Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Quieter Day (aka Last Full Day of Vacation)

Last night I attended a production of George Bernard Shaw's play St. Joan and had, thanks to help from my theater-loving sister, a great seat.

It was an excellent and highly cerebral play, which I enjoyed very much. That said, after a very busy and active day, I found that when I was sitting there in my comfortable seat in

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Very Good Day (Niagara-on-the-Lake day 2)

When I got up this morning, I wouldn't have guessed this post's title would be what it is because I had a rather rough night. My room stayed stuffy and warm through the night, which made it difficult for me to go to sleep and stay asleep. As I lay there, alternating between pulling the sheet over me and kicking it off, I was having flashbacks to my old apartment, which, in summer months, transformed into a malevolent force determined to simultaneously roast and suffocate me. I started having panicky thoughts that this was going to be my experience for the next two nights as well, and I wanted to cry just a tiny bit.

But my hosts here at St. Andrew's House B&B are wonderful, and when I shared my discomfort at breakfast, John got right on it. They have a fancy automated system controlled by his phone, and the phone showed things working great, but when he examined the vent, it was non-responsive and had been closed. He called someone to fix it while I was out and about, and as of right now, my room is pleasantly cool. Hooray!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye

I know the Boys II Men song was about the end of a relationship, but seeing as I feel like I've developed a relationship with the view here in my hotel room (I know, I keep gushing--get it?--about it, but I can't help myself), the song seems entirely appropriate. Side note: I've also had "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls" in my head since Sunday. Who knew Niagara Falls would evoke 90's music? As if the regular views aren't enough (and they are!), I was also treated to a fireworks show last night.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Niagara Falls: The Canadian Version

Today's post begins with a shot from my hotel window last night. As you can see, they light up the falls at night, and the colors change periodically. Just like Vegas!

After a yummy room-service (more on that later) omelet and pot of tea, I set out for a morning of exploring the Canadian side of the falls, which, for some reason, have more mist in the morning than the afternoon. Maybe because there's more humidity in the air? I don't know. I'm not really a science person. Even though the falls look relatively close from my window, it ended up being a good 15 minutes of walking before I could get down to a road that leads to the lookout point and walkway, which was another long stretch of walking. As I look out my window now, I can see what appears to be a shortcut bridge leading to some building below, which would've been more direct. I suppose I should have asked at the front desk, but a little extra exercise never hurts. Except for my feet and legs. But I digress. Let's just take in the beauty:

These guys seem to have a different definition of "taking in the beauty."

After another stretch of walking, I was uncomfortably hot and sweaty (it's quite warm here, especially in the sun), so I decided to do the boat ride where you get right up to the falls and their mist and get soaked.

While in line, I made friends with Jolie, a fellow teacher from South Carolina, and her daughter Fleur.

And we're off! 

There were some great views and getting close to the falls was thrilling, but it wasn't very conducive to taking pictures since I don't have a waterproof camera/phone and the mist quickly became fully pelting water. As in, imagine turning on your shower and stepping under it fully clothed wearing a poncho, only it's not just coming from above you--it's also blowing sideways at you and from under you. Good times, and it definitely cooled me off, which was nice, because I had to trek another 20 minutes in the sun and up a long, steep hill to get back to my hotel.

After a bit of a rest in my room, I headed out again, this time to pick up my car. So, that mention about room service earlier? Something like that is typically a splurge I tend to avoid, but having done a little research before this trip, I found that you can park at the casino just a seven-minute walk away for only $5 vs. the $40 per day my own hotel charges. So, seeing as I'm saving $70 on parking by giving myself an extra little walk, I figure an indulgent breakfast or two in my room is okay. Especially since it's hard NOT to stay in my room whenever possible with a view like this.

Anyway, back to the car. I drove about 10 minutes away from the falls to catch my next ride.

As I watched each group ahead of me board, I was hoping I'd get a front row seat, and I am happy to report that I did. They say the third time's the charm, and this is entirely the case when it comes to me and getting airborne on vacations. Years ago, when my brother and I went on a cruise to Alaska, we booked an helicopter tour of the glaciers only to have it cancelled due to bad weather. Last summer, I got all excited to go on a balloon ride over the countryside in Belgium only to have it, once again, cancelled due to weather. Well, not so today, and while it only lasted about 12 minutes, it was a thrilling ride, especially sitting right next to the pilot.

Now I am back to my comfy chair and breathtaking view. I'm looking forward to my next stop, but I will definitely miss being able to sit here and look out at such spectacular beauty. Dinner is next, then a long soak in the tub. I don't have one of those fitbits, but I'm guessing I walked a good 6 or more miles today, including quite a bit of uphill walking and stairs. How people do those "vacations" where they walk 18+ miles a day (as one of my friends is doing with his son right now), I can't even begin to imagine. I'd need to be a lot more fit to be able to do that.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Niagara Falls--The American Side Adventures

After not a whole lot of sleep last night due to the late hour I went to bed and my seeming inability to make the air-conditioning work properly (I finally figured it out this morning), I still managed to pack in quite a day. It started with picking up my rental car and driving to Niagara Falls, which, mind you, is an entire state park, and America's oldest state park at that. Also a massive, sprawling enterprise that has extended into numerous hotels and businesses surrounding the park and trying to cash in on its glory. I didn't realize this until I arrived and found myself swallowed up in buildings and signs and cars and buses. I managed to follow one giant red arrow into a parking structure and from there followed the herds until I got to the visitor's center and a nice woman there gave me a map and marked out what she thought I ought to see.

I exited and headed straight for the roar, which you hear before you can actually see any water. You walk through this lovely parksy area, and then there it is--the rush of all those Great Lakes swelling towards the falls. But first, there are these impressive rapids.

After that, I headed for the first of the three falls you can see at Niagara, the simply named American Falls, which you can see are stunning. Also refreshing on this hot, sunny day as sprays of water kept misting us. And then there was the wind.

I took a little break by watching the 30- minute movie Niagara: Legends of Adventure, which dramatically enacted all the folks who have plunged over the edge, like Annie Edson Taylor, who was a retired teacher trying to raise funds for her twilight years and went over in a barrel (I take it unions and pensions weren't a thing then). Or Roger Woodward, who was on his very first boat ride with his sister and a friend of their father's when the engine struck a rock and died, causing them to get caught in the current and head straight for the falls. The sister was pulled out just before going over, the man went over and was killed, and Roger, only 7, managed to survive going over in only a life jacket. I wonder if he ever went on a boat again.

All that drama pumped me up for some drama of my own so I donned the special sandals and yellow plastic poncho provided, and headed down to the Cave of the Winds, which basically allows you to get up close and personal with a couple smaller falls, getting soaked and pummeled in the process. I only wish my hotel shower this morning had even a fraction of that water pressure.

At that point, I was ready for something a little more low key, and I found it exploring The Sisters Island, which was more woodsy and tranquil even with the rapids flowing past.

By the time I'd finished all that trekking, I was pretty wiped, so even though I'd planned to also do a Maid of the Mist boat tour, I decided to betray my American roots and do the Canadian version (the Hornblower, which apparently does the exact same thing with newer and nicer boats) tomorrow instead. I got back in my car, crossed the border, got interrogated quite thoroughly by the border guard, which always makes me feel guilty of something even though I'm not, and made it to my next hotel.

Some reviews I'd read said the deluxe falls view rooms here at the Marriott are totally worth it. I must concur.

Going to enjoy relaxing a bit, then hit the hay. All that beauty and walking and shrieking children and the Asian lady who pushed me out of her way on one of the viewing decks have plumb wore me out!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

It Begins With A Snafu

I was happily packing away and feeling very pleased with myself that everything was coming together nicely this morning when I got a notification that my first flight from Santa Ana to Chicago was delayed 30 minutes. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but considering this only leaves me 5 minutes to catch my connecting flight to Buffalo in a rather sizable and maze-like airport is a bit of an issue. 

When I checked in, the nice lady at the counter told me that sometimes flights make up time in the air and I can still make it, but if not, the airline would put me up at a hotel and fly me out first thing in the morning. As long as they are paying, I'd be okay with this option since my current plan gets me into Buffalo after midnight and I have a room booked at an airport hotel there. Also, having learned from lost and delayed luggage issues on past trips, I have a change of clothes and some basic toiletries in my carry- on. 

So, will I make my connecting flight or spend the night in Chicago? Tune in later to find out!

Hours later update: the flight attendants moved me up to the very first row in first class toward the end of the flight, somewhat to the consternation of the business man next to me who had been using the seat for his suit jacket. As soon as the plane landed, the flight attendants positioned me at the door like a racehorse at the gate, and as soon as it opened, I was off. Good thing I've been jogging more in the past year and wasn't wearing flip flops, because I had to do a hard sprint from one end of O'Hare to the other. Not only did I make it (sweaty and breathless) but I was happy to discover once I got to Buffalo that my bag had as well. The only problem left was that I was starving since there was obviously no time to pick up some dinner at O'Hare and everything was shut down in Buffalo. When I got to the hotel and asked if they had any food available for purchase, the woman at the desk said, "Oh, honey, go help yourself to some pizza! We have a bunch left over!" 

This, my friends, is no ordinary greasy piece of pizza. This is manna, and I received this good gift from God with thanks. But it has wheat! you might be thinking. Yes it does. But it's after 1:00 in the morning here and I. Do. Not. Care.  Besides, I only get stomach aches about 70% of the time and after overcoming today's many obstacles, I'm feeling lucky. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Smaller Trip

In the last few months, I've been asked by a number of people if I'll be traveling somewhere this summer and, when I confirmed that I would be, was asked if I'd be continuing this blog. A big thank you to all of you who asked--it's nice to know my posts here are read and appreciated!

So where am I going? Niagara Falls and the nearby town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. I, like many others, consider Niagara Falls a must-see location on my bucket list, so I decided to go there for that and a few other reasons. [side randomness: whenever I use the phrase "bucket list" it makes me imagine someone crossing off their very last item with great satisfaction and then keeling over dead a second later, which makes me giggle. I know...something is deeply wrong with me.] 

The other reasons have to do with not really having enough money to go to Europe again just yet and not really wanting to deal with the hassle of going overseas. As much as I loved my trip to Belgium, England, and Wales last summer, being so constantly on the move and having to navigate the wild roads of northern Wales sans GPS/phone service made me long for something a bit simpler and more restful this summer. Also shorter--I'll be returning next Friday evening.

I didn't realize I'd chosen a destination so strongly associated with honeymoons and romance until nearly everyone who heard where I was going cooed and exclaimed, "Oh, how romantic!" and asked, "Is your boyfriend going with you?" Sadly, the boyfriend is not due to circumstances that make it just about impossible for him to travel with me any time in the near future. Fortunately, I am perfectly fine visiting romantic locations on my own and enjoying candle-lit dinners with my Kindle. I've already got it loaded up with a couple of mysteries.

The journey begins tomorrow with me flying to Buffalo, NY by way of Chicago and arriving in the wee hours. I'm prepared to spend Sunday and Monday wearing ugly plastic ponchos, getting soaked anyway, and having really bad hair. Not sure how much I'll be able to video and take pictures when I'm actually out on the water or walking under the falls (both of which I'm planning to do), but this little video gives you the idea. More soon...