Day 7: Real world – Toronto

Let me set the scene. We catch the train from Niagara to Toronto at 5:45pm. Very efficient and friendly service. Met some Aussies on the train who are heading to the International Rotary Conference. All is well.

We arrive in Toronto, get slightly lost looking for the hire car place. We then have a bit of difficulty getting the car because my credit card does not match the name the car is booked under??!! (my husband’s and he doesn’t have a credit card). Weird issue but still all good.

We leave the car park……… at 8pm………. raining………… driving on the right hand side of the road………. in a city we have never been………two hungry kids………dusk……….. with a sat nav that cannot get signal in amongst the skyscrapers.

Cue a stress attack……..The ‘Stressaholic’ returned in style….and I wasn’t even the driver!! I ranted and raved. I blamed my husband. I cursed myself for not at least looking at a map to have a general idea of where we were going. I told myself I was an idiot.

In the meantime, while I proceeded to freak out……. the kids fell asleep……… my husband expertly drove around the city until we got navigation signal and then we drove to the hotel.

So what purpose did my anxiety attack serve? None. Zero. Nada. Apart from raising my blood pressure and risk of heart attack!

Like the lady at the hotel said this morning. You made it here (albeit late) and you are all together. THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. So why on earth do I do that to myself? I don’t know but I still really struggle to control it. I have strategies, yet I forgot to use them….

Anyway, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself I guess and at least the Stressaholic has only appeared once so far this holiday!

Back to the present, here I am in Toronto! The majority of today has been practical things like washing and shopping but we did squeeze in a trip to see the CN tower.

We were lucky enough to sit with a local Canadian man today while eating lunch in a food hall. We talked about all sorts and he told us lots of little things we otherwise wouldn’t know. The thing that struck me was, we allowed probably a good 30 – 45 minutes to just sit and chat with him and it was so worthwhile ( for him too I am sure!). Too often we are in a rush to get where we are going and we seldom take time to talk to people. But, we miss out on so much being in a hurry.

Today reminded me the cities we are visiting are not just about the sights but about the people that inhabit them. We are all so different but in so many ways the same.

SAA

Day 5: The power of water – Niagara Falls

I have managed to find my words again today!

Arriving here in Niagara yesterday just blew my mind. Not only that…….. I had reached a point of exhaustion without noticing. My husband and I were on ‘high alert’ the whole time we were in New York. We were constantly watching the kids like a hawk, planning and negotiating. It is such an amazing city but, the pace was unlike anything I have come across (and I have done a fair amount of traveling).

I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute and really didn’t know that it was exhausting me, until we left. When we crossed the border into Canada, I realised straight away I felt more at home. The people are different and you can immediately sense the Commonwealth.

And then we saw this……

The shear enormity of the natural wonder in front of me, the last 5 days and a feeling of being more at home, lead to a crash then 10 hours sleep!!!

Today, feeling more rested, I was able to really feel the power of the water. For anyone who knows me, they know I possess a natural affinity to water. So, for me this place was always going to be emotional. One of my greatest loves, in it’s most spectacular forms.

As you come close you realise how small and insignificant we really are compared to the power of Mother Nature and my goodness is it beautiful.

Following our visit behind the falls, we announced the first surprise for the kids……….. we were to spend the afternoon in the Fallsview Waterpark!! (We have lots of little surprises along the way on this holiday). This was a little treat we planned for the kids, as we know they are not quite as appreciative as us, at traipsing around to look at tourists sites!!

Little did I realise the power of water would again be so important. Hitting the pool and some water slides was just like hitting a reset button in me. It was able to wash away the fatigue and reinstate my readiness to travel. This was also the perfect opportunity to split up into pairs and enjoy each other’s company as well as have small breaks from one another (because let’s face it, 6 days together 24/7 does take it’s toll!).

So again, thank you water…….. my friend and constant.

SAA

Day 3: Liberty and Tragedy – NYC

Today, our last in New York, was about grand sculptures of symbolism.

We started with the Statue of Liberty. She stands for so much that I as an Australian take for granted. She represents freedom, hope, truth, justice and enlightenment.

She is a beautiful collaborative effort between France and America. Her crown represents the sun’s rays of enlightenment, her torch and flame justice, the broken shackles at her feet escape and the tablet of law in her left hand is inscribed with the date of American Independence.

She really is beautiful.

Something else that was beautiful today was the sky around her!! Check it out.

From her, we went to possibly the most grand and heartbreaking symbol of tragedy in modern times…….Ground zero or the site of 9/11. The two ‘reflecting pools’ perfectly symbolise an immense sense of loss. Water cascades down the vertical walls of the tower’s footprints and into the void. Even my 8 year old daughter could recognise the power in the emotion it portrays.

I shed a tear or two behind my sunnies.

So, two very very different symbols almost in contradiction to one another and in such close proximity. The word irony springs to mind.

We completed the day with Ripley’s Believe it or not……… one for the kids (and adults alike).

It is time to move on to our next destination tomorrow. The kids have done super well in the big smoke, but they are country bumpkins really, so our 3 and 1/2 days here has been enough for them and we have been lucky to squeeze in all the things I was desperate to see.

Today no stress only hope then sadness and ………… right now fatigue.

SAA

Day 2: Contrasts – Central Park NYC

Trees and skyscrapers. Horses and squirrels. Elderly and children. Concrete and Grass.

Today, we rode bikes around Central Park. Again, I realised I know nothing. Firstly, there were hills, I imagined it flat. Secondly, it was hot (33 degrees and humid) not balmy warm. Thirdly, it was huge just like all things in America!!

We were part of a cycling tour………..The guides are amazing with their knowledge of history.

The fellow cyclists were amazing with their entertaining antics (I witnessed the most spectacular illustration of why you do not ride a bike and take photos, particularly in a park full of joggers, bikes, horses, cars and dogs. That is right people, you will come unstuck. The very fit looking German man went straight over his handle bars in such a dramatic fashion, his blonde girlfriend still posing for the photo. In my mind I thanked him for the wonderful demonstration for my son, who was having trouble listening in his efforts to show off and have fun……… in a park with so many distractions).

The secret wildlife was amazing if you were looking for the details, as I was. As promised, I took notice of ‘that bird’ in Central Park. It turned out to be 3 bathing in a puddle, attempting to escape the oppressive heat.

After the tour, we went to the top of the Rockefeller centre to appreciate the park from height. Amazing. Contrast.

So there you go. Pretty impressive. Looking at this photo, it is kind of hard to imagine the little details, but we saw them.

In case you were wondering………. we made the Yankees game. We ended up with no seats but enjoyed wandering around the stadium and soaking up the atmosphere and trust me, atmosphere there was!!!

As for the tickets in the electronic black hole………… who cares!

Tiny secret. I did have a stress attack today………..Over my backpack. It keeps eating things. Why can I never find what I need?? Now I am laughing at myself!!

SAA