Our third continent: North America
Even though we had visited 6 different countries up to this point, we had “only” explored two continents: Asia and Europe. But the 3 Cards, 3 Continents Challenge demanded visiting 3. Our original plan for hitting our third continent was to take a ferry from southern Spain to Morocco. But that entire plan fell through (See: The road not taken — Greg’s abandoned plans for 3 Cards 3, Continents). Instead, I found business class award availability to Bergen (where we could do an incredible fjord cruise!) and then onward to North America. I was incredibly excited about being able to add Norway and Sweden to our itinerary, but bummed that Africa fell off our list. Fortunately, the rules of the challenge stated that North America could be counted as a continent if we visited a place outside of the lower 48 states. And, even though I barely had enough mileage allowance left in the ANA Round the World award to get back home to Detroit (I could fly up to 14,000 miles in business class for 90K ANA points), it turned out that a stop in Toronto added fewer than 100 miles to the trip vs. flying directly to Detroit from our stop in Newark. Sold!
While Toronto didn’t sound exciting to me or to Maisie, there was a good reason to stop there based on the theme of our trip. Just this month the Michelin guide added Toronto restaurants to their list. Luckily we (i.e. Maisie) had already made reservations at one of these restaurants: Alo.
Thursday evening scramble
On Thursday morning we flew United Polaris business class from Bergen Norway (BGO) to Newark New Jersey (EWR). Our plan then was to fly Air Canada to Toronto, take the UP Express train from the airport to downtown, check in to the Delta Hotel Toronto Downtown (which Tim adored), then enjoy a late dinner at Alo, which was now a 1 Michelin starred restaurant. That all sounded good until our flight to Toronto was delayed due to weather. We tried to switch to a United flight, but that one was completely full. It was ironic that we had just traveled around the world without a single flight delay, but finally got dinged so close to home.
Once it was obvious that we’d arrive too late to Toronto for dinner at Alo, Maisie cancelled our reservation and I switched our hotel. The Delta Hotel made sense as part of our plan to visit Alo, but it was out of the way for the rest of our plans. A better choice for our late arrival and early next morning departure was the Sheraton Gateway Hotel which is directly connected to the Toronto airport.
Sheraton Gateway Hotel
We checked into the airport hotel just before midnight and left the next morning at about 6:30. Their club lounge opens at 5:30 and so I was able to enjoy breakfast there before we left. Overall, I was impressed with this hotel and very impressed with its club lounge. Switching to this hotel was a great move.
Food and activities were considered a separate budget for the 3 Cards, 3 Continents Challenge. In fact, despite originally stating that we would have some kind of budget for these things, the team had decided not to worry about it. Each contestant could spend whatever they wanted on food and activities.
So, I rented this Mercedes SUV for about $2 (plus a free day certificate from National Car Rental). You might wonder why a car rental would be counted as an activity rather than travel… and that’s a very reasonable question. This is something that the Frequent Miler team had previously hashed out via private Slack messages. Tours, even if they included transportation, were to be counted as activities. And, transportation costs that were specifically to get to activities would be counted as activities. So, for example, the cost of getting between the airport and hotel would count in the travel budget. But the cost of getting from the hotel to an activity would not count as travel but as an activity cost. So, it was clear to everyone on the team that renting a car for the explicit purpose of getting to an activity was fair game and outside of the travel budget.
The drive to Niagara Falls from the Toronto airport took a little over an hour.
Maisie had never before been to Niagara Falls and was very eagerly anticipating it. Meanwhile, I had been many times before and was not at all excited. To me it felt like something we had to do to show that we had done something significant on this continent (plus it was great that it fit so well with our water sub-theme).
Then we arrived.
Somehow I had forgotten how spectacular Niagara Falls is, especially from the Canadian side. The view. The sound. The raw power that you can feel in your bones.
It was awesome.
After viewing the falls from above, we bought tickets for the boat ride that takes you right into the mist below the falls. This too I had done before, but it was still a great experience. It used to be called Maid of the Mist (and it’s still called that if you leave from the American side), but it’s now called “Niagara City Cruises.” Canada, I love you, but you seriously need to work on your marketing.
Despite the ponchos, we got very wet. Luckily the heated seats in our Mercedes dried our jeans as we drove to our next stop…
Pearl Morissette is a winery, a restaurant, and a bistro. It is in a little town called Jordan Station which is between Toronto and Niagara Falls, but closer to the latter. The restaurant (named “Restaurant Pearl Morissette”) is widely considered to be one of the best restaurants in all of Canada. They have their own farm dedicated to producing ingredients for their restaurant and bistro. And the farm is all about regenerative and sustainable farming practices (similar to the practices described in the terrific movie The Biggest Little Farm).
We sadly couldn’t fit in a dinner visit, but we were given a private tour of the farm and then we enjoyed an incredible lunch and wine tasting at their bistro, which is called RPM Bakehouse (i.e. Restaurant Pearl Morissette Bakehouse).
On the farm, the chefs literally walk out to the field to pick ingredients of interest. As a result, the restaurant menu changes daily.
While the main restaurant and primary wine tasting are right there on the farm, the RPM Bakehouse is a short drive away and in a cute downtown:
The wine was excellent…
All of the food was delicious, but my favorite was the tomato toast:
And Maisie’s favorite was the Zucchini Fritter:
Pearl Morissette is an absolute gem. I can’t wait to go back but next time with reservations for dinner and wine tasting! Of course I’ll go to the RPM Bakehouse for lunch as well!
Check out these videos for more about our time in Canada…
American Woman in Canada
The Sheraton Gateway Hotel Club Lounge
My room at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel
No slippers! What to do? I have a solution!
Niagara Falls Reveal
Niagara Falls Boat Ride
Maisie tells out about Pearl Morissette