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Trip Report Symphony of Niagara Falls: blue water crushing down into puffy white clouds

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This is a romantic place for couples; go while young and in love! We enjoyed every moment of it; this is the place to see once in a lifetime! The waterfalls are breathtaking. The only downside was that I was unable to find a barrel for my husband to go down the falls, so I had to bring him back home. We couldn’t stop noticing how clean the area was, especially compare to San Francisco. And no homeless!

I don’t know what we were doing those 3.5 days, but we were always busy. We took our time to absorb the views, the place just slows you down, makes your relaxed and content. If without a car, you need at least one full day, preferably two. Maybe take a tour of NOTL – not as much for the town itself as for the surrounding areas.

Souvenirs unique to the area are based on icewine. Bottles of icewine, icewine tea loose and packaged, icewine chocolates and icewine honey – better selection in NOTL, especially at Greaves. They also sell ice cream everywhere, why? This was funny.

AIRLINES. Squeezed between last week of the month and teleconference at work, we took a red eye flight – like we didn’t know before, we’re too old for this! I was more or less fine; my husband was like a lunatic all day. Delta was a little late taking off in Atlanta, otherwise no problem, even healthy made-in-Belgium cookies for a snack. We flew back Southwest – although more expensive, the schedule was much better. They were on time, even the 35 minutes between the planes in Phoenix gave us a few minutes to catch our breath before the boarding, unfortunately not enough to buy sandwiches.

SHUTTLE was reserved from home as a roundtrip. It was a long walk in Buffalo NY – for some reason I thought the airport was small. They had our names at the transportation desk, and what was scheduled to be a 1.5 hours wait turned into 20 minutes. Niagara Airbus was on time to pick us up. They also called me the night before on my cell phone – to confirm. Both times we went through the Peace Bridge – the whole passport control took no more then 5 minutes.

HOTEL was Michael’s Inn – we got a good deal on Expedia that very soon disappeared off the website. There were no additional charges like more taxes or resort fees. Our room was “ground level” and had no view. We had 2 rather comfortable beds (our choice), a desk and a table with 2 armchairs. I liked the most the additional sink outside the washroom – very convenient!

Location-wise I would try not to stay there without a car – to go out to dinner you have to walk at least 3 blocks under the bridge, creepy at night, and the transportation stops: falls shuttle 2 blocks, people mover 3 blocks. We were fine not being nighttime people, and had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant twice. If you are in that area near the Rainbow Bridge, find out when the bells play on the Carillon tower, worth listening, pleasant music.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT. We spent all our time on the Canadian side only. There are two types of buses running along the river. Falls Shuttles look more convenient in season, run everywhere, not just along the river, connect everything with the falls, but not all lines run all year, 2 out of 3 were running in May, and the one that goes to the Table Rock area – where the Horseshoe waterfall is located - was out. Red and Green lines go to downtown and Clifton hill areas, Blue line to the waterfalls.

People mover runs along the river, just make sure you understand the stops. Some stops are made on the way north only, some on the way south only. What I didn’t like about the people mover is that not all stops have benches to wait, and the last run is at 6 pm, so you can’t go out for dinner where you might like, and you can’t see the fireworks. Maybe May is not high season, and in the summer months they run later?

Take the people mover from end to end just for the views. Get off at the Whirlpool stop – the ride over the river was too scary for us, but the area is so beautiful just to be there to watch the river flow.

ATTRACTIONS – most of the ones we visited were at the people mover stops. It was convenient with the daily pass. Of course we went to check out the casino! Even the steep hill didn’t stop us. Bravely we climbed the 1,000 stairs to the non-smoking palace. Security guard at the entrance checked ID cards of some youth in front of us. Some slot machines were familiar, some new for us, but almost the same as in the US. What were we expecting?

We don’t like the “usual” packed attractions, being individually-wrapped-in-blue-plastic sardines on the moving cans of Maid of the Mist was not for us. We opted for quiet. Really enjoyed Totem Pole Park at the Niagara Glen stop – contemporary totem carvings made by a Native artist. You will have to go to the gift shop anyway to get tickets to the park – get a cup of coffee. The best coffee we had anywhere!

At the Botanical Gardens we took the horse-drawn carriage ride, loved it! They sell tickets at the Butterfly place, and if it’s close to the departure time, they use walkie-talkie to warn the horse driver to wait a minute. The ride is narrated, and the guide told about the garden’s history, upkeep, and pointed out the most interesting trees. Too early for roses, they had tulips in the rose garden. We walked around: the grounds are so beautiful! The cafeteria is not a place for a meal, unless you are really hungry.

Floral showhouse is for flower lovers, and who does not love them! Across the road from the house, a little away from the shuttle stop, is a rusty barge sitting on the river. Get closer for amazing views.

RESTAURANTS. We ate whatever whenever. The first day we walked out of the hotel, gasped: waterfalls!! We see the waterfalls!! And ended up on the patio of the Secret Garden overlooking the falls. We knew the food is overpriced, but the view paid off! This restaurant has the slowest service in the world, but we didn’t care – the sparrows and gulls provided never-ending entertainment asking for breadcrumbs. A piece of pasta fell off my plate, and a gull snitched it so fast, I only saw something like a lightning, and the gull was sitting on the railing with pasta in her beak.

Rainforest café – hey, why not? We went to one once in Las Vegas. Comparing those two, the one in Niagara Falls has friendlier waiters, the dummies of the animals move more, and the food seemed more expensive.

TRIP WITH KODI. The Fodorite poster “Kodi” was so kind to pick us up at the hotel to show us around! Took the “mandatory” photos at the flower clock. Admired blooming lilacs and chestnuts everywhere. Went to Niagara on the Lake – yes, it’s a cute village, but there is not much more could be said. It looked like it’s all about shopping. The lakeshore is nice. As my mom was a pharmacist and herbal medicine is my hobby, the Apothecary museum was on my “must visit” list.

We enjoyed tea at McFarland House on the way to NOTL. A special place with interesting small gift shop, waitresses in period dresses that we tried to figure out. The young woman explained, the dresses were cut much lower, so they wore a kerchief on the neck for modesty, and it looked like a collar. I think as women gave birth often and nursed, the low cuts were for breastfeeding and scarves used to cover that, perhaps? For the first time we had rhubarb cake, this was good! And the outside seating in the park on a sunny day, what can be better!

Went on to the Wellington canal locks, watched a barge going through it. It’s a different experience from going through a canal on a cruise ship. Stopped at Greaves shop for icewine tea packages to take home. Chocolate FX is a place where you can sample for free, but if you don’t plan to buy chocolate, this can be easily skipped. Believe the chocoholic who is typing this.

In the evening we had dinner with Kodi and TeacherCanada. I like to meet Fodorites, and it’s nice to put a face to the lines on computer screen. I have to admit, the Spicy Caesar has not become my favorite drink.

Overall, the trip was very good, saw new places, met new people, and loaded ourselves with ice cream. Too bad they’ve cancelled tax return! Would we go there again? Not before seeing all other new places.

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