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Reports

Saturday, 7 June 2003
--> Toronto, Ontario, Canada (5)

How do I ever tell my dear readers that I just FLEW over the Niagara Falls? No... they won't believe that!

My apologies for those people on a slow connection, you might have problems loading all 40 (!) of today's photos.



This Saturday morning we all slept in. I woke up earlier than my hostess Genny Jon! Now believe me, that's really rare in my travels! At 10.30 am I had a shower and packed my bags again. It was time to leave for another place again.

Genny rushed a tuna pasta fix, just before I would be picked up downstairs. It was a good breakfast bite that would keep me going for the rest of the day.

I thanked her for letting me stay a few days at her place and for taking me out for dinner twice. You gotta love those city people for that, hehe!

My next host also lives on King Street, only three kilometres west. It was Chris Priess who picked me up in front of Genny Jon's apartment complex.

Chris Priess had invited me a long time ago. He had read about me in the Cairns Post in Australia and when he got back to Canada had decided to submit his information. "I love Australia, when I retire I want to either move to Cairns or Brisbane. It's lovely there," he said.

Chris is the owner of Tri-Lite TV, a big company that rents out media equipment and the right experts to run all that. "In a few days I am off to New York to shoot Dionne Warwick for a DVD." My host shoots people.

"It sounds even better when I say I shot prime minister Jean Chrétien last week."

Chris lives in this really fancy new neighbourhood west of the downtown area. "Five years ago, when I first came here, it was all an industrial dump. They cleaned it all up and constructed this entire new neighbourhood." It was clear that everything was new. Streets were kept clean and lawns were shortcut green. The sun was shining and I got that feeling again like I was walking around at a Hollywood set.

I dropped my stuff at Chris' place and he showed me around in his three storey apartment. In his living room he has two large tropical fish tanks with all these coloured fish and coral in there. "Where do you get something like that?" I asked. "Oh, there is a guy that imports that and I ordered them there." With fascination I looked at the live in this big tank.

We connected my laptop to his high-speed cable; just to be sure it worked. We were going out at 3.30 PM, so we had some time to kill this afternoon. I spent some time processing emails (I lately got so many that people that sent me email got error messages telling my mailbox was full. Yep, that happens sometimes). In his television room Chris was playing a Live in Concert DVD of Paul McCartney. Both of us were singing along with those songs from the past, me behind my laptop, Chris from his couch.

At 3.30 PM Chris took me along to the Toronto Island. That is that green patch right in the Ontario Lake, south of the downtown area. On this island is also a small airport. We took the World's shortest ferry crossing to get to the island (only 100 metres) and Chris signed both of us in at the flight school.

Chris is a hobby pilot. "I learned it fifteen years ago and fly around every month." At the airport we walked to this small Cessna 172 airplane, got in and got ready for take off.

Now I don't often sit behind the wheels of an airplane, but at this occasion there are two wheels for two pilots. I could actually steer along. While communicating through hour headphones and with the air traffic control tower we got up in the sky.

Oh my god what a great view I got on Toronto. Within a minute we were at an higher altitude than the CN Tower. A few minutes later even that tower looked like a miniature creation!

But we where heading for St. Catherines, a small town southwest of the Ontario Lake.

We didn't get permission to fly directly over the lake because there was a big fog bank hanging around there, so we flew all around the shore line of the lake, flying over towns as Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton at 3,000 feet altitude.

The weather was perfect for this kind of an event. We landed at the small and deserted airport of St. Catherines just half an hour later without any problems. Of course Chris was the certified pilot here; I didn't dare to touch anything - really.

In St. Catherines we met up with a good friend of Chris, Steve, who took us in his car along the Niagara winery fields ending up in the tourist trap town Niagara On The Lake.

When we ended on the historical main street, I just had to ask who kicked the ant hill here!

There were tourists (mainly American) EVERYWHERE! They came straight of their big tourist busses and wandered up and down the souvenir shops and restaurants. Everything looked beautiful and there were flower planted at any imaginary place!

I was taken along to [URL=www.tordine.com/ontheroad/ontario/niagaralake/buttery.html]The Buttery[/url], a nice restaurant along the main street, where we had our dinner for today. Steve was of course fascinated to meet up with me, he heard about my way of travelling from Chris.

But we couldn't stay long. The Cessna was expected back in Toronto at 5 PM and we still had to fly over one very important location.

Steve dropped us off at the airport again (thanks again Steve!) and Chris and I got in the plane and took off for the sky again.

I enjoyed listening to the traffic control radio, as many tourist planes were asking permission to fly over the Niagara Falls. When a few years ago two helicopters collided above the Niagara Falls, new restrictions were made for air traffic. Planes were only allowed to fly over the area at 2500 feet and and helicopters are not allowed to go higher than 1500 feet.

Luckily for us we got permission to fly over the area to, however for a few moments we feared we'd be flying over low clouds and not see the falls at all.

But there!

I already saw the skyline of the town Niagara Falls. The town of Niagara Falls is separated by the Niagara river and one part is in the US State New York and the other part is in Canada. Because you can get the best view on the falls from the Canadian side, this part is reconstructed in the Las Vegas of Canada. It was easy to spot the hotel towers and the blue ball of Planet Hollywood.

But it was all about these falls of course! For a few minutes I got one of the best views on the Niagara Falls than the ones I would ever imagine to see.

"I am flying over the Niagara Falls! Wooooh!" Of course it was a breathtaking sight, as you can see from the many photos which I just kept shooting. I was almost running out of disk space on my camera!

With my heart beating of pure pleasure and fascination and other indescribable feelings we left the location and headed back to Toronto.

"You want to fly for a while now?" Chris asked me. "Me? Okay."
"If you push the wheel we go down, if you pull we go up, like this…." And then he made me really feel all organs in my body by making a fall down and a rise up again. I preferred don't let too many G-force powers mess with my body, so I took over the wheel and flew around for bit. Little corner here, slow curve there…. It is nothing! I think the hardest thing about flying is knowing all the other techniques, because I saw buttons and light and thingies in that cockpit that I will never understand what they were for! But it was fun. I was flying an airplane!!

Back in Toronto we almost had to skip a quick circle around the city, because that same fog bank was about to cover Toronto Island and you can't land when it is that foggy. But we made this wonderful circle over the downtown area, along those small fragile sky scrapers that make the city and landed safely.


It was all just hard to believe. I am staying with this host and like it is the most normal thing to do he took me for a flight over the Niagara Falls!

We took the ferry back to the mainland again and drove back home. Unbelievable. Incredible. I mean, how would my readers have to feel if I tell them I just flew over the Niagara Falls?

We spent some time at the house until we headed to downtown Toronto in the evening. We were going out to Yuk Yuk's, the stand-up comedian club in town, for a few hours of entertainment by five of Canada's best comedians (breathtaking in another sense).

I don't remember their names, but all four of them we saw during that show, while we drunk beers and munched on union rings, were very good. Very, very good!

Of course I had to cheer when 'Holland' was mentioned and that one comedian turned to me and had to disappoint me that he had no jokes to bash the Dutch at all. He would work on that for the next time. Hehehe. What a pity!

Well that's about enough of another great day in Toronto. I start to understand the city's slogan: Toronto, where you belong. I am feeling very good in this town. How could that be?

Good night Toronto!

Ramon.