Family Visit to Toronto, Canada

I spent the last two weeks visiting family in Toronto with my two kids. My husband had to stay behind and work in Paris, so it was just me and the munchkins, our first long-distance trip without him. Although I intended to blog while I was gone, the truth is that the kids kept me occupied most of the time, and I decided to take a break while I was there.

I love heading to Canada any time of year, but autumn is particularly special. The changing of the leaves provides a gorgeous backdrop to the whole country, and is unlike anything I've seen anywhere else. France has fall too, of course, but in Paris the leaves mostly turn brown, or sometimes yellow, before falling curled and brittle, to the ground. In Canada the leaves turn various shades of orange, red, yellow, gold, and brown before falling, still soft, into piles on the ground.

The weather is also ideal for getting outside and exploring. With the exception of a few unseasonably cold years, autumn in Canada is what we like to call "sweater weather." Too cold for t-shirts but not quite cold enough to break out the winter coats. Layered in a nice sweater, maybe with a hat and gloves on windy days, is just enough protection from the chill.

For the kids, Thanksgiving and Halloween are also big draws for visiting. My parents threw a late Thanksgiving celebration for us, as it is celebrated in October in Canada, not November like in the United States. We gorged on turkey and sweet potatoes, cornbread and pumpkin cheesecake pie. It was perfect. My boys were most excited about Halloween though, as trick or treating is not something that happens much in France.

Last year they celebrated at the American Library in Paris and I got some great shots of them in costume in front of the Eiffel Tower, but that doesn't compare with the thought of bags full of candy in the eyes of a child. We were blessed with great weather this year, and my zombie ghost (don't ask) and elephant made out with a ton of treats. The fact that they were able to share the occasion with their cousin, the zombie cemetery bride (again, don't ask), made it even better.

My sister took time off work and my niece stayed home from school several days so we could take the kids out and have some fun. We started with Downey's Farm, which has a pumpkin patch, hay rides, farm animals, playground, corn maze, and more. We were even able to purchase some gluten free cookies in the farm store.

We visited the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, a huge complex that takes almost two hours to get through. My oldest is currently fascinated with sharks and whales, and was thrilled to see several shark species in the aquarium. My youngest was excited at all the interactive displays, because he loves being able to push buttons, turn handles, and open and close doors and windows. I particularly enjoyed the moving floor that takes visitors through the tunnel where fish are swimming on either side as well as above you. The aquarium was a big hit for both the kids and the adults.

Right across from the aquarium is the famous CN Tower. Since we were already downtown, we decided to head on up to the top of the tower. I've been up before, but my kids haven't, and they were excited to go. We began by having some lunch in the cafeteria on the main floor, although there are places to eat at the observation level. The advantage of the ground floor cafeteria is that it's less crowded, it's cheaper, and it has a small play area for children.

After blowing off some steam, we took the elevator with the glass floor panel to the top, and marveled at the beauty of the city and lake Ontario below. For the kids, the best part was the famous glass floor of the observation deck. My mom is afraid of heights, so it took a lot of courage for her to stand on it. The kids were far braver, walking on it without hesitation. The bravest of all was my youngest, who happily lay down on the glass floor to check out the view below.

I had the chance to meet up with a few friends and visit some family as well, but not nearly as many as I would have liked. It's more difficult to get free time when my husband isn't there to help out with the kids. Still, it's always nice to catch up and get real facetime with those I care about.

Unfortunately, the trip ended on a bit of a downer as I fell at my aunt's house the night before we left for Paris. I ended up injuring the toes on my right foot and seriously spraining my left, with a potential ankle fracture. The doctor at the hospital said that while the x-ray looked clean enough, the unusually large amount of swelling gave her pause. so, suited up with an aircast and crutches, I watched helplessly as my family packed for me and the kids. I needed to be wheeled through the airport and helped onto the plane, but in the end we made it safe and sound.

Leaving Toronto to come back to Paris is always bittersweet for me. I love living in Paris and was anxious to see my husband, but I always miss my family terribly when we're apart. I am grateful to be able to travel back and forth so frequently, because I know that many people don't get the chance to visit their families overseas as often as I have been able to over the past few years. So it was with tears that I said See You Soon, and I'm already planning out my next visit.