This summer, my mum, my sister and her two kids headed to Toronto, where my nephew was going to start a course.
Two of my brothers live there, so it seemed like a good opportunity for a family reunion, considering that my parents and my sister and her family live in my home country of Nigeria, so we don’t get to see them very often.So I decided to take my kids to Canada as well, for a little family bonding time….
Leaving the UK
Our Air Canada flight left from Heathrow Terminal 2. I have to say, this terminal, for all that it’s called The Queen’s Terminal, was a disappointment. I was travelling with an infant, and was therefore unable to check in online. So at the airport, I asked an Air Canada agent where to queue for check-in assistance. She insisted that I check in via the kiosks. After queueing for 10 minutes to use a kiosk, I eventually got to use one, but was still directed to go to check-in assistance. So I had to go back and queue all over again, for over an hour this time. After we eventually checked in and dropped our bags, we went to pass through security. We were directed to the family queue which was really long. The security check was ok, I’d carried milk and water for my baby, and this was tested without opening the baby’s bottles. Also, my baby’s pram was swabbed and tested.
After passing through security, we began the long walk to our gate. I must say, if you have any sort of mobility issues at all, you may be better off using mobility assistance services at this airport. It’s a long walk to the gates, about 15-20 minutes.
At our gate, I was disappointed to find that people with babies were not prioritised. Both my 10-month-old and 7-year-old were tired and hungry, and we really just longed to be on the plane. We’d booked a cot, but the flight attendants decreed that my 10-month-old was too big for the cot. There was another mother with a 5-month-old who was also refused a cot. So we had to carry our babies throughout the 8-hour flight (so not fun!). Also, after handing in my pram at the aircraft, we had a longer wait while disembarking from the plane, as the prams needed to be unloaded from the hold. It just seemed so stressful for people with babies.
Arrival in Canada
We arrived at the Toronto Pearson Airport on a nice sunny evening in August, and passed through immigration quickly. We were expecting my brother to meet us, and I tried to connect to the airport wi-fi to let him know we had arrived. Unfortunately, after several unsuccessful attempts to connect, I was lucky to meet a kind stranger who allowed me to use her mobile phone to ring my brother. Funny enough, I’d prepared for this trip by purchasing a sim card for use in Canada, but couldn’t find it at that time.
Eventually, we met up with my brother and drove to his house in the lovely neighbourhood of Aurora. Tired as we were, we couldn’t help but appreciate the quiet calm of that upcoming neighbourhood.
We were scheduled to stay at my brother’s lovely home for the two-week duration of our stay, but we broke it up a bit by visiting Hamilton for a couple of days.
Coming from a nice calm neighbourhood like Aurora and going to Hamilton was a bit of a culture shock. It’s not really anything I can put my finger on. Hamilton is busier than Aurora, but it’s not really like going to downtown Toronto, it’s a little different, hard to explain.
In Hamilton, We stayed with my sister at Staybridge Suites in downtown Hamilton. The suite was neat and well-furnished, but barely 30 minutes after we arrived, the power went out. We were so shocked, as power outages are rare in the UK. In the past 13 years, I have only witnessed one power outage, and it happened in Whitby, North Yorkshire. We were disappointed that the hotel did not have a backup generator (we were in the middle of cooking, and very hungry!). My brother told us later that power outages were not-so-rare in some parts of Canada.
We decided to go and eat at A&W, just around the corner from the hotel. The food was ok, though I found the service to be a bit poor. Customer service was minimal, and my sister told us that the staff there could be a bit rude. Anyway, after spending a couple of hours in town, we made our way back to the hotel, happy to find that the power was back. I must say, apart from the lack of a generator, our stay at Staybridge was quite nice, the staff were helpful and polite, and the breakfast spread was absolutely lovely. I get hungry just thinking of it.
There is a small mall about 5 minutes from the hotel. It didn’t have any of the high street clothing stores, but it had small stores like Dollarama (with lovely Betty Crocker kitchen utensils!) and Payless Shoesource. We watched ‘The Emoji Movie’ in 3D at a nice cinema (Landmark Cinemas) there, and I just loved the reclining chairs. My daughter looked like a little boss sitting there with her 3D glasses and munching salty popcorn. One thing I found during my visit was that most places only seemed to have salty popcorn.
We were also able to visit the Lime Ridge Mall, a smartcentre, and it was here that I did most of my shopping. It had most of the high street stores, and my credit card definitely felt the weight of this mall. Just to say, if you’re going abroad, make sure you notify your bank. I had some random transactions declined, and I must say, this is quite embarrassing. Luckily, I was able to sort it out after a 30-minute phone call to my bank here in the UK (yay, Google Voice!).
We returned to Aurora after two days. The first thing we did was order pizza from Pizza Nova. Oh, my! Tender is not really a word I ever thought i’d relate to pizza, but this pizza was tender. It was absolutely scrumptious! Honestly, Pizza Hut could learn a thing or two from them.
We visited Canada’s Wonderland to celebrate my niece’s 15th birthday. It was a very nice outing, our second visit to the park. On my previous visit four years ago, I’d had corn dogs (right at the entrance), and funnel cakes (good for sharing). So I rushed right to the corn dog stall, but unfortunately they were sold out. Luckily, I still got to eat my funnel cake. So, we’d booked our tickets online for entry to the park, and decided not to get fast track tickets for the rides. However, the lines were so long that we had to get fast track plus upgrades for my niece and nephew. Otherwise, they’d probably have only been able to do two or three rides. We actually queued at Flight Deck for 90 minutes before doing this.
While they scuttled off eagerly to try the other rides, we made our way to Kidzania. Here, we spent over 2 hours queueing for the treetop adventure. This ride was not worth it. It’s pretty boring. We also took the kids on Jokey’s Jalopies, which was not so bad. I would have liked to do Swan Lake, but ran out of time.
We visited some other malls (smartcentres) during our visit,which had similar stores to the ones we’d already visited.
Coming back home
Our return to the UK was almost as stressful, except that the gates at Toronto Pearson airport were closer and families got to board the aircraft first. The flight itself was uncomfortable, as I was carrying a sleeping baby throughout the overnight flight.
My to-do list was waiting at the airport to welcome me back home. Oh well, too bad holidays can’t last forever…