Bye, Canada!

Triple overtime at the ice hockey game meant I had five hours sleep on Friday night. Pumped on caffeine Saturday morning, Amy and I ventured out to have a couple of hours of quality time together; with Canadian annual leave being utterly rubbish, we only had a few waking hours here and there between Amy having to go to work, and social events with her neighbour and friends.

We hired bikes to go cycling. The first 10 minutes was fun, as we cycled some of the High Park route. Amy had mad selfie skills and got a few good ones if us.

Whereas I had to stop the bicycle to snap any photos.

At least there was nice blossom tree! Two kilometres from where we were, was a bike rack where we needed to dock in our bikes within a certain time frame and pick up new ones so we wouldn’t be fined. Well, I was a disaster. Having a dodgy left foot and left knee, putting on weight and being extremely unfit, I could not cycle up a short hill. I tried, started hyperventilating then decided to push my bike up to where the incline wasn’t too bad. But by that point, it was too late! My whole body was soaking wet with sweat, I felt like I couldn’t breath and my heart was going like the clappers.

See, I am a bit of an idiot and forget to breath when I exercise. When I run on treadmills, listening to music helps remind me to breathe correctly, by singing along in my head. In that short time I was cycling uphill, not listening to music, my determination impaired my memory. I forgot to breathe and ended up having an exercised-induced (very minor) asthma attack. I peddled as much as I could until I couldn’t no more, paused and puffed on my inhaler for what seemed like a million times. Not moving for a few minutes helped my erratic breathing return to normal, and my heart rate slow down. But I felt like a complete wally. I couldn’t even cycle uphill without ruining it 😔

We cycled down some of Dundas Street West, which probably wasn’t allowed judging by how many pedestrians and dogs we had to dodge. It was fun nevertheless. We docked our bikes again, then realised we had better get public transport downtown as we had other plans. My inadequacy in being ‘fit and able’ meant we didn’t get to cycle too far!

We got to the Rogers Centre in plenty of time, to pose for photographs and generally have a good time. After all, it was my birthday present from Amy and my first ever baseball game (especially after the disappointment of Boston with the rain!). Despite it being a mild day, the roof was closed. At least we weren’t going to get rained on.

We bought epic hotdogs for $4 and headed inside.

We were in the nosebleed seats, so had to walk up ramps right to the top. I bought a big bucket of popcorn and some more of that delicious root beer drink, sat down to enjoy the game.

The views were pretty cool, being so high up. And I also felt I half knew what was going on, based on the time I was subjected to rounders at primary school.

The Blue Jays won the baseball game – wooo! – and off Amy and I went to enjoy our last few hours together. So we had a special moment at the CN Tower. Screw the view, it was all about getting good photos, especially as I was wearing a teeny bit of makeup.

We wandered around the fabulous Eaton Centre again, buying a few last minute purchases from Sephora and Lululemon, before heading to the bar to meet Amy’s friends. They had been messaging her a few times to see where she was, which I resented massively. I wanted my friend to myself for a few hours as that was our last opportunity to do so, and I didn’t feel at all selfish for feeling that way. Just bugger off, alright?! JEEZ.

When we arrived, we received a large round of appaulse from the entire table (some 15 people or so), as well as the next table. Luckily I didn’t feel as isolated and excluded as I thought I would, being round a large group of people who I didn’t know whatsoever, and myself not being on top form to make the effort socially. Similar age group with an interest in travel, it was easy to have conversations and share stories with those within talking distance.

I was pretty adamant I wanted to leave by 10:30pm. I had little sleep the night before for starters, I needed to finish packing and wash my hair. Too many factors! Everyone was moving on to another bar around that time, so we took our cue to leave. On the way to the bus stop, we passed Smoke’s Poultine, a well known fast food joint that sells a Canadian classic of chips, gravy and cheese. It was dirty, in a good way, but not really any different to the disco fries I tried in New York. In fact, I preferred the American version – just wasn’t so greasy. But I had to try it!

Walking towards Amy’s house, I saw an animal with an arched back running across the road. I asked, “what’s that strange cat thing?” Apparently it was a raccoon! It may be considered vermin, but if was good enough for Pocahontas, it was good enough for me.

Packed and ready to go, I nodded off with my mind racing about the next 24 hours ahead of me. So it was no surprise that I woke up feeling sad, groggy and immensely tired, having not caught up with sleep from the night before. I rolled over and stuffed my face under the pillow, to pretend the day hadn’t risen and I had more time.

I have enjoyed seeing and staying with Amy. I really appreciate having those friends in life that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve last seen them, it’s felt like no time at all. And I didn’t want that feeling to end. I felt the same when I left Australia in April 2016, and when Claire left after Christmas. Totes emosh.

A waffle topped with maple syrup followed, and a Tim Horton’s drive-thru cup of tea. My luggage in the boot, we were heading to Niagara Falls!

I had heard from so many people that it’s better from the Canadian side, well obviously. Driving towards the car park, we saw the Falls; the mist from the water spraying the road and car. The wind was bitterly cold, and reminded me of Iceland. I wore my showerproof parka over a padded gillet, ensuring I looked like a silver leopard-hippo. It was a good look. Lies. Actually I looked pretty horrific.

As I stopped to take a few photos, I turned round to see Amy was with the others and had walked some distance ahead. As I stood there, looking out towards the ‘Horseshoe Fall’, I paused for a moment to ponder my own thoughts and future of returning home. The mist of the waterfall swirled around me in the wind. I looked down, saw a love padlock belonging to Frances and Ollie and felt my eyes well up. I couldn’t feel any more alone as I did there and then in that moment. Physically alone, emotionally alone. I gazed at the waterfall and cried. I couldn’t stop. The sides of my padded hood clung to my cheeks as the tears rolled down, making my face damp and tacky. And even more like a hippo! Everyone, even strangers standing near me, were oblivious. I felt so overwhelmed (and hungry too, which to be fair, never helps!).

Reaching a point of relative composure, I walked on to meet the others. I was half tempted not to, and just walk back to the visitor centre where they would find me later. I could barely open my puffy eyes from the sadness, and I was struggling to smile. Amy took some selfies, my hood sort of shadowed my face from reality (I wouldn’t want it any other way either). The strong winds and cool air was a good excuse as any as to why I kept mopping my eyes, again not that anyone noticed, thank goodness. Looking back, I can see in my face how hard I was trying to smile.

We walked along a bit more to see a police car and tape. I joked to Amy that there had been a murder on Niagara, imagining my favourite literacy sleuth Poirot examining the scene, twisting his moustache and leaning on his walking stick. It was worse that that. We peered over the edge of the cliff to discover a body, with a medical team trying to do something. Upon seeing the motionless mass of blonde hair, covered in a blanket, I stopped crying. No matter how sad I felt, it put things into perspective. We later heard that the person involved had fallen. I felt devastated, but not for my own self pity, but for the life gone in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, probably taking a selfie.

I tried to put the overwhelming sadness out of my mind, and enjoy the more positive surroundings. Like daffodils!

We went on a boat that took us right into the falls.

Then off to the airport we went.

So this is the last Ayla in Wanderland post for a few months. I love being creative and having an outlet for my descriptive writing. Writing this post in particular was very therapeutic at the time, plus I couldn’t sleep on the plane anyway!

Despite how sad I was at Niagara, in no shape or form did I feel like I ended my holiday on a bad note. It’s reality. Travelling makes me suppress real life almost, and real emotions. They started creeping back in New York, when my leg was starting to really, really hurt and the non stop doing activities got to me mentally. The remainder came flooding back to me whilst standing at a world-famous waterfall.

I had a FANTASTIC time, making life long memories with Emily, Amy, and the new friends I met in Boston. And as Dumbledore once said, which is one of my favourite quotes from the Harry Potter books, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”

I mean, I saw storks, a strange cat/raccoon, those beautiful jet black birds, black squirrels, beaver dams (but no beavers), an ice hockey game, a baseball game, bought some nice gym leggings, and got to see one of my oldest and closest friends. And that was just in the last few days, let alone what I’d been up to in America prior to flying into Toronto. I’ve been asked by so many people what my favourite place was, or my favourite activity. How could I possibly choose one when everything was so cool?!

Peace out Canada ✌🏽 and thanks for having me, Amy. It was been a blast.

P.S.
British Airways World Traveller aka Economy, charge you for a packet of crisps. I politely declined to pay for it. Didn’t get this in Business Class when I flew out. The cabin crew practically told me to stuff my pockets with whatever 😂  I miss Rhona! Can’t believe they don’t offer snacks. OUTRAGEOUS.

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