Monday, November 5, 2012

Niagara Falls - Part 1 - Falls, Food and Touristy Feelings

Just 30 minutes away from my home in Buffalo, NY, is Niagara Falls, ON; a great place to obtain that "traveler" feeling that I crave! Maybe it's because I have to pull out my passport and cross the border into another country. Maybe it's the plethora of tourists swarming off of buses, gawking at the Falls, or tripping into the streets with maps in hand. Niagara Falls is very familiar to me as I've been there many times. However, everywhere I go in the area I seem to be surrounded by people from around the globe, whether tourists or workers, giving the place a unique energy that is hard to find during my day-to-day life.  There's a spirit that surrounds this place (similar to many highly touristy destinations) that can be either draining or exhilarating, but on this visit it was exactly what I was craving.

Fall Color @ the Horseshoe Falls

The hubby and I left work a little early Friday and were in Canada by 5:30pm. We arrived at the Oakes Hotel Overlooking the Falls and checked into our seventh floor room with a pretty spectacular view of the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. We toasted to "life and travel" in the cheap plastic glasses we found in the bathroom, filling them with wine brought from home; visited the 14th floor of the hotel to gaze at the Falls from the "Observation Area"; and headed to dinner at Remington's of Niagara which was included in the Travelzoo deal we booked.  

View of Horseshoe Falls, mist and Niagara River from our room

The restaurant was casual enough for tourists in their jeans and puffy winter jackets who had been wandering along the cheesy neon light-filled Clifton Hill area all day, yet we felt comfortable dressed up for the evening as well. I enjoyed a flavorful strip loin steak with bland school-cafeteria-scoop-shaped mashed potatoes. Hubby had chicken penne rustica, which was creamy and hearty. Our waitress was friendly and enthusiastic, she was also the singer of the evening (apparently singing is a part of the job interview) and left serving us at one point to serenade the restaurant with some Celine Dion (her favorite, she later confided).

After dinner we drove the mile back to our hotel and walked next door to the Fallsview Casino to observe the gamblers, listen to the slot machines' bells and sirens, and meander around the shops, stopping for a fudge tasting. After a long week at work we didn't stay out too late or feel the need to "hit up the clubs", and instead got a good night's sleep to prepare for our activity-filled Saturday!

With a relaxed start to the morning we checked out of our hotel around 10am. On the way out we shared the elevator with a delightful couple from Christchurch, New Zealand. The baby boomer-aged couple was in the middle of two months abroad, having traveled to Hawaii, LA, Las Vegas, Toronto and now Niagara Falls. They shared a few stories of their adventures and I recounted my travels in the South Island of NZ, including Christchurch.  We discussed the lingering effects of last year's devastating earthquake in the city and I was very sorry to hear that things are still not back to normal; they are still rebuilding. In this five to ten-minute interaction that feeling of travel I love so much was reignited. How wonderful that a few friendly words and a simple question of "where are you from?" could lead to a conversation that leaves both parties fulfilled, energized and connected in a simple, yet unique way. People are amazing, and why is it that only on vacation do I take the time to ask a stranger in an elevator with an accent about themselves instead of just wishing them a pleasant day, or worse, staring silently at the elevator doors in front of me? The resulting conversation brings so much joy and a jolt of energy that only human connections can. I'd like to do this more in my day-to-day life.

After our encounter with the friendly Kiwis we prepared our bellies for the day of wine imbibing ahead by filling up on simple, but delicious breakfast of omelets, hash browns and coffee at Applebee's, which was also covered by our Travelzoo deal. To help our food digest we braved the cold wind blowing off of the Niagara River and took a stroll behind our hotel and the casino to take in the power and majesty that are Niagara Falls. My apologies on the quality and small amount of photos - we forgot our camera at home so these are from my phone, plus it was super cold so we didn't go down next to the Falls - we weren't dressed for getting covered in the ice-cold mist and kept our distance!

The American Falls and Rainbow Bridge to the US

The Horseshoe Falls and Niagara River

The Horseshoe Falls and Niagara River

Next time:  Wineries, breweries and chocolate, oh my! (Plus WINNING! at the Seneca Niagara Casino!)

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