Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls. Both sides.We arrived at Niagara Falls, Canada via Rainbow Bridge. There was a long wait line of cars for passport check, and children were getting a little stir-crazy, but as always we survived with only minor damage to our nervous systems.

Our hotel. DoubleTree Fallsview Resort and Spa.We stayed at DoubleTree Fallsview Resort and Spa. It is the same exact hotel where we stayed with Daniel and his parents last time we visited this town. We got a nice room at high floor, albeit one level below the executive one.

Us in Niagara Falls.We were pretty hungry by the time we got there, so we decided to have a light lunch at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant was quiet and empty, and the lunch food that we ordered was not bad, with the exclusion of Caesar Salad. I think once I started making it at home, restaurant versions with their bottled dressings got much less satisfying.

On a ship to the falls.After lunch we headed for the falls. They were a relatively short walk away from our hotel. It was cold-ish outside, but bright and sunny. To our surprise, the boat ride underneath the falls was running, and Arosha REALLY wanted to go. What do good parents do when their five year old is bubbling with need to go into the cold mist of giant waterfalls? Of course they do exactly as he asks!

Red raincoats.Since it was so early in the season, the line was very short, and we had hardly spent any time waiting for the ride. Each one of us got a red disposable raincoat, which we put on right away. In fact, we put two of those on Anюta (one was smaller, one was bigger) to make sure she’ll stay dry. We all enjoyed this little adventure. When we were near a big waterfall, the mist turned into a full fledged pouring rain, but luckily, it did not last too long.

Inside the casino.After the ride, we walked along the waterfront, admiring the views and smelling first daffodils. For dinner we decided to go to the buffet in one of the casinos, but they were really strict and did not let us pass through the casino to the restaurant on the account of children. For me it was quite unusual after the family-friendly atmosphere in Las Vegas, but oh well.

Alёna and Arosha.We wondered around the shopping area attached to the casinos, and ended up going to the Chinese buffet. The food was very mediocre, but they had sushi, and Arosha stuffed himself up with them. There was also a pretty decent variety of vegetables (not so with meat), so I did not left the place hungry either.

Whirlpool on Niagara.We started the following day with the trip to the Niagara whirlpool. The day was nice and sunny again. There is a cable car running over the whirlpool in season, but it was not open yet. I am not sure if we would have taken a ride anyhow, since to me it seemed like a pretty scary endeavor.

Ride over whirlpool was closed for the season.When we were in Niagara Falls area last time, we visited the Butterfly Conservatory. I remember being very impressed by it, and we wanted to share this experience with the children. They’ve been to similar thing during our visit to the Museum of Natural History, but their butterfly exhibit was tiny compared to this conservatory.

Arosha hoping that a butterfly will land on his hand.Arosha and Anюta both liked the butterflies, although at some point Anna ran to us all excited holding a big butterfly in her hand. I honestly hope that she did not catch it, but picked up from the floor, but who knows.

At Butterfly Conservatory.We explained to her how we should never do such things and that she might have accidentally killed the poor insect. It made a lasting impression on her. She was not very upset, but to this day she remembers it now and again and tells us that she is sad because she killed a poor butterfly.

Алёна с бабочками.We went to the hotel after this, and had lunch at the local restaurant again. The kids were really excited at the prospect of going to the pool, so that’s exactly what we did. We spent a good chunk of time there, since there was a Jacuzzi to get warm after a cool pool.

Skylon tower.Our next objective was the Skylon tower. We walked around the observation deck for a little bit and enjoyed the falls views from high up. Originally we wanted to have dinner at their buffet, but it was only open for lunch on that particular day. There was a highly-rated revolving restaurant on the tower as well, but we decided to save the experience for the CN Tower in Toronto. Plus it was rather expensive, as one might expect from a place like that.

Conquering the fear of heights.Instead, we ended up going to a Brazilian steakhouse, and it was just so good! It was probably our best dinner of the whole vacation. It was not cheap either, but the children ate for free, so it was a very good deal for us, considering that Arosha ate more meat than I did, and Anюta was in a close lead to me.

SkyWheel.I have to say that normally Arosha is not a big fan of meat. He oftentimes refuses to eat meat that I cook at home, unless it’s in the form of meat pie or samsa or part of the soup. However, he loves shish-kebabs and good steaks in restaurants, and when we go to Brazilian places, he always surprises me with his appetite.

View of the waterfalls from the top of SkyWheel.Our last day at Niagara Falls was cloudy and grey. We started our adventures with the ride on the SkyWheel. For some reason, our children really enjoy Ferris Wheels, so we try to take a ride on one whenever the opportunity presents itself.

View from our window.After the ride we went to some arcade place. The most interesting thing there was an air hockey table. Danya and Arosha played a game, but Anюta was too small to hit the puck. To be quite honest, I get really bored with arcades after spending more than 5 minutes in such places. I think Danya feels the same, so we did not linger.

Clifton Hill.We walked around the city down the Clifton Hill street for a while. There are a lot of souvenir shops, different strange entertainment places, where the visitors are either being scared or are supposed to laugh. There are also some “museums”, most notably the Guinness World Records one, but they did not look interesting enough to spent our time and money on them.

Lunch at Niagara Brewery and dinner at Rainforest Cafe.We were not sure where to have lunch. We almost went to Friday’s, but the prices there are unjustifiably high. How weird is it, that they charge almost a third more than in our local TGIF? The Outback Steakhouse had the same issue. So we ended up going to the Niagara Brewing Company. I really enjoyed our lunch, and so did Danya. The children were not impressed with the food, but I am still glad we went there instead of some chain place.

Waterfall with a ship.After lunch, we walked by the falls again and headed to the hotel. My head was starting to ache, which unfortunately happens to me at least ones on vacation with kids. I am not sure if I just get overtired and my body protests in such a way, but this seems to be the trend. I think we went to the pools again, but I am not sure 100% if we did.

Brazilian.By dinnertime, my headache got worse, but the children were getting really hungry especially considering that they barely ate anything at lunch. We decided to head for the nearby Mexican restaurant with good reviews, but unfortunately it was closed.

View from our window.We could not find anything good close to the hotel, and ended up going to the Rainforest Cafe, which we spotted during the day. It was pretty far from the hotel, but since we did not anticipate going there beforehand, we did not take Anna’s stroller. She did not mind walking by herself, but sometimes we carried her for better speed.

Crossing the street.The food in Cafe was nothing special, but the atmosphere was perfect for the children. We were sitting next to the gorillas, and our little ones were fascinated when they were moving and talking. Arosha also went to explore other parts of the restaurant to get a closer look at elephants and waterfalls, and Anюta followed him around like a little pup.

Niagara Falls.I was feeling quite nauseous, so I just ordered hummus and water. I think I would have been better off skipping dinner altogether, but I did not know that at the moment.

Rainforest Cafe.We went to the hotel afterwards, and Danya had to carry Anюta most of the way, since I felt too sick to do it. When we got to the hotel, he and Arosha took a car and drove to the Falls to see the night illumination. They only saw the white lights, since the colored illumination comes up fairly late.

On a ship.I felt even worse, but after throwing up a few times, I took tylenol for the headache and was able to fall asleep. I felt just fine the next day, to everyone’s relief.

Skylon Tower.

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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. []

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Mom, Potty, Gruffalo

Анюта.Еще не прошло и месяца с тех пор как Анютке исполнилось два года, а у нас уже два коренных изменения.

Во-первых, мы прекратили грудное вскармливание. Я говорила, что планирую кормить её примерно до двух лет, и именно так и вышло. Последний раз она попила моего молока вечером накануне Дня Рождения, и это был последний раз. Мы обе были к этому готовы. Она в течение следующей недели пару раз спросила про молочко, но я сказала, что оно закончилось, и она это спокойно восприняла, как обычный факт жизни. Ни слёз, ни жалоб, ни проблем… Мне кажется, что мне было даже более грустно, чем Анютке.

Kids.А еще она вдруг стала ходить на горшок. Мы ей давно уже говорили, что надо бы. Пробовали безрезультатно сажать на горшок. Особенно старался Ароша — он ей обьяснял, что надо делать и иногда даже демонстрировал (он очень хотел получить конфету, которую мы ей обещали за #2 в горшке). И вот, спустя буквально пару дней с её двух-летия, она выразила своё согласие на вопрос, а не хотела ли бы она сходить на горшок. Еще дня два ушло на то, чтобы я решилась ей снять подгузник на улице (пока происшествий не было) и на дневной сон. Ночью она пока спит в подгузнике, хотя в большистве случаев он сухой утром, так что я думаю, что скоро мы и на ночной сон будем спать без подгузников. Садится она и на горшочек, и на унитаз (на специальную седушку), ну а на улице я её просто держу в нужной позе (всё-таки мальчикам в этом плане проще). И в машине она тоже уже ездила без подгузника.

Анюта, улыбайся!Вобщем совсем неожиданно, без каких-либо услилий с нашей стороны, Анютка решила ходить в туалет по-взрослому. Она любит с гордостью говорить “Я башААя!”. Думаю, Ароша нам очень помог (хотя конфету они так и не получили — не хотела создавать прецедент, раз и без конфеты всё работало).

А еще Анюта любит танцевать и напевать песенки. Мы попробовали сходить с ней на своего рода кружок для малышей, где детки могут немного потанцевать, послушать коротенькие песенки, “поиграть” на ударных музыкальных инструментах. Ей очень понравилось, хотя на первом занятии Анюта первое время стеснялась и боялась идти к другим деткам. Я пробовала водить в это же место Арошу примерно в том же возрасте (ведёт занятия женщина из нашего дома в помещении синагоги, тоже находящейся в нашем доме), но ему там очень не понравилось, он плакал и просился на улицу. Надеюсь, что когда Анюта подрастёт она с удовольствием будет ходить на танцы.

Pumpkin for Halloween.А еще к нам в гости приехала мама. Она побудет у нас до начала декабря (где-то полтора месяца). Потом у неё истекает виза, да и деду тяжело без неё одному. Она предложила помочь посмотреть за детьми, когда мы поедем в отпуск в ноябре, поэтому мы взяли отпуск на пару дней длиннее, чем смогли бы если бы Даниной маме пришлось брать опуск на всю длинну нашего отпуска. По плану она будет смотреть за Анютой, а Данины родители за Арошей. Я немного волнуюсь, чтобы Анюта не сильно капризничала, а Ароша не болел, но надеюсь, что всё пройдёт хорошо.

В театре.Кстати, в прошлую субботу мы с Арошей ходили на его первое театральное представление. Постановка называлась “Груффало” по одноименной книге Джулии Дональдсон и проходила в The New Victory Theater в районе Times Squire. Компанию мне с Арошей составили Эрика и Алекс. Шоу было неплохое, хотя мне под конец жутко хотелось спать. Ароша сказал, что ему понравилось, а Алекс, что ему не понравилось. Не знаю насколько Ароше понравилось само шоу, но высидел он его неплохо, хоть и елозил послдение 20 минут.

Потом мы сходили в McDonald’s — изначально хотели в пиццерию, но ничего путного не могли найти вблизи театра — а потом зашли в “Toys Я Us” и прокатились там на колесе обозрения. Ароше в принципе понравилось колесо, а Алексу было немного страшно и он хотел, чтобы это дело поскорее закончилось. Думаю, Ароше еще понравился поход в театр именно потому, что он ходил туда со своим лучшим другом.

Mama at Niagara Falls.А мама сегодня уехала в двух-дневную поездку на Ниагарские водопады. Надеюсь, ей понравится.

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Thursday, October 5, 2006

And Back to Canada (Belated Remarks)

Canadian FlagsTime flies so fast! I wanted to write a couple of words about our trip to Canada, even though it seems like a long time ago.

Winter at NiagaraWhen I saw the Niagara Falls for the first time back in 2002, I had a mixed feelings about them. They are undoubtedly beautiful, but somehow I was expecting more. I think that the hype about these falls affects the first impression; and urbanized area around slightly shifts the focus of attention from the graces of nature to the creative powers of mankind.

Horse Shoe FallsWhen I saw the Falls for the second time and tried to really appreciate them for what they are, I was more impressed. The Niagara Falls are indeed a grand place, filled with energy and charm. I only wish it was possible to have a private session with them – away from all the tourists and buildings, and cars…

CN Tower, TorontoIn Toronto the main point of attraction was the CN Tower – the “world’s tallest freestanding structure on land” (553.33 meters high). According to wikipedia, it is 13 meters taller then Moscow’s Ostankino Tower and almost twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. The CN Tower was topped off on April 2, 1975 after 40 months of construction and was opened to the public on June 26, 1976. The sky was ominous during our trip there! twisted

360 Restaurant in CN TowerWe had a dinner at the 360 restaurant, located in the tower. All of us had to buy main entries for the dinner (the food was good, by the way).  I guess that’s reasonable, because there are a lot of people, who want to enjoy the view from this revolving restaurant, and making everybody buy something expensive somewhat limits the number of guests. The view was amazing. We took some pictures, but they can’t really reflect the feeling of being up there…

Golden Building in TorontoIn general I liked Toronto – it seemed clean and friendly. There is a very beautiful skyscraper in downtown; it stands out because of its golden color.

Toronto City HallToronto’s City Hall is also very memorable. It was designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and opened in 1965. The saucer-like council chamber is located between 2 curved towers of different height, which look like 2 protective hands.

City Hall: NailsInside one of the City Hall buildings is a very interesting panel, made from nails of various thickness, length and color. 
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Saturday, September 2, 2006

Rainy Rainy Canada

Niagara Falls Through The Window of Our HotelThe rain hasn’t stopped for a minute today. And it’s not raining lightly either. But we’re trying not to let that get in the way of us enjoying our trip.

Our drive here was good. We lucked out and got here ahead of rain. The hotel is really nice. We ended up on the 16th floor of it. Even though the sky is dark and grey we can still see the falls from our windows.

We spent quite a bit of our time in a local casino. It’s new, and it wasn’t here before. A lot of new hotels came up in the past 4 years that I haven’t been here.

Later in the evening we went out to the pools / jacuzzis. The one inside was packed with people. The one outside was empty for obvious reasons. However that didn’t stop us, and actually it was pretty great. Warm bubbling water around us and cold rainy sky on top of us.

So no matter the rain I would still make this trip. I’m having a great time, and so is everyone else.
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