht clubs and a public marina. This is a car free community and access to the mainland is only via ferry. Bicycles can be carried on the ferry.

We took the ferry from the mainland and as we cruised along, got some great views of Toronto city.

View of Toronto city from the cruise

Yachts anchored at the Toronto islands

After the cruise, we returned back to the station and took the train back home.

Riverwood conservancy was one of the places we visited

We took the local bus to Riverwood conservancy ; the 150 acre park..an urban oasis with accessible trails, creeks, wetlands and wildlife. The Credit River also flows by its borders. Children from the local schools often volunteer here for nature studies.Bird watching trails are also earmarked here.

It amazed me to see how such a serene and quiet place exists right in the middle of a buzzing metropolis! Also how the river water is so crystal clear and pristine….says a lot about the local people who refrain from maligning it!

The Credit River

Some views at Riverwood conservancy

Square one Mall is a high end shopping mall situated in downtown Mississauga. It is the second largest shopping center in Ontario. Needless to say, it houses many branded and high end shops and restaurants,Both the interior and exterior are beautifully designed.

At Square one Mall

Lakeshore Toronto

One morning ,we were dropped off at Lake shore by our friend and we spent a morning there. There are well landscaped gardens along the shores of Lake Ontario. Walking and cycling tracks draw the locals to this place. Being September, it was the start of fall and we did get a taste of fall colors on the maple trees.

Some pictures from our visit to Lakeshore

After a relaxing morning at Lake shore, we took a bus to downtown and visited Nathan Philips square; a plaza in front of the city hall . Here we saw the Toronto signage..one of the most photographed places in Toronto. It provides the backdrop to a  reflecting pool which is used as a skating rink in winter. This square is the site of concerts, art displays, the farmer’s market, the winter festival of lights, and other public events. There are kiosks selling variety of food items and appeared to me like a picnic spot for the locals.

Nathan Philips Square

During Christmas time, this square is decorated and lit up. This is called the Cavalcade of lights.This officially marks the beginning of Christmas celebrations. A huge Christmas tree is also lit up. A stage is set up and many high profile music programs are held here. These celebrations last for almost 2 months.

Cavalcade of Lights

We also had the opportunity of visiting the Sai Baba temple in Mississauga. This temple looks unique from outside. In fact it is housed in a commercial complex and externally looks like an office. Once inside, it resembles any typical Indian Temple.

The entrance to the temple

There was another unique tourist destination we visited The Cheltenham Badlands.

Badlands is a geologic term for an area of soft rock devoid of vegetation and soil cover that has become molded into a rolling landscape of rounded hills and gullies

An area of approximately 0.5 km, it features essentially clay that is easily eroded by water. The Queenstone shale has brick red to maroon color. Formed as a result of tectonic activity hundreds of years ago, this region was used extensively for cattle grazing. The unscientific agricultural and grazing practices over the years added to the erosion by nature and led to this formation.There are trails here where you can explore the badlands. But entry on to this fragile shale is prohibited.

The Cheltenham Badlands

Since we stayed at Toronto for a considerable period of time, and moved around and interacted with some locals , we really got to experience day to day life here…would like to share some pictures…a sneak peek into the life of immigrant Indians in Canada…take a look

There was a reasonably big park with lot of recreational activities that we used to visit ….close to where we stayed….. Sandalwood park. Some pictures…

At Sandalwood park

We had a small picnic with some Indians one evening at the park. Also attended a birthday party hosted by an Indian family…take a look

A picnic and a birthday party

Well, I hope I have conveyed the essence of Toronto to all of you…..

From Toronto, we also visited Ottawa,the capital of Canada, and Montreal and Quebec which are some important cities in Canada. My next blogs will cover my experiences in these cities…

Till then…goodbye

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Niagara Falls

My first blog from the series on Canada….

Most of you would agree that Niagara falls would be a nice place to start this series…it literally sits on the US-Canada border!!!

Having seen it….or rather experienced it twice; I can tell you, its simply amazing!!!

We visited Niagara falls from Toronto . (pictures in this blog are a mix from both the visits and some keen eye among my readers may notice it) .Since the view of the falls from the Canadian side is way better than from the US side, we decided to do it from Canada.

A brief on the falls before we get to the actual travel and attractions:

The Niagara falls is a name used for a group of three waterfalls at the border between US and Canada.The largest…the horseshoe falls is located in Ontario province in Canada while the American falls and Bridal Veil falls are on the American side of the border. These falls are formed on the Niagara river as it empties Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. Niagara falls was formed at the end of the ice age when the Great lakes carved its path through the Niagara escarpment on its way to the Atlantic ocean.

Some Statistics and Comparisons

There are about 500 waterfalls in the world taller than Niagara.

Angel falls in Venezuela with a height of 979 metres is the tallest waterfall in the world.

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river in Africa is 108 metres high but is very broad….a width of 1708 m!!!!

The Iguazu falls in South America bordering Argentina and Brazil is a conglomerate of 275 waterfalls….becoming the world’s largest waterfall system

In spite of all this, Niagara is so popular. Have you wondered why?

Niagara has a height of only 51 metres. But the volume of water that flows is very high. 2832 tonnes of water flows over the falls per second. It is this peculiarity that makes it so popular

The water at Niagara is green in color due to the enormous amount of minerals being swept over due to its erosive nature.

Where does the water come from?…this will be the next question in everyone’s mind..

From the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes is the largest collection of freshwater in the world…18% of the fresh water.The water flows from streams and rivers that empty into the Great Lakes, from Lake Superior down through Niagara to Lake Ontario and then into the St. Lawrence River and finally Atlantic Ocean

Future Of Niagara?

The falls continuously erode. At a rate of 1 to 1.5 metres per year. Rock falls occur regularly at the edge of the falls. Flow control and diversion for hydroelectric power has managed to reduce the natural rate of recession. Climate change is also affecting Niagara. All things considered, scientists speculate that perhaps 2000 years from now, the American falls would dry up. The falls could be reduced to a series of rapids…

Well…that is far far away in time….for now, enjoy the falls as I take you along…

Coming to our trip....

We were in  Brampton,Toronto and were hosted by a close friend who drove us up to Niagara falls city which is  about 130 km. The drive was beautiful and we passed lake Ontario on the way. Had a short coffee break at a Tim Horton’s outlet at Grimsby.

Tim Horton’s is a chain of restaurants you find all over Canada.I must tell you, the coffee at Tim Horton’s is just too good.Highly recommended for future visitors!!

Reached Niagara by noon and checked into Embassy Suites located bang opposite the falls …..it offers lovely view of the falls.

Our hosts at Toronto….with the falls in the background

Rested for sometime and visited the falls in the evening.

As we walked up to the falls, there are a few nice view points along the roadside from where you get a panoramic view of the falls like the one in the picture below.

The Horseshoe falls at Niagara

As you reach closer to the falls…the sound of the water builds up the excitement and when you actually stand by the railings on the footpath and look at it; it’s a life time experience!

The sheer size of the falls and the volume of water that gushes by every moment is awe inspiring!!No amount of description will match the visual treat…so just putting some pictures for you to enjoy….

Some pictures depicting the sheer size and volume of water flowing by…..

A short video of the Horse shoe falls

Wanting to get an ariel view of the falls, we headed to Skylon Tower.

Skylon Tower is an observation tower in the Niagara falls city in Ontario (Canada) that overlooks both the American falls and the horseshoe Canadian falls and the Niagara River.

An aerial view of the horseshoe falls with the cruise boat sailing towards the falls

After that we returned to the falls in time for the illumination of the falls. How is this done?

Hundreds of LED lights are housed in three locations across the Niagara gorge. Together these lights create a breathtakingly beautiful view. This takes place daily at dusk.On special occasions they are lit up in specific colors too!

The illuminated falls is a great sight to behold…

Some pictures…

Illuminated falls

Niagara Fireworks

A fireworks display over the brink of the falls is held in summer and also during the winter festival and other special occasions

Fireworks over the falls

After a spectacular view of the illuminated falls, we returned to our hotel

Day 2

After breakfast, we again headed for the falls..this time to get closer…to get to the bottom of the falls. We then took the Hornblower cruise to the bottom of the falls. Each of us was provided with a red rain coat and we cruised towards the falls. As we came close to the falls, there was lot of spray and the raincoat protected us. However, taking pictures was almost impossible due to the movement of the boat and the spray..But the experience was exhilarating…to say the least..

If you do the same activity from the US side, you use the Maid of the Mist cruise and you are in blue coats!!

After that we walked up to see more of the American side of the falls…much smaller than the Canadian one..

The American Falls. The cruise boat heading to the bottom of the falls is also seen

The buildings you see in this picture are in USA…the falls are located just at the border.

We also saw the Rainbow bridge the bridge across the Niagara river connecting the land borders of Ontario in Canada with New York in USA.

If you zoom and see…you will see the Canadian flag closer to you and the American farther away…There is a full fledged immigration station functioning here for people crossing over..

After that, we walked around Niagara falls city…

Though the falls is the highlight of this place,Niagara falls city has lots more on offer…. it is a full blown entertainment city too.There are plenty of Casinos, theme parks, game centres and various entertainment avenues here…including the Niagara wheel…a giant wheel which also offers great views as one ascends ….

A casino in Niagara falls city

During our walk at Niagara falls city

Besides this there are helicopter rides that take you over the falls. As we sat around the beautifully landscaped park across the falls, we saw this activity taking place too.

We spent our second evening at Niagara again enjoying the illuminated falls and returned to the hotel.

Next morning we took a bus from Niagara falls bus station to Brampton Terminal and then home…ending a wonderful visit to this wonder of nature…

Next week we meet at Toronto….

Till then…good bye

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For those of you who would like to see some awesome views of Victoria Falls…in comparison to Niagara, do visit

Gallery: Victoria Falls – what a treat