It’s Off to London I Go! (Ontario, that is…)

(Photo: Melissa Kania)

And my travels continue – this time, it was another new destination: London, Ontario!

The trip to London marks the farthest west in Canada I’ve ever gone, and it also marks the farthest west in general that I’ve ever traveled alone. (Prior to this, it was Pittsburgh, to which I traveled solo once to visit a friend and see a hockey game.) It’s the closest I’ve ever been to Michigan and allowed me to see some new places along the way.

In case you weren’t already aware, my friendly blog readers, I don’t have a driver’s license or a car, so for now I rely on transportation services such as Greyhound to get me around. There’s pros and cons to this – cost, timeliness, luxury – and generally, I don’t mind it.

The bus route from Buffalo went something like this:

– Step 1: Take a bus from Buffalo to Toronto. This involves crossing through the border and then hitting ALL the traffic on the QEW, particularly since I went at what is considered morning rush hour. Nonetheless, it was a smooth ride, and I wasn’t terribly pressed for time. We were scheduled to arrive in Toronto at 9 a.m.; we didn’t actually pull into the bus station until about 9:40. (So take this as a word of warning if you ever plan to travel into the city in the mornings on a weekday.)

– Step 2: Have an hour layover in the city. As I said, it should actually have been a longer layover, but since we were late due to traffic… well. It worked out perfectly though. I was able to grab breakfast (Tim Hortons, of course) right around the corner from the bus station and make a pit stop at the Eaton Centre before getting in line to hop the transfer.

– Step 3: Take a bus from Toronto to London, which does at first involve going back down the QEW the exact same way we came up -through places such as Mississauga, Burlington and Hamilton, before heading straight over west.

We did reach London on time, right at 1 p.m., so that was perfect. It’s not a bad bus station, although a bit small, it seemed fairly clean and decent, at least.

I wasn’t in London very long, but I did manage to visit/see a few places:

– The John Labatt Centre (JLC), home of the OHL’s London Knights. This was my primary destination, as my whole trip was for the sole purpose of a Big Time Rush concert. (Yes, I had seen them already twice in less than a month in other cities, but hey… London isn’t too far, and it’s someplace new!) It’s a very nice arena – I was curious, since I’ve been to two other OHL arenas. The JLC is larger than the others I’d been to; it also looks newer and maybe a bit nicer, too. My seat for the concert was in section 111, on the opposite side of the rink from the stage, but it was a good seat and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. A word of note: Concessions are cash only – and ATMs do not accept American debit cards.

– While you’re in the area of the JLC, head to the back of the arena. There’s a court house there modeled after a castle in Ireland – the architecture is absolutely stunning. It’s also one of Canada’s historic places, overlooks the Thames River and is across the street from the Museum London.

– Pizza Pizza… okay, this isn’t so unique, but as I passed by a location on Dundas Street en route to my hotel, I figured why not stop in and get some poutine? It wasn’t bad – definitely not as quality as other places I’ve had, but it was cheaper than others as well. I wasn’t a big fan of the gravy, though, and the cheese seemed more like strings than curds.

– The London Central Library. I’m an absolute nerd when it comes to libraries, so I always try to visit one when I’m on vacation. It’s just interesting to me because each one is unique – and this one also happened to be on Dundas, near the JLC and my hotel. I found it very modern, very clean and seemingly high-tech.

– My hotel was the Holiday Inn Express on Dundas. One word can sum this up: YES. This place was a great deal – my room was $99 plus tax and included a free copy of the Globe & Mail, a complimentary breakfast with a load of choices, and a fridge and microwave in my room, along with cable TV and wireless internet. It was comfy and overall excellent, and just a ten-minute walk from the JLC, right in downtown London. (Nota bene: They will charge you a $50 incidentals fee upon check-in, but the hold i’s removed from your account upon checking out.)

– Covent Market, which is a mostly indoor market, though they also have outdoor shops on certain days of the week. I decided to check it out and was pretty amazed by it all. From crafts to fresh sausages and organic vegetables, to restaurants and cafes offering options from salads and wraps to pizza and desserts, it’s got everything. It’s also clean and seemingly organized, which can be difficult to accomplish in such a tightly-packed space. I’d definitely recommend it.

One tip when you’re looking to travel here: check, double-check and triple-check while doing your research that everything you’re looking into is in Ontario, not England. It may seem like a silly mistake, but it’s important! When I was looking for hotels, I found a hostel that was really cheap – only to realize it was halfway across the world. (Upon purchasing my concert ticket on the JLC’s website, it gives you a humorous reminder that the arena is located in Ontario, not England.)

Overall, my trip was excellent. I wasn’t even in London for 24 hours but I feel as though I got to see a little slice of it, and I hope to return someday to see more.

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