Thursday, May 5, 2016

Erica's #74 - Go to Niagara Falls (New York) and Mel's #54 - Have a Romantic Weekend Away

We've talked about visiting Niagara Falls for a while now, and it's actually fairly close to Indianapolis, as far as road trips go - only about 8 hours each way.  The draw for us is more the natural features of the falls, but we aren't above enjoying a few kitschy tourist trap destinations either - which Niagara Falls has in spades.  Actually the first thing we did after checking into our hotel with a view of the American Falls (forever documented here as the most expensive hotel room we have ever and likely will ever splurge on - which also, ironically, had some horrible room service, but we'll get there) was head to the Clifton Hill area, which contains all the wax museums, cheap souvenir stands, chain restaurants, arcades, putt-putt, and, for some reason, haunted house attractions.

It was actually entertaining to spend some time walking around this area - we
Johnny Cash

kept our minds open, and even took trips through two of the wax museums, with varying levels of horrifying and pretty decent wax recreations of some famous folks.  We walked down to the area with a great view of the falls and took in the natural beauty, in stark contrast to the crowded, neon-lit street we had just walked down to get there.  We spent some time in the arcade, because it had SO MANY of the coin-pushing machines, and I am a coin-pushing machine addict.  We played some other games as well, and cashed in our tickets for some really awesome prizes.

We had a surprisingly great dinner at a restaurant called The Works (probably a Canadian chain?), where we enjoyed a literal bucket of poutine, covered in gravy, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and green onions (which, by the way, we recreated at home the day after we got back).  It was so delicious, and so horrible for us.  We split one of their interesting burgers after that, which had avocado, Roadhouse Sauce (veggie mayo), sundried tomatoes, and feta cheese on it.  Yum, but we were rolling out of that place!  The poutine alone would have been enough food for both of us!

Our big plan post-dinner was to get a nice bottle of wine and enjoy the view from our room.  We paid for it, so we better enjoy it, right?  Well, we should have done our research on alcohol purchases in Ontario...after several stops at convenience stores and even a Walmart (gasp!), we found no alcohol for sale.  Turns out, they sell these in "LCBO" stores (obvious, right?).  We were right next to one in the Walmart parking lot, but had no clue what it was for.  After that frustration, we decided to have a bottle of wine (and changed our minds to Prosecco) sent to our room, since we got nowhere in our search.  When it hadn't arrived 45 minutes later, and I checked with room service on the status, it took another 20 minutes to make it's way on up, and arrived in the classiest of wine buckets.  We felt like we'd gone back to the cruise ship and had just ordered a bucket of Coronas!  Anyway, the Prosecco was good, though the struggle to finish it was real when it arrived after midnight!  They turn off the lights that illuminate the falls at midnight, so we enjoyed the tiny light-up fountain of the casino across the street while we sipped.

The next day, we had plans to spend time on the New York side of the falls, taking our Maid of the Mist boat tour right down in the thick of things, and checking out the State park.  The Maid of the Mist takes you up close and personal to the falls - American Falls were misty, but doable.  Horseshoe Falls became a complete drenching, which I was not expecting AT ALL.  All Mel could do was giggle as we got soaked, even with our ponchos on!  Those things do not cover the bottom of your pants or your shoes, and things got soggy!  I couldn't even look at the falls because so much water ended up in my eyes.  It was really pretty awesome that you can get up so close, but I was really not prepared for the drenching part :)  And there are no photos of the drenching, for obvious reasons.

The State Park boasted an attraction called "Cave of the Winds", which equates to taking an elevator down 17 stories to the bottom of American Falls and walking out on plank walkways supported by 2x4's to get a better view (and misted on again).  We also had to walk past an extraordinary number of small snakes hanging out in the sun on the side of the path.  I became Mel's snake-buffer, as she put me between the slithering creatures and her.  It was pretty cool to get up close and personal with the power of the falls, but the multiple instances of waiting in line (to buy tickets, to ride the elevator down, and then back up) pushed us to our limits of dealing with other tourists.  We hopped back in the car, and crossed back over into Canada, this time, remembering to stop at the Duty Free shop to grab some cheap wine on our way back!  We went on a hunt for a specific sweatshirt back in Clifton Hills, spent a bit more time being children at the arcade (this time we donated our ticket winnings to a little boy who would be way more thrilled with his trinkets than we were), then decided we'd hit up a Korean BBQ we saw back by the hotel for dinner.

The Korean BBQ was on the second floor of what appeared to be an office building, and we were looking forward to a bit of sushi, which was advertised outside on the building, but had been removed from the menus inside.  Oh well.  We had some Karaage (battered chicken bites, drizzled with a yummy sauce), Mel had chicken BiBimBap (and not only because it sounds hilarious rolling off the tongue), and I tried a beef Guyudon (beef and rice and soup broth and veggies).  All of the food was good, and the staff were impressed that we could properly pronounce the menu items (thanks to our local little Korean street food place).  We left stuffed, once again, and headed back to enjoy our view and much more affordable bottle of wine.

The next morning, we got a rude wake-up call when the hotel fire alarm went off at 5:15am.  After some confused minutes wondering what the heck was going on, we marched down 20 flights of stairs with our fellow hotel patrons (most of whom seemed to still be in their casino attire and reeking of booze), down to the outdoors of the hotel where it was, of course, misting and a bit chilly.  Over the PA system in the hotel, they let us know that we didn't need to evacuate if we didn't want to, but better safe than sorry!  It turned out to be some sort of false alarm in the tower of the hotel that we weren't even staying in...

A few hours later, after hitting up Tim Horton's for some coffee and breakfast, we headed out toward home via Buffalo, NY.  After a stop at the Duty Free shop for some of Ontario's famous ice wine (which is so, so good, if you ever get to try it), we scooted across the bridge to Buffalo to check out the Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.  We got there too early for it to be open, so we hit up Starbucks for our second round of coffee, then headed back.  We arrived on half-price tour day, since they were hosting a fashion show and luncheon for some group in the house, but we got to see everything on our own anyway.  Neat little historic site.  Then, we hit up the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, OH, since it was on the way.  We didn't do the full tour for lack of time, but the museum was interesting.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful, until I discovered upon arriving at home, after waiting out an insane thunderstorm complete with inches of hail and tornado warnings, and after heading across town to Mel's parents to pick up the dogs, that I had managed to lose my phone somewhere along the way.  The fact that it had a dead battery didn't help, since the "Find My IPhone" feature ceases to work when that happens.  After a good 2-3 hours of searching for it in the truck and around the house we gave up hope.  I called everywhere we stopped the next day, but still, no luck.  I'm guessing it fell out and we backed over it (that's probably best case scenario, so no one gets any of my info off of it), but it felt like losing an old friend.  RIP, white iPhone 5 :(

All-in-all, we had a great and much needed romantic weekend away together.  If you're thinking about a trip to Niagara, I'd say a long weekend is probably enough, unless you want to tour the dozens of wineries in Ontario (which, had we known about, we probably would have done.  Ice wine is delicious!)
This is supposed to be Beyonce...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mel's #75 and Erica's #78 - Take Pictures in a Photo Booth

I'll admit - this is a fairly goofy thing to add to a list of things to do, but it's fun and not something we really do, so we added it.  It isn't something we do often - I mean, with the invention of smartphones and selfies, who needs photo booths anymore?  There is still some amazing instant gratification involved when you actually get a physical photo printed out just seconds after you posed for it though.

So, on our weekend getaway to Niagara Falls (which will be a blog of its own later on), we spent some time in an arcade that featured a goofy photo booth.  For the bargain basement price of $5 (Canadian dollars, but with a 5% conversion fee from our bank), we got to take some silly photos of us in the quintessential barrel going over the falls.  And got one technicolor print-out of our very own, with all three showing up online instantly.  It was a steal.

Without further ado...