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Transit Day – Toronto to San Francisco

Flight from Toronto to San Francisco

After a mere 6 hour flight on a Air Canada Airbus A319, and we are in San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and after a meander through the sprawling terminal, a shuttle train ride, and a drive, we are at out hotel in nearby San Mateo.

Australian traveller tips:

Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in Toronto.

I am impressed by how nice this airport is, as far as acoustics go. Even in the vaulted and open public spaces the people’s chatter and noise dies down and announcements can be clearly heard. Acoustics here are a top notch. It also appears the the US officials here are more relaxed and more pleasant than those we encountered in LA (LAX).

When flying from Canada to USA via Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in Toronto, be prepared for a number of things:

  • If you are flying to USA allow extra time:
    • you will need to go to the check in desk to get your checked luggage tagged.
    • you will need to lug all your luggage through The USA border protection, immigration and customs
    • you will need to go through security, including full body scanners (if you’re not lucky)
    • US based airlines generally do not offer food in domestic economy class. Get some food in the terminal, or buy some on board. Prices will be high.
  • Airport WiFi is free but slow.
  • Airport restaurants have a good selection of food, and comfortable seats, but the prices are airport prices.

San Francisco International Airport (FSO)

This is a very large airport with 3 domestic and 1 international terminal.

When arriving at, departing from,  or transiting San Francisco International Airport (FSO)

  • Allow plenty of time at the airport:
    • use the airport train to get to the terminals (can take 10 to 15 minutes or so to get you to the right place).
    • switching terminals will take time. Use the airport maps and information services to work out what terminal you are flying from. Different
    • airlines fly from different terminals, with some US domestic carriers using the interantional terminal.
    • if transiting, you might need to go through security screening again…
  • If picking up a car or dropping off a renal car, you will need to go to a most outlying part of the airport where the ‘car rental centre’ is.
  • If you need to drop off a car:
    • do this the first thing to do at the airport, (the depatrures parking/drop off area is congested)
    • take your luggage and go to airport shuttle train station to get to the correct terminal.
  • If you need to pick up a car best thing to do is:
    • get your luggage together
    • use the shuttle train to get to the rental car centre.
    • doing it in this order prevents you from having to drive around the airport roads to the arrivals area, or looking for a car park.
    • The rental car centre is closer to the freeway than the terminals.



Brief visit to Toronto

This is a quick visit

Having driven in from Ottawa the night before we slept in till 11:00 am and then, given that we did not have much to do until we needed to be at the airport between 16:00 and 17:00 ( USA bound flight at 20:15), we decided to got for a drive into Toronto city centre. Our aim was to do a few small touristy things and to get some lunch.

Our Impressions

Toronto has changed a lot since the time I was here in 1983. However for all that change, the approaches to the city remind me of Melbourne (the one in Australia of course) – in particular the inner suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy, Brunswick, Northcote or Coburg. This is in part due to the 2, 3 and 4 storey buildings with shops and businesses in the bottom, lining the streets along with a scatter of tall, brown and red  brick late 1950’s to early 1980’s  residential high-rise blocks inserted into gaps in the urban fabric. Most importantly, Toronto,  like Melbourne, has trams.  Trams which along with parked cars impeded our progress. Just like they would in Melbourne.

Discovery: Toronto Chinatown

The most welcome discovery was that quite by accident, we chose to drive into city centre along Dundas Street W, which appears to be one the major routes throuhg the Toronto Chinatown.

Toronto Grange Park and Art Gallery of Ontario:

We stopped on the edge of the Chinatown and visited the Grange Park and Grange House behind the Art Gallery of Ontario. The park and the house are a remenant of a the former palatial residential area for the the well-to-do citizens of York (Toronto), and as the plaques and information tablets tell us, Grange House was the last example of this type of palatial architecture left in the area. Behind and above the old manor we could see the metallic blue walls and the spiral staircases of the Art Gallery.

Grange House

Grange House

Art Gallery of Ontario - Staircase

Art Gallery of Ontario – Staircase

Art Gallery of Ontario from Grange Park

Art Gallery of Ontario from Grange Park


After a brief walk around the area we stopped for a quick lunch at a quiet restaurant on Dundas Street, and we amazed the Chinese proprietor by being able to eat with chopsticks. Why is it that a non-asian being able to eat with chopsticks is seen as a nice surprise?

After lunch we indulged in a bit of a walk though Chinatown and a got ourselves a good back massage to relax us before the 6 hour flight to San Francisco


Will need to explore that is available in Toronto and come back here with a more structured plan and more time to explore.


Transit Day – Ottawa to Toronto

Driving from Ottawa to Toronto


Our GPS was programmed with “avoid tolls”, and so it took from Ottawa towards Kingston, and then along the shore of the St Laurence river and Lake Ontario to Toronto.


Traffic was quite light until we got to Kingston and stopped for a lunch and stretch the legs break. From Kingston to Toronto, however, traffic was moving at 30 to 80 km/h, as more and more holidaymakers started to head home.

Travellers Tips

We neglected to check what public holidays, if any, our travel happened to coincide with. Lesson from this:

Always check dates of public/statutory holidays. Traffic will be much worse at the start and the end of these, so if like us, you get caught in the stream of people driving back home after a  long weekend, you will need to put up with a lot more traffic and a lot of frustrated and tired drivers who do not do ling distance driving often.



Ottawa? Why Ottawa?

As some of you might well know I have a younger brother who has been living in Canada.  He is a any of very few words, so I when the invitation to his wedding came earlier this year, I was very happy, as it ended up dove-tailing quite neatly with the rest of the grand tour.


Sights of Ottawa

Ottawa is a modern growing city and an odd an unusual mixture architecture. Some of it is very pretty, being a mix of the typical Canadian (neo-gothic in flavour) style form the mid 1800 and early 1900, some of is nicely designed modern building that blend in well with the older houses and edifices, and and some of it rather ugly and late 1970’s and 1980’s utilitarian. Having said all that the walk along the river  was a most interesting and pleasant experience.

Here are some examples, of what I mean:

Center Block, Candian Parliment Ottawa

Center Block, Candian Parliment Ottawa

ottawa new and old architecture

Mixture of new and old architecture

Locks on Riedau Canal

Historic Locks on Riedau Canal

Panorama from the Parliament Hill

This 3 part panorama shows part of  Gatinaeu, the Ottawa River, and the National Gallery building on the east side of the Rideau Canal. Along with the above photos. it illustrates the green nature of the city and the mixed and varied style of architecture.



Transit Day – Paris (CDG) to Zurich (ZHR) to Montreal (YUL)

Transit day


2 flights today, one from Paris (CDG)  to Zurich (ZUR) , and about and hour later from Zurich (ZUR) to Montreal (YUL).


Paris – Charles De Gaulle airport is actually conglomeration of 3 terminal buildings. Terminal one was first opened in 1974 and it shows its age. Travellers tip: give yourself a LOT of time to transit CDG, especially if you need to go from one terminal to another, as this will send you into and out of multiple security zones.

Zurich is a nice airport. It is very well organised and is easy to transit. in all it took us under 20 minutes to get off our plane, go through passport control, catch the airport shuttle train to the international terminal and then to find our gate. I am very impressed with this.


The plane landed in pouring, so we don’t have any initial pictures. Here are some initial impressions:

Getting around

Drive from airport into the city in pouring rain. Canadian drivers are fairly polite and considerate.


The hotel we are staying in a a place of character and some history. I like it. More about that later