Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Vacation - Day 5

Today is the day we need to checkout of our hotel in Toronto... Thank goodness checkout isn't until 11am! We have time to grab a taxi to Distillery!

The Distillery is as its name implies; an old distillery. In its day, it was the largest distillery in North America. The buildings have been fully restored and it has evolved into an artist colony. So it's a funky blending of old brick buildings and contemporary art.

It really is a charming place; great for an early morning latte and croissant. I wish more of the shops were open, but most didn't open until 11am.

We were running short of Canadian funds. So we took the trolley back to the hotel. We are getting to be pros at the trolley! Or so we thought until we missed our stop (it's a good thing that the blocks are short), lol! We checked out of the hotel with only a $2 coin and 6 pennies left. I had planned to give the $2 coin to the valet, but after waiting 40 minutes for our car, I gave the coin to Cheryl as a souvenir. With 6 pennies in our pocket we headed by to the Good Old USA!... and got stuck in the border crossing for 45 minutes.

Our first destination was Goat Island! It's the island situated in the middle of the Niagara River, separating the American Falls from the Canadian Falls. Since Goat Island didn't have an address that we could give Garmina, Cheryl had to navigate us there with a {gasp} MAP! We made it there on the first pass. She was so proud of herself!

While we were there, we had to go down to the Cave of the Winds! It's the same principle as the Behind the Falls tour on the Canadian side, but a lot more INTENSE! Even wearing the yellow slickers, it was impossible not to get soaked! What FUN!

We took in the view and then tried to decide where to go next.

One of the Goat Island pamphlets listed all of New York's state parks. There was one park which touted itself to be the "Grand Canyon of the East Coast." How could we resist? We've seen the "Grand Canyon" and the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," we must see the "Grand Canyon of the East Coast"! So we headed for, Geneseo, New York, the town nearest the entrance to Letchworth State Park.

We stayed in the cutest place ever, the Big Tree Inn! The price for staying in this historic building was the same as staying at the only other place in town, the Quality Inn. Where the Quality Inn was next to the truck stop, the Big Tree Inn was right in the middle of town. How could we resist?!!! There were only eight rooms in the hotel; ours was called the Seneca room and it was on the third floor. It was a fun place, trying to get to our room was like trying to navigate through the Winchester Mystery house!

It had a great outside porch were we kicked back and did a little research... Where are we going tomorrow, Cheryl?

Monday, August 30, 2010

August Vacation - Day 4

Today is Jim and Chris's last day in Toronto. They didn't see anything from the Hippo bus that they wanted to do today, so we went to the CN Tower. It is the tallest tower in the world! I got dizzy looking up at it!

They had special security in place. These boxes are called "sniffers." We file through one at a time, it shot air at us, and then checks that air for explosives residue.

It's a strong blast of air... I was glad that I wasn't wearing a skirt!... think Marilyn Monroe, LOL!

The bottom level of the tower had a glass floor.
The kids and Jim were standing on the glass floor when I jumped from the sidelines onto the glass... It scared Jim silly! It's been a while since we've seen him move that fast! We were all falling down LAUGHING!

It was a great time! After the CN Tower, it was time for Jim and Chris to leave us. Jim couldn't get the entire week off and Chris had to get back home because he was still in summer school. We pointed Garmina to the Toronto International Airport, and off we went! Bye, Jim, Bye, Chris... we'll miss you!

After Jim and Chris took off, Cheryl and I were on our own. We made it back to the hotel on the first circut around the block (yeah, I'm GOOD, LOL!), parked the car... valet of course, since we never found that self-park lot. AND jumped on the subway to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

The ROM is an amazing place! We really wanted to see the Terracotta Army when they were at LACMA, but unfortunately, we missed it. Luckily for us they are here at ROM!

Here is our photo of the Terracotta warriors, lol! Unfortunately, we couldn't take photos in the exhibit, so this is all we have. We spent all afternoon at the museum. They had a great dinosaur exhibit, ancient art, wildlife and the highlight were the bat caves!

We didn't know where to go next, so we decided to ask someone... On the recommendation of a salesman in the museum gift store, we jumped on the trolley to Kinsington Market.

Kinsignton is a GREAT outdoor market... LOTS of food, and LOTS of places to eat. What great timing, we are just in time for dinner!

We located the Tapas Bar recommended by the guy in the gift store! What a treat! We ate out on the patio and sampled several Tapas dishes! YUM! The waiter recommended that we checkout the Distillery... We put that on our list of things to do tomorrow!

After getting so stuffed that our stomachs hurt, we had a nice long walk back to the hotel along the water front! I've said it before and I'll say it again... Toronto is a beautiful city!

Now Cheryl and I have the HUGE room to ourselves... nothing like living in luxury! hehehe...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August Vacation - Day 3

Day 3 we leave Niagara Falls behind and head to Toronto... We tried to find something do so or see between Niagara Falls and Toronto. We stopped in Burlington which was right on the shores of Lake Ontario. They were having a Children's Festival featuring a pack of clowns singing, "There was a farmer had a dog and BINGO was his name, oh..." Cheryl took one look and said it was the reenactment of her worst nightmare. LOL! For those who don't know, Cheryl is afraid of clowns... There was nothing else of interest on the way to Toronto.

It was too early to check into our hotel, so we stopped on the way into Toronto at Casa Loma. It looked like a real medieval castle! Very cool, until we started reading about it... it was built in 1914, and completely modernized in 1937. I was having flash-backs to Bodie (the old west ghost town from the 1930's) What a tourist trap! It would have cost almost $100 for the four of us to tour the inside of the castle, so we just walked around the outside and then left. It was an amazing building... no gargoyles, but there is an angry looking unicorn on the tower.

Getting to the hotel was a bit of the challenge. The streets were narrow, and there were pedestrians, bikes and taxis everywhere! Garmina goes haywire around tall buildings, and we didn't have an exact address for the hotel (only the street name). She sent us around the block three times before we figured out that we were driving right past the hotel... Then we drove around the block three more times trying to find the self-park garage, (we also ended up getting lost in part of the underground city). We finally gave up and used valet parking. lol!

Our room at the hotel was AMAZING! Thank-you AAA upgrades, yahoo! There were two queen-sized beds and a sitting room with desk, couch, a couple chairs, coffee table and BIG flat-screen TV!

We had no idea what to do next, so we started with a bus tour... the Hippo Tours to be exact! It's similar to the Duck Tours, but without the "quacking." We take a bus tour around the city, then the bus drives into the water and becomes a boat; and we take a boat tour of the lake shore area. Toronto is a beautiful city!

We had dinner from a side walk hot dog vendor, and went exploring in the underground city (this time on foot). It's kind of spooky down there when everything is closed!

We found an open convenience store, got some snacks and went back to the room to watch soccer for the rest of the evening. Hey, this is Canada! They show soccer on non-cable channels! LOL!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August Vacation - Day 2

I hope you are sitting comfortably and have a nice cup of coffee, because I have a ton of photos to share with you today!

Day 2 finds us with a full day of Niagara Falls fun! A real Niagara Falls marathon!

Isn't Niagara Falls beautiful?!!! There was a great river side trail, full of beautiful flowers, and lots of runners. Made me wish I brought my running shoes... well, maybe not...

The Maid of the Mist was our first stop. We were told to get there early to avoid the crowds. We got right on the second boat leaving the dock and experienced the full force of the falls close up, with a couple hundred other blue people, LOL!

That's the American Falls behind us... it's kind of hard to see...

See that big white area behind Chris? That's the Canadian Falls. We got right up to it! We got so close and the mist was so thick, all my photos of the falls are just white.. like a polar bear in a snowstorm.

Check out this rainbow!

After the Maid of the Mist, we walked down the waterfront to the Behind the Falls tour. The stairs along the side of the falls was fun. The cave behind the falls was a tunnel where you can see the backside of the falls. Just between you and me, the backside of water looks a lot like the front side.

In the next photo, I'm the yellow ghost on the left... I was having issues with the one-size-fits-all poncho.

After that, we jumped in the car and headed to Niagara on the Lake, and got our first look at Lake Ontario. On the far side of the lake you can see Fort Niagara in New York.

Surprise! This is the weekend of Niagara on the Lake's Peach Festival. Look how cute the town is! We had some GREAT peach ice cream, YUM!

Cheryl and I just LOVED it there! Jim and Chris were ready to go right after eating lunch. The reason we are Niagara on the Lake is to take Whirlpool Jet Boat.

It's me again... still having issues with "one-size-fits-all."

Here's the rest of the family looking stylish in their orange life vests.

We went jet boating over class 6 rapids! WAY FUN!!! You should have seen the smile on Chris's face, it couldn't have gotten any bigger! It was the highlight of his trip.

After our full day of sight-seeing, We spent another night in Niagara Falls. It'll be time to say good-bye to Niagara Falls tomorrow, but tonight, we can still enjoy this view!