Whilst most people are very familiar with the West Coast of Canada, the eastern side offers a great deal as well.
Toronto is the main entry city for the eastern side of Canada and is well worth a look. On the shores of the great lakes, renowned for being quite windy, and with the impressive Toronto Tower for spectacular views the city, like most eastern Canadian cities, boasts an entire underground city. It is so cold during winter the underground malls with their shops and cafes become the streets the locals use to get between buildings and city blocks.
For many people Toronto is the jumping off point to visit Niagara Falls. One of the three great waterfalls of the world, and like the other two straddling two countries, the falls have an impressive amount of water over them. However the town itself is less than pleasant.
Much better is the little town of Niagara on the Lake about 25 -30 minutes’ drive from the falls themselves. This little gem is very pretty with gorgeous trees and green areas. It hosts a George Bernard Shaw festival in the summer and is a much nicer base to see the falls.
And by the way, Niagara is best seen from the Canadian side where the views are. The Maid of the Mist will get you wet, so take a waterproof camera if you want to get photos and not destroy your camera.
The French first settled the eastern area of Canada and their influence is particularly strong in Quebec and Montreal. Montreal is a university town and their park was designed by the same man as Central Park in New York.
Alive with students, music, festivals and energy this is a great city to get lost in. The cathedral in downtown Montreal was where Celine Dion was married – it is her local church.
The capital of Ontario is Ottawa, and one of my favourite places. The city boasts gorgeous architecture, the amazing Rideau Canal that the locals use as a skating rink to work in winter, and quite possibly the best museum I have ever experienced in the Museum of Civilisation.
Across the river in French speaking Ottawa ( but everyone speaks some English) the Museum has an impressive atrium with a range of totem poles from all over Canada, telling the history of the First Nations. But the museum itself is one long pathway through the exhibits that you cannot get lost on, even if you take a detour to explore one of the offshoot exhibits. It tells the story of Canada beginning with prehistoric Canada and ending in the departure lounge of Vancouver airport – just amazing.
Quebec City is the only walled city in North America. You can walk almost the whole way round with the exception of one small area. The wall was designed to protect the people from the English – which it did to a limited extant until the English prevailed. You can see the fortifications and place where the battles took place. Great views over the St Lawrence River, and views across the city to the fabulous Hotel Chateau de Frontenac, one of the most photographed landmarks in North America.
Le Petit Champlains district is the oldest and most French quarter in the city. Cobbled streets and lovely old houses, as well as shops and restaurants. And if you have a death wish, or your cholesterol levels are so low they need some boosting, the local speciality is poutine – fries cheese and gravy – nicknamed heart attack on a plate!
Quebec City is the beginning point for cruises along the St Lawrence River through the Canadian maritimes and places like Prince Edward Island and Anne of Green Gables country. They generally end in Boston.
The eastern provinces of Canada may not have the Rocky Mountains and the spectacular scenery but it makes up for it with history, charm, an elegance of style and gentle beauty.
Go in autumn and be wowed by the fall colours. You will not regret your journey.