Total Distance: about 6984 miles (by the end of the 8th)
Today's Destinations: Niagara Falls (American side)
Okay, so I've lapsed on updates. It's been a busy few days. This update is going to cover the 7th-8th only, even though today is actually the 9th (I'll probably do that one tomorrow morning).
After the stress of being on the east coast and in the big city, not to mention living out of suitcases for over three weeks, Justin and I feel ready to go home. We decided to pamper ourselves when we got to Niagara Falls. So we splurged a bit and checked in at Trip Advisor's #1 hotel in the area, the historic Red Coach Inn.
It's the kind of place where your room has a name instead of a number (ours was Dorset) and real keys that you better not lose or they'll charge you $50.
But they STILL had a continental breakfast, which is to say, you can go into their restaurant the next morning and select a breakfast dish, side, and beverage from their full menu for free (well, plus tip). I had pancakes with fruit and whipped cream, with a side of sausages. It was way too much food.
I'm getting ahead of myself. The night we got there, we walked around a bit - there are a lot of souvenir shops and things in the area - and then headed to the falls. Our hotel was across the street from the rapids leading to the American Falls. You can literally see the rapids from the front door and if you look a little farther you can see the mist from the falls. It's pretty weird to see this cloud of water vapor rising up randomly behind buildings and trees, but that's what it looks like from downtown. If you want to stay even closer to the falls, though, try the Comfort Inn. The entrance to the park is directly across the street from them. It's Right There.
So we entered the park and walked around, following the rapids, and then boom! It's right there. The river bed gives way and the water plunges nearly 200 feet to the rocks below, sending up enormous clouds of mist. We couldn't look away for a while, it was just too beautiful.
But eventually we did look away, because we wanted to find out where to get tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat tour, which we knew we wanted to take the following morning. We walked through the gift shop and I found the Most Beautiful Souvenir Christmas Ornament Ever (picture to come eventually) and a bell. We also located the ticket booths on the other side of said gift shop.
Back to the hotel, which has everything your heart could desire - except a microwave. We had brought leftover food from multiple previous meals, but couldn't find the plastic forks we'd accumulated, so dinner was, well, interesting. Fortunately, the fridge was already stocked with complimentary cheese and crackers (also champagne, which we don't like, although sometimes I wish I did).
The bed. was. amazing. We probably could have slept in all day. But we knew we had to get up because we were meeting yet another friend for lunch and that required a bit of a drive, leaving us with only the morning for whatever else we wanted to see of Niagara Falls. After the aforementioned breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and were presented with chocolate chip cookies! and we walked to the falls.
The Maid of the Mist is a 20-minute boat ride that takes you pretty much as far as you can safely go in a boat close to Horseshoe Falls (Canadian side, but the entrance is on the American side). This is not by any means the only thing you can do in Niagara Falls, but I didn't want to walk along the bottom to Cave of the Winds, and we didn't have current passports to do the Journey Behind the Falls (someday I hope!). If you do pretty much any of these things, you get a souvenir plastic poncho in a signature color (blue for Maid of the Mist, red for whatever the Canadian equivalent of that is, and yellow if you go behind the falls). These ponchos are pretty much completely ineffective at keeping you dry, because the wind whips them around and they ride up to your stomach. But if you cinch the hood part at least your hair won't get wet, I guess. We managed to stay pretty dry on the boat (we remained on the lower deck because it's way less crowded).
Everybody says the Canadian side of the falls offers the best view. This is false. The boat tours offer the best view, hands down. I can't describe how it felt to be down there, but I became absolutely giddy. It was all I could do to keep from jumping up and down (but if I had I might have dropped my phone, and I was really nervous I was going to drop it overboard already). It was glorious.
And then the boat turned around, and we returned to the dock. We waved at the other boats on the water and finally disembarked.
From there, we had a busy day of driving. We backtracked a little to meet our friend (best man at our wedding) for lunch because it was the only time we could arrange to see him. We haven't seen him since our wedding, so it was worth it to drive the extra few hours.
Then we headed to Ohio to see some more friends, whom we haven't seen in about 7 years. The last time I saw them, I got to meet these cute 9-year-old twins they were hoping to adopt. Those 9-year-olds have turned into their beautiful almost-sixteen-year-old daughters who are healthy and happy and loved. Guys, adoption is probably the most beautiful thing in the world. It's not for everyone, I know, and it's a lot of work (which doesn't end when the adoption is finalized), but seeing families like this one, I just think it's so worth it. Justin had never met the girls before, and he had fun joking around with them. We were both delighted to discover they are Dr. Who fans so we had plenty to talk about. ;)
And that's all for now. I'll update you on today's adventures tomorrow morning. Oh, but one thing to leave you with: it's true what they say about Ohio and there being two seasons, one of which is construction. It was like the entire STATE was being rebuilt from what we saw. Ridiculous.