Tourist time in Canada

How many breakfasts do you want?

 

Daryl, Denise and I were in the restaurant, and had already started our buffet breakfast, which was included with our voucher, and wondering where Dutchy was. He finally arrived, instructing us to get up and get out of there, as we were in the wrong restaurant! It was still the same hotel, so I don’t think it was any great drama. I finished off my first course, or pre-breakfast as it were, then we went up to the 33rd floor where obviously the view was more spectacular than on the first floor, as you could see both the US and Canadian Niagara Falls, but the wait was longer.

The welcoming committee was not very welcoming. The woman who greeted us, or rather, ordered us to stay at the top of the stairs until we were summoned, had the most sour face we had seen in a long time. What on earth was she doing in the hospitality industry?

 

Hats off to you:

 

After we had checked out, we drove to Niagara-on-the-lake to do a spot of shopping at Beau Chapeau. Dutchy had always wanted a Stetson, and I said that if he really wanted it, he should have it, even with a price tag of $200, plus tax, and please note that I didn’t make a fuss about it at all, despite his carry-on about my designer shirt. Admittedly, a good hat like that should last almost forever, unlike an article of clothing. I ended up buying a cap there too, so it was hats on all round. The hat box we decided could be added to hand luggage, and if desperate, we could wear the hats on the plane.

 

 

Peller Estates Winery Tour

 

An enjoyable hour or so was spent at Peller Estates Winery, where we enjoyed a tasting experience as well. We learned how you hold the glass by the stem, swill it around a little to breathe, smell it, and take a sip. Swish that around your mouth a little, to clear the palate, then twice more so you can really taste the wine. That’s Sandi Wine Tasting 101.

We tasted a red, a sparkling and then we tried something different. Ice Wine is a very sweet aperitif that is very expensive, but when you hear how the grapes are picked and the precise temperatures they have to be you understand why it is pricey. It is generally served after dinner and is sold in 375 ml bottles only, at about $95 each. The fear of excess baggage was a good excuse not to purchase any.

 

 

Winding up for the next leg:

 

It was a long drive back to Kimberley, and when we returned it was time for the hot tub. I didn’t stay in there long as it was too cool for me, so I actually did something in the kitchen, getting instructions from the balcony as to what to chop and prepare next, which went towards our nice dinner of veal and pasta. Karaoke after dinner concluded a lovely stay with our new friends.

The idea had been to see some of Toronto before we left, but we had had enough of driving, so we opted to spend that last morning relaxing, as it would be our last taste of home-life before hotels and the cruise. As it was, the drive to the airport took two hours. Apparently airfares from Toronto can be more expensive than from Buffalo, and since both airports are about the same distance away, it’s a factor to consider for any further visits there.

Another saving can be made by choosing Tim Horton’s over Starbuck’s, which we tried at the airport. What a difference in price, and for equivalent quality.

Flying Air Canada there was no food provided, only one juice, and you had to pay for headsets. Fortunately we had our own, and I enjoyed The King’s Speech. I also opted for the French language instructions to continue my bi-lingual skills, which of course start slipping when not in use. From there it was back to the USA for the international travellers, ready for the next leg.

 

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Working on the bucket list!

Niagara – another one off the bucket list:

 

Originally we were going to go to Niagara Falls by ourselves, but we ended up teaming up with Daryl and Denise who drove us there. It took about three hours to Niagara-on-the-lake, where we had lunch at an English-type pub called The Olde Angel Inn, where the food was enjoyable but the prices touristy.

As the Falls came into view, we could see why the Canadian Falls are better than the ones on the USA side. The Horseshoe formation gives a more spectacular flow of water. Erosion means the Falls move farther upstream with each passing eon, something we don’t have to worry about.

It’s almost obligatory to do the Maid in the Mist, so for a cost of $16.50 and armed with our ponchos we joined the queue that very afternoon to experience Niagara Falls. Apparently tour groups tend to congregate in the mornings so we didn’t have to wait more than half an hour. Being warned that we would get wet, I opted to take my runners off and tie the shoelaces together and go barefoot, hanging the runners over my bum bag under the protection of the poncho. This proved to be a good move, as the water made its way wherever it could. It was a challenge trying to take photos of the power and the majesty of the Falls, while trying to keep the poncho tucked around one’s neck and legs at the same time. The boat ride takes about half an hour, and by the end you feel quite exhausted but also exhilarated. This visit had been “on my list” for thirty years, and it was well worth seeing another of the Great Wonders of the World.

Denise had booked us into the Hilton Fallsview, with rooms overlooking the Falls. We were up on the 32nd floor, which afforded us a good view.  She had also cleverly found a voucher that gave us discounts on dinner, plus a winery tour the following day, for only an extra $20, making a grand total of $179 (plus tax).

 

 

Brazilian Dinner:

 

No matter what price we saw in both Canada and USA, we always had to remember that annoying phrase “plus tax” – from hotel bill to souvenirs to restaurants. That’s one thing I love about Australia, that the price you see is the price you pay.

Since the weather had turned inclement, we decided to go to a restaurant within the hotel complex. The Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse was a fantastic choice. It was a buffet with a difference, where food waiters would go around to each table with a different meat. At each place setting was a coaster with the Brasa logo, one side red and the other side green. When you wished for some meat, you turned the green up, so that they knew whether to offer you anything, and red when you needed some respite. Salads to accompany the meat dishes were at a buffet table, and we were extremely impressed with the quality of everything there. Choices of sirloin, ribeye, chicken, lamb, and even pineapple meant that we all overate. It was a brilliant concept, and magnificently executed.

 

 

 

Maple leaf country

O Canada:

We boarded American Airlines Flight AA3857 to Toronto with mixed feelings. Dutchy was looking forward to meeting his modern day penfriend (internet buddy) Denise and her husband Daryl. Denise picked us up at the airport, and we finally found where she had parked the car. Since we were all hungry, sharing a large tasty plate of nachos at a nearby restaurant made sense before making the long two-hour journey to their house in the country.

Stopping at Markdale about 16 kms from their place, we found an ATM to get some necessary Canadian money. It’s funny how every different currency looks like play money, but at least the Canadians have a bit of colour on theirs, unlike the greenbacks of the US. We arrived at Kimberley the Beaver Valley to their house with the amazing windows. It’s reminiscent of the Amityville Horror House, set on six acres.

 

Blue Mountain – the new top:

 

There is a place called Collingwood half an hour away in the Beaver Valley, and we went down there to the shoresof Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, where we visited the LCBO, their version of a bottle shop. Prices of alcohol here seemed quite reasonable.

Then we went to a ski resort called Blue Mountain, which looks pretty in autumn (or fall), and which would look magnificent covered in snow. We are not snow aficionados, and being cold doesn’t thrill us either. As it was, after the heat of New York and Orlando, the temperatures in Canada meant long-sleeved tops, jackets and jeans, although the Canadians were enjoying what they thought was warm weather! It’s all relative, depending on what you are used to and from whence you have come.

Of course if there are shops, one must enter them. It is an unwritten law, usually amongst females. As we came upon a little boutique named Echo Trends, I saw a long-sleeved top in the window that caught my eye, so in we went. There was a rack with some reduced items on it, and I rather liked a white jacket, laughing as I said, “Look, it’s only $235, reduced from $650.” I tried it on, but they didn’t have my size. I thought it’s probably better that they didn’t, at that price. Then I found the top from the window. It was a designer top with really interesting prints and appliqués on it. I just had to try it on, but that was probably where I went wrong. I loved it and had to have it, as it had such a lovely line to it and looked really good on. At $250 it is the most expensive top I have ever bought. Dutchy had to come in and have a look. He usually tempers my spending with realistic thinking, but somehow this time he didn’t. Maybe he was appreciative that I had been open to visiting Canada; maybe I felt like splurging because I had embraced the idea of visiting strangers?! Not only that, but Dana the designer was there, so without further ado I lashed out, deciding that instead of buying a lot of smaller souvenirs from Canada, maybe this would be the only one. Also, with the thought of excess baggage looming, this seemed a good solution. Yes, there’s always a maybe. I announced in the shop, “If I buy this, I promise I won’t buy anything else.. until tomorrow,” which left them all laughing. This purchase was the source of much frivolity and stirring over the next few days, especially when Dutchy described my designer piece as “only a long-sleeved t-shirt.”

Beaver Tail:

As we were heading towards the car, we spotted a stand that was selling Beaver Tails, which are an interesting delicacy. It appears to be made from dough, stretched really thinly and then lightly fried, after which toppings are added. I would call it a twist on a pancake but a little crispier. Others call it a Canadian donut in the shape of a beaver tail. Denise ordered one for us to share, and paid for it herself, as she knew I had certainly spent enough on my “long-sleeved t-shirt.” Apart from the name being a bit suspect, I added to it by asking the guy if I could take a photo of him while he stretched it, obviously meaning the dough, but being deliberately misconstrued by the company I was in, particularly Dutchy. When I had chosen the chocolate hazelnut option, I hadn’t realised that it would be basically a nutella spread over it, with a sprinkling of sugar. I enjoyed it though.

 

 

From a cocktail party to the hot tub:

On Friday evening we accompanied Daryl and Denise to Donna and John’s house to meet a group of their friends in the valley. This is a fairly regular summer ritual they share, because once the snow comes it is harder to entertain. After a very pleasant evening, with drinks and nibbles, we were going to have dinner “in,” after a soak in the hot tub.

Out in the country you can see so many more stars than in the city, and while it was cool outside, the temperature in the Jacuzzi was ideal. Drinks and hot water helped relax tired muscles. The apprehension any of us felt was unfounded, as within a couple of days we were all good pals. The next day everyone felt a little seedy, but we had cemented our friendship and we look forward to their visit one day to Australia.

Country Canada:

The following day Denise took me along the Bruce trail for a walk. They live on the Niagara escarpment, and this trail wends its way through private property so that a long walk, or hike, can be enjoyed by everybody. You only have to follow the white markers on the trees ahead to ensure you stay on the trail and avoid trespassing.

We went to an unusually shaped restaurant called Ted’s Range Road Diner, which looked like the old army bunkers from days gone by to enjoy a hamburger for lunch.

A feature of their area is Old Baldy, which is like part of a cliff face jutting out from the mountain, to which we later drove and then walked above, enjoying the view of the Beaver Valley and the green ski runs.

Trailer trash to a birthday bash:

The following day was Denise’s birthday, so we went up to their trailer at Arran Lake an hour away. In mid October the park closes as the lake freezes over and who would want to go there in freezing temperatures anyway? At this time of year it was very pleasant, and we had a barbecue and met their fun friends Pat and Dennis. Jokes were made about trailer trash, which was nowhere near the truth. Their trailer is more like a small French apartment – everything you need in a compact environment, but with lots of space around it, as they have added an outdoor deck on which to entertain.

We whiled away the afternoon chatting, before returning to go out to dinner with other friends, Kerry and Sue, to Munshaw’s Bistro. Munshaw’s is a restaurant run by Chef Paul and his family, who are very personable and we enjoyed the evening immensely.

A bottle of Champagne as her birthday gift, carefully brought over from France, was much appreciated by Denise, and the good thing for us was that it removed significant weight from Dutchy’s suitcase!