“Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.”
– Jim Carrey (Hollywood comedian actor from Toronto)
I never planned to visit Canada just yet because I want to stay longer if I visit it as it is a very huge country. However, when I was planning my 1-week trip to New York, I’ve invited my long-time bestfriend, Mutya, to join me since NYC is very close to Toronto where she lives now. The last time we saw each other was 16 years ago in Manila when she went back home for her dad’s funeral. But she couldn’t join me in NYC because she is now a single mom to her 5 adorable kids, and 2 of them are still very little. She then proposed for me to visit them instead.
I never hesitated with the idea even if I have to apply a separate visa for Canada, my only qualms were I only have 3 days extra for my entire trip and I was sure it won’t be enough. But I miss my bestfriend and I also want to meet her kids, so I booked my flights to Toronto, all I want to do anyway is to catch up with her.
Even if it was a bit short notice for her, she still managed to squeezed some of her hectic time to drive me around from Toronto to Niagara to Montreal (plus Ottawa!) all in over a weekend only! All I wished was to catch up with her after 16 years but she went out of her selfless way to make sure we’ll make up for the lost times. I couldn’t thank her enough. I couldn’t be more proud with her for the woman she has become for raising 5 adorable kids and yet have kept her clever wit after all these years.
I also did not plan anything on this trip, my friend did it all for me. She picked me up at Toronto airport and we drove straight away to Niagara. She booked our Airbnb, a lovely place just within the centre of Niagara. I was not expecting Niagara to look like a huge amusement park! I thought it will be more like a nature park with cabins and quaint little shops. Instead, it was lively and active!
We stopped by at Niagara Falls first to watch the amazing colourful light show. Niagara Falls is famed both for its beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. It has waterfalls between Canada and the US state of New York. From largest to smallest, the three waterfalls are the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.
Then we walked towards the busy Clifton Hill because even it was a bit late already, most shops are still open and there are still lots of people outside.
The following morning, we went back to Niagara Falls again just to see how marvellous it is like during day time. So finally I saw the Horseshoe Falls part of Niagara Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by flow rate.
We didn’t waste time and started our 5-hours driving going to Montreal, Quebec. We only stopped for lunch at Harveys! Haha! Because they say it’s the best Canadian fast food, and yes I loved their burgers!
Montreal is like a whole new country in Canada, it’s like all of sudden we are already in France, all signages are in French so it took us hours to figure out, too, where we could park when we reached the city, lol! Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking (as a mother language) city in the world, behind Paris.
Visiting Montreal was just a big bonus for me, though I was hoping to see the trending light show at Notre Dame Basilica, the tickets were sold out when we arrived. Yet, there are still so many things to see around this gorgeous city, a day will never be enough. Montreal is a city rich in culture and history that I feel like I was in Europe with the architecture around.
The next morning, we had our breakfast at — and had pancakes because they say I should try the Canadian’s maple syrup, lol! I loved my breakfast and Monterey was already very active that early morning because of the 2018 World Cup Finals game.
Although ice hockey is the most popular sport in Canada, Montreal was still perfect for me to be on the day of the FIFA World Cup finals, because it was just like France’s extension, haha! France won this 2018 World Cup btw, so imagine how crazy the atmosphere was.
On our way back to Toronto, our GPS rerouted our trip to Ottawa perhaps because of traffic, it was Sunday so a lot of Canadians were heading back to Toronto, like us! Ottawa is actually the capital of Canada, so it was nice seeing it whilst driving around finding our way back to the highway going to Toronto.
By the time we reached Toronto, it was already time for dinner, this time at Swiss Chalet, a Canadian restaurant so I could order the famous Canadian poutine, haha! We meet up with my other friends from Manila (our neighbours before) and my friend’s 5 kids joined us as well. After dinner, we had coffee at…yes you guessed it right, Tim Hortons, haha!
To cap off the night, my bestfriend and I went to meet another friend, Michael, whom I’ve met when I went to Antarctica. We met at a pub so I could at least get to try the local beer, Steam Whistle. After 2 pints, we called it a night, it was very short but I was really glad that he spent (and waited because we were very late!) his time with us.
The next day before my flight back to Dubai, my cousin, Diana, and her daughter meet up with me for a quick lunch at the restaurant near the airport. It was very quick catch up but I appreciate the time she spent just to meet me and she even dropped me at Toronto airport.
So actually, I didn’t really go around Toronto to see places, my little time in the city was only spent meeting friends and family, which I didn’t mind at all. I was even thankful they all found time to meet me even for just a quick chat.
I loved listening to their stories about their lives in Canada and how it is treating them greatly. Except for Michael, most of the people I’ve met there were Filipinos who migrated in Canada and chose to be far from home to provide better future for their families.
None of them wanted to leave home then, but now they are happier that they made that choice. Leaving your comfort zone is never easy. Whether leaving your family, or your job, or your friends, or your relationship, or your marriage, it is indeed scary and overwhelming. It’s normal to feel that way when situation forces you to leave, or to let go, or to try new things because you’re afraid to fail and lose.
But only with failing that you will learn. By learning the lessons from your failures can make you achieve more and better than you ever intended to. Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.