Travel: Falling in Love with Canada; Cathy Gordon Enjoys Ontario's Wide Range of Attractions
Byline: Cathy Gordon
BEFORE setting off for Canada there were two main things on my wish-list -- to spot a moose and see a Mountie.
In pursuit of the first, my travelling companions and I made for the vast and beautiful Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, less than a three-hour drive away from Toronto airport.
And the signs were looking good -- literally. Driving along Highway 60 we saw bright yellow road signs declaring ``Moose Crossing''.
Our guide told us that motorists were often able to pull over and watch the huge animals sedately sip salty water from roadside ditches.
But, for us, that particular day, the magnificent moose proved elusive.
However, disappointment faded fast on arrival in the park itself, a wildlife sanctuary covering 7, 600 square kilometres.
We headed for Lake Canoe, appropriately enough, for a spot of canoeing.
Canada is the ideal destination if you crave the great outdoors, whether your thing is hiking, horse-riding, mountain-biking, water-based sports, or a round of golf.
Ontario covers 1. 1 million square kilometres and has more than 400, 000 lakes and rivers.
Chickening out of the canoeing part of our day was very much on my mind, being a wuss in water, but the best decision I made was giving it a go.
The peace of rowing in such unspoilt territory and reaching areas inaccessible except by boat was memorable -- and great for the arm muscles too. But I still didn't spot a moose, just a few mosquitoes.
But, if you are strictly a city holidaymaker, Canada is an increasingly popular destination for those who hate to stray very far from restaurants and retail therapy.
Despite its skyscrapers and shopping malls, Toronto has a distinctly multi-cultural and ``villagey'' feel.
It has 8, 000 restaurants. You can eat top-notch no sh for very reasonable prices. Look for the Pass sign in the window to ensure a good standard.
If your outlook is a little more quirky, head to Kensington Market for unusual shops and eateries.
We came across one particular cafe with a difference. As we enjoyed healthy fruit smoothies, we discovered other patrons chilling out in the funky little backyard consuming something rather more potent.
On closer inspection of the menu, the establishment announced itself to be Toronto's first cannabis cafe -- which explained the unusual aroma.
As we stepped outside, still in giggles at our gaff, we were approached by a bearded student-type, displaying a canvas of geometrical designs, who politely asked if we'd ``exchange some art for a spliff?''. Never a dull moment.
But the market, a great spot to find vintage clothing, will stay in the memory for a very different reason -- it provided me with fulfilment of wish number two.
Not just one Mountie, but two!
Never has a camera been extracted so quickly from a girl's handbag.
Another shopping opportunity for your list is the St Lawrence Market -- try a Peameal bacon but tie for breakfast -- heaven in a bun.
The market has a fascinating array of fresh fish and other produce and if the bacon sandwich hasn't filled you up, you can feast on lots of free nibbles.
Round off the day with a bit of an adventure and zip up to the top of Toronto's ``must do'' tourist destination, the CNN Tower -- the world's tallest building and free-standing structure at 533. 3m.
Toronto, Ontario's capital city, is a great place for just spending time wandering and exploring, but you must find time in your itinerary to visit Niagara Falls.
Hire a car or book a day trip, or even stay in the Niagara area for a couple of days to enjoy an unforgettable experience.
Arriving there comes as a bit of a surprise. There are huge hotels, souvenir shops, themed restaurants and a massive new casino. One companion declared in amazement: ``Have we come to Blackpool? …