We like to make life as easy as possible on travel day so often we book a hotel the night before. We stayed at Ryland Farmhouse, about 5 miles from Manchester Airport which was perfectly adequate for the night and had the full English breakfast it was one of the best I’ve ever had!
Top Tip; Being Tesco shoppers, we get Clubcard points and use our rewards to book a hotel the night before through Hotels.com. It normally costs about £25-£30 (we do lots of shopping), but it certainly makes it a much cheaper option.
We pre-booked the ‘drop & go’ parking at Manchester, which makes life so much easier on the day – Once the keys were dropped it was less than a 5 minute walk to the terminal (and I have short legs!). Whilst we were checking was some confusion around the luggage allowance and that we had to pay £130 for excess luggage, although Arundel were close, I called the wonderful Helen and she asked us if we were able to pay it and she’d get it refunded when we return. Helen also made sure there would be no problems for the return flight –
“One of the massive benefits of using Arundel Travel is the exceptional service you get. If there is ever a problem, you are totally reassured it will get sorted as you know you are dealing with people and they appreciate your business! ”
We made it to the Aspire lounge, we do like our ‘free’ wine and comfy seats in a quiet area before a flight. The food options are a little limited, but having already had a fabulous breakfast we didn’t have to worry about that today!
We flew with Air Transat on a direct flight from Manchester to Toronto. They are a Charter flight so you don’t get as many benefits as you do with a scheduled flight such as British Airways, this is reflected in the cost – you do get a meal with with a glass of wine and a snack, however for anything else you are directed to the food and drink menu and pay for. You could pay for a premium option to include some drinks and snacks, but I think this was significantly more! Air Transat is a basic airline, but the staff were lovely. They were all very normal people, a lot were older and just kind and considerate.
Once we arrived in Toronto we opted for the train/metro. It’s a little walk to the station which is sign posted and from there we caught a free train to Terminal 1. Our hotel was downtown so we bought a one way ticket to Union Station which was about 24$ (£18) for the 2 of us and then got a 2 trip pass to Dundas Station which was about 13$.
TOP TIP: If you use the TTC in under 2 hours they don’t deduct a fare so we went to the hotel, unpacked and went out for dinner on 1, then back from dinner on the second.
You can get a daily pass, but by the time we were going for dinner it was 5:30pm in Toronto and 10:30pm UK time and having left the hotel at 8am, we knew we needed a relatively early night!!
Like we do in the UK, we pre booked a reservation for our evening meal. We ate Goodmans Bar and Grill – After a long day of unhealthy food, feeling tired and dehydrated, this was just what we needed! Tim my husband ordered a cheeseburger and I ordered the seared tuna sandwich which came with really delicious fries too to get a good mix of comfort and healthy food!
Tim tried a local beer, the Mill Street Original Organic beer, which is brewed a couple of blocks away, and really enjoyed it.
We had a lovely surprise when the bill came – the bottles of wine were half price on a Wednesday! We heard about this at another bar too, so Wednesday is a good day to treat yourselves to a bottle of wine in Toronto 😊
It was a lovely meal, which including tip cost about £80
We were exhausted and wanted to take some wine back to the hotel so our server gave us a bag to carry our leftover wine back in. It’s against the law here to drink alcohol in public places so you have to be quite careful when carrying open bottles around!
Travelling really is quite exhausting, especially with a 5 hour time difference. We got to bed at 9pm, equivalent to 2am UK time which is pretty late on a Wednesday!
Just so you know- in Canada there is a federal tax that is levied by the government that is a set 5% and a state tax of 6 to 10% which varies between provenances. This often gets combined to a single tax called the ‘Harmonized Sales Tax’ in Ontario which is the state we were in, the combined total was 13% The tipping etiquette in Canada is similar to the USA and it customary to tip between 15 – 20%. Generally they give you a receipt with a calculation at the bottom of what the tip would be at 15%, 18% and 20%. If you pay by card the choices are on the card machine.
After such a long day yesterday, we had a slow start this morning and a rare treat of not setting the alarm clock! We caught a train to Union on the TTC which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel, The Chelsea.
Just across from where the train comes in is ‘The Path’. An underground network of over 1200 shops and cafes that is very useful, especially when pouring with rain or the temperature drop well below freezing. According to the Guinness Book of Records it’s the largest underground shopping complex in the world! We weren’t there for the shopping so it wasn’t really our cup of tea, however, we found the Danish Pastry House which had the most amazing selection of pastries.
We then walked to the CN Tower. We had seen online that you can go to the viewing platform after dinner, ideally we wanted to see Toronto before it was dark so asked if this was possible. The really lovely young lad said we could go up to the viewing platform before the meal so just turn up 30 minutes early. Unfortunately this was not the case and they make you pay for the meal before allowing you your “free” visit to the viewing platform.
It was amazing just to see and wander around and see the CN Tower! It’s not the prettiest of buildings, but so iconic.
From here walked to the harbour. We’d been last night but it looked very different on a dry sunny day rather than a miserable wet evening.
From there we walked to the Distillery Historic District which was about 3k from the harbour. We got there far too early, as most places were closed until about 4, however you could tell would be an amazing place to go on an evening. Through the day it had a really chilled vibe, but you can just imagine it’s really lively and buzzy. There were also plenty of places to sit out when it’s warm – Easter is just too early for this. 🥶
We had a wander round and popped into Mill Street for a drink. Food was on our mind so we left and had a look at restaurants but the only other restaurants that were open (a Tapas place and an Asian fusion restaurant) were really expensive charging 85/90$ for a bottle of wine compared with most places charging 42-48$ so we went back and had lunch at Mill street, another delicious seared tuna sandwich! This was also the brewery that had brewed Tim’s pint from the evening before. The food in Canada on the whole is delicious. Though nothing is cheap…
St Lawrence Market, another place the guide book told us we should visit. The produce looked amazing and there were places in here to buy food and some tables to sit at. There was also a shop to buy wine but because you’re not supposed to drink in a public place you could be given little paper cups to drink out of. The lady assured us that lots of people do this but we didn’t feel comfortable with it.
The Fairmont New York is the most beautiful building and when you walk in you are blown away by the beauty of the place. It was absolutely fabulous with pianist playing – A little moment of heaven. We treat ourselves to a drink here. We both went for cocktails and sipped them very slowly to soak the ambiance up! As you would expect, it wasn’t cheap (a slight understatement) but lovely and really worth it for the experience. Sadly, the Pianist finished for a break at 4pm. If we went again we would check out the times he plays so we didn’t miss it! As he finished, the lights dimmed and gentlish pop music played.
After returning to the hotel to change we were out for dinner at The Keg steakhouse. It was very buzzy and lively. Good steaks, served with hot beetroot. The wine was reasonable, about 30$ a bottle. 26oz is 1 bottle. 5oz is 142ml. 6oz is 177ml which is a uk medium glass.
Not quite ready for home, we tried to find somewhere to go on the way back to the hotel. There was a Jazz bar which sounded amazing but unfortunately it was 20$ each to get in and as we were only planning to be out another 30 – 60 minutes, we decided it was too much to pay. It seemed lots of bars close at 10pm on Thursdays.
Easter is a big holiday here, and we visited over the easter weekend, so we found on Good Friday lots of the shops and cafes were closed in fact we went back to The Path for a Danish Pastry and the shop was closed – we had to have a ‘Tim Hortons’ – basically a Canadian McDonald’s. This was a real low point for us and the only recommendation we can make is please don’t waste your money! The bars on and evening also closed early so maybe have drinks before your meal if you want to have a later night out!
We caught the ferry to Toronto Islands. The ferry boats go to 3 different islands: Centre, Harlan’s and Ward. The islands are all connected so you can walk between the. We choose to get a ticket to Ward. This cost around 7$ for a return ticket. The ferry is pretty basic and only has seating inside – so wrap up warm. We were lucky the sun was shining and we stood on the deck admiring the skyline. The shops and services here don’t really open until early May so it seemed a little run down, that said, it was lovely just walking round and the views were amazing looking back over Toronto. In the summer there is a beach to sit on and a cafe and restaurant and I can imagine lots of locals get the ferry across for the open space
The Goodmans Pub on the harbour was a great spot for lunch: had nice views, good food, and it was cheaper than a lot of places.
We had pre-booked the CN Tower for dinner in the 360 degree rotating restaurant. It takes 72 mins to rotate fully and you are allowed 90 mins at the table. We got there early as we were hoping to go the viewing platform before dinner, however as I mentioned previously this want the case and ended up having 2 hours in the restaurant, it was quite quiet, if they were busy I can imagine they would be much stricter. I would definitely say to do this experience- it was amazing, the food was very mediocre, by far the worst food we had on the trip but the view was phenomenal.
Having paid for meal you can go to the viewing platform downstairs but it was absolutely rammed so we went back up the stairs to the 360 restaurant and got the lift down without queues. The lift is glass so you can see the view going up and down. Dinner for us was 327$ plus tip. We had 2 courses at 75$ each (90$ for three) but having said it was our anniversary we got a free pudding to share which was delicious, the best part of the meal!
The service was also quite poor, with Tim’s plate being removed while I was still eating, but again the views made up for this!
TOP TIP: Make sure you pre book your table- obviously the weather is something that can never be guaranteed so maybe check the long range forecast. You are not able to book a window seat either, so if it’s an anniversary or celebration make sure you let them know! We also checked the sunset time before booking so we had planned about an hour before sunset and half an hour after. We were so lucky as we had a beautiful clear night.
The following day, we picked up the hire car that was included in our package. The package was to pick up in the centre of Toronto and drop off at the airport, there was a charge of for this, but because the car hire company hadn’t advised about this, they only charges $25 rather than $70.
It’s worth googling car hire hints and tips before you go as the car hire companies don’t give out much advise: Be aware you can undertake and if you’re turning right you have to let pedestrians cross. Due to the extremes in temperature, the roads are pretty bumpy too potentially worse than in the UK.
We stopped at Vineland on the way to Niagara on the Lake (NOTL), another recommendation we had received. We did a wine tasting, 3 x 2oz glasses for 16$ sitting on a mezzanine floor above the farm / wine shop. We then drove onto the Queens Landing Hotel which had a large free car park at the front and was in a decent location. The locals we spoke to said it was the best hotel in NOTL. She told us our room didn’t have a view so I asked if we could upgrade but got short sharp shrift that it was booked by a third party and they weren’t allowed to offer us any kind of upgrade. It’s a shame as the back of the hotel overlooked a small marina which would have been lovely to look over.
Lunch was at Corks. It had a lovely glass conservatory style frontage and looked lovely with the sun shining in. I had the special which was a Buffalo chicken wrap, which was to die for. Deep fried chicken breast with buffalo sauce and ranch sauce, grated parmesan, iceberg lettuce. Slightly spicy and very large but beautiful. 21$. Worth every penny. Tim had the chicken Caesar wrap which he also said was gorgeous but there was no food envy going on from me! We went to Corks again for dinner as other places very expensive or quite empty and managed to get a window seat – there’s definitely a theme. Our lovely waitress recommended we to go to The Angel Inn where they had live music. It was absolutely fabulous and the pub just got busier and busier throughout the evening. It was full of locals, some Canadians and some ex-pats who were all so friendly and welcoming. Good to get there a bit earlier, we were there about 8.30, to get a seat.
We’d walked round in the afternoon and found the underground fort. It literally took a couple of minute look round as you couldn’t access all parts of it, but the views were amazing and you could see across to Toronto and the CN Tower. Luck was definitely on outside with the weather, clear blue skies again! We found a great Golf Club too. The view from the golf club was amazing, straight across the lake towards America! The Dinner menu looked expensive but the breakfast menu looked delicious and great value. There was a buffet breakfast starting at 10am as it was Easter Sunday, but they were also serving the normal breakfast 8-9am. We booked a table for 8.45am the following morning and breakfast was great with the most magnificent view. The golf club was virtually empty but I got a lovely pot of English Breakfast tea – a joke in our family that wherever I am in the world I ask for English Breakfast.
We set off early and drove to Niagara Falls for the last stage of our journey. We realised we had missed another Fort on the road out of NOTL but decided to carry on going. On the way we stopped to have a look at the Whirlpool Areo Car. This is a cable car that has been in operation since 1916 and is suspended from 6 sturdy cables which gives wonderful views of the Niagara Whirlpool – It was about 17$ each, it wasn’t for us, so we drove the White Water Walk. You travel down 70 metres in an elevator that was built in the 1930s onto the gorge, and then walked through the 73 metre ‘leaky’ tunnel – What a wonderful experience! The power and speed of the water is incredible and we’d definitely recommend you doing it first before you see the falls as once you’ve seen the falls you’d probably be less impressed 😉
There is car parking all over around the area for around $30. We choose to park at our hotel for 45$ a day as we thought it was safer and easier just to keep it close.
We saw the Falls … wow, wow wow. Absolutely incredible another tick on a bucket list of thing to see…
We had a little wander round and then went to Table Rock welcome centre and the restaurant in there. Incredible views over the falls, which obviously is reflected in the price. We had the smoked salmon sandwich with chips which we shared and was lovely. The portions here are so big it’s crazy! In fact we enjoyed it here so much we had exactly the same lunch here the next day!
We had pre-booked dinner up the Skylon, again having checked the sunset time so we could see the Falls by day and night. We mentioned about our wedding anniversary again and managed to get a table by the window. I had the Canadian Smoked Salmon and Tim had the Shrimps and Scallops Provencale for a starter – Both were delicious. For mains, Tim chose the striploin steak which was really tough and I had the seafood pasta which was huge and quite nice. When we mentioned about Tim’s steak, they offered a free dessert instead. The food and service were much better than the CN towers.
The Casinos at Niagara are the biggest in Canada, so we had to go for a look. It was a crazy place and we were slightly overwhelmed so didn’t end up having a go, but it was well worth visiting to watch those brave enough to risk losing their money.
On Monday, out last full day in Canada, we had breakfast up The Tower, just opposite our hotel. When looking at the menu the day before, the waiter told us it was an IHOP breakfast. IHOP is an American Pancake firm that’s specialises in American Breakfast – we didn’t really enjoy it, and found that it wasn’t good value for money, but again your paying for the incredible view.
We had prebooked the Maid in the Mist, but this wasn’t running so we went on the Hornblower instead. It was absolutely incredible, it was very wet and windy and I’m really not sure I had fully anticipated the strength and ferocity of it all.
I would definitely say to take a waterproof cover for your phone! They give you a poncho but holding your phone up to take photos and videos allows the water to go down your sleeves and also in the gap by your face. You will definitely need to dry off afterwards, or go and change your clothes.
We were lucky and sat in the sun having a lovely glass of wine as we got off the boat. It was about 25$ for 2 x 9oz glasses.
After lunch we did the ‘Behind the Falls self guided tour’ that was included in our holiday. (It was about 24$ each if you had to pay.) A series of tunnels getting you up close and personal. When you actually go behind the falls you are in the tunnel completely protected about 15 feet back and behind a fence, so not in any danger at all. You also go to the edge of the Falls and see the volume of water coming over the edge. You stay completely dry doing this but and it was worth it.
Dinner at the Keg, the same menu as in Toronto(so we knew what to expect). We asked for a window table so waited at the bar for one to become available. I never tired of this view – absolutely worth the wait. The Keg are renowned for steaks but I just didn’t fancy another so I had the calamari and tuna tartare starters at 22$ each. Both were huge and really good value. Tim had the scallop and bacon starter and got about 8 scallops wrapped in bacon on a skewer, again about 22$.
After dinner we caught the Fenicula down to the front by the Falls. 3.50$ each way or 8$ for a day pass. The falls looked spectacular lit up, and fabulous to be so close and hear the sound of water crashing over the edge.
We set the alarm early the next day to see the sunrise over the falls which was beautiful. We left the hotel about 9 and headed back to the Golf Club at Niagara on the Lake for another of their fabulous breakfast with a lovely view over the lake. The staff here are great and everyone just so friendly. We stopped at the Fort we missed a few days earlier- but this is seemingly only open weekends 10-5. We then headed to Lock 3 on the Welland canal. It’s a popular place to watch ship navigate one of the world engineering marvels. The outdoor discovery park also gives you chance to soak up the local history.
We’d decided to come back to Toronto early as we wanted a nice meal before our flight left. We dropped of the car and found a place at the airport to leave our bags safely which cost 20$ each bag for 8 hours and caught the UP Express to Union’ (a rail link from the airport to downtown Toronto) it takes about 27 mins and costs 12.35$ each and and walked to the harbour from there to find a restaurant (about 10-15 minute walk)
And then it was home time…At about 5.30 we set off back to the airport, collected our luggage and waited for our flight home.
… this was one of the best trips we’ve ever been on! The Canadians are just the most lovely, kind and helpful people. We did some amazing things and saw some incredible views.
There was the right amount of time in each location to see what we needed to see. We ate really well but did spend quite a bit of money. We didn’t take any Canadian dollars and were able to put everything on our Starling bank or Tesco Credit card.
All in all, we’re buzzing since we got home and would recommend this trip to anyone who is limited to time but wants a proper bucket list trip! Thanks Helen and the Arundel Travel team!