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 Ridgefield 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. Continue Reading

Leave a comment

O.o teeth mrgreen neutral -) roll twisted evil crycry cry oops razz mad lol cool -? shock eek sad smile grin

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Toronto

Toronto skyline.Toronto, the capital of Ontario Province, was our third stop of a trip. Alёna has been to Toronto once before and I have visited it multiple times, but I wanted to take our kids to it for one reason in particular among others — it’s a home to the world’s third tallest tower — CN Tower. In fact it held the record of the world’s tallest tower for 34 years.

Streets of Toronto.Toronto is a very short drive away from Niagara Falls and so we had more than half a day available to us at the time when we were fully checked in into our hotel.

From the top.We stayed at DoubleTree Toronto Downtown where we ended up on a 3rd floor with pretty much no view of anything. We typically book the cheapest available room — this time it was a room with two double beds — and hope that our Diamond VIP status will raise us to a high executive floor. This was a rare time when this bet failed — double rooms only go as far as the 6th floor and the hotel was fully sold out. Oh, well.

CN Tower. I really need a shift lens.As I said earlier our main objective was a visit to CN Tower. CN Tower has a revolving restaurant at the top which is while quite expensive is worth a visit for the experience. The earliest dinner time is 4:30pm and that’s the time we made our reservation for. There was no point eating lunch, so we stuffed up on marinated olives and croutons that we bought several days earlier at a winery near Seneca Falls.

Dinner at 360 Restaurant.So as we were done with “lunch” we set out for a walk to CN Tower. The distance was a little bit more than a single mile, but our Anюta often prefers to walk on her own, so we had a good long (time-wise) walk ahead of us. To my delight though Toronto is a city where streetcar system is one option of public transportation. As last time in Lisbon I’ve taken way too many pictures of those trams.

Us at the stop. Not a stellar picture sadly.When we arrived to CN Tower we were able to skip all the lines because of our reservation to 360 Restaurant at the top. We have been sat at one of the tables by the window and Arosha couldn’t quite grasp the concept of not sitting on the heaters by the perimeter of the restaurant and his table getting away from him. I kept telling him that they are not spinning when he clearly saw that they are moving. After a short while he finally figured out that it was the table that was moving after all.

Admiring the view and Anna vs ice-cream.Anna on the other hand has managed to fall asleep in her stroller right at the last moment and was in a pretty bad mood when we had to wake her up and sit at the table. I think only a sight of french fries eventually calmed her down.

Lower level observation deck.Meanwhile Arosha was really admiring the view — quite a change from little Arosha who probably wouldn’t care at all. He still has a pretty serious case of fear of heights, but having glass windows separating him from the abyss seems to completely alleviate all his fears.

Glass floors.The dinner was, while good, quite expensive. I was charged 75 dollars (albeit Canadian1 ones) for a piece of steak, Alёna was charged $65 for her salmon and we split a steak for kids for $40. And again, we didn’t have to pay for the ride up the tower and the experience was definitely worth it. I think Arosha will have lasting memories of the place.

Toronto trams.After the dinner we walked down to the lower floor which has a portion of it made out of glass. And there is nothing below it but a far away ground on which the base of the tower stands on. I was wondering if Arosha’s fear of heights would prevent him from getting close to that, but again, glass seemed to do the trick as he was the first one to jump onto one of the glass panels.

Toronto trams.After the walk back to the hotel we did a mandatory visit to the hotel’s pools and that was the end of our first day there.

Toronto skyline from Polson Pier.On the second day I wanted to find a place to photograph the skyline of Toronto WITH CN Tower included, but somehow the city seems to totally lack any other observation decks, but the one on CT Tower itself. So instead we set out to drive onto one of the peninsulas that extend into Lake Ontario from the city itself. And we actually managed to find one such place relatively easy.

High Park.There is a place called Jennifer Kateryna Koval’s'kyj Park which is located on one such peninsula. While the place itself was quite dirty and small it gives one a great vantage point to photograph Toronto’s skyline from. The day was very clear without a single cloud in sight which makes for a pretty uninteresting composition, but I still think that Toronto’s skyline is very distinct thanks to CN Tower … ehm, towering … over everything.

Brewhouse.Since it was morning and we were done with planned things to do we decided to turn to TripAdvisor for … yes, advice. We ended up going to High Park which seems to be a large green park right inside the city à la Central Park. Kids played on the playground, Arosha managed to climb atop of a pretty high stump of a tree by himself as he always does and so on. And then we got hungry.

Lunch at Amsterdam Brewhouse in Toronto.We looked through the list of highly rated restaurants and spotted two breweries on it. After calling both of them and asking about the parking situation we set out to Amsterdam Brewhouse which was located right on the shore of the lake. And after a nice lunch we walked along the shore boardwalk for more excellent views of the tower which was not far away. And then a stroll through a train museum, another brewery upon entering which I was just handed a free glass of beer and we were spent.

Boardwalk by the shore.By the time we got back to our hotel it was pretty late and I was sad to find out that another famous place, city hall, which we left for the last because it was one block away from our hotel closes at 4:30pm and it was quite well past that. So we figured we’ll eat our dinner and even though we can’t get inside we’ll just walk to the front of it anyhow. We ate dinner at a nearby Korean restaurant and walked over to city hall as planned.

Rail museum.There is a big square in front of it and kids enjoyed climbing all over large letters that spelled out Toronto. And then I spotted that somebody walked out of the front door of city hall. I ran towards it with Arosha hoping that we can slip inside and so we did.

Toronto City Hall.The interesting thing to do is to point somebody’s attention to a diorama on the wall and ask them to guess what is made of. I’m guessing nobody gets it right. When you get closer you realize that the whole composition is made out of nails of different sizes. It’s actually pretty impressive looking.

Diorama made out of nails.And on that note our trip and exploration of Toronto was complete. The next day a long road and Montreal awaited us.

Climbing all over Toronto.

  1. Canadian dollar was worth 79 US cents at the time of our visit. []

Leave a comment

O.o teeth mrgreen neutral -) roll twisted evil crycry cry oops razz mad lol cool -? shock eek sad smile grin

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Niagara, Toronto, Montreal Road Trip

Canada 2016 road trip map.For this spring we decided to forgo the trip to a warm sandy beach in favor of a road trip in our own car to a cold Canada. Our kids haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet and I wanted them to see it. Another big factor is a matter of having to purchase four plane tickets which comes out to quite a bit of money for a type of vacation I enjoy the least — laying on the beach, doing nothing.

The total round trip ends up being 1,200 miles. One other option that we have considered was going to Great Smoky Mountains again, but it’s quite a bit farther away and we all have been there. I wanted our kids to explore something new and it’s always interesting to see those new to them things through their eyes.

We tried to beak the trip up into many parts so we wouldn’t have to drive for very long periods of time in a day. Our first stop of the trip is the Finger Lakes region of New York state. We’re going to spend 2 nights1 in a hotel in Seneca Falls and try to do a hike or two along one of the lakes. The drive there is 271 miles long and we hope to do it on the first eve of our vacation.

Our second stop is going to be Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. We plan to get there on Saturday, April 23rd. We are going to stay there for 3 nights2 at a resort that we’ve been to before. There is a lot to do and see at Niagara Falls — the falls themselves (although Maid of the Mist is not running yet for the season), butterfly observatory and horseshoe bend among other things.

Our next stop is Toronto, which is really close to Niagara. We’re going to spend 2 nights3 here. The main thing that we want to see is CN Tower and have a dinner at a spinning restaurant at the top. Hopefully nobody will get dizzy this time around, unlike it was in Berlin.

The drive from Toronto to Montreal is going to be the longest — 336 miles. We might stop at The Thousand Islands region for a break. Montreal itself has a lot of old cathedrals to explore and had a nice World Fair site if I remember correctly. We’ll spend 2 nights4 here.

And one our way back home we’ll spend 1 night5 in Albany, the capital of New York State. And even though we have driven through Albany before I have never seen the capitol building of the state that I’ve lived in for the past 20+ years.

On the final note on all of the hotels — they all have pools — an important thing to have when traveling with kids as we have established. Also the Canadian Dollar at the time of the writing was worth only 73¢ of US currency. Hooray for strong US dollar — it makes it cheaper to travel beyond the border. Should be a fun exploration road trip with kids. I only hope Canada has proper diesel for our car.

  1. Hampton Inn Seneca Falls — 2 nights for $258 with taxes. []
  2. DoubleTree Fallsview Resort — C$450 for 3 nights with all the taxes. []
  3. DoubleTree Toronto Downtown — C$504 for 2 nights with all the taxes. []
  4. Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville — C$427 for 2 nights with all taxes. []
  5. Hilton Albany — $172 for the night with taxes. []

Leave a comment

O.o teeth mrgreen neutral -) roll twisted evil crycry cry oops razz mad lol cool -? shock eek sad smile grin