The CN Tower experience

Our Second stop was the Canadian National (CN) Tower. Interestly I had no idea that “CN” actually stood for something. As Canadians, the name CN tower roll off our tongues like CN is an actual word that’s found in the dictionary. As is quite common, we drove around for a bit in bumper to bumper traffic. It was rush hour. We were hoping to find parking nearby but upon hearing the cost for parking ($30) we drove a little distance to get it for cheaper. When we saw a yellow sign that read, “$13.50 for parking” we pulled into the narrow entrance, paid and drove down a steep tunnel to find a spot. We found one located near an exit so we parked, used the elevator to get to the main level and exited to the busy downtown streets.

We were now walking towards the CN tower with no exact knowledge of directions. After walking for almost 10 minutes I heard my cousin say, “where is the CN tower?” We looked at each other and laughed because this tower can be seen from miles and miles away. You can spot the tower while in other cities. But somehow we were as close as you could get and could not see it. We decided to raise our heads to the sky to locate only one of the highest towers in the world, and there it was standing like a giant above our heads!

We made our way to the location of the CN tower by following the signs that led us to the elevator. We pressed the first floor to arrive on ground level and even though we located the root of the tower we were still uncertain how to make our way inside. It took seconds to comprehend that we needed to walk behind the glass. It was reassuring though when we saw the lovely sign above our heads, “La tour CN tower”. So many years of wanting to visit this tower, and now I could actually see it. We made our way around a curve, had our photo taken, showed our tickets and off we went into the elevator. This elevator was going to take us all 1, 815.4 ft into the sky or maybe a little less since we weren’t going to the peak. In 1976, this tower was built as a communications and observation tower but only recently in the last decade did it become an actual tourist attraction. When this tower was first built, it was the world’s tallest free-standing structure and the world’s tallest tower. It held both records for 34 years. This tower is considered to be a signature icon of Toronto’s skyline and a symbol of Canada. Not surprisingly, in 1995 it was declared one of the modern seven wonders of the world.

On this Friday evening standing so many feet in the sky and looking over the city of Toronto and beyond I declared that I love Toronto. This city in fact is very beautiful. You see this from ground level, but you feel it at this altitude. In all the city’s I’ve seen, there’s no city like Toronto. And I love it here. I stay there for minutes staring out into beyonder. My cousin says, this is a place to clear your mind. I agreed.

So really, I think you can be a tourist anywhere, even in your very own country. Image

Day Two: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

A stroll along Falls Ave alone can leave you in awe if you’ve never been to Niagara Falls before. The street is filled with restaurants, haunted museums (House of Frankenstein, Haunted House, Ripley’s believe it or not), theatres, shops, ice cream parlours and so much more. There is also a big ferris wheel that somehow fits in this already crowded area. When you remove your eye from one thing, something else catches it. You find yourself constantly looking back for fear you missed something important. One building has a man hanging from a rope; moving in an up and down motion as if climbing it. On first view you think it’s real, but when you look back you realize it’s a dummy. When deciding what to eat, that might take awhile because the restaurants are in quantities! Even Burger King looks appealing! It’s called, “the House of Whopper” in this location. I decided to sit and eat there. I took a window seat so I could get full view of the bustle of activities. So many people! People come in all kinds of colour, shapes and sizes. It’s hard to dissect tourists. I completed my meal and joined the crowd. Every space is occupied by a body, it’s hard to maneuver myself. What other country look as diverse as this one?

I’m walking towards the famous Niagara Falls. I arrive at the end of Falls Ave and I cross the street. I see signs about the prices for “Maid of the mist”- this is an opportunity to get in a boat and go up close to the falls. I’m going to pass on this activity today because it’s too cold to get wet. A couple years ago I had a chance to walk under the falls, which is another activity you have to pay for. I continue to walk along the boardwalk with people travelling in opposite directions with cameras, eyes on the falls. There are two falls. The first is on the U.S side though it flows out into Canada as far as I can see. Right next to it, is the Canadian falls. In comparison, the Canadian falls is like a giant or like a great great Grandfather. Where do all this water come from? And where is it going? It flows so powerful that it leaves this great mist and looks more like smoke is exuding from the water.

What about falls that people like so much? Tourists come from near and far to take pictures. The rain is drizzling but no one is taking shelter. They seem mesmerize by the presence of such a spectacle. I stop for a moment to stare at the falls. I’m surprised to see what looks like a hundreds of birds flocking around. There is a white residue that floats to the edges of the stream? Lake? Boats are in the water conducting tours, going as near to the falls as possible, then turning back.  I wonder if it would be at all possible to climb this falls the way I climbed Dunn’s River? The powerful current and energy of the water washes that thought away. I would probably die if I tried.

Niagara Falls was a great experience. I’ve only seen it a few times. Viewing the falls at night is a completely different experience than during the day. And coming to the Niagara Falls area during Christmas time is also a sight to see with all the lights.

Thursday, May 23: A dream at Strawberry Hill, Jamaica

Truly, I am in love with Jamaica. When I think things can’t possibly get better it does. When I think that I have already seen most of what I had in mind, there’s more. I have never heard about Strawberry Hill until today. It’s located in the parish of St. Andrew up the mountain in an area called Irish Town. Apparently the hotel & restaurant are owned by Christopher Blackwell, the recording studio owner where Bob Marley produced his albums. Before I tell you about beautiful strawberry hills let me talk about the Zoo.

Hope gardens was not really on my list of things to see, but I had a chance to see the Zoo and the small botanical garden. The zoo is not as luxurious as other international zoos but there were birds there that I admired. The macaws, the yellow-chest parrots, and the peacocks were a few of the memorable species. There were tons of parrots but one in particular said, “hello” to me- it was as clear as a person talking. And I happily had a conversation with him. Being around nature today was totally relaxing. It was labour day here and while some people were outside working away, and others like my family spent the day at home. As for me, I used it as a day to see other attractions in Jamaica.

Something New
Strawberry Hills (below the restaurant): There was a museum that I walked through, which led me to where I am standing.

The best part of the day was driving up the mountain (seems like all the good places are either up a mountain or down a mountain). How can I describe this adventure.. it was perfect, idyllic, surreal….it must have been a dream.

It’s only in a dream where things are exactly to your expectations. All around I am at the same height as the tips of other mountains I see in the outskirts.  The clouds just hovering above us. The restaurant is in the shape of a country house…or mansion. Tables were located along the balcony while others are in a more enclosed area. There are different ways to walk outside and no matter which direction, the view is perfect. The general manager walks inside to greet us and had a small conversation with us and really made a connection. The servers all wore their smiles very well, which made for excellent service. A dream, I think. When it got dark the moon and the stars came out to look on us and being that close to the sky it almost seem I could reach them. Dinner arrived and we ate. The music created for a romantic atmosphere with the lights dimmed to perfection. When we finished all our courses, we walked towards the railing of the balcony near us and looked into yonder where all the city lights could be seen from a birds eye view. My thoughts were too many to nail one down. I just wanted to be. If I could just stay in that exact location til morning, it would have been fine with me. All I would need is a sweater, because at that altitude we were at, there was a drop in temperature.

I wish I could find the perfect words to fully describe this day and this night. It was by far the best day I have had in Jamaica, in terms of the cool climate, the height in which we were at, the view, the food, the company, and the service. I guess in a way it did not feel like Jamaica from that high. Or the experience really opened my eyes to experience Jamaica in a way that many locals have not even experienced it. When I walked over to another side of the restaurant to get a different view of the city below I was just enamoured by the moment. It had to be a dream. God is truly an artist. The way He has designed his creation is a marvel.

Jamaica has personality, it’s very appealing to look at and to experience, it’s a world in another world. It’s romantic to be around… I can choose between a day at the beach or a day in solitude on the mountain top. Jamaica is welcoming and warm (or in fact very hot). At the airport, I love that the large hummingbird that sits in a garden outside reads, “Welcome home”. The truth is, I feel at home here, so much that I’m wondering how can I stay here.