Tag Archives: Toronto cycling

Cycling the Niagara River Recreation Trail

7 Aug

There are some unforgettable sights in Niagara, Ontario. One vision that sticks in my mind is the convoy of large, leathery women that I came across on my most recent visit to the falls a few weekends ago. Flicking fag ash as they slugged along on mobility scooters, folds of dimpled flesh spilling out of sleeveless crop tops rising above their bellies, the hooligans-on-wheels seemed oblivious – or impervious – to the fact they were hogging a path that expressly stated: “No electric vehicles of any kind.”

Yep, visiting Niagara Falls requires a tolerance for wheezing tourists, high-rise hotels, tawdry casinos, and gigantic winnebagos. None of this, however, detracts from watching six million cubic feet of water thunder down a 165ft vertical drop each minute, especially when combined with a trip to some of Niagara’s more serene spots.

A fun way to experience the region’s highlights, including the mighty falls, is by taking the Niagara River Recreation Trail from Niagara-on-the-Lake, a genteel town lined with regency and classical revival style buildings – the kind of place that the Lonely Planet might describe as “elegant”.

The 58 kilometre trail runs along the Canadian side of the Niagara River all the way from Fort George, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, down to Fort Erie. Both towns played major roles in the bloody war of 1812 between America and Great Britain, which helped to shape Canadian nationalism.

I cycled a section of the trail a couple of weeks ago, completing a 55km route over a very leisurely five hours.

The route

If you’re driving to Fort George, you can park there for around $8 a day.

The most scenic part is the first section to Queenston, on a path that winds past vineyards to the right, and the river separating Canada from the USA on the left.

Niagara Falls Recreation Trail cycling bike

The trail winds along the Niagara River

Punnets of locally grown plums, peaches and cherries are sold from stalls on the side of the road, and hand-painted signs invite you to pick your own.

Cycling Niagara Falls Recreation Trail

Peach picking along the Niagara River Recreation Trail

It takes around an hour to reach Queenston; from there, the path heads up a fairly steep, shaded hill.

The ground soon levels off and, around half an hour later, the trail takes cyclists (rollerblading isn’t encouraged) past the butterfly conservatory and botanical gardens, which could make a nice detour. Zipping past, I spied a turtle lazing in the shady streetside undergrowth.

Immediately before Niagara, the path vanishes and you’re forced onto the busy main road for around 10 minutes.

As you freewheel down the hill, the falls suddenly come into view. Ta-da!

Niagara Falls, Niagara River Recreation Trail, cycle Niagara

The amazing Niagara Falls

On the return journey, I wanted to see more of the countryside so branched left after Queenston and zig-zagged past rows of sleepy vineyards and orchards.

Niagara, orchard, bike, cycling, Niagara River Recreation Trail

An orchard near Niagara-on-the-Lake

It’s hard to imagine a more scenic, relaxing, bike ride – and all within 90 minutes’ drive of Toronto.

The sunset on the way home topped off a pretty perfect day.

DSC_0341

Sun setting over the water at Niagara-on-the-Lake

If you don’t have a car, the bike train runs all summer, taking passengers from Toronto to Niagara Falls station, which is situated a block away from the trail.

Guilty pleasures of a closet sunset fan

15 Nov

This post’s dedicated to that much maligned art form – the humble sunset photo.

It’s all too easy to criticise the ubiquitous evening sky shot, but who hasn’t been tempted to take a “sun kissing the horizon” snap after a perfect day on the beach? Only the most committed wedge-haired art hipster could resist a reddy, pinky, Rothko-layered sky after a few pina coladas.

Me? I like an urban sunset, and the massive Toronto sky is the gift that never stops giving (though the gifts aren’t always welcome when in the form of a four day downpour, like last week).

My number one spot for Toronto sunsets is Ashbridges Bay Park, which I just happened to be cycling through this evening:

Ashbridges Bay Park Toronto

Not bad, eh?

I got a bit carried away; here are some more pics from my ride home:

Ashbridges Bay Park sunset Toronto

Same sunset, (very slightly) different view

Ashbridges Bay Park Toronto sunset

Peeping through the leaf-starved winter trees

Beaches Toronto sunset

Nice evening for a beachside bike ride

For what it’s worth, my other top Toronto sunset spots would be:

*Canoe restaurant, 66 Wellington Street West.

With its sweeping, floor to ceiling window views, it’s a sure-fire romance hotspot. It also does a nice line in surprise desserts:

Romantic sunset restaurant Toronto anniversary

We didn’t even order this! Hooray, even more pudding!

*Lake Ontario

As in, the actual water. Preferably from the safety of a canoe, or other floating vessel:

Toronto canoe sunset

During a summer evening paddle across to the Islands

*My apartment!

Sorry to brag, but the view ain’t half bad. No, we don’t take paying guests. Yes, you can quite possibly get a very similar view from many of the high condo blocks or hotels along the harbourfront:

Sunset Toronto CN Tower

The CN Tower, all lit up

Toronto lake sunset

The harbour at night

Toronto sunset lake

West Jet stage and Islands

Oh, I know these aren’t going to win any photography prizes – and I totally get that taking pictures of sunsets is neither cool nor clever.

But go on, admit it, they’re pretty. It’s a harmless guilty pleasure. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. It can be our little secret.

Salmon spotting in the Humber and other pick-me-ups

25 Oct

I’ve been missing home this week. But several things have put a smile on my face, including:

1. The new Topshop at The Bay (shallow, I know)

2. Listening to BBC Radio 6 Music on the new iplayer radio ap

3. Having my condo pool and jacuzzi entirely to myself for a whole, blissful, hour

4. The Songified version of the Presidential debate

5. Watching the Humber River salmon run

I’d always wanted to see salmon trying to make their way upstream. It’s hard to explain the appeal, but watching 25 pound salmon leaping out of the water in the middle of an urban park is weirdly fascinating.

Toronto Humber River Salmon

A salmon jumping out of the Humber River, Toronto

The annual spectacle attracted a crowd on Sunday afternoon, with lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” as, one-by-one, the salmon made a desperate bid for safety. Kids ran about excitedly, squealing: “Holy smoke, that was a big ‘un!”

Humber River salmon Toronto

Watching the salmon run

Sadly, we didn’t see any salmon actually make it, and their plight was exploited by a few opportunistic fishermen.

Humber River salmon fishing Toronto

Fishing for salmon in the Humber River

I got to the Humber River by bike, via a trail stretching 22km from the Harbourfront to Cruickshank Park. I think it’s my new favourite cycle route.

Here’s the route I took:

Lost in a cemetery

17 Oct

Yesterday I got lost in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. For nearly two hours.

After 90 minutes of cycling round-and-round this very beautiful, but labyrinthine, vortex of death, the gardeners were staring at me like I was at best a funeral crasher, at worst a pervy grief voyeur.

At one point I reflected on how ironic it would be if I actually died there. “Charlotte would’ve seen the funny side,” they’d say at my wake, clinking glasses mirthfully.

At least, as necrosis set in, I would’ve been comforted by the fact I was in exalted company, close to the resting grounds of Canada’s former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and its first female surgeon Jennie Smillie-Robinson, along with Métis artist Youngfox and pianist Glenn Gould.

Who wouldn’t wish to spend their dying moments in one of North America’s finest arboretums?

The cemetery was my final stop (nearly literally) on a bike trip through the Evergreen Brickworks and Moore Park Ravine.

It was a typical sunny Toronto day in that the big, blue, Canadian sky had begged me to go and play outside.

Before reaching the cemetery I’d cycled a few laps of the brickworks’ secluded wildflower meadows, which are only just in earshot of city sirens.

Heading north, along the ravine track, I’d marvelled at the autumnal colours of the trees and how the only audible noise was a black squirrel munching on an acorn.

Getting lost in the cemetery kind of ruined my zen.

But I survived to tell the tale and share these iphone snaps of my voyage:

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Here’s a map of my journey. Without meandering through the Brick Works or getting lost, like I did, it’s 12km one way.

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