Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Winter Road Trip 2012


We took a Road Trip to Toronto. The goal was to attend the RIS Conference (Reviving the Islamic Spirit), however we were able to do many things along the way. Therefore, I will write a separate blog about the RIS conference. I will attempt to share many of things we learned about in this blog post.

I made a joke on facebook, that the first thing we did once we entered Canada, before checking into our hotel or doing anything was we went to find something Wholly Canadian. Of course Whole Foods is not a Canadian company, but we did appreciate the special Canadian products we were able to find there.

Another thing that we were able to do that I really advise anyone who homeschools and travel is use the visiting country as real life lessons. Especially in math, have your children solve metric problems when driving in kilometers and weighing in grams.

We tried to go to our Bank- Bank of America to get Canadian Currency before we entered Canada, however they don't have it on the spot. What we did learn was that ScotiaBank does not charge Bank of America customers a transaction charge and vise versa. So if you are Canadian and bank with ScotiaBank, you can use Bank of America ATM without a charge. We had no problems find a ScotiaBank atm, they were everywhere. Also, another great idea Humble Dad was saying is if you are crossing the border alot, then TD bank would be a good bank to bank with.

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was a cultural shock even for a Muslim, there were so many Muslims in the GTA an estimated 10% of the population. So it was wonderful to experience simple things like corner stores with Arab names in the middle of downtown or that almost every street vendor had Halal choices. If you look on Zabihah.com where we go to find halal food, you will see that Toronto has almost 1000 dining choices. I will blog more about the Halal dining and Mosque on a separate post.

Our hotel was the Hilton Garden, again I must say that having so many Muslim was a very new experience for us. And swimming at the hotel with other Muslim families was very nice. We had a king room with a hot tub, which I advise is a nice idea. Its great for entertaining children and getting the most relaxation possible. I prefer a nice whirlpool massage from the water jets than being massaged by a total stranger. Oh, so relaxing. I kept saying afterward, "I love Vacations"

Toronto Blue Jays is Humble Dad's baseball team and the Rogers Stadium is where they play during season. Of course we were not there in season, but we will try to return to Toronto, InshaAllah to see a Blue Jays baseball game amongst other things in the Spring/Summer/Fall.

The big tourist attraction in Toronto is the CN tower which is located right next to the Rogers Stadium and the Metro Convention Center where the RIS conference took place. I really wanted to go up into the towere which has glass floors, but the prices were too high for a family of six at about $50 a pop. It looks like alot of  fun and if you can afford it, then that is attraction of choice for many.

Another thing I wanted to do, but did not have the time for is taking the ferry across to Toronto Island.

One thing we did do was High Park, which is a fantastic park even in the Winter. Our Beloved children have climbed trees all over the United States and now they can add Canada to that list.

A true Tree Hugger

Besides climbing trees, High Park has a wonderful Children's Garden, not as nice as the one in Wyoming, but it still has many wonderful things like a rooftop garden and green teaching kitchen.

High Park also has Grenadier Pond that was almost frozen. It had signs that said no ice skating or crossing, which means people must ice skate and cross it all the time. In fact, as I was doing a google search I read one person boasting how High Park is one of the places to go for good ice skating. Also if you care to look up Grenadier Pond it has a very interesting history. High Park has a free little zoo and many other beautiful aspects that would better be experienced when the flowers are blooming.

Toronto did have snow while we were there and my Beloveds quickly found some to play in. We stopped near the City Hall where ice skating is free and you can rent skates for $5-10.

We visited Niagara Falls on Christmas Day and everything was open, the city does not sleep. We were surrounded by tourists and many of them were Muslims. We went to gift shops and other tourist spots on Clifton Hill.

There is no tax on maple syrup, buy syrup from Quebec while there.

Visiting Niagara Falls during the Winter Time provided a real ICY experience. The mist that comes off the waterfall froze on your face. A warm coat, hat, gloves and scarf are highly recommended during the winter. A poncho or some sort of rain gear to go over your coat is also a great idea. We had a hard time taking pictures because the water and the coldness, I had to continue to wipe the camera. This should be example of how powerful the Niagara Falls are and the importance of having respect for God's creation.

Niagara Falls area is very beautiful in Winter and should not be avoided for the more popular Summer months attractions. The Winter lights that the city has set up is one great attraction. We were very excited to see an Islamic representation: Pilgrimage to Mecca.

Crossing the border was pretty hassle free, the lady with a French accent on the Canadian side seemed a little reluctant and asked funny questions. But no real harassment Alhumdulilah. Only Humble Dad and I had passports, children under 16 only need birth certificates to exit and enter Canada and Mexico. The cool thing about the passports is I took the pictures saving us a couple of dollars. It was super easy to take the pictures, we used this online editing program, then printed them out at Walgreens. We received our passports within 4 weeks.

If driving from Maryland to Toronto, I really advise taking Route 15 through Williamsport, PA. It was a beautiful drive, it was direct, less paying of toll, and a very important plus for us: baseball! Williamsport is the home of the Little League World Series. Yes, we did stop and visit the store. The Museum is closed until June 2013. One important fact is we learned that all the World Series games are FREE except the last 5 days, so we will be returning, InshaAllah to attend a game. See more pictures of Williamsport on our Noor Janan Sports Blog.

Winter Road Trip 2012 continues with:
Winter Road Trip 2012
Canadian Mosques & Halal Foods
Reviving the Islamic Spirit

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