Sunday, July 14, 2019

Canada 2019

We're all over Canada.This is going to be somewhat of a different approach to a vacation post that I usually take.

Kids.The main difference is that the vast majority of our trip was very similar to the one we took exactly three years ago. Even the time of the year was pretty much spot on.

First dinner of the trip. A short top close to Canadian border.So I’m going to concentrate on things that were different instead. And the first thing that was the biggest difference was the company.

First dinner of the trip. A short top close to Canadian border.Since Ilya’s kids have a spring break at the same very time as our kids and they wanted to go to Canada for a while now I offered to join us up once I booked it. And they took us up on this offer.

Looking at lit up falls.We tried our best on sharing things that we liked and saw and I hope that we mostly succeeded. Different people do vacations differently and our typical approach to vacations, for many many years now, was that we try not to concentrate on fitting into a specific budget. This is one time when we just close the eyes on the costs and try to just enjoy it.

Pretty colors of the falls.This kind of approach started way before we had kids and had less responsibilities, but it kind of stuck with us. So we had a couple of slight hiccups on this front, but overall, no major differences.

First morning.We all wanted to see similar things and because of Ilya’s family we ended up visiting a bunch of new things that we would’ve probably skipped on our own.

American falls.Plus we loved the company in the pools. Kids typically are quite demanding in the pool and always want us to play some kind of games with them. This time they had friends to play with. But not only that, but Ilya is one of the most dedicated dads I know. He spent hours upon hours of playing games with all the kids while I lazily soaked in a hot tub.

Mandatory selfie.One of the big achievements on the swimming front is our discovery of Anna’s swimming abilities. While all the time she used floatation devices, it turned out that when you take them off she actually can swim. And pretty well at that. She swims going forward and she can swim on her back like a little torpedo.

Horseshoe part of the falls.I guess she was as surprised by that discovery as we were, so we couldn’t really talk her into using her floatation devices anymore. She wanted to go and go and go on her own.

Under the falls view.And we also might’ve solved her ear problem. She kept ending up with ear infections and pain in her ears after the pools. This time we used a rubber cap to protect her ears and it seemed to have worked well.

Us under the falls.Back to the itinerary of our vacation itself. This was the first time when we drove out from Ridgеfiеld instead of Brooklyn. I was amazed that by the end of our drive to Niagara Falls — our first stop — my average speed was 68MPH. Never could we just get on the road and drive without getting stuck in a single traffic congestion while living in Brooklyn.

Rainforest Cafe.The drive was uneventful as was the border crossing and we were in our hotel at around 8PM. About six and a half hours of driving plus an hour or so for dinner.

Rainforest Cafe.Last time Anna was only 2 years old and we always ended up going to bed before sun sat down. This time kids noticed lit up waterfalls from the Rainbow Bridge — border crossing — and once we checked-in, talked us into going down to the falls.

Rainforest Cafe.So this was the first time they saw Niagara at night. We saw the Bride’s Veil falls well with all kinds of animating lights, but the water mist rising from Horseshoe part of the falls and light reflecting in all that obscured the bigger part of the falls pretty much completely.

Ferris wheel in Niagara.We started the next day with a trip through the tunnels under the Horseshoe part of the falls. Unimpressive is the word. Just a tunnel with a couple of small openings and a viewing platform with mediocre views.

Go-karter.The movie that we watched about the history of the falls and a little bit of a 3D experience that was included in the package ended up being more fun. I learned that the whirlpool on Niagara actually formed in a matter of hours. The river hit some soft portion of the rock formations and everything came crumbling down.

More pro-drivers.For lunch we decided to go to Rain Forest Cafe. Kids remembered it from the last time and really wanted to go. While we remembered the food wasn’t really stellar it somehow turned out to be ever worse this time. Kids did enjoy the animal shows, but everyone suffered through their lunch.

Outside the go-carting course.I think that was probably the biggest fail of a food experience during the trip. We also had a very mediocre lunch on our way to Montreal from Toronto. We stopped a in a tiny town of Gananoque in a Thousand Islands region. Every restaurant was closed for the season and we actually ended up in the same exact place as last time. Zero choice.

What is this ancient thing?Back to Niagara — dinner in a Brazilian Steak House — Brasa — was as good as we remembered. I ate a lot of steak. Arosha was finished with steak fairly quickly, but then he proceeded to consume what seems to be two full roasted pineapples.

Cable car.While walking through the town of Niagara we discovered a newly constructed Go-Kart course. Everyone partook in the experience. Arosha for the first time in his life actually drove a kart by himself. He did well and really enjoyed the experience. All the other kids had to ride with parents because of height limits.

Over the river.The second day in Niagara turned out to be quite rainy. But we did two interesting things. First of all I finally rode in 1916 Whirlpool Aero Car — a carriage that is supported by six steel cables that goes over the whirlpool of Niagara River.

Cable car ride over Niagara whirlpool.I’ve seen this thing many many times before. But either it had very long lines during tourist season or it was closed for the low season. This time it seems to have just opened and there were no people. It was very rainy and cold. And the ride wasn’t really anything special, but I was happy to cross this achievement off my list.

Butterfly Conservatory, Hoping for a landing.Another new thing we did was visit a place called Bird Kingdom — world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary. Kids had a blast. Two parts stand out the most — they were able to take pictures with large macaw parrots on their hands.

Butterfly on Anna's hair.And another thing was that they were able to participate in feeding lorikeets — a kind of parrots. And because there weren’t too many people due to low season they ended up going on multiple circles of this adventure.

Butterfly Conservatory. Looking for more landings.In Toronto we ended up doing a couple of new things beside the mandatory tour and dinner at the top of CN Tower. We explored a complex of office buildings linked together by a beautiful galleria. The complex is called Brookfield Place. The unusual interior makes it quite photogenic and interesting to explore.

Aroshka's shoulder.There is also a Hockey Hall of Fame inside, but we only took a couple of pictures at the entrance of it and didn’t go inside. I guess none of us know much about hockey and its history so nobody had an urge to explore it fully.

Success.The big thing that we did this time was a visit to Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium. I must say that this must’ve been the best aquarium that I’ve been to and I’ve been to quite a few.

Success.It has a lot of different exhibits, but the best thing was a glass tunnel that goes right through the aquarium itself. And the most amazing creature that I saw while walking through it was an enormous saw fish. Huge. Not to mention a multitude of sharks, turtles, rays and all other kinds of things swimming around you.

Bird Kingdom.In Montreal we, again, did a lot of the same things as last time. However we did catch an organ playing at sailors’ church. For lunch we went back to the fondue place that we’ve been to two times before. This kind of unusual and authentic food connects you more to a foreign place that you are visiting.

Down the falls.We went for the beef broth again, since our kids really do not like cheese for some reason. Our family enjoyed the experience with kids cooking their own meats and vegetables. And we felt more of French Canada, so to speak.

Feeding lorikeets.Second day in Montreal was again rainy. Ilya, thought, found an archeological museum that we haven’t been to before. I didn’t expect much from it, but it turned out to be very interesting. We actually stood at a place where Montreal formed and learned about its early days. It’s always nice to learn new things about the place that you’ve been many times to and yet haven’t delved into its history much before.

Wing-span.For dinner the four of us went to a place that Alёna and I have discovered on our last trip. Although we had a bit of a lunch fiasco. We decided to be hungry when EVERYTHING got closed for a switch-over from lunch to dinner menu. We were very close to actually eating at Burger King.

Bird Kingdom.But we found a coffee shop where we bought a pair of croissants for our kids, so we were able to hold out for pretty much two hours until places started to open back up.

Brasa — Brazilian steakhouse.The memorable part of this dinner was our acquisition of authentic Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc beer glasses. This beer happens to be our current favorite and we couldn’t find these glasses for sale. So we asked if we could buy a pair from the restaurant.

Brazilian steakhouse.The waiter said that he will give them to us. I guess what he really meant was that he will not tell anyone at the restaurant either, but we did take them. We also gave him a really good tip. So these glasses now have their history.

Somewhere in Toronto.And we have crossed another achievement of our list — we actually rode Uber for the first time. We didn’t want to walk all the way back to our hotel under the rain, so we tried it. It worked really well. I guess there is a reason there is all this hype about the service.

Inside Brookfield Place.And our last stop was Albany. The new thing we did here was visiting New Your State Museum that Ilya’s family discovered. Third time in Albany, never noticed that it existed.

Brookfield Place.The museum turned out to be free and much more impressive than I expected. Its exhibitions are a nice combination of a history and natural history items. A lot of a fun sections including an almost full skeleton of mastodon. I was very surprised to discover that African elephant is actually larger in size than either mammoths or mastodons ever were.

Brookfield Place.And on our last night of vacation all eight of us had a nice dinner at a table meant for six people. But I think it actually made things more intimate and close and put a nice period on this trip with good friend and good company.

And just a whole bunch of addition pictures follow below.

Hockey Hall of Fame.
Fake forest at Brookfield Place.
Brookfield Place.
On our way to CN Tower.
Dinner at CN Tower.
Dinner at CN Tower.
CN Tower observation deck.
Siblings.
Glass floor, mirror ceiling.
Glass floor.
Glass floor.
Glass floor.
Somewhere in Toronto.
CN Tower.
Sawfish.
Glass tunnel inside Ripley's aquarium.
A smaller tunnel inside the same aquarium.
Toronto City Hall.
In front of City Hall.
Thousand Islands.
Hotel in Montreal.
Montreal.
Montreal.
Notre Dame de Montreal.
Fondu place.
Fondu place.
Hotel dinner.
Archeological Museum.
Brasserie 701.
Albany.
Climbing a statue. Naturally.
Balancing act. Impressive.
Mandatory selfie. New York state capitol building.
Last dinner.
Mastodon.
Empire State Plaza.

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