Monday, August 20, 2012

Nigara Falls 2012: Day 2



The plan was to begin our first full day in Canada with an early trip to the complimentary breakfast provided by the hotel.  We followed half of the plan.  The residents of our “big pink neighbor to the north” (phrase copyright some comedian whose name escapes me) have seriously perfected the art of room darkening shades.  Therefore, the morning following an incredibly long drive started with a LATE trip to the complimentary breakfast provided by the hotel.  Between dietary restrictions and general pickiness, we tend not to do too well with buffets, but that was not the case on this trip and we spent every morning filling up in the provided room before heading out.  One day the breakfast room music even contained the Proclaimers “I’m Gonna be 500 Miles” to celebrate our Whovian family’s presence.

As it was the reason for the trip and, in fact, the name of the town we were staying in, walking along the river to see the sights and attractions associated with Niagara Falls seemed to be the place to start, and spend most of the day.  It took a great deal of promising and explaining to Anabelle that we would definitely come back to play a round in the dinosaur golf course once we finished seeing the nearby natural wonder of the world, which she held in much lower esteem than the prehistoric statues outside our window.

That’s my girl!

We walked along the river taking a ridiculous number of pictures.  Anabelle and I got very good at waving other pedestrians by as Rosa set up the shot. Rosa got very good at running from the tripod to get in the picture without knocking it, us, or the other pedestrians over. 

The scale of the falls is hard to appreciate. They don’t look nearly as big as they are from the top until how tiny the boats and people near them appear is taken into account. 


Eventually we worked our way down to the Table Rock area. This is where the famous Niagara Falls scene in Superman II was shot. 
Embarrassingly, I didn’t remember to pack an appropriately themed t-shirt to recreate the impressive reveal of the symbol.  Fortunately for everyone involved, I decided that trying to do an impressive reveal of the symbol on underoos would probably not reduce the embarrassment of the situation.

After several mist soaked pictures above the Horseshoe Falls, we descended “Behind the Falls” for our initial attraction viewing.  The part of the tunnels that led us “NEXT TO the Falls” was the far more impressive part of the voyage allowing us to take in, for the first time, just how massive the cascading water is.  That is, once we figured out how to make the flash trigger every time on all three of the cameras we brought and actually looked at our surroundings.  Even though the outer observation deck was closed during the off season, the inside deck provided spectacular views.

The side tunnel that led directly “Behind the Falls” basically treated us to a much louder and wetter version of the Jungle Cruise ride’s “Back Side of Water”.  
(He said, tossing in one more Disney reference.)  In yet another case of being embarrassed by fellow countrymen, there were myriad coins littering the ground near the “Back Side of Water.”  I checked, and they were all American currency.  I seriously believe American tourists would throw coins in a puddle if it lasted more than a couple of hours.

We came up the elevator passing through Canadian bedrock and into, of course, a little shop. Time was spent getting a few souvenirs including a key Anabelle liked and an addition to her squashed penny collection.  We, and a couple from the Carolina’s, spent quite a while trying to figure out the penny squashing machine, as there was no place to put the penny in.  We finally figured out it was pre stocked, which  I suppose was their justification for it costing twice as much as similar machines seen elsewhere.  After our return, I found out that Canada discontinued their penny some time ago, which may explain the situation.

A few more obligatory pictures were needed before continuing on, both standing and sitting.  Since there is a near constant spray from the gigantic waterfall, we headed back the way we came with slightly squishy sit upons.

Anabelle was insisting that she wanted to carry her new key in her coat pocket.  I refused, as we walked back along the river side, reminding her of just how many gloves she had lost from that pocket. 
For once the fates decided to help me in parenting and we passed a large puddle with a glove in it a few blocks away from Behind the Falls.  (I guess I have strong New York blood in me. There were no cross streets, or any other indication that would signify “blocks” but  I know my friends and relatives will know how far I mean.)  A quick check of her pockets and an, “oopsie” confirmed that it was her soggy hand wear in the puddle. (Along with some U.S. Quarters no doubt.)

A little further along was the entrance to one of the main (non dinosaur related, anyway) purposes for the trip: The Maid of the Mist.  We were given ponchos and descended a near innumerable amount of stairs.  The ponchos were an additional layer on top of already brought precautions: 
Waterproof boots
Windbreaker jackets
Sesame Place multi close fanny packs
Pants that acted less sponge-like than jeans
A special convoluted cover for the super deluxe camera (which channeled water vapor nicely and directly onto it)

On the boat, the true majesty of the American Falls could be appreciated. The full grandeur and size of the thing was awe inspiring. 

With those falls representing only ten percent of the flow I could only imagine the power of the Canadian Falls.  As we moved closer, I had to continue mostly only imagining.  The wind whipped up the nearer we got, causing the poncho to flutter constantly against my head. Between the hood flapping, wind and roar of the water, I was almost completely deaf.  There was some big impressive introduction being broadcast (I think) that ended with:

“Mfmrngrl brfgbfmlr NIAGARA FALLS!”

The boat stopped in the center of the Horseshoe Falls and I saw…

Well, not much really.
 Totally surrounded by mist everything was a white blur, occasionally I could peek around my glasses (rendered almost opaque by water droplets) and gain an inkling that, yes, there was a large amount of water falling over a cliff somewhere in the vicinity.   It was an extremely impressive view as we pulled away and headed back to the dock, however.

We de-ponchoed on shore, made a brief stop in another little shop, and started hunting lunch. At well past feeding time, I could feel the seeds of crazy-hungry begin to bloom and steered us to the food court to stem the growth.  Unfortunately, in the off season, only the basic burger and hot dog stand was open.  It, like pretty much everything else there, did have a wonderful view, however.  I ordered a cheeseburger for Anabelle and a veggie burger for myself. Before eating, Rosa dealt with the less than stellar performance of the special convoluted cover for the super deluxe camera.  Much of the mist that the boat was the maid of had seeped inside and the super deluxe camera spent the rest of the day with our coats, open and airing out on whatever flat surface we were near.

Anabelle’s lunch was handed to me, but I had to wait for the veggie burger to grill. I knew as long as I could stay calm a little longer, I would avert crazy-hungry.  However, Anabelle’s burger was completely covered in ketchup AND mustard AND a couple other additions that she doesn’t like either. This pushed her well past crazy-hungry and killed any shot I had at staying calm.  With a bit of random running and yelling I managed to grab napkins and get my food, which luck would have it, was completely unadorned.  I traded buns with her, (after napkining her burger) and we both returned to normalcy while Rosa went for a veggie burger of her own.  I’d like to mention how outstandingly good the veggie burger was. 

I’m going to rave a lot about the food on this trip.  Part of it may be based on quality, but there may also be some modification due to the fact that we tended to get distracted by our schedule and eat far later than normal, either right on or just over the crazy-hungry border.  Your mileage may vary.

Following a quick stop in the hotel to leave our outfits and the super deluxe camera and its useless cover to dry, it was time to meet the dinosaurs.  Rosa rapidly realized

1) She doesn’t care much about actually playing miniature golf.
2) This place was a perfect hunting ground for a Christmas Card.

Anabelle and I played on the T-Rex side (featuring two of the tyrant lizards: one in the modern horizontal pose and the other in the classic, inaccurate but impressive, rearing up pose) and Rosa paid the “walkthrough” charge. This way we could save one adult play through on our attraction card for when we came back for the other side.  Rosa then could take the time we spent fiddling with the golf balls to set up near perfect dino-picture spot shots.  As cool as they were to see from the hotel window, they were even better close up. Anabelle must have felt the “Power of the Parasaurolophus” getting two holes in one near her favorite.  (Unlike her father who hit several balls completely off the course into what would have been a small river if the volcano was flowing…another benefit of off season visits.)  Her enjoyment was despite the bit of left over frill between the dinosaur’s crest and spine (inaccurate unless Fantasia is a good source of paleontological information) which Anabelle complained about a great deal because the Parasaurolophus should not have, “Lettuce on its head.” 

That’s my girl.

On our way over to Clifton Hill again, to try out more of the attractions on our cards, we passed the other option for Mini Golf. There was no real chance of missing the second side of the dinosaurs and the specificity of the sign outside the space themed golf attraction didn’t reverse our decision.  The building we passed proclaimed itself to contain Mini Golf that was the
LARGEST!
            Indoor!
                        Glow in the Dark.
                                    In Canada.
                                                With Air Conditioning.

Connected to the impressively large (probably air conditioned and definitely Canadian) Great Canadian Midway Arcade was the Ghost Blaster’s dark ride.   To explain the ride with a Disney perspective (which is how I explain anything remotely ride related) – it is a mix of The Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. The environment, setting and, in fact, many of the images are taken straight from the Haunted Mansion.
There is a pipe organ, floating candles, a mirror trick, and poppy uppy things.  However, it’s populated with flat black light painted objects, like on Buzz and each passenger is given a laser pointer gun to shoot at targets, which made the objects react in various ways.  Oddly, riders are also given 3D glasses. The reason this is odd is that the glasses render almost none of the images in the ride in 3D. All they appear to do is make the LED targets float a few inches from their actual location, turning what should be simple and direct aiming into eye crossing physics calculations.


Rosa rode ahead of us alone intending to take pictures of us, but due to ride spacing this proved impossible.  Instead she dual wielded both guns (Woo! Way to go honey!) while Anabelle and I rode together.  Though she was a little nervous at first, Anabelle had a great ride almost all the way through. 

Some targets would make a loud blowing noise, which would startle us and make her laugh.

Some targets would make a creepy looking poppy uppy thing appear, which would startle us and make her laugh.

Some targets would make something move directly toward us, which would startle us and make her laugh.
However, after what looked to be the final door of the ride, where we could see the inside of the Midway Arcade, there was one more target.  I shot it, and suddenly there was a loud blowing noise while a creepy poppy uppy thing appeared and shot directly toward us.  Rosa missed seeing her enjoy the whole ride through and only got to see her terrified and yelling as we emerged. (The fact that an unnamed other individual in her car screamed like a little girl when the three for one scare went off may have contributed to her trouble.)

Once everyone calmed down, we tried out the Movieland Wax Museum also included on our attraction card.  Next time we may try the nearby Tussaud’s Wax Museum as this one was slightly … off.

The entrance was “guarded” by a talking animatronic Egyptian sarcophagus, and a snake with a bad Middle Eastern accent, indicating that rampant political correctness had not infected our northern neighbor yet.

Outside the museum were Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and a couple of others who all looked…
Kinda like whom they were supposed to be…
From a certain angle…
If we squinted…
A lot.

Inside was similar.  They did much better with non-human entries (Garfield, Ninja Turtles, ET, Star Wars aliens and armor, various monsters etc.) than the humans, and the plaque for the invisible Predator was inspired.  The famous people had some odd choices.  Clint Eastwood with a curly beard, Elvira with no visible cleavage, and the Blues Brothers without sunglasses (and Elwood looking suspiciously like Don Johnson) were some of the weirder ones. 

There were also several others that looked like they had the right costume, and then picked a random manikin to put it on.  Even some of the celebrities that had the right outfit and the right look were in questionable poses. Elvis in full Aloha, rhinestoned, jump suited glory was standing in a completely straight and still pose.  I tried to illustrate how he should be standing, while wearing our fully loaded with vacation supplies and camera equipment backpack.  Luckily I don’t travel alone or I’d still be squatting in a fake karate pose today.

The final section was an optional walk through haunted house. Anabelle wanted no part of it, and was detouring around with Rosa. I walked in to peek at it, and a jet of forcefully blown cold air smashed painfully into my ear.  There was more little girl like screaming, and I decided to back out and rejoin my family rather than risk permanent ear drum damage.

The little shop at the end featured a “Wax Hand” emporium.  We waited a ridiculously long time for it to be our turn. (Due to missing the sign saying each hand needed a ticket, we almost only got one for Anabelle, because we didn’t pick our own ticket.  However, the attendant said, contrary to the sign, “No we always do groups together.”  Good thing they have a sign.)  The price listed on the wall for the basic hand is extremely reasonable…

Until you get up to the counter and they ask,
“Do you want the basic hand or the one that won’t melt on your way out the door?”

Anabelle got a pink one in the shape of the Vulcan salute.

That’s my girl!

Rosa and I decided to follow her lead and get the two fingered Vulcan hand holding position, but the attendant told us it wouldn’t be stable enough. Therefore we each did the Vulcan salute with our palms together.

Well…I did the Vulcan salute, and Rosa did as close as she could manage. (Apparently, she hasn’t been practicing it since she was three years old like other members of this family.) This gave us very cool “Vulcan/Human mixed marriage” hands sculpt.  Just like Sarek and Amanda!
(Lord, I’m such a geek.)

We planned to pick up the hands the next day as; once again we’d passed well beyond crazy-hungry and needed dinner.  The place we chose was Kelsey’s (a Canadian chain that really needs to expand southward) and it was phenomenal.  They also surpassed U.S. crayon technology by providing Anabelle with triangle shaped ones –to prevent rolling off the table.  

I had something healthy but good, and Rosa continued researching entries for the title of best sweet potato fries across northern New York and Canada.  I was forgoing a glass of wine, because I was planning on trying one of the Irish Coffees as my weekly dessert.  Then I saw the menu and picked the cookie ice cream sandwich, woo!

Which turned out to be TWO cookie ice cream sandwiches Woo! Woo! 

I did share my cookies, and then Anabelle let me finish her kid’s ice cream (because, “Leave me alone I’m on vacation.”)

We realized Kelsey’s was attached to our hotel, followed the clearly labeled and helpful sign indicating the direction to the lobby…and got totally, hopelessly, Spinal Tap style lost.  We ended up outside and behind the hotel, and worked our way back in.  They went back to the room to change into something warmer, while I hit the coffee room workstation to fill out a Kelsey’s survey and get a coupon for dinner the next night, since we already decided to return.

Instead of our original plan of resting by the pool a bit and turning in, we decided since we couldn’t possibly be MORE tired, we would walk down to see the falls illuminated at night. This time it would be not from a high vantage point where we would be too distracted by fear and/or dinosaurs to enjoy them.

Using her tripod and mostly dry super deluxe camera, Rosa set up some awe inspiring shots of the falls.  This despite the fact that one of her travelling companions was extremely tired, whiny, complaining, fidgety, immature…and the other companion was his daughter.

-  The falls lit all white cast a glow over the evening.

-  The falls lit in a rainbow infused the area with a magical feeling.

-  The falls lit all red…
Looked like the scene where the Nile turns to blood in the film that used the falls for the image of the parting of the (not actually colored) Red Sea, The Ten Commandments.
We took fewer pictures when that happened.

Our photo safari took long enough that we were able to pick up the wax hands on our way back to what had become our routine total collapse at the hotel.

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