Monthly Archives: August 2009

Behind the Falls. Infront of them too! Part 1

I arrived home from my trip to the falls late last Sunday afternoon. It has been ten years since I’ve last been and nothing really has change. The falls are still huge and beautiful. Clifton Hill still manages to pack every tacky tourist attraction up and down that steep hill. A few new sights for me was the Niagara Sky wheel, and the Ten Thousand Buddha Sarira Stupa a Buddhist temple across the street from the entrance of the White Water Walk, things I’ve never did on past family trips to the falls. I relied on the “People Mover” to take me to the major attractions in the Niagara Park. A two day pass was included in my adventure pass which I recommend one look into getting if you are spending some time at the Falls. Maid of the Mist, Journey behind the falls, White Water Walk and their new attraction, the 4D ride Niagara’s Fury are all included in the price of the adventure pass along with coupons for ½ price admissions to 6 other Niagara Attractions such as the aero car. Getting into Niagara Falls shortly after one I took a taxi to my hostel Lyons House Hostel (5741 McGrail Ave; 905-354-6425; http://www.hostelniagara.com). I was greeted by Shelly, who as well as Patrick were the warmest, kindest hostel host I have ever met. She gave me a fantastic rundown of some of the things to do in the Niagara. I can’t say I have ever stayed in a hostel that clean before nor one that offers a free breakfast and internet and remember the guests’ names. Check in wasn’t until 4pm, Shelly locked my luggage up and sent me on my way with a suggestion. “If there is one thing you do while at Niagara Falls that is to do the Maid of the Mist”. Which advice I took to heart and headed straight for the boat after activating my adventure pass and eating lunch at the Secret Garden. The maid of the mist was one of the things my family had done on our family trip to the falls. Somehow over ten years later I happen to forget how wet you get on the boat and how little good those blue plastic rain coats do. I walked up Clifton Hill back to the hostel to check in. After checking in, changing my haft drenched haft dry clothes and made my now matted hair presentable I walked back down the hill and took the people mover to Table Rock to descend down an elevator shaft to see the falls up close. My Father and Mother have raved for years about how wonderful it was. I am kind of on the fence about it. The closest you actually get to being under the actually the falls are three small “ports” blocked off with black iron gate, with water crashing over them. Then you walk back the way you come and exit out onto a deck where you stand next to the Horseshoes falls. Back at Clifton Hill I got on the Niagara Sky wheel. On any other occasion I would not be getting onto a ferriest wheel type especially not by myself. But yet there I was sitting in car 31 all by self for an early pre-sunset ride to view of the city. It wasn’t so bad, nice views. That night I ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Why? I don’t other then it was there, and one of the places as a family I have been and why not. What I seem to notice on this trip is vegetarian options are slim picking at major tourist restaurants beyond salads and veggie burgers. I’m not a huge fan of veggie burgers other than the ones from A&W and Yves. I ordered onion rings and steamed season vegetables; Season vegetable only being broccoli apparently. Afterwards I head down to see the Niagara Falls illuminated. I listen momentary to the band playing on the stage in Oakland Garden Theatre overlooking the falls before heading back to my room before the Friday Night fireworks at 10pm started. Saturday morning I woke before anyone else in the hostel, and even before the breakfast had been laid out. I reactivated my people mover pass and took the bus to the White Water Walk past several handsome bed and breakfasts and vast views of the Niagara Gorge. The elevator down to the walk way is inside the gift shop. Down a few hundred feet in least then 30 seconds, the elevator operator tells me this is one if not the closest you can get to a class 6 rapid. Professional kayakers and rafters only attempt class 3-4 rapids. His trainee had mentioned that only one person has attempted kayaking here and survived. The senior operator was quick to interject that hydro had raised the water levels so he could clear the rocks for the National Geographic photo shoot. I had planned on visiting Ten Thousand Buddha Temple, unaware at how close it was to the white water walk. When the bus pulled up to the White Water Walk across the street rose up a beautiful traditional style Buddhist temple adorn with unique and interesting as well religious statues. What caught my eye was a computer printed sign that said “You are not at Jurassic Park, this is not a ride” reminding people that they are in fact at a religious institution and should show respect. Where was that in San Marcos Basilica? Next was the Whirlpool Aero Cars which takes you across the area where the Niagara Falls original were millions of years ago and is now a whirlpool. The Aero cars have been in operation since 1910. It doesn’t seem like it though. It ran much smoother then the Niagara Sky wheel built in 2006, almost 100 years after it. The view from the red and yellow car is amazing. Down below I watched a jet boat full of passengers’ crash through the whirlpool. The next time I am in town I will make sure to head to Niagara on the Lake a city as Patrick referred to it as, a city like the one on Gilmore Girls and try out the Niagara Jet boat. My plan for the day was to make it across the border to Goat Island and some possibly some outlet shopping in the states. However by the time I got back up the stairs to yet another gift shop dark clouds were threatening to open up and pour. I decided to head back to Table Rock for lunch and wait out any possible rain. I wouldn’t be traveling if I didn’t eat at least once slice of pizza. Unfortunately mine was neither local nor cheap as I chow down on a slice from Pizza Pizza. It had begun to spit and I had decided to stay in the area and get onto the Incline railway. Before this I was quite sure where the railway went or actually what it did. To top it off I had no idea how to get there. I wonder around the mall trying to find how to get onto the bridge that crosses the street. I eventually sucked up my pride and asked at the people mover info booth. “I’m sorry; this is probably going to be a stupid question.” I began; she smiled at me and stopped me there. “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” “Okay, good. How do I get across the bridge to the incline railway?” Perhaps it was the way I worded it, but her smiled wavered and she looked at me in such a way letting me know I had indeed asked a stupid question. “Inside to the escalators, go upstairs and walk all the way to the end through the doors.”

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Open call to the road: Niagara Falls.

I know I said in past posts that traveling will be on hold for a little while because I decided to go back to school. But who was I kidding? Like a siren’s call I crash my boat against the coast of wanderlust.

A monumental birthday is coming up in a few days and I’m not even going to pretend I am dealing with it well. Every second I am on the verge of tears knowing that soon I will be 1/4 of a century old. I don’t feel it, and I sure as hell don’t look it. I feel 17/18 years old and for the most part I look that old too. I’m also pretty sure I said I didn’t want to be in the country for my next birthday.

So what’s a better way to cheer myself up and get out of the country? Another trip.  Money is tight and so is time. I start school again in less then 3 weeks.  When I was deciding where to go Toronto was currently on a civic strike with no trash pick up, so that eliminated Toronto. A trip home to Montreal, or Buffalo, Chicago, Hong Kong and Thailand all prove to be too expensive. So I eventually decide on Niagara Falls. Close by, cheap, and able to leave the country.

“You’ve been all the way to Cuba, but you’ve never been to the falls?” My friend’s boyfriend laughed, last night at our friends’ Sarah and Steve’s buck and doe. I’ve been to the falls before. Several times actually. However the last time I was standing in the middle of some park freezing to death listening to Jeff Healy (sp) worrying if what they said will happen at Y2K will actually happen. It didn’t.  So almost 10 years has passed since I’ve been.

Now when traveling with my parents and my brother we would drive hundreds of miles to sit in the hotel for most of the time. So honestly it feels like going to falls for the first time.

I book both my train ticket on Via Rail ($31.50) and then booked my hostel ($111 for two nights, 5 min away from falls and private room) at http://www.hostel.com on the 31st of July. Then with a discount I get from work I bought the Niagara Adventure pass for almost haft off which has all the major tourist attraction included and offers discount on those that are not included.

The trip almost got canceled this week when my debit card was stolen from my purse while at work. My bank account was sucked dried before I could even report it stolen. Luckily BMO credited me back my money after filling out a butt load of paper. Work drama and the debit card thief witch hunt that is sure to follow in the days leading up to the trip I am staring at an empty suitcase and blank itinerary with no idea in high heaven what to pack or what to do….

 

Itinerary

The main purpose of this trip was to do some photography while coping with becoming ¼ of a century old (I can feel the tears now) and not wanting to be in the country for my birthday.

The things I want to do while there

  • White Water Walk (never done)
  • Whirlpool Aero Car (never done)
  • Ten Thousand Buddha Sarira Stupa (Never Done)
  • Maid of the Mist (been even longer then 10 yrs since I’ve done this)
  • Journey behind the Falls (never done)
  • Clifton Hill (Right below my hotel a must)
  • Niagara Sky wheel (never got to do the London Eye, so why not)
  • Goat Island
  • Canadian and American Falls

 

On the American side, Jennifer has recommended that I check out Honey’s Restaurant. This happens to right by an outlet mall. My kind of place.

 

Packing List:

 

Two nights, traveling light and staying at a hostel while expecting scattered thunder storms with expected temperatures of a high of 25◦ Celsius and a low of 14◦ Celsius. A bit of a packing confusion.

 

  • 2 Pairs of each underwear and bra.
  • 1 pair of shorts,
  • 1 pair of capris,
  • 1 tank top,
  • 1 t-shirt,
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 windbreaker (or umbrella in lieu of jacket)
  • 1 pair of socks
  • Pajamas
  • Shampoo, Condition, hair spray, sunscreen, soap. Tylenol and pepto.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush with elastics.  
  • Hat?
  • Flip flops
  • Digital camera, memory cards, charger. Plastic bag to protect camera from mist from falls.
  • Reusable water bottle.
  • Daypack.
  • Roller bag.
  • Passport, Driver ID,  Bank card, Cash, Credit card
  • Train ticket, Adventuer pass print out, hostel reservations.
  • Snacks.
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JetBlue All You Can Fly deal

Now this is a deal Id love to take advantage of… According to Perez Hilton Jet blue is offer an all you can fly in one  month for 599$  if you purchased your ticket before August 21st.

 

http://perezhilton.com/2009-08-13-jetblue-offering-an-all-you-can-fly-deal

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Travel Memories: December 2004/February 2005

The Music: Kool Haus December 14 2004. The days before digital cameras

The Music: Kool Haus December 14 2004. The days before digital cameras

Prior to this trip, I had travelled before with my family, gone to friends’ cottages up north with them. I had even gone to Ottawa with my grade 8 graduating class and visited family across the country. However this trip to Toronto was my first trip without any parents, supervision and entirely on my own planning.

 My favourite band of all time “The Music” was coming to play at the Kool Haus in Toronto. My friends Eric and Cameron and his girlfriend were going to take the Train to see them and spend the night in a hostel (Canadian Backpacker Inn). For all of us it would be our first experience with hostels. The day before the concert Cameron and his girlfriend bailed and left Eric and I on our own.

We arrived at the hostel, to a small room with 2 bunk beds, so cheerful-it’ll-make-you-puke yellow walls and nice staff. I dragged Eric along as we walked the streets of downtown Toronto before heading to Younge St. For an autograph signing at Sam the Record Man (now closed). It was December, and with December in Canada comes snow and lots of it. The band was stuck in a snow storm (or at least so their rep said) and couldn’t make the signing but we’re given V.I.P passes to attend a meet and greet after the concert that night. While waiting for the signing before it was called off I met a girl name Tharmika, which I began talking too. After that night I came back several times to Toronto to visit her losing touch with her after she went to Germany to study.

The band was amazing, and put on a great show. Eric ditched me, leaving me to dance alone in the front row until the end of the concert to play Halo where he grabbed me afterwards to make our way to the “backstage” area. The meet and great was a dream. There is and has always been something about this band, and meeting the people whom made the music I adore while traveling was something else.

This was the trip and the band that started my love affair with the road. After this concert I had booked two more trips across Canada to see them again in the following months. In London, a town I even to this day I am not fond of . In which the most horrible hotel I’ve ever stayed in is located. The Econo Lodge and its white Facade located down the street from the Via Rail station and smack dab in the middle of a strip club and a church. Whenever something goes wrong on a trip and it always does, it’s still better then that hotel. The city before London was Montreal where the stage at La Tulipe (4530 Avenue Papineau) towered over me and the rest of the crowed and getting to venue was like driving through the maze (thanks Dawn for driving me) of confusing one way streets and service road. I almost made it to NYC during this trip but had to cancel my plans when none of the hostel would let me book a room because I didn’t have a passport. Unlike Toronto, there was no Eric to accompany me then ditch me; I went solo meeting up with acquaintances that I knew from liking the band when I got there.

 I still smile fondly at the memory of this trip. On my bookcase surrounded by hundreds of books and travel mementos is a photo in a sliver Disney princess frame of me and Robert (the lead singer of “The Music”) from Toronto.

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