Life is a Barrel of Fun as Melanie Harper from Oasis Travel Bangor heads for Toronto and Niagara falls as guest of Prestige Holidays and Air Transat.
How you start your holiday often sets the tone for what’s to come … and I certainly got off to a high-flying start on my recent trip from Gatwick to Toronto. An upgrade to the airline’s Option Plus provided not only extra legroom (very welcome on a trans-Atlantic flight), but also some lovely extras including a bottle of Prosecco, tasty nibbles and a great little amenity pack.
Airline upgrades can seem like a bit of an extravagance when you’re making your holiday booking, but it’s an indulgence that can pay off, allowing you to start your vacation feeling relaxed and pampered and making sure the return journey isn’t so exhausting that it takes some of the shine off that great holiday you’ve just enjoyed. After sampling some of Transat’s tender care I know I’ll be looking at upgrades for future trips.
First stop for us was the well-appointed Chelsea Hotel Downtown – and the clue is in the name! The hotel is, indeed, downtown, right in the heart of almost everything that’s happening in Toronto, close to attractions, theatres and shopping. It’s a fantastic choice for families, with a dedicated play area and a brilliant pool complete with corkscrew slide. Dining options are varied with The Market Garden breakfast room providing an incredibly appetising range of kick start cuisine for the day ahead. If you’ve never been to Toronto, pack some flat shoes and give yourself loads of time to explore; the city is bursting with things to do and you will want to take in as much as you possibly can.
If you are market-mad, be sure to check out the lively ambiance of St Lawrence Market with more than 120 vendors selling all sorts of food, crafts and gifts … then head to St Jacob’s Country, home of the Mennonites, to see their traditional lifestyle and visit the market. Take the opportunity while you are there to try Mennonite food and visit the mini brewery.
Toronto is a great city for independent exploration, easy to get around on foot or by using the excellent underground system. In a single morning we were able to see the dramatic CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium and Harbour where we boarded the Mariposa boat for a cruise around the Toronto Islands Parklands.
Suitably exhausted, we were more than ready for a wonderful lunch at The Sheraton Centre Downtown where our private chef served up nine amazing courses of local specialities before we were on the go again, this time headed for the superb Royal Ontario Museum.
That evening we enjoyed a tour of the incredibly stylish Ritz Carlton with its world class spa and exceptional dining. Amongst the city’s newest luxury hotels, the Ritz Carlton has already taken Toronto by storm, setting new standards for chic. Next day we enjoyed a guided city tour hosted by Luxury Coach of Toronto, taking in the Financial District, Chinatown, Little Italy and the Historic Distillery District which has been developed into a vibrant centre for arts, crafts, culture and entertainment and is filled with galleries, art studios, workshops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafes.
Then onto the recently refurbished Fairmont Royal York, a landmark hotel in the heart of Toronto’s Downtown, across the road from the Union Square Station and connected to the underground. Facilities include a fabulous health club, give restaurants and four lounges, making this a popular meeting place for locals as well as visitors.
En route for Niagara Falls, we enjoyed a superb stop visiting the Konzelmann Estate Winery, a German-style vineyard, complete with a fascinating tour and a delightful tasting session! In the quaint and attractive town of Niagara On The Lake we checked out the Vintage Hotels’ Pillar & Post Hotel (which boasts its own health spa); The Prince of Wales Hotel (which has hosted royalty in its time) before dining in the excellent restaurant at The Queen’s Landing Hotel.
Off to Niagara Falls in the dark to check into the supposedly haunted Old Stone Inn for the night – all very atmospheric, but not quite as terrifying as the prospect the next morning of being strapped into the Mist Rider Zipline over the world-famous Falls. We were all strapped in and ready to go when the winds picked up and our mini adventure had to be abandoned in line with rigorous safety procedures. I felt both disappointed and relieved. I’m sure it would have been an amazing lifetime experience, but I was beginning to feel genuinely scared! If the thrill experience is on your personal ‘bucket list’ do be aware that this is very much weather-dependant.
The Marriott On The Falls is worth special mention. It was here that we enjoyed lunch with a wonderful view at Milestones Restaurant, directly overlooking Niagara Falls. Situated just 12 minutes’ walk from Falls Casino Resort, some of its rooms have equally impressive views – well worth the upgrade. Close by we enjoyed the White Water Walk and the zen-like calm of the Butterfly Conservatory, sauntering along humid walkways with colourful butterflies from all over the world flying around us.
That afternoon we also lost out on the opportunity to take the Niagara Helicopter for a Falls flyover because of the view: my advice to customers in future will be to try to schedule a few days in and around Niagara in a bid to capture a good weather window.
Despite those disappointments our visit to Niagara was even more exciting and memorable than any of us could have expected. On board the Hornblower Niagara we got up close and personal with one of the world’s most iconic and famous tourist attractions. Even though I got totally soaked it was something I wouldn’t have missed for the world! The glorious spectacle of being tucked in behind the dramatic Falls is something that will live with me for ever, so no surprise that I would heartily recommend Toronto and Niagara Falls to Oasis Travel customers. Contact me if you’d like to hear more.