By Cate Boyle:
We made our way to another province in Canada, and it was made possible by VIA rail. We boarded the VIA rail train at Central Station (Gare Centrale) in Montreal, Quebec and headed toward Toronto Ontario full speed ahead. These VIA rail trains differ from that of Amtrak in speed and style. Between Montreal and Toronto, we cruised across the highest speed passenger train in Canada! Upon receiving our boarding passes, we obtained both passenger car and seating assignments unlike the reserved seating on Amtrak trains. However, you can request preferences such as aisle, window and seating direction.
We finally arrived at Toronto's Union Station which is currently undergoing major renovations to improve capacity and the expansion of the GO (Government of Ontario) commuter transit system. Union Station is a great hub for all transportation in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) including intercity VIA rail, GO Transit commuter rail, and TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) which operates the city's subways, streetcars, and buses. Union station makes it very easy to get anywhere you need to go across the city!
Then off we went to explore Toronto! We left union station on a mission to try out the city's streetcar system! Having never been on a streetcar before I was surprised to see that the streetcar could be accessed underground through Union Station as well. Following the bustle of cars, the street car led us to Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street where we got off to enjoy Kensington Market.
We found ourselves wandering through Kensington Market for over an hour stumbling upon many interesting shops and local businesses. A tiny silver shop called Silver with Attitude caught our eye as we walked back down the street. The owner, a lovely Spanish man, began striking up a conversation with Victoria in Spanish (Her time in Cuba surely paid off) and was extremely helpful when trying to find a souvenir to remember our time in Toronto!
As the rain clouds began to hover above us the time came for a city wide bike tour courtesy of Bike Share Toronto. We met some representatives of the rapidly growing Bike Share Toronto group, Troy, and Sophie, who thankfully not only supplied us with bikes for our afternoon ride but also some ponchos!
They informed us that the biking community is exponentially growing in Toronto and they are following right behind encouraging the city to make more bike lanes on the roads. They also have an upcoming movement that will be supplying the city with 70 more Bike Share Toronto stations between August 8th and August 20th to their already existing 200 stations.
After learning a bit about their organization, we took off with our guide, Sophie. We picked up our bikes at a station near Kensington Market and rode through the city heading towards the Lake Shore Trail. She was an incredible guide and an even better motivational coach as Victoria, and I experienced our very first bike ride in the rain! Following the trail, we watched as the storm rolled in over Lake Ontario and we made our way up to High Park, taking the hills one at a time! As we rode through the park like little ducks in a row, the rain started to lighten up and made for a beautiful scenic ride! Everyone at Bike Share Toronto was fun and helpful people who are passionate about the growing bike community in their city!
We spent the evening wandering The Distillery District in the Heritage district of Toronto. The Distillery District is the largest area of Victorian Industrial architecture that has been incredibly preserved in all of North America.
Previously, the area was a manufacturing district owned by Gooderham and Worts Distillery in 1832. Covering 13 acres with over 50 businesses The Distillery District is Toronto’s home for arts and culture. This part of the city absolutely will not disappoint, we were able to a have fantastic dinner and some brews made in house at Mill Street Brew Pub.
The first thing we did the following morning had our first visit to Tim Horton’s for breakfast and coffee. Directly following our breakfast, we headed back to Union Station and hopped on the GO Transit excursion train to Niagara Falls.
This train only runs seasonally during the summer months and is not only used for the ease of transit to nearby Niagara Falls but also widely used by the up and coming bike community in Toronto. These GO Transit excursion trains are equipped with multiple bike cars which were filled on a beautiful Saturday morning. With fewer stops than the typical commuter route, we quickly found ourselves leaning over the edge of Niagara Falls, Ontario.