07.16.2013 - 07.16.2013 95 °F
Today is my father's 91st birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Had breakfast at the Grand Buffet in the Casino and it was not very good. Oh well, I'm entitled to one miss every so often. We checked out of the hotel and went to park in an area we had scouted out the day before, with handicapped spaces a couple blocks walk to the Maid of the Mist boat ride. We arrived to find one parking space left...but...there was a machine that demanded payment. In the States I can park in these areas without paying, but there was nothing that suggested that applied in Canada. There is a police station about a football field's length from where I parked and Margaret suggested that she go ask. I said, check the couple cars that are behind us and see if they have tickets in their windows indicating they had paid. In the meantime, I stick my credit card in the machine and sign up for 3 hours..."$30!!!". No more than three seconds after I complete the transaction, I hear Margaret yell out..."Don't pay!!!!" She learned from another woman behind us that the law is the same in Canada. Oh well...I'm entitled to one miscue every so often.
We then proceed to the Maid of the Mist. The Maid of the Mist is a boat tour of Niagara Falls. The boat starts off at a calm part of the Niagara River, near the Rainbow Bridge, and takes its passengers past the American and Bridal Veil Falls, then into the dense mist of spray inside the curve of the Horseshoe Falls, also known as the Canadian Falls. The operation is run by the Maid of the Mist Steamship Company of Niagara Falls, Ontario, which has been owned by the Glynn family of Lewiston, New York, since 1971. The first Maid of the Mist was launched in 1846 as a ferry service between the Canadian and American sides, pre-dating by two years the construction of the first Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge at the site. The ride is quite well organized, with each boat holding between 300 and 600 people. The boats leave every 10 minutes. Just before stepping onto the boat, each passenger is provided with a full length blue poncho with a hood. It is not unlike putting on a laundry bag and I got a laugh from a fellow Maid of the Mister when I joked about the lack of a warning and opined what a terrible legacy it would be..."he died of asphyxiation putting on his blue poncho." Fortunately, Margaret was much more adept at locating holes for arms and the head...and I survived. The ride itself was amazing. Seeing the falls from a distance is pretty impressive. "Hearing" and "feeling" the power of the falls was something more. I have not yet viewed the video that I attempted to take but, when we got to the Horseshoe Falls (Canadian Falls), the boat was being thrown about pretty good and visibility was quite limited. The amount of water soaking my body was not limited. We returned to shore much in need of internal hydration...95 degrees and very humid. We were treated to a medley of tunes by a guitar player at the Maid of the Mist restaurant. We then departed for our next stop, Niagara On The Lake. Our GPS kept directing us to the Queen's Highway when we wanted to proceed along a beautiful backroad that took us past the Butterfly Conservatory.
The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory is a butterfly zoo operated by the Niagara Parks Commission. The conservatory has over 2,000 tropical butterflies from over 60 different species. The conservatory glass dome is 11,000 sq ft in size with 590 ft of paths inside the greenhouse portion, which has a wide variety of foliage. Since captive butterflies usually have a life span of 2–4 weeks, the conservatory imports up to 3,000 butterflies per month from world butterfly farms in Costa Rica, El Salvador, the Philippines, and Australia. Special netting along the inside of the glass dome keeps the butterflies from getting stuck to it and from dying from hypothermia. Being inside this place is surreal. There are butterflies of every shape, size and color flitting about freely. The foliage and flowers are beautiful.
A short drive from the butterflies took us to our next stop, The Riverbend Inn, about two minutes outside of the town of Niagara on the Lake. In stark contrast to the modern accommodations at the Andaz in New York and the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, the Riverbend Inn is a beautiful old inn which was originally built in 1846. Found a very nice deal on Travelzoo for our two night stay including breakfast each morning, a dinner credit and a couple wine tasting vouchers. The Inn is beautiful in every sense. Our room is very large and extrememly well appointed with gorgeous antiques. There is a beautiful bar and restaurant. After we unpacked, we went into town and, if you looked up the word "quaint" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Niagara on the Lake (NOTL). We had to locate a little Jameson for the room and liquor is only sold at government controlled stores in Canada. Also puchased a bottle of Weir Chardonnay (Mike Weir is a noted Canadian golfer who has vineyards...pretty good.)
One thing NOTL is noted for is the Shaw Festival. This is a series of plays that runs every summer at three different venues, featuring plays or variations of George Bernard Shaw plays. I had purchased tickets last month to a play entitled "Peace In Our Time" which is a supposed comedic takeoff on Shaw's "Geneva". I had it on the calendar for Wednesday night at 8pm and had arranged dinner reservations at 6pm. When we were relaxing in the room before our 7:30 dinner at the Inn, Margaret read a flyer that indicated our play was not playing on Wednesday, but Tuesday. Oops...well I'm entitled to an occasional miscue. So we changed the time of our reservation and dinner at the Inn's restaurant was quite good. We got into town a little early, parked, and found a nice gelato shop. Then we proceeded across the street to the Courthouse Theater, aptly named after a former...courthouse. When intermission came, Margaret and I looked at each other and the look said..."was it as bad for you as it was for me?" The answer...we left at intermission...after all, the All Star game was in progress. And, after all, I am entitled to an occasional miscue...think I've used them all up 1/3 of the way into this trip...and all in one day. It was going so nicely! And so, we returned to the Inn and were lulled to sleep by the exciting 3-0 AL win.