Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vacation Journal Park 3

Day 8 Over The Falls Niagara Falls Tour

The next two nights we stayed at a B&B on the Canada side. It was a Victorian style home, yet modern and fresh looking with large rooms. When the lady said there were two rooms with a balcony, R&R got one and Mom and Dad got the other. Then Greg saw our "room" and whispered, "That's OK, Aleta, I like our room more. We don't need the balcony." (The B&B keeper even winked to Greg when she gave him the last set of keys and he didn't understand until he opened the door.) Our room was the size of an apartment ~ with a front sitting room, kitchenette, bathroom that had a Jacuzzi and walk in shower and huge master bedroom even with a fireplace. Sweet!

Later on we all compared the two B&Bs and agreed that the first B&B is the winner. The breakfast at the Canada B&B was always the same and nothing "hot" cooked, more like a continental breakfast and fruit. Plus, she didn't want people to dine downstairs. She preferred to bring breakfast up to the rooms, instead of cleaning off the table. And at night she locked the kitchen, unlike at the other B&B (Lindsey House was much more welcoming.) But still, this B&B was very lovely, in fact, it was one of the prettiest ones on the street.

Maybe it was best that we didn't get a balcony room, because the next morning, Rob told Mom that he got out of bed and slashed his foot on something that was coming out of the bed. Roda had to get a large bandaide and his foot hurt for a good while. Rob mumbled, "I hate Canada!" (This is our second time in Canada by the Falls.).

"Over the Falls" Tour Company was supposed to be an 8 hour tour that lasted 10 hours, much to the chagrin of the driver, but not our fault either. Mom, Dad, Rob and I have been to the Falls before, about 10 years ago. Not much changed on the American side. The driver said that the Canadians focused on the tourist aspect and it has bloomed, but the Americans did not (it was his arrogant tone the annoyed me.)

Yeah, the tour guide rubbed me the wrong way. I also didn't like how he started the tour. He took us up this tall building and through the window we saw the American Falls, Bridal Falls and Horseshoe Falls. He talked about the history and such that I didn't pay much attention to, because well.... I've heard it all before. One day, I'll post the journal entry I did 10 years ago. But still, if you want to talk about the falls, don't take me to a building, take us to the FALLS.

When we did go to the falls, the first tour we went on was the Cataracts - tunnels behind the Falls. Our guide said, "Follow this guy and he'll take you there." The man hurried us along, didn't allow for us to take pictures and then just Ok, you're here and left us in the line by the elevator. Uhhh, which way do we go? What do we look for? Greg and other members of our tour group were ticked and complained about it to our tour guide when we got back to the van.

Behind the Falls itself is great. I love the view and the feel and hearing the Falls.

Next was the Maid of the Mist boat. Rob and I really liked the ride when we took it the first time and still enjoyed it this time. Boy, you could feel that boat rock when we got up by the Falls. People were screaming and shouting - lots of fun! Greg was worried about getting the "honeymoon" camera wet and was glad we were given raincoats to tuck it in safe keeping.

Our driver told us where he would be waiting for us after the Maid of the Mist, but he wasn't there. Greg and Mom decided to sit in the grass and relax, which I thought was cute. 30 minutes later, Dad was steamed, saying, "HE is supposed to wait for us, NOT us waiting for the tour guide!"

I know I'm complaining a lot about this tour guide, but there are some good points on going on a tour like this. You don't have to drive to each attraction, worry about the parking and then the walking. You get to go through a short "tour guide" line that bypasses the line to pay for the attraction (because this guide had prepaid the tickets) and then gets you to the front of the line to see the attraction. Which means that you get to see more of the attractions, because you have less time driving, parking and standing in lines.

Another attraction we walked through was the White Water walk. Everyone enjoyed seeing the level 6 rapids, the most dangerous level assigned to rapids.

We also enjoyed stopping by the whirlpool, though Mom and Dad said it wasn't as pronounced as they remember it to be. Greg didn't get out when we looked at the Victorian Floral Clock, but he did get out when we stopped at the power plant.

All of the attractions at that point were on the Canadian side and it was already 6pm. Our tour guide said, "We don't have to go to the American side, if you don't want to." But the lady and man behind us said, "We paid for it, we want it." The tour guy grumbled, said, "I'll have to see what the traffic is like getting across." He even put his phone on speaker so we could all listen to the traffic controller saying it would be a 20 to 30 minute wait. People still insisted on going, that was part of the tour after all. He grumbled some more and showed us how "busy" the traffic was and then remembered there was another bridge we could go over and gee, no traffic there. Seriously, the man didn't want to complete the tour!

I like the American side. No, it doesn't have all the shops and rides and whatever... but it allows you to walk on the rocks and to the edge and touch your feet to the water, which is exactly what I did. Greg took a picture of me and then said, "No, don't go any further." I would have, foolishly, but Greg saw the rushing current behind me. I really did enjoy the American side and I'm glad we went there!

When we went back to the Canadian side and the inspector opened the van door, Greg said, “Suddenly, I want to do the chicken dance!” The people behind us busted out laughing and started to say how the chicken dance originated in Canada. Our tour guide snapped for us to be quiet and later said, “These inspectors don’t like for people to laugh.” Oh please!

Day 9 Room with a View, Botanic Gardens and Butterflies

The next two nights, we stayed at the Sheraton on the Falls. WOW – it was unfreaking believable! Greg and I stayed in the Executive Management Suites, as did R&R. Mom and Dad stayed in the Presidential Suites. The only difference between the suites is that the Presidential one was on the 15th floor and had the “above the tree line” perfect view of the falls. (We were on the 6th floor and R&R were on the 7th floor, both floors gave a great view of the American falls, but not quite as good of the Horseshoe Falls.) We told Mom and Dad, “We’ll definitely be up here with the camera to take pictures of the light show on the falls!

Now, the rooms ~ panoramic, glass all the way around, from the bathroom, living room and bedroom. Yes, the BATHROOM – you took a shower (and what all in the bathroom) with GLASS walls looking over the falls. It was “wicked awesome” (to borrow the Boston lingo).

The rooms were huge, king-sized beds, 3 showerheads in the shower, Jacuzzi tub, big screen flat TV, the works. And what a plus ~ we were at this hotel during the Canadian Civic Holiday, so we had two nights of fireworks over the Falls as well! That was perfect, because Greg and I wanted to test the camera on how best to take firework pictures.

The next day we went to the Botanic Gardens. Instead of walking the grounds, we took a horse buggy ride. You would think, buggy ride means peaceful and relaxing. Our horse was Ben and he was ornery. I liked him! He would jerk the buggy when you least expected it, start walking backwards without any reason (Greg called it the “moon” walk), take off and not want to slow down. Greg said, “We need to give Ben a tour of the Glue Company; that’ll teach him some manners!” Everyone laughed, but hey, I liked Ben. He had spirit!

Though Rob didn’t like it when Ben got nervous with people on the path and reared up twice. Ben was cool. He let me pet him and even put his head down further, much like the horses on the buggy ride when Greg and I were on our honeymoon. Greg said, “Animals like you, Aleta.”

From there, we went to the Butterfly Conservatory. Ohhh, I liked this a lot! Butterflies were ~ everywhere! You had to be careful where you stepped and you could stay put and they would fly to you. One butterfly landed on a guy’s hat and another butterfly played hijack on Dad’s back. Dad said, “The butterfly is trying to make a grand escape. “ Hehe.

There was an elusive green and yellow butterfly that must have the energizer bunny battery in him, because he never landed for us to take pictures. Greg and I did manage to snap a few in mid-flight, but nothing where it’s landing. Have I said this before ~ I love our honeymoon camera. The pictures on this trip are so beautiful! I took pictures and pictures and oh my, pictures. If you think this journal is long, wait till you see how many pictures there are! And that’s with me not even posting the half of what I took!

Did I mention that while we were in Canada, the Canadians celebrated the Civic Holiday with 2 nights of Fireworks? Yeah, right over the falls!

Day 10

On the last day in Niagara Falls, we went to a Wine Tasting for red, white and ice wine. I didn’t drink, but Greg had a sip. R&R and Mom and Dad enjoyed the tasting too. On the way out, R&R were standing by the grapevines. I told them to turn around so I could take a picture and Mom yelled out, “Roda! Get some grapes!” Rob said, “NO! Roda, don’t do that!” I like Roda’s spirit ~ she didn’t just get a grape or two, she plucked a nice little bundle. The picture of that has a priceless smile on Roda’s face. Too cute!

We also drove out to an area that we weren’t supposed to be on, but I’m glad we did, because we saw Lake Ontario, climbed rocks and enjoyed the breeze. Very lovely. Then we went to a quaint little town, Niagara on the Lake. One thing I can say about Canadians, they love their flowers. This town had flowers everywhere. We stopped at some of the shops and I have to admit, the prices were good. Greg found a pretty table runner for our home at a very reasonable price. Mom and Roda found paperweights, which our families collect.

That afternoon, Greg and I went to the Secret Gardens by our hotel. It’s appropriately named with a brook and bridge and English styled gardens, little hidden passage ways. We took more pictures of the flowers. It was a relaxing day.

The next day, as we packed our bags to leave the Sheraton, Greg said, “Goodbye Bathroom. I’ll miss you!” Oh so true! Now, how often can you say that about a bathroom at a hotel on vacation?

Before leaving Canada, we went to the Skylon Tower where we watched the 3D/4D movie about Niagara. It reminded me of Disney rides, with water in your face, breeze in your hair, smells from what was on the scene, seats moving and a really good story about the falls.

Then we took the yellow bugs (elevator that is outside the tower) to the top. We took pictures, even some where Greg and I are leaning against the banister and looking at the tower – the camera is faced to the tower and in the reflection of the tower, you see the two of us and the background of Canada. It was a neat idea! Oh and I bought another crystal piece – the Skylon Tower crystal.

We drove back to Boston. It was a good drive. We saw a sign that said, “Deer Crossing, next 7 miles.” Greg said, “Now, how do the deer know where to cross? Keep you eyes our for deer!” I thought, “Yeah right.” But…. I saw it… I started pointing and said, “Deer! Deer! Deer! Deer! Deer! Deer!” Everyone laughed. Greg called me his “Deer Alarm” and said that’s how I was when we went to Poplarville. It’s true. I love deer.

We saw three deer on the way and I was tickled! I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough and we were going too fast to take any type of good picture. Ah well.

Now, Boston… yes, we got there and yes… it was INSANE driving and the GPS did finally get us to the hotel, which is attached to the airport, but the roads out there - insane, just pure insanity, I tell you!

We get to the Hilton and it’s all fancy. Greg pulls up to the area. Dad gets out to get the registration and a man from the front of the hotel says, very rudely, “You need to MOVE the van out of the way! This is the loading area!” Well, hello, we were unloading and there was someone in front and in back of us, but he continued. After Greg moved the van, the man helped us to unload, but Mom refused to tip him. I agree with her. We don’t need attitude.

Thankfully, another kind gentleman brought the luggage to our rooms and he received a nice tip. Rob, Dad and Greg went to drop off the van at the rental location. They typed it in the GPS and headed off while the women stayed at the hotel. At one point, Greg texted messaged me and said that they were in the ghettos and lost! So, when they finally came back, you can imagine, it was a story.

I took out my little pink notebook and pen to write down their adventure. Dad started laughing, Greg rolled his eyes and Rob said, “I’d like to say that I was the ONLY one who remained calm and didn’t curse.” I laughed, because Rob wanted that disclaimer made loud and clear.

Mom asked if Dad cursed and Rob answered, “Like a sailor!” Dad gave an example, “That stupid GPS had us all over the place. Whisper Baby (that’s what Dad called the sexy voice on the GPS) told us the wrong way to go and we ended up in the ghettos. I told Greg to turn that Bitch off!”

Yes, they were in the low rent area with guys with tattoos, no shirts, sitting on stoops. Greg said, “They probably thought we were undercover cops, because you couldn’t see inside the van and we were inside the van trying to use GPS and our iphones to find a way out!”

They said they had to go down a one way street down the wrong way for two blocks and at one point were on a pothole street where the holes were so deep the van was rocking side to side, really bad. (All three guys did motions in the air at this point to demonstrate.) Greg said that some of the holes were as much as one feet deep! At one point they were at a construction site and Greg said, “I saw a movie like this. It didn’t end well.”

I’m glad they made it to the rental place safe and sound and back to the hotel and I’m glad I wasn’t with them! I would have freaked. Greg said, “It took four miles to drop off the rental car when it should have taken a couple hundred yards." Something tells me that Greg won’t ever return to Boston. He compared the roads to spaghetti. After a long drive from Niagara to Boston, we were all weary travelers.

Day 11 Marble Home and Newport, Rhode Island

We still had one more tour to go, the next day. Day Twelve of our trip, Bill, our tour guide, picked us up and we went in a van to see the sites in Rhode Island. Bill owned the tour group that we had for Jane in Boston. I know he had a lot of interesting facts to share, but honestly ~ the traveling had caught up with me. The back and forth driving in Boston by Bill’s driver was acting on my motion sickness and I had a difficult time hearing Bill… plus I was tired.

I’m sure the rest of the party drank in his words, but I think I fell asleep a couple of times. I wrote earlier that Bill was the one who told us about the blue and brown stripes in the tunnels. I know he went into detail about the Massachusetts Compromise and how it was the first state to eliminate slavery and to do so, gave up Maine, but I don’t recall the details. He also explained the “Killroy was here” which was all over the Duck Tour vehicle. He said it was what a ship inspector wrote and thus, became a running joke.

Bill also explained that the reason there are so many Dunkin Donuts in the area is because it originated here. He said the people working on the ships would stop at a greasy spoon to eat, but it took too long to get a meal, so they grabbed a coffee and donuts. The owners realized this would be a good type of restaurant to open, just coffee and donuts and said, “Dunk the donuts here” and hence the name, Dunkin Donuts.

Bill took us around Rhode Island and we toured one of the ritzy homes, labeled the Marble House (you can guess why). Guess what ~ it’s a Vanderbilt home. Another relative of the Vanderbilt’s and very much the same overly decadent taste. (Greg and I stayed on the Biltmore Estates for our honeymoon, which was owned and created by another one of the Vanderbilt’s.)

I’m not nearly doing justice to Bill’s tour. I know he did a good job. But I was exhausted at this point and going in and out of sleep. So, please, don’t base this on my write up. I’d definitely recommend using his company in the future for tours. In fact, Bill told us that he got the idea of a personal tour guide for the time he came to New Orleans. He wanted to see specific, more historical sites that weren’t so mainstream tourist traps and found a person who did personal tour guides. From there, he created his company in the Boston area, which we benefited from and enjoyed.

Day 12 ~ Flight back to Home Sweet Home ~

Boston, Saugus, Salem, Gloucester, Rockland, Niagara, Newport ~ we had a good taste of the area. It was an incredible trip and when I look back on the pictures, I think, “Oh wow, that’s right, we did that!” Lots of good memories and laughs and a wonderful time ~ a trip we couldn’t have done if it weren’t for our generous parents and their love of taking trips and keeping the family together.

We really do appreciate it and had a fantastic time!

Thank you, Mom and Dad Thank You! Thank You! Love you!

To see even more pictures (grab something to drink and to snack on!) click here and here.


Kavi said...

Lovely account. i am so much in awe at your energy to be able to document everything.

From some funtastic moments on the tour to a lousy tour guide. It helps a big deal for me to understand your experience in entirity and not in isolation !

And it gives new fuel to visit these places too !

Thanks for sharing.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

A truly 'wicked awesome' account, especially because you told in such an entertaining way!! Unlike the pain of a tour guide! Glad that you shared your holiday with us.

Lauren said...

Very interesting read. So sad the damn Canadians are so arrogant and anti-american that they are behaving this way. When we were younger they didn't behave this way,relations were so nice. And they blame us-- typical for their bad behavior and feelings.

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

that picture of you with your toes in the Niagara river??? My wife photographed me in that spot last June!!! I love the American side and never bother with the Canadian side---you can visit the American side, enjoy the beautiful Goat Island between the falls and never SPEND A PENNY :)

Rush said...

u took me back on my trip...reliving every moment....ya excpet for the sour tour guide, i bet everything was so energetic and refreshing....thoroughly njoied ur post and the pics...fabulous!!

{Kiki} said...

Beautiful pictures and journal of your trip. I especially love the pix of the Falls. I never got to ride the Maid of the Mist. I hope to go back someday. Thanks for sharing and take care.

septembermom said...

What a thorough, wonderful post! Beautiful pictures :) I wish I could go to the Falls someday. You make me excited to plan a trip soon. Thanks Aleta for sharing your excitement and memories with us.

Jen's Farmily said...

I LOVE that house you guys stayed in. I love the Victorian/Plantation style houses.

I think Niagara Falls is so neat!!

*Akilah Sakai* said...

I just love how detailed your accounts are for us readers. I went to Niagra but only for one day so I only did the Maid of the Mist boat tour. I screamed with excitement, too! And I had no idea you could walk behind the falls! That's awesome.

The entire trip was so fantastic, the one grumpy tour guide couldn't dampen a thing.

*Akilah Sakai* said...


I have an award over on my blog for you. Scroll down a tad to see it 'cos I posted it on 8/19.

Grace said...

you must really love to write, eh? me, i love ponchos. :)

carma said...

I can't believe the tour guide was grumbling about having to go to the American side - BAH!! That's what he's paid to do....I'll need to try that tactic at my job ;-)

Great pic of you all in the barrel!

Rashikaps said...

Beautifully told.. Pictures are gorgeous.. :)

Rashikaps said...

Beautifully told.. Pictures are gorgeous.. :)

Holly said...

Lovely photos of the falls! American side is a state park, I think - hence not a big 'touristy' area - I sort of like that.

We stayed at a B&B up here when we flew up to close on the house - breakfast was the best part - big cooked meal, full china, silver, crystal, linens, and the owners sat down with us - just had coffee themselves, but it was nice to have them there to chat to. I don't like the idea of a continental breakfast at a B&B - I think it's cheating! :-)

Oh, yeah, Boston is a joy to drive in, isn't it! Now you know why people from NH call people from MA "massholes". They are wicked agressive, nasty drivers - always in a hurry, won't give anyone an inch. Rude, rude, rude. I know not all are like that, but a big percentage are - the poor nice divers are so outnumbered.

Mama Plays Mozart said...

Sorry to hear that you didn't have the best experiences with the Canadian tour guides! Hope that won't prevent you from visiting Canada again!