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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What to do in London, Ontario, Canada

Tim Hortons at Dawn

The second leg of our trip entailed leaving Orillia at 6:00 AM to head back to Toronto. It was so early it was still dark out. Of course hubby needed to stop at Tim Hortons for his Timbits (aka donut holes). I grabbed this shot while sitting in line at the drive through window.

Tim Hortons is a crazy popular donut shop in Canada. The best comparison I can make to the states is to imagine every Starbucks is a donut shop. They're literally everywhere!

Sunrise from the backseat.

After picking up donuts for hubby we were off to Toronto where hubby needed to renew his Canadian passport. I wasn't allowed to take photos at the passport office because it's a government building.

Hubby's dad drove us the two hours back to the big city so that we could rent a car there and continue on to our next destination.

From Orillia we headed to London, Ontario, which is another two and a half hours away but west of Toronto. In total we spent at least four and a half hours in the car that morning.

When we arrived in London we decided to stop for lunch.

I was really excited that our hotel was two doors down from a Harvey's. Their veggie burgers are the best I've ever had and we don't have them in the states or western Canada so the last time I'd had one was four years ago when we were in Toronto.

We had some time to kill after lunch and hubby wanted to "drive around" for awhile. After having just spent four and a half hours in the car I was sick of being in the car and just wanted to hang out in our hotel room for a bit. Hubby loves being in the car. Remember he took that 22 days around North America road trip a few years ago where he drove about 12 hours a day to keep to his schedule?

Later that night we met up with Shel, one of hubby's best friends, for dinner at a place called Moxie's. It's a really hip restaurant with two locations in London. One was three doors down from our hotel but hubby still wanted to drive around more so we ate at the one in downtown. LOL

I had the Spinach Salad with Champagne Strawberries which consisted of ruby red grapefruit vinaigrette, fresh orange segments, warm herbed goat cheese and slivered almonds on flatbread. It was really delicious!

Because we were in such a trendy restaurant I decided to live it up a little and ordered a virgin lime daquiri. It was like a really fancy slurpee. I liked it a lot. I may have to order another one someday.

A cute, custom painted smart car with red maple vinyl stickers we spotted in a parking lot one morning. There aren't a lot of them around but  I definitely noticed more on the road here than in San Jose. Which makes sense. They've been available in Canada longer than in the United States.

For breakfast the next morning I had a kid's sized raspberry crepe at a place called Cora's. It was delicious and just the right size. Their standard adult sized crepes are huge! There was no way I'd be able to eat them and I hate to waste so if they had said I couldn't order from the kids menu we would have left. But our waitress gladly offered to bring me a smaller portion of anything on the menu and checked back to see how I liked it. I really appreciated the great customer service!

We drove around for a bit then went to Gibbons Park to walk around and take some photos with Shel.

There's a river that runs through the park. It's called the North Thames River. The water level was pretty low but it still brought an abundance of wildlife as water always does so I spent a few minutes along the riverbank to see what I could see.

Of course there were Canadian Geese.

And if you looked closely dragonflies and bumble bees.

There were lots of flowers, grasshoppers and a few butterflies.

Some of the flowers were pretty while others were bizarre.

And these seed pods looked like they were from outer space!

After my riverbank inspection we headed out along a walking trail to trek into downtown London for lunch. We spotted this tree and I told hubby to go stand in front of it and jump. I thought it would make a funny picture but it turned out being a pretty awesome picture. I think it was my favorite image from the whole day.

And this, this was pretty magical to me. We don't have chipmunks in California so I'd never seen one there or in Washington state where I grew up. We spotted one running through a parking lot in Gravenhurst when we went for the ferry ride last week but it was moving too fast to really get a good look at it.

So imagine my surprise when I spotted this little guy right off the walking path. It apparently has no fear of humans because it didn't mind at all that I stopped to take its picture. A real live chipmunk!

If you look closely at its neck in the second shot you can see a mosquito landed on it. I got three mosquito bites that day while we were walking during the middle of the day!

As we walked along the Thames we entered Harris Park. Hubby spotted this baby squirrel and the weirdest thing happened.

It walked straight up to me and climbed on my foot and started trying to climb up my leg! I think someone must have tamed it, maybe rescued and raised it when it was even younger, then tried to release it in the park. Which doesn't bode well for its survival because it is way too friendly for its own good. As cute it was the encounter left me a bit troubled worrying about its future odds of surviving in the wild.

Eventually we arrived at the Covent Garden Market which is very similar to Vancouver, British Columbia's Granville Island. It's a huge indoor marketplace filled with food purveyors and restaurants.

After lunch Shel asked if I liked tea and took us upstairs to The Tea Haus.

There I found this rather interesting Gyokuro Green Tea which is considered to be the finest of all green teas according to the container it is kept it. I got 25 grams to try and if I like it can order more online as they ship to the states.

After lunch we walked back to Gibbons Park and parted ways with Shel. We stopped by a Starbucks and I had my first Starbucks and soy milk Cafe Mocha. It was great! I loved it! From now on when I have the option I'll be having soy milk mochas. Since arriving in Canada I've now had three more mochas bringing my lifetime total to seven.

Totally gypped by the White Oaks Mall! 

That night we headed over to the White Oaks Mall for dinner. When in Canada hubby always has to have A&W because the food in Canada is slightly different (he says better) than the food in the states. I looked at the mall's website and saw there was a restaurant called Cultures that was exactly the kind of place I would love.

On the mall's website they describe it this way and made no mention that the restaurant hadn't opened yet:
Cultures is a leader in the sandwich and salad quick service industry.

We make all of our items from scratch everyday with the freshest and highest quality ingredients. Healthy choices and healthy living is no longer a trend - it is a way of life. Cultures is dedicated to offering light, nutritious and delicious foods to health-conscious customers. We carefully evaluate all of our products and recipes because we are passionate about great tasting food.

So instead of fresh, delicious and nutritious food I ended up eating cheese pizza for dinner.

Later that night we drove out to visit Shel again and I took this pretty cool picture right after sunset. It kind of looks like an instagram image but it isn't.

The next day we went to the Western District Fair. It's like a state fair in the United States with all of the fair food and a midway with rides and games.

Hubby had his flame roasted hot dog, again, while standing in the rain as it began raining shortly after we arrived. I skipped the fair food because there was another treat I wanted to try after we left the fair.

For me the high point was seeing some Silkie roosters. These are the kind of chickens I want to get if I ever do have some backyard chickens. But I'll only have hens because roosters aren't legal to keep in the city and they don't lay eggs which is the whole reason I want a few chickens.

After the fair we went here to Twistee Treat. I'd seen it the night before on our drive to visit Shel and had to go back to try out a local specialty. Right? They do twisted soft ice cream flavors, I was on the verge of ordering banana and strawberry soft serve swirled together but instead decided to try a local specialty "Shaw's" hard ice cream's "Sweet and Salty Pretzel."

We spent the afternoon on our third day in London visiting with hubby's family at a reunion of sorts. His Aunt was celebrating her Birthday so a lot of relatives had come to town. I met so many people that day I can't even remember exactly how many but it was really neat and they were all so nice and fun to talk to.

That night we had one more dinner with Shel and the next morning we hit the road bright and early heading back to Toronto.

Of course that meant a stop at Tim Hortons. Hubby had his chocolate Timbits and I had an egg on a multigrain bagel. It's great they have more than just donuts.

With only two days in Toronto I'm need to have a great experience to wash away the cold and wet memories from four years ago. I'm hoping for the best . . .

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