360 degrees

06-Jul-2012 19:58, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
The afternoon of July 6th, we didn’t have enough time to do many things, so we planned to restrict it to the boat tour that was part of the city sightseeing trip and dinner at 360 (degree), the revolving restaurant atop the CN tower. We took a cab to the boat dock. After standing in line for 30 minutes, we were told that we need to go to a different dock – partly our mistake in not checking and partly due to the simple fact that the ticket could have mentioned where exactly we needed to go or the desk lady could have given us instructions. Anyway, we walked 10 more minutes to the right dock (can’t remember its name now). It was quarter to seven and we had the dinner reservation at 8:15. The lady captain of the boat told us it was a 10 minute walk from the dock to CN tower, so we should be able to make it on time.

Toronto city from the restaurant atop the tower
Toronto city from the restaurant atop the tower06-Jul-2012 22:08, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 2.8, 17.0mm, 10 sec, ISO 100

The one hour boat ride was enjoyable. The evening sun cast its golden yellow rays on the city’s skyline and I could get some great shots. The contrast between the bright skies and the ground had prompted me to buy a Neutral Density (ND) graduated filter set from Cokin. This came into use pretty well.  Carrying the camera bag, while a pain, is now indispensable if you are to carry the right equipment to get the right shots. Anyway, I had emptied all that I didn’t need from the bag back at the hotel. Things such as battery chargers, wires, binoculars, etc. The boat ride took us across to the island and there was some good narration of the skyline – how some of the older condos built earlier rose in price in a matter of decades and the border patrol’s main job really was to tow boats that are out of gas instead of rescuing ships/boats in danger, etc, etc. We got a glimpse of the small airstrip that has a 15 second boat ride to the main land after landings. The boat itself had glass windows, but they are not ultra clean – I could see smudges of fingerprints and had to shift a couple of rows to get away from these. One opening near the steps was too small and some over enthusiastic people were hogging the space trying to catch some photos of the skyline.

Brave souls doing the edge walk around the tower, tied by a harness and 5 feet of space and no barricades!
Brave souls doing the edge walk around the tower, tied by a harness and 5 feet of space and no barricades!07-Jul-2012 10:56, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 55.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

We got off at eight and took a run to the CN Towers. We were just in time. Luckily if you have a dinner reservation, you have two advantages. You skip the long lines and the price of dinner includes the cost of the tickets. In addition, you have a separate ride up to the restaurant. Three advantages really speaking. Dinner can be a la carte or fixed priced ranging from $55-65. The 360 has a special vegetarian dinner; Toronto is by the way far friendlier to vegetarians than any other city. Typical American/western restaurants have some vegetarian choices. For wine choices, I asked the waiter for his recommendation, who quipped he would recommend the bottle of blah, blah, priced at $12,000. The food was good enough.

07-Jul-2012 11:04, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
The CN Tower is a marvellous piece of engineering. It was the highest man made structure until the year 2010, standing 1815.4 meters tall. The 360 restaurant is still the highest restaurant in the world. The only place I have eaten higher is on an airplane. The elevators take you up to the observation deck in about a minute; there are also steps to the observation deck that consists of 1776 steps, but these are not open to the public anymore except for occasions. There is also this Edgewalk, which is a five foot of pathway around the tower, above the restaurant where people can walk around protected by nothing else than a harness. We would catch glimpses of six brave souls doing the edge walk the next day. On the observation deck is the strip of glass (256 sq. ft) where you can walk about. While the strip of glass is five time the required thickness to support 14 large hippos, it still can creep you out. Only children seemed to enjoy it thoroughly.

06-Jul-2012 21:09, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 2.8, 17.0mm, 0.2 sec, ISO 100
The restaurant is not about the food though. It is sitting atop one of the tallest towers in the world and enjoying the views. The sky was setting, but the sunset wasn’t spectacular as you would expect. Once the ground gets dark, a sunset here will be the same as a sunset anywhere unless the Sun is huge and gorgeous. Maybe it was due to the height, the sun didn’t get big enough. It is normal from the ground level you see the illusion of a bigger sun. The restaurant revolves around i.e., one turn, every 72 minutes. Once the sun went down, the city started showing off it true beauty with all the sparkling lights filling the distance to the horizon. My first few shots were very disappointing – there were all blurred. Then I realized, I was moving and with the darkening skies, the camera’s shutter would have to stay open longer and this caused the blurs. Suddenly, I got this idea to place the camera on the window sill. The wall of the restaurant doesn’t move, it is the inside disc that moves!! Soon, I was getting some great shots of the night scene; these were really looking spectacular on the small screen. Another challenge in shooting the dark city from inside is the reflection of the inside lights from the glass. But standing the camera on the inside window ledge with the lens almost kissing the glass hid the reflection. Two birds at one stone. I realized next time, I should take along a mini gorilla tripod with me – these are easy to carry and will come in handy when I need a still camera.

07-Jul-2012 10:49, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 7.1, 24.0mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100
We finished dinner way past ten and walked down to the observation deck. There wasn’t much to see anew here having seen the entire cityscape in the restaurant. The next day, we decided to use the bus to get to the Distillery. This is an old brewing factory now converted to shops, restaurants and art stores. The Soma chocolate factory had some unique concoctions. It was too early for lunch by the time we left. After checking out, we started our drive back home. With a stop at Missisuagua’s Saravana Bhavan, the Canadian border took us well over two hours of waiting to get past the line. Getting into Niagara city on the US side, I had to hunt for gas stations where you could easily get in, after finding one. Finally the real drive back started at 5 PM and we reached home 1/2 past 11.

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