The Emirates Volvo Estate outside our flat ready for the ride to Dubai Airport. I had gotten back from an early morning run at 5:45am, had a quick shower and had just gotten dressed when the driver arrived at 6:05am and quite a bit earlier than the 6:30am time I had booked! Luckily I was ready to go though, and after a quick goodbye to Rianda and a last minute check that I had everything I was off to the airport.
Following another Emirates Volvo down Sheik Zayed Road. The primary purpose of this trip was to attend a conference for work so I was fortunate to be flying business class today.
And at the Business Class check-in area at Terminal 3. My flight to Toronto had only been booked three days prior and there unfortunately were no window seats available when I selected my seat online. I enquired about the faint possibily of a window seat at check-in but today's flight was 100% full and I was out of luck.
My flights for this trip were on two different airlines, flying 4 segments:
Day 1: Flying Emirates Airline (EK) from Dubai to Toronto (DXB-YYZ).
Day 3: Flying Air Canada (AC) from Toronto to Québec City (YYZ-YQB).
Day 11: Air Canada (AC) from Ottawa to Toronto (YOW-YYZ).
Flying Emirates Airline (EK) from Toronto to Dubai (YYZ-DXB).
For my trip to Canada I flew into Toronto (A) where I spent two nights before flying up to Québec City (B) for a four day conference. On the last day of the conference we had a bus trip up to Alma (C) to visit an aluminium smelter. After the conference I caught a train down to Montreal (D) where I spent two nights before catching another train to Ottawa (E). After a night in Ottawa I flew back to Toronto (A) before hiring a car and driving down to Niagara Falls (F), then across to Woodstock (G) and then back to Toronto Pearson International Airport for the flight back to Dubai.
After passing through immigration and security I caught the train to Concourse A in Terminal 3 and then headed upstairs to the Emirates Business Class Lounge.
The lounge spans the entire floor of Concourse A and is supposedly the biggest business class lounge in the world.
Opened in 2013, Concourse A is the world's first A380 purpose built facility, with 20 air bridge gates for the world’s first multi-level boarding for first and business class passengers directly from the respective lounges.
After a walk around the lounge, I grabbed some breakfast from one of the many food service areas.
After watching some Netflix on my iPad, I went for another wander around the lounge. At the southern end of the lounge with the A380 for our flight to Toronto on the far left.
Looking out to our A380 on the airbridge. We boarded ~15 minutes behind schedule as the plane had arrived late on its inbound flight.
Our A380 was one of two Emirates A380's that had new livery to promote awareness of the trade in illegal wildlife with colourful tigers, lions, gorillas, rhinos, bears and elephants on both sides of the fuselage.
15G, my seat for the next ~13 hours.
Today's flight was 100% full with absolutely no spare seats. The Canadian government has placed heavy restrictions on the ME3 (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar) airlines flying to Canada, only allowing three flights a week for each airline and hence there is very high demand for the very few flights. For comparison, Emirates has 50+ flights to Australia per week versus only the restricted three to Canada.
These heavy flight restrictions imposed by the Canadian government on UAE airlines have had ramifications for the relations between Canada and the UAE, with the UAE forcing the closure of Camp Mirage in Dubai, Canada's only military base in the Gulf region, successfully lobbying to thwart Canada's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council and for a time requiring expensive visa's for Canadians wishing to visit the UAE.
The small (left) and large (right) IFE remotes. There was also a personal mini-bar with various drinks such as water, Perrier, Pepsi, OJ etc.
A glass of yellow label Veuve Clicquot champagne that was served soon after boarding.
The men's amenity kit.
And the menu for today's flight to Toronto.
As we pushed back for take-off, I started watching the film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Although I can understand some of the criticisms that it got (humourless etc.), I thought it was still quite an enjoyable movie though.
Breakfast was served soon after take-off. I chose the spinach and feta omelette with baked beans, roasted cherry tomatoes and potatoes with chives. Very tasty!
And a hit of caffeine from a freshly made cappuccino afterwards.
Althought the cabin lights were dimmed soon after breakfast, as it was a day time flight taking off at 9:55am in Dubai and arriving 15:45pm local time in Toronto, I didn't feel like sleeping so checked out some music on the IFE.
After another movie, I went to check out the famous Emirates A380 bar, the first of its kind on a plane.
Some snacks and a screen with flight info by the galley.
And a good chance to look out of the window after not being able to secure a window seat!
I then relaxed with some Australian red wine and nuts from the bar.
After some more movie watching we were about to pass Greenland where I had just visited a month prior.
I was getting a little hungry so ordered one of the warm snacks on the menu, the steak sandwich with onion marmalade and emmental on toasted sourdough. Surprisingly tasty!
On my last trip I had watched half of the second season of the TV series Fargo. It wasn't available in Netflix in the UAE yet, so I took advantage of watching some more on the Emirates IFE.
A couple of hours out from Toronto the lunch service was started. Coke, water and nuts to start.
And for the starter I had the Arabic mezze with spinach bil zeit, labneh, houmous and stuffed vine leaves.
Followed by the main where I chose the roasted beef tenderloin, served with green pepper sauce, steamed french beans and potato cakes with truffle. My expectations are normally pretty low for steak on a plane, but it was surprisingly tender and delicious.
For dessert I had the very sweet and oh so tasty chocolate mango torte. Layered chocolate and mango mousse with dark chocolate ganache, served with raspberry compote.
And on approach to Toronto Pearson International Airport.
My first time flying business class was a few years ago on an Emirates 777 with angled, seven across seating. The A380 experience was undoubtedly much better and I was really looking forward to experiencing it all again on the return flight back to Dubai.
After my previous adventurous travel (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia etc.) I was a bit nervous about immigration especially now that the US has tightened its entry policies, but luckily after a quick few questions on the reasons for my visit to Canada I was quickly stamped into my 99th country visited.
I then grabbed my suitcase from the baggage belt and headed ground-side to find my ride.
And the Chevrolet Suburban ready to whisk me into Toronto city.
After managing to get into town through Friday peak hour traffic, we reached Guesthouse Taigh Ice in the neighbourhood of Cabbagetown. Cabbagetown is supposedly the "largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America".
And my room for the next two nights. The guesthouse was $CA146 per night with a shared bathroom.
I then went for a bit of a walk to help shake off the jetlag.
After all the food on the plane, I just had a donut and hot drink before heading back to get some much needed sleep. I was quite surprised how cheap it was at less than $CA3 total, about a third of what it costs back in Dubai where it is priced similarly to Starbucks.
I headed back to the guesthouse at about 8pm. It was 4am back in Dubai and I was pretty knackered so I got some good sleep before exploring Toronto tomorrow.
After a morning run through Greektown I headed to the Sherbourne subway station.
And on to the yellow line for the short ride to Union Station.
Outside Union Station in downtown Toronto with the CN Tower puncturing the clouds above.
After walking through downtown I found a Starbucks and had a cheese and ham sandwich and some warm coffee for breakfast.
I then headed out again to explore the streets.
I had just upgraded my 4.5 year old Canon 5D MKIII DSLR camera to the new MkIV version so it was great to try it out while wandering through a new city. My old 5D MkIII had accompanied me to 94 countries and was still soldiering on, but it was starting to show its age and had some issues starting to surface (freezing up in moist/damp conditions and buttons sticking due to wear). As well as being a brand new camera, the extra megapixels, dynamic range and reduced noise were also very welcome with my new MkIV.
Kensington Market, a multicultural neighbourhood of Toronto that has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada
Soup of the day.
A mural of the late Rob Ford, the controversial former mayor of Toronto.
Sonic Boom Records.
Back downtown Toronto with the CN Tower now fully engulfed in the clouds.
Canadian National on the side of an old locomotive outside the Toronto Railway Museum.
The Hockey Hall of Fame.
Next on my list was to check out St. Lawrence Market.
Fresh flowers on the lower level.
The market was super busy with many Torontonians out enjoying their weekend.
Brown Brothers Meats up on the upper level, Canada's oldest meat shop.
Lots of shops were offering free tasty samples to tempt you.
View out over the upper level. The building was first opened in 1902.
Donuts, croissants and muffins.
Fish and fine meat.
A multitude of different mustards to taste.
Plenty of cheese to try too.
It was getting close to 1pm so for lunch at the market I grabbed a very tasty Italian veal sandwich for $CA10 from Uno Mustachio.
I then walked further east to the Distillery District.
Old Dodge truck. The Distillery District is a National Historic Site and contains numerous cafés, restaurants, and shops.
Miss Congeniality. The district has many Victorian-era buildings from the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery.
Stopping for afternoon tea at the Sweet Escape Pâtisserie. The district owners apparently refuse to lease any of the retail and restaurant space to chains or franchises.
And enjoying some very delicious pumpkin cheesecake.
I then began the 2 kilometre walk north back to Cabbagetown.
I arrived back at the guesthouse at about 4pm and crashed out after my walking tour of Toronto.
After a good rest I headed out again. Back at the subway after buying some tokens.
And after two stops I arrived at Dundas Square.
Toronto is hosting the Invictus Games in 2017 so the Canadian Army was helping to promote it.
Posing with a Leopard Main Battle Tank.
For dinner I went to a restaurant just off the Square, Asian Bowl, and had the 'Lamb On Fire', very tasty char grilled lamb chop with mango salad and vermicelli.
And back at Dundas Subway Station to catch the train back to the guesthouse after a very interesting day in Toronto.
My bodyclock was still a bit out of sync, so after waking up at 3:30am, I went for a run, packed my bags, and then walked downtown to Union Station.
And on the 6:30am Union Pearson Express. The UP Express was quite new and began operations in June 2015 with Japanese-built Nippon Sharyo rolling stock.
Checking in at the Air Canada D gates.
Grabbing a pita bread for breakfast air-side.
The Air Canada Embraer E190 at the gate for the 9am flight to Jean Lesage International Airport.
We boarded on time and settled into our seats. Air Canada had recently implemented additional charges for checked luggage for economy tickets so the FA had to pack a few extra bags in the business class overheads.
Fresh fruit, greek yoghurt and a croissant served on the ~90 minute flight.
After landing in Québec City, I headed out to grab a taxi for the short ride into town.
The price for the taxi ride into the city was a fixed $34.25, and I made a bit of cultural fubar by only giving him $35, only realising later that a 'voluntary' 15-25% tip is expected too.
Outside Hotel Palace Royal for my five night stay and the location of the aluminium conference I was attending. It was 11am and my room wasn't ready yet so I did the 'pre-check in', stored my bags and grabbed my camera for a walk around the city.
An alleyway in Old Québec with local art sale.
With some very cool skateboard decks too.
Tourists having some lunch at a beautiful hotel/restaurant in the autumn sun.
Walking along the promenade in front of the 19th Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, the 'most photographed hotel in the world'.
I then walked up the hill to Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine. Looking down on the Château Frontenac and the harbour with two cruise ships in dock.
Porte St. Louis, a gate in the city walls, the only remaining city walls in North America north of Mexico.
I then wandered to the Citadelle of Québec.
The Citadelle was initally concieved by the French in the 17th century on strategic Cap Diamant before being completed by the British in the 19th century.
It is also still a functioning military installation for the Canadian Forces, as well as an official residence of Canada's Governor General (photo courtesy of Corporal David Robert of Musée Royal 22e Régiment).
By chance they were having an open day of the Governor General's residence so I lined up for a peek inside.
The dining room.
The interior was quite an interesting mixture of classical and modern design.
A portrait on one of the walls of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
Some Royal medals on display, They also were giving out some chocolate Citadelle coins and I couldn't resist grabbing a couple!
They were also giving free food for the open day including apples, cake, pudding and other stuff.
The Maple Leaf or l'Unifolié flapping in the breeze.
Zone de salut.
It was 2:30pm and I was getting hungry so I walked back into Old Québec and went to Resto La Buche for some fine cuisine québécoise du vieux Québec.
Soupe à la tomate to start.
And la fameuse tourtiére for the main. Filled with Québec venison and served with creamy salad and fruit ketchup. Delicious and really hit the spot.
The restaurant also had a very interesting unisex toilet, complete with copious amounts of graffiti and a bathtub to wash your hands!
After the late lunch I continued my walkabout through Old Québec.
Pub St. Patrick.
I got back to the hotel just after 4pm and my room was finally ready.
Quite nice for the next four nights.
The room was $CA257 per night including tax.
Having been up since 3:30am I was slightly exhausted so crashed out for a couple of hours.
Looking down at the pool in the hotel atrium. At 7pm I headed out to grab a bite to eat for dinner.
Some poulet poutine at Snack Bar Saint-Jean. My first time trying this famous Canadian Québec dish and it was definitely quite an experience!
After the carb and fat overload I had an early night, ready for the start of the conference tomorrow.