We started our adventure with a drive down to Heathrow for an overnight stay at the Leonardo Hotel. The postcode entered into our car satnav took us on a bit of a detour as we reached Heathrow so we abandoned following its instructions and used our phone instead.
At check-in the desk-clerk gave us 20% off dinner for signing up to their loyalty card (Alan had already signed up online but his discount was only 10%). We ate dinner early in the hotel bar, the service was good but annoyingly they automatically add a 12% service charge which Alan didn't spot when he paid (no glasses on) and he’d also given them a cash 20% tip... the service was good, but not 32% good! We were annoyed by the automatic tip so we asked for the cash tip back and their tip went back down to 12%.
After a good night’s sleep we got ready for our flight to Toronto by moving our car into the long stay parking, caught the transfer bus to the terminal and dropped our bags.
Surprisingly the queue for express security was busier than regular security so we switched queues and we were soon relaxing in the Executive Club lounge eating lots of snacks. The chef was kind enough to make me my own omelette rolls without the cheese and the just less than 3 hours wait quickly past by and we were loading onto the plane.
The Club World flight was really good, the service was excellent and the meal yummy. I seem to have a bit of clumsy couple of moments and managed to knock over 2 glasses of drink, fortunately not onto either of us!
We arrived into Toronto on time, with passport control taking longer than it needed to because we picked the wrong queue! We walked from the terminal to the Sheraton at the airport and had a relaxing evening, didn't need to eat... we had already eaten way too much before and during our flight!!
Still at the Toronto airport hotel, we awake at 2am (body clock still on UK time), up for breakfast 5am, we weren't given a voucher for our included breakfast so Alan left the restaurant and went to the front desk where he was told to charge the food to the room and they would remove it from the bill when we checkout. I asked what we were allowed to order from the menu for our included breakfast and the waiter said he didn't know, so we had what we wanted which added up to $54.
After breakfast we still had 4 hours until we needed to head to terminal 1 so we relaxed in the room watching TV and catching up on the news. At 10am we went down to front desk to check out and were asked to settle our bill, which should have been zero. After explaining the room charge was the included breakfast that we didn't have a voucher for the desk clerk explained we were supposed to only have breakfast up to the value of $50. Due to the hassle we had with not having been given the voucher in the first place she removed the 4 bucks from the bill.
Onwards to Terminal 1, we caught the monorail which was conveniently right by the hotel. Had a little bit of fun checking in for the flight, the self-serve check-in booths are supposed to print the luggage labels but didn't. Turns out there were problems with the system the day before and when we checked in on line telling us we didn't need to pay for our checked luggage it was lying. $25 for the first two bags and $35 for the third bag paid, we went to security where there was no queue.
It was 10:35am and Alan fancied a beer so we went to one of the restaurants in departures to be told, quite rudely that they don't serve beer until 11am. So we left to find a 'better' restaurant. However at this better restaurant the rules were the same no alcohol in Ontario before 11am. We waited the 20 minutes in the restaurant and ordered a snack (apple cobbler for me, fish tacos for Alan). We waited quite a while for the food, not a problem as we weren't mega hungry and had time. My cobbler came out first with the waitress explaining they were still trying to catch Alan's fish. Another 10 minutes later his tacos arrived, the waitress apologised and confirmed the food was on them... nice!
Time to head to the gate, we knew Air Canada had a problem with cabin storage space so we stood at the zone 3 queue point (we were the only ones queuing at this point). They asked people to volunteer to have their hand luggage checked, about 15 people came forward. Time to board and those who tried to bypass the queue were sent to the back, we were on after first & gold members and already had to put our bags a few rows away from us (our bins were filled by the cabin crew!) As the plane filled people found there was no space for their bags and they either had to push them under the seat in front or surrender them.
The 2 hour 15 minute flight was fine, just a little turbulence. It took a little while for the plane to empty (we were at the back) and our luggage came out onto the conveyer as we got to baggage claim. A short walk across the airport drop off/pickup to our hotel and we were checked in and relaxing again by 4pm.
We decided to eat in our hotel (The Grand), the food was pretty good and once we had refuelled I had a play around with the luggage getting it ready for the split for what we would be leaving behind to store while we continued to Churchill.
We managed to stay up a little later and not wake up quite so early this morning, but still found ourselves getting up at 5am. We caught the 6:48am number 20 bus into Winnipeg and made our way to Clementine for a more unique style breakfast.
Refuelled we set off to explore a misty cold Winnipeg. Taking the walking tour through the Exchange District and China Town to the Waterfront Walk. Had fun with a mystical squirrel that went behind a tree and disappeared.
It was getting decidedly chilly by the time we got to the Museum of Human Rights and we still had another hour to wait for it to open. So we warmed ourselves up in the union railway Station. Where I used there free Wi-Fi.
The Museum opened at 10am and we just beat a tour group of kids arriving, and had to keep ourselves ahead of them to not ruin the experience. To say we enjoyed the visit would not be the right thing to say given the reality of the subject matter. The exhibits were very well presented and a good reminder of how harsh our world can be. Left us with much to talk about and appreciate how fortunate we are to have not had to endure the atrocities and miscarriage of justices presented.
A short walk from the Museum took us to The Forks Market where Alan encountered his first polar bear. The market had a nice ambiance where locals took their lunch breaks. We stopped to soak it up with some beer & uninspiring empanadas.
Back out into the cold we carried on with our city waking tour to the Legislative Building. We narrowly avoided being interviewed by CTV... we kept walking after saying hello back to the presenter.
We finished our Winnipeg tour with a visit to the PEG brewing company. Surprisingly Alan only had one beer, but he says it was the best beer he’d had on this trip so far.
We caught the number 15 bus back to the airport it went through more residential streets than the 20 and as a result was busier. When we got back to the room Alan was not feeling very well so while he slept I read my book.
I woke him an hour before we were due to pop over to arrivals to meet our friends. They were flying in from Chicago and all looked fine on the flight tracker app, we could see them circling about the airport. But fog stopped them from landing and they were diverted to Fargo in North Dakota. To begin with they were going to take off again, but fog came back down again so their flight was cancelled leaving them stuck in Fargo. So at 11pm we retired to bed to await an update on when they would arrive.
Our late night only kept us in bed a little later & we were up at 6am. I repacked our bags, getting them ready for Churchill. The Fargo flight was due to arrive at 11:15am so we decided to wait for our friends rather than head out without them.
The Grand hotel doesn't do breakfasts, so we had two $5 vouchers for breakfast in the Sheraton next door. It was busy & we had to wait for a table. We weren't in a rush so not a problem. Which was a good job because the service was really slow. This turned out to be a good thing as we ended up chatting with the couple next to us about their time at Nanuk Lodge. They had a great time, but another couple they introduced us to had stayed at our lodge having a fantastic time seeing 10 different bears. I'd be more than happy with half that number!
Back into arrivals again and this time the special unscheduled flight from Fargo with its Chicago passengers arrived at the correct destination. Yay! We met up with our friends Bob, Chriss, Rosanne and Robert and escorted them the 2 minute walk from arrivals to the Grand Hotel.
After they had checked-in and dropped their gear off to their rooms, we all decided go into Winnipeg. We caught the number 15 bus (the 20 was driverless). The day could not be more different from yesterday, the sky was clear, the sun was shining and the temperature was really pleasant. Alan guided us on a short walking tour and we spent the afternoon in the Forks area of the city.
Back at the Grand Hotel we had a short break before pre-dinner drinks in the bar and then it was time to start our Great Ice bear Adventure.