Frustratingly, Hamilton only has two trains that go there in the morning, all before 7am. This was useless to us, so we had to make use of the GO Station’s bus area instead. I had never seen a bus station - all those long bays! The ticket cost $23 but you could use any method of transport (bus or train).
We took the bus to Aldershot Station then scampered over to the platform. This arrangement seems ridiculous for Hamilton residents to put up with - the bus that went all the way to Toronto was crowded and has been known to hit horrid delays (sometimes more than 2 hours). The train is technically longer at 90 minutes.
A huge arse thing pulled into the train station. Green and house-sized, it crawled towards us. This was a true triple decker, not like the impostors on Sydney’s tracks. Climbing inside felt like disappearing into a maze of seats and stairs. Very comfy blue seats. They were squishy! The train trundled towards Toronto, never very fast. We all wondered later why there was a not a quick ferry between the two cities.
Our tickets were checked as we drew closer to Union Station. And then I was plastering my face to the window, angling my head up to see most of the CN Tower, though not the tip of it. We disembarked and hunted down food in a nearby food court. The CN Tower, like many other towers with its spire and rounded top, looked like it really was a UFO landing pad.
My fiancé’s friend said we could use the subway to reach Casa Loma, our first Toronto destination. $3 buys a tiny token (it is the size of an Australian 5 cent piece) that, when dropped into a gate, lets you through. It’s less hot than New York subways! The train rolled in quickly and we boarded. All the compartments were open and the carriages bent on the corners so you could not see one end to the other.
We left at Dupont. You hit a button on a machine for a transfer ticket to use on a bus or at another train station - a lot of opportunity for abuse, I think, because you can just keep hitting the button. You are not allowed to use the transfer ticket at the station you buy it from.
The bright blue sky above us, we walked up to Casa Loma, a faux castle built in 1914. It looked fake, like it was taken from a storybook. Some of it seemed to be undergoing restoration. The gardens and fountain out the front were nice.
|Mi casa es su casa!|
We entered, got tickets, prepared to move forward…The guy that took our stubs followed us a few steps in, revealing to my delight that we had stumbled into Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters - well, parts filmed for the X-Men movie.
“Over there is Professor X’s office,” he said, pointing. “And that’s the corridor with the metal door. And the library was used as a classroom.”
Hyperventilation material. I was totally a mutant.
Casa Loma was built at the behest of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt who could not afford to keep the behemoth in the Great Depression. Parts of it weren’t finished. His wife was very involved with Girl Guides - I took photos of some uniforms we found.
Pellatt was an avid collector and history buff, judging by the random shit in all the rooms. He even had a replica of the British coronation chair, Stone of Scone and all. And he had a giant moose head - holy crap, if that’s just a head, those things must be HUGE. Our friend said they are naturally aggressive beasts. Pellatt had to auction off most of his random shit to pay his bills. We started in the basement which had lots of movie posters boasting what had been filmed there.
|"Look at the size of that thing!" - Wedge|
The wine cellar had a secret passage up to Pellatt’s office (“You’d want access to your wine, I guess,” my fiancé said) which did not have Professor X, alas. We explored the ridiculously decadent guest rooms and the surprisingly modern amenities - baths! Toilets! And a shower!? All very expensive back then. The place smelled like a school. I guess that’s because of the wood! This Pellatt guy even had a wall organ, geez.
|Look familiar? You've probably seen it before...|
We braved tiny winding metal stairs (even medieval castle-goers would have baulked) to the top of the Scottish Tower which had a great, if barred, view of Toronto’s skyline. Every brick up there was crowded with graffiti. I have never seen the like in any historical site. It was everywhere. This tower is where super sekit sonar was being researched during World War II. Hilariously, the only security used at the time was a sign that apologised to visitors that this area was under construction. Men wore worker’s gear and walked right by oblivious partygoers who went to dances there on Saturday nights.
|If only Pellatt knew how good the view would get...|
We went from this great height to the tunnel in the basement that ran to the stables and coach house across the road - the government had not let the Pellatts sequester the road to join their bits of property. Haha. This was a creepy, dank, moist tunnel that seemed to run forever. Nice antique cars on display in the stables. Despite being cleaned out for deacdes, I swear the the place still smelled of horse poo.
Pellatt loved his horses. Dude spent way too much on random shit.
The Casa runs out of good gelato early it seems so I suffered without chocolate. Then we got lost in the small garden looking for a second exit (there was none!). Finally we left, heading back - to the CN Tower!
A “skywalk” took us right from Union Station to the tower, though it seemed to twist and turn for ages before we finally arrived at the huge cluster of people trying to get in. We freaked - it was 4pm, how would we make the 5:37pm train that went all the way to the Hamilton GO Station!?
“Are you part of the group?” a woman asked.
We said no - and were hurried through metal detectors that failed to pick up the coins in in my fiancé’s pockets. The tower stretched high above us, once the tallest tower in the world (it was for over three decades - now it’s the third tallest!). Its only claim to fame these days is that it’s the “tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere”, according to Wikipedia.
$35 each to go up. Youch. They tried to make us do a green screen photo which we avoided. Then we queued for a lift. Kept queuing. Waiting. Finally we crammed in then took the 1 minute voyage to the top. Great views though while I was ecstatic, my fiancé was less so - he has a fear of heights. The best views through the glass were stolen by the restaurant.
People crowded on the “first glass floor in the world!” (signs were very proud of this fact, though many were still claiming that it was the tallest tower in the world). Fewer people seemed to want to go further away from the “safety” of the edge so I went to the centre to jump on a glass panel. I got great photos of below. My fiancé gingerly walked on metal beams, looking very worried. He likes to master his fears.
|Would you jump on that? ;D I did!|
Downstairs on the next level was a grill obscured the view but you could expose yourself to the very windy elements! Down, down again. My fiancé held tightly onto me to keep me from falling through the glass panel in the floor of the lift should it randomly disintegrate. Aha, gift shop time.
We had just 30 minutes before our train We walked all the way back, had drinks, then hung with a pack of people also watching the screens avidly, waiting for our listed train to be given a platform. The moment it was announced, people practically ran, trying to get the best spots, thus the best seats.
The train inched its way in. Then bedlam. I clambered to the top level and found us three seats. It was a long 90 minute journey home but it was alllll the way to Hamilton! Farewelled our friend and had dinner.
Now - just finished this infernal entry of this infernal travel journal.