& Niagara Falls
By Ruth Hibbins-Butler
for Toronto, Canada and Niagara
Falls, Ruth Hibbins-Butler and her husband, Stephen, departed from
London’s Heathrow Airport with her parents from Belfast, Ireland.
Ruth’s father, Jack, uses a wheelchair due to his paraplegia.
is truly a world-class city with a cosmopolitan mix of shopping, dining,
nightlife and theatre that rivals any city on earth.
Yet Toronto still retains the best features of the small town it
once was, boasting safe, clean streets and warm, friendly people.
travel agent was British Airways Holidays, and we flew Club Class with
British Airways. However,
even though BA knew there
itself was, as one would expect from business class: Good food, wine,
choice of movies/music, quite comfortable seats, and cabin crew attending
to your every whim. Ahhhhh.
Car Hire was through
Alamo. Insurance, gas, additional drivers, taxes, was
all prepaid in the UK. First problem: BA Holidays failed to mention that
the Alamo desk was not in the airport.
This tends to worry you when you see signs for other hire companies
and none for your own. Only because my husband knew that Alamo were
affiliated with National, did we approach the National
Toronto, we stayed at the Canadian Pacific Hotel, The Royal York, which
personifies the best of Toronto. The picture of elegance, service and
hospitality, the Royal York is the perfect location from which to enjoy
everything Toronto has to offer. It
is a First Class hotel with service to match. The lobby is spectacular
with marble pillars, tasteful decoration, extravagant chandeliers, and the
aroma of sweet smelling fresh flowers filling the air.
access is via the East Wing next to the Valet Parking (which I heartily
recommend). The elevator transports you to the lobby level, where you will
find an abundance of shops and restaurants, and, of course, reception.
Check-in was swift and efficient, and a pleasurable end to an otherwise
stressful journey. Particular
praise must be given to the hotel's Concierge desk. The staff are
extremely knowledgeable, and will go out of their way to attend to your
desires. Excellent. We used it time and time again. They will make
reservations for you, call a cab (Beck's taxis have a special fleet of
wheelchair accessible cabs. They charge the same rate as a normal cab, and
only ask that you request one a little in advance of your required time),
book tickets... anything you wish them to do; and, of course, their
information on Toronto is unmatched. The Royal York is friendly and
welcoming, but it manages to add that personal touch which so many of the
chain hotels fail to do. Considering the Royal York is mainly a
business-oriented hotel, this is no mean feat.
The restaurants are excellent also and can be found on the Lobby
Level, as well as on the Lower Level. Everything through from a quiet
drink in seductive saloon surroundings, to Muffins on the Run, to Sushi,
to buffets, to four-course dinners. The Lobby Bar actually serves some of
the best steak that we tasted in Toronto. York's kitchen and deli deserve
special mention (located on the lower level) for their efficient service
and succulent food. Open for breakfasts through to dinners, well worth
more than one visit...once tasted you will be returning for more! Don't
miss out on the shops and restaurants on the lower level; they are just as
excellent as the more frequented Lobby level ones.
Royal York has specially adapted wheelchair rooms, which are very large
indeed considering the age of the hotel (early 1900s).Their wheelchair accessible room was easily
maneuverable. The bathroom wasn't huge, but a wheelchair could enter
easily. It would have been a strain to turn though; however, there is no
door to the actual bathroom. There is a little dressing area before
the bathroom, and this has the door, which allows plenty of space. There
were grab rails and lowered sinks, with taps that could be pushed on and
off rather than turned. This would have been of great benefit I am
sure to someone with arthritis. In this particular room, there wasn't
a roll-in shower; however, I think the Royal York did have such in some
rooms, but it would need to be a special request. There was no shower
chair, but again we didn't need one, so didn't request it. There was
a handheld shower (and a little holder for when you didn't want it
handheld). The only criticism I have is that it didn't reach all the way
to the sink, so washing my dad's hair was quite a wet experience!
hotel's facilities are also excellent: the swimming pool, exercise room,
Jacuzzi, steam rooms, saunas, fully qualified registered masseurs. The
list goes on. Sorry but I don't know about facilities to get in and out of the pool
itself is relatively flat. Kerbs are lowered so much so that they are
practically level with the road. Pedestrian
crossings bleep when the white man is showing as an indicator for blind
people when it is safe to cross. People are courteous and most large shops
and malls will have specially adapted automatic doors, which are operated
by pushing a button.
are disabled seating areas, with one carer seat per wheelchair. Should anyone suffer from claustrophobia, then perhaps the SkyDome
isn't the best place to be. Visitors can watch a game from one of the
restaurants like the Hard Rock Café or Renaissance Hotel. The Renaissance has
a bar and also a restaurant, both of which overlook the field. Rooms are
also available overlooking the field, but I would recommend staying at the
Royal York, just because the experience was so pleasurable.
restaurants have a minimum price for meals while games are being played.
Unfortunately, there are two steps down to the window area, from where you
receive the best views of the field; however, just ask for a table closest
to the edge of the top of the steps, and staff will be most accommodating.
I found that even though they don't take reservations, if you go in person
and plead your case, they will, and then you are guaranteed a wonderful
meal and a wonderful view! The only thing you need worry about is whether
or not your team wins.
CN is fully accessible to wheelchair travellers; however, the lookout level is very narrow, and I am not sure whether
a wheelchair could navigate around. The Skypod, which is further up, I
don't believe to be accessible; however, it is best to check in both
instances with the CN Tower staff. My father didn't come up with us, so I
don't have as much information on this as I could have had. The elevators are very small, and again, someone suffering from
claustrophobia may not be able to withstand the 1 minute+
Royal York has direct indoor access to Toronto's underground PATH, which
connects you to downtown's best shopping and services, and also to Union
Station. From Union Station,
the wheelchair accessible carriages of the GO trains, the rest of Ontario
is at your disposal! Car license plates all bear the motto "Ontario -
Yours to Discover." How
true. Wheelchair access
are many malls a short drive from downtown and all with disabled access,
and also the ability to rent wheelchair for the purposes of the shopping
outing. Car parking spaces are right outside the doors, just remember
of the most famous steakhouses in Toronto is Harbour
Sixty. It was also the closest to our hotel. We made reservations, and
stipulated that there was a wheelchair guest in our party. When we pulled
up at the back of the restaurant, the valet helped my father out of the
car, brought him to the mini-elevator that they assemble especially for
disabled guests, and transported him to the restaurant, before returning
to take care of the car. Taking into account that it was raining quite
hard, this was exceptional
Falls itself is one of the most hilly places I have visited. The hills are incredibly steep, so it is quite an effort for the
person pushing a wheelchair up the hills. BA neglected to mention this so
it was quite a shock. As for Niagara itself, souvenir shops abound and
there are many arcades and exhibitions to capture your time and attention.
Casinos and nightclubs are in great demand and the supply is more than
adequate to satisfy the interest. There is a train cut into the side of
the hill, which descends the steep incline down to the Falls from the
Fallsview hotels (Renaissance, Marriott, Sheraton); however, it is NOT
wheelchair accessible. A car is a must in Niagara.
of the Mist
trip on the boat itself is wheelchair accessible, although no areas are
particularly set aside within the boat. The Macs to protect from the spray
do not cover the entire wheelchair, so the bottom of legs and feet tend to
get soaked. One can't help
thinking that had this been America special wheelchair Macs would have
been available. One warning, however:
although there is an elevator to transport you down to the level
for the boat, there is an extremely long walk to the elevator from the
ticket desk. Approximately 500
elevator surprisingly takes you into the gift shop, so you don't have to
walk the 500 yards that you did on the way down. Again, users with limited
mobility in America would have been taken this way in the beginning and
not made to endure the distance on the way down.
things considered though, a once in a lifetime trip, which should not be
missed... got to be able to say "been there, took the misty photos,
got soaked, bought the souvenir."
are easily found, and again, the choice seems endless.
Niagara is a real touristy town and the standard of shop is
reflective of that.
stayed at the Renaissance Fallsview and had reserved Fallsview Rooms, one
of which was wheelchair accessible and paid a premium for it. Upon
arrival, we were informed that no such rooms existed and that the only
wheelchair accessible rooms they offered had city views. After a heated
discussion my parents were upgraded to a Club Room with a Fallsview;
however, the bathroom was NOT wheelchair accessible. I expected better of
a Renaissance hotel. The wheelchair couldn't even get into the bathroom. There
was a shower grab rail, but a tiny bath. It also had a handheld
shower. Should my father have been able to get into the bathroom, he
would not have been able to get any further, as there was an immediate
sharp turn, which prevented a wheelchair from turning. Fortunately,
my dad had no need of those facilities, otherwise it would have been
impossible and the extra money we paid for a Fallsview would have been
wasted. When we arrived there were no wheelchair accessible rooms
facilities in the rooms were appalling - no bathrobes (even in Club), no
minibar, no tea and coffee making facilities. The decor was banal and
uninteresting, and frankly, because it had a Fallsview, quality was
sacrificed for price. You paid a lot and got not a lot!!
The Club Room was like a normal hotel room - absolutely nothing to
set it apart from the rest - except the bill!
Overall extremely disappointing. The Renaissance is the furthest
back of the hotels with Fallsview. We were on the 15th floor, and could
see the spray. We went to the Marriott and from the 3rd floor could see
right into the Falls. Definitely the better choice; however, they are
supposed to the same standard and are owned by the Marriott Group of
wouldn't recommend the Renaissance in Niagara to my worst enemy. This is a
great shame because I have stayed in many Renaissance around the world,
and they have been mighty impressive hotels. This reputation was why I
presumed the Renaissance Niagara would be of the same standard. I could
of the most beautiful lakeside towns I have ever had the fortune to
encounter. Peaceful, tranquil, well-maintained,
traditional-small-town-meets-Rodeo-Drive.... well not quite. The town
itself is totally flat, and again lowered kerbs enable a smooth crossing
of roads. The difference here to Niagara is startling. I think it is the
sheer contrast to Niagara that makes this little town blossom and appeal
so intensely. Shopping is an
enjoyable experience here, with a boutique-lined main street, and
horse-drawn carriages should you wish to travel differently. There is a Christmas Shop, which is open all year round, and a
delicious Fudge Factory, where you can watch them make the fudge while you
mull over your choice at the counter. For those who don't like shopping,
an afternoon choosing which flavours of fudge you will purchase to indulge
in later, is a very pleasurable experience.
The street is also lined with seats where you can take the weight
of your feet, and maybe break into your fudge indulgence, just in case you
cannot bridle your taste buds any longer.
to discover NOTL via the lakeside route as opposed to the highway – the
scenery is magnificent, the colours majestic, and several lookout points
allow you to take it all in (and give you time to indulge in more fudge!).
the way to NOTL via the lakeside route, you discover the Floral Clock and
the Butterfly Centre. Both of these are well worth a pause to take in the
beauty. The Butterfly Centre can entertain a keen photographer for an
entire afternoon. Chasing the butterflies and finally setting up the photo
to perfection, and then... off they flutter, disturbed by a passer-by.
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