The Beginning of a Journey: Falling for Canada!

Why hello there! It might seem like I disappeared off the face of the earth but I assure you, I’m still here! I’m actually back home in Wales right now, and I’ve been back since the 15th of June. But that means I’ve got a lot to fill you in on, as I promised you at the end of the last entry for an adventure, and I’m not fond of breaking promises so here we go!

We begin on the 23rd of May when the 5 of us (myself, Hugo, Caitlin, Rikako and Etsu) set out on our adventure across the U.S. (and Canada). Our first destination was the Hertz car rental place, in order to get our vehicle for the day. We’d booked a car the day before and put Rikako down as the main driver as she had an international driving licence. But in reality Hugo would be the one doing all the driving for today. Nonetheless we all had to pretend that Rikako was the one that would be doing all the driving.

Whilst in the process of getting out car, for some random reason we got upgraded for free to a Jeep which was great. Our love for free stuff will never end and came to fruition here! Although it actually ended up being a pretty tight fit in the car with us and all our stuff. So we set off!… to the car park a few meters away. We’d left for Hertz at around 10:00 am and it was lunch time by the time we’d actually got the car, so we stopped at the bagel store before actually properly setting off.

Our first proper destination was Niagara Falls, which is about a 4 and a half hour drive from Albany. The setup was Hugo driving, Rikako in the front and myself, Caitlin and Etsu in the back (plus Etsu’s teddy and travel buddy: Handsome Babe!). We determined it was like a family, Hugo and Rikako were the parents and the three of us in the back were the children. It was a pretty long drive, but we found various ways to keep ourselves entertained. Although for the majority of the drive Rikako was asleep, so she had no problems there!

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We arrived at Niagara Falls later on in the day, we parked the car and went for a stroll, and let me tell you it was incredible! It’s definitely worth all the hype it gets. It has a really nice surrounding area too, perfect for taking pictures (which is exactly what I did!). There was a main viewing area and then another more secluded spot which was right next to where the falls where. So Niagara Falls is another thing I can tick off my imaginary bucket list!

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We now had to make our way somehow to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to catch a bus to Toronto. But before doing that, Hugo and Rikako had to return the car, as like I said, we only had it for one day and we could only return it on the American side and not the Canadian side. Whilst the parents were away doing that, the children sat at a bench near the falls with all the bags. It was quite a long wait.

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The children got bored and took some pictures

When we were all back together again, we started out by walking and planned to walk across the rainbow bridge. But after a bit of walking with all the bags and suitcases, we realised that it was going to be a bit of a struggle. Luckily for us there was a taxi nearby who was willing to drive us across the border and to the bus station. Crossing the border was a very interesting experience, and not that troubling at all. We had a very friendly and polite Canadian border officer checking all our passports. As he was checking them I remembered that the drinking age in Canada was 19, which meant I would be of legal drinking age again!

It was late afternoon when we arrived at the bus station and Etsu, Caitlin and Hugo went to have a look around whilst myself and Rikako stayed at the bus station to watch over the bags. When the others came back, they told us how weird it was here. I was a bit confused at first, but after walking around with them in Canadian Niagara Falls, I saw what they were on about. The place was pretty much completely deserted! It was like a proper big town, but with empty streets. It was really weird, and just a tad bit creepy.

Anyway, we went to a bar in town and had dinner, we also withdrew some Canadian money, which just looks like funny money (sorry anybody who’s from Canada). We ended up leaving our bags at the bar and went for a walk to the falls from the other side. It was quite a long walk there and was dark by the time we got there. It’s a good thing it was dark though, as we got to see how cool the falls looked lit up at night.

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I was a bit worried that we’d have to hurry back to get our things and then catch the bus. But that’s just me being nervous about everything. I was talking to Rikako about it and she found it very amusing, deducing that my personality is: Stressed! (It sounds silly, but it’s very true!). We did thankfully make it back in time and caught our 10:50 pm bus to Toronto. But for some reason we were forced out of the small bus station to wait outside, as it closes before our bus even gets there! The guy who was closing up was very rude, he wouldn’t even let Rikako get a drink before closing up! The bus driver wasn’t much nicer either, he was very impatient with everyone and didn’t even let me put my suitcase in the hold of the bus. He even told someone on the bus to turn off the notification noise on their phone because apparently it annoyed “everybody” (it was really just him, no one else had mentioned it at all!)

I think I fell asleep on the bus, because the next thing I knew we were in a big city with loads of skyscrapers. We’d finally arrived in Toronto, but now our task was to find the house we’d be staying in, as we’d rented one through Airbnb. It felt like a very long walk with all our suitcases to the house. It was past midnight and we had to walk past a very questionable part of the city to the house. I was very tired by the time we got to the house, but there was one final problem we had to face; we didn’t know how to get into the house! Rikako had booked the house, so she had the details and sent them on us all in our group chat. The only problem was that I was the only one with a phone that could get 3/4G and access the internet…and it had run out of battery! (with no charged portable chargers either!).

We knew that we needed to use the code 6969 to open something (we’d been joking about that code ever since we found out about it, who could forget a code like that!?), but we didn’t know what! Rikako and Caitlin decided to go and get WiFi at a McDonalds that we’d passed on the way to the house, whilst myself, Etsu and Hugo tried to look for a way in. At this point I was very stressed and worried, so I wasn’t much help at all. Hugo and Etsu on the other hand were amazing. Cool and calm throughout! Hugo looked around one of the bushes near the front door and manged to find a little safe box! What a find! All of a sudden I was filled with relief. That is until we put the code in and nothing happened! We were so close now, but we were still with no way into the house. Etsu then decided to have another look in a different part of the bush and found another little safe box! This time when we put the code in, it opened! We finally had the keys and we were in. Special shout out to Etsu and Hugo for staying so calm in what (I feel) was a very worrying situation, and for saving us from sleeping on the streets of Toronto! Caitlin and Rikako returned shortly after we were in. They were happy to be in the house, but a little disappointed that they weren’t the heroes that found the solution this time. But I’m still very grateful for their efforts!

The house/flat was very nice (with free Netflix!), and we found out before coming here, that it belonged to somewhat of a C-list celebrity. When she sent the form to Rikako for us to sign, she also sent in the same e-mail a video compilation of her acting in different things. We found this very odd but very funny. So we looked her up and were not disappointed with what we found. She’s a Lady Gaga impersonator, who’s also a lesbian and has a music video called ‘Love is Love’ where she rides a flower bike with another woman. Anyway long story short, we were staying in a minor lesbian celebrity’s house, and it was very nice. After one day we’d already done loads, and there’s only more to come!

We stayed in this woman’s house 🙃

We all got up pretty late the next morning after an extremely long day yesterday. We didn’t really have a plan for what to do in Toronto, so we just spent the morning walking around the city. We saw the town hall which reminded me of Albany and Empire Plaza. There were some large letters that spelt out Toronto, and we took a picture in front of it, being the good tourists that we are. There was also a really large shopping mall that we briefly visited (we couldn’t really buy anything seeing as we’re travelling pretty packed already).

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Here’s a little bonus video of Rikako unconsciously dancing by city hall, she just loves to dance wherever she is!

We had brunch today at a place called ‘Eggspectation’ (love the pun), where I had a pretty sweet milkshake coffee combo and some chips (the British ones) and gravy. After food we actually planned on going places, Rikako wanted to go to a sweet store called ‘Sweet Jesus’ (these store names are genius), and after hearing the name of the store so did I! But in the end we settled on a brewery closer to the lake shore called ‘Steam Whistle’. I mean why not make use being of legal drinking age whilst I still can!

Miranda shrug

This was actually my first time going to a brewery and I have to say it was pretty cool. Everyone was so chilled and laid back, it was just a very nice atmosphere. The tour was very interesting, and I did learn a lot. The free samples of beer were also nice, even if they did make me feel pretty bloated. After a very enjoyable tour, we visited the Lake shore of Lake Ontario; my second Great Lake! We saw a Swan which was pretty neat (Go Swansea!), we also saw a very large dog that let us pet it which automatically made the day 10 times better than if we hadn’t petted a big dog.

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On our way back to the house we stopped at a small supermarket and got some wine, pizza, lasagne and KitKat ice cream. This was all to go with our evening of watching Netflix (yes, it was as amazing as it sounds!). We ended up watching a comedy film by Rickey Gervais called ‘Special Correspondents’, it took us a long time to pick something, but it ended up being very funny.

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It was now time to go out for a drink, which I could actually join this time! Our first plan was to go to a karaoke bar, but when we got there you had to pay for a private room, which wasn’t what we were really after. Next we tried going to a sports bar in this massive building filled with all sorts of stores and eateries. It was really loud, busy and expensive, so we decided to bail quickly after being seated. After 2 failed attempts we finally found the right place in an Irish pub. At this pub I could finally buy a drink in the form of a Strongbow which was rare, as in America I’ve noticed that they don’t have alcoholic cider as widely as they have non-alcoholic cider which I find very peculiar. Caitlin introduced Etsu and Rikako to Baileys which was hilarious because I think the both of them are going to be hooked on it now!

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It was an amazing evening and I was thoroughly enjoying travelling with my 4 travel companions, it certainly wouldn’t have been the same without them!

The next morning in our luxurious lesbian pad we didn’t have the best start to our day. In fact it was a pretty disastrous start. This was due to the fact that we couldn’t rent a car online from Hertz in Buffalo New York, or in Niagara Falls for tomorrow. We spent ages trying to figure out a solution. This put our plans in jeopardy, as we wouldn’t be able to drive all the way to Chicago! We were baffled, and I am still baffled at the fact that both Hertz in Buffalo and Niagara Falls had zero rental cars that we could use! How is that possible!?

I refused to believe that there was no rental cars in Buffalo and decided to have a little perusal on the internet to try and find something, and I did! I found a website that had a whole list of car rental companies that did have cars in Buffalo that we could then drop off in Chicago. I showed this discovery to the others and we eventually found a car! I’m glad we didn’t give up and were able to find a solution in the end! Now that that issue was taken care of, we could get on and enjoy our last full day in Toronto.

It was raining today so we did a lot of indoor stuff, and the first of those places was St Lawrence Market. I was going to say it was like any other market, but it was actually way better then any other market I’ve been to. We spent quite a while just wondering around. We also ended up having lunch there, well I say lunch, but myself and Rikako ended up getting cake and cheesecake!

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It stopped raining for a bit and so we went for a walk to some more parts of the city. We went to an adult store just for the lolz, but it was incredibly awkward being in there, it absolutely horrified Etsu and Rikako 😂. We also went back to that big mall, and this is where we picked up a surprise travel companion. Caitlin discovered an umbrella just hanging on one of the railing with no one around that appeared to own it. It was a very nice-looking umbrella, a Burberry umbrella in fact which costs around £ 215! Hugo decided that we should take it and try to sell it at a pawn shop and make a nice free profit, so we took it!

How Naughty Miranda

After all of that, our next activity was to find a place we could take part in a pub quiz. We decided we wanted to do one last night when we were at the Irish pub. We ended up going to a British inspired pub called the Duke of something or other (you know how pub names usually I are, fine if you must know I forgot the name of the Pub!). To be fair, it did feel very British, and they even served fish and chips, which we ended up ordering and shared with some nachos.

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This place also had a dart board, so we ended up playing a game of around the clock, but a version where you only hit the bullseye and the numbers 16-20 3 times each. It was boys V girls and myself and Hugo were victorious! I never doubted us! Then the time came to finally play that pub quiz, which for some reason is just called ‘trivia’ in America! We were off to a good start with the first two categories of Geography and World War II. But our strong start was completely undone by the ‘American sports mascots’ category (what on earth kind of category is that!?), then the Madonna category and finally the American TV comedy category (which all related to TV shows that were going on before we were born!). It should come as no surprise to you but our team (The Great Danes!) came last! Seeing as how ridiculous some of the categories were, I didn’t feel that bad about losing.

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It had been a fun final day in Toronto, even if we didn’t find a pawn shop to sell that umbrella; so it ended up travelling with us all the way to our next destination in Chicago! Seeing as we were leaving fairly early in the morning, we had to tidy up the house as we wouldn’t have much time in the morning; we certainly didn’t want to disappoint our renter and Lady Gaga impersonator! We must have done a good job, as she left positive feedback saying she’d gladly let us stay at her place again. If we ever go back to Toronto, we know where to stay!

There. That’s a nice little intro to what we got up to on our travels. There’s still a lot more to come, and a LOT more picture to show you as well. Speaking of which, special shout out to Etsu and Rikako for providing the majority of the picture for this blog post and for the ones to come (you can tell if the pictures are mine if there’s nobody in them!). I hope I can follow up this post rather quickly, as they kind of all go together. We’ll see how it goes. Anyway, until next time.

TTFN

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