Put that Phone Down

Whenever I’m out and I see people spending their time together looking down at their phones or gadgets instead of engaged in conversation with those around them, I think it is sad that it has become so common to spend time in someone’s presence without actually spending time in their company. I try to avoid falling into the trap, but know that I sometimes give too much of my time to gadgets.

Still, this trip is turning out to be sort of unique in that I’ve realized recently that Sriram and I spend a lot of our meals looking down at our phones. Strangers who see us probably shake their heads as we sit at a table attached to our devices, barely speaking to each other. They are thinking we are typical 2014 younguns (I like to think they think that anyway), glued to our technology and unable to interact together.

Meal times, as it is turning out, are often our first quiet moments of the day to review places and plans for our next stop (a lot of times our moments of looking at our phones are punctuated with “What do you think about…?” types of questions. We have lots of time to interact while driving and seeing, and certainly talk about the travels along the way. But often we need to look things up, or book things from our phones.

We also take those moments when we’re not driving, and not actively engaged in some type of site-seeing activity to catch up with the outside world. We use those moments to read Facebook posts, respond to emails and messages, check phone messages, pay bills, check in with friends and neighbors, and deal with normal day-to-day issues. I often find myself wanting to explain to those around us, that we’re capable of normal, human interaction – it’s just when your used to talking to people several times per week, and now you can’t, you take the moments you can to reach out and say hello.

So, I hope those that see us in our travels will not judge us too harshly. We’re spending 24 hours together, 7 days per week, for 2 solid months. I think we’ll be OK if we spend a couple lunch breaks looking down at our phones. One of these days, I might even break out a book.

Ontario: Eats and Treats

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
Niagara Falls

Between our day time Niagara Falls viewing and the fireworks over the Falls we stopped into Ruth’s Chris for dinner. While on the road we don’t usually choose places we could dine in at home, but after not finding seating at a couple other places we wandered in and found bar seating. The design of the restaurant was actually very different from any other Ruth’s Chris I’ve ever been in. In the evening there would be live music and the bar area would essentially turn into a night club. A woman was walking around selling roses to diners. The ladies room had an attendant (which I always find strange), a shoe shining stand and a large variety of perfumes to choose from. It was all a bit bizarre.

We skipped our typical steakhouse fare in favor of salads (the Ruth’s Chris Chopped Salad for Sriram and the Harvest Salad for me), which both turned out to be terrific. For dessert, I ordered my favorite – the Berries and Cream. It’s definitely my go-to dessert.

The staff at the bar was great, and were the ones to give us the tip for the Trius Winery, so it was definitely worth the stop.

Niagara on the Lake Golf Club
Niagara on the Lake

In the morning we grabbed a couple of muffins at Tim Horton’s for a quick bite before heading to Niagara on the Lake where we eventually had lunch at the Niagara on the Lake Golf Club. We lucked out and got there just slightly ahead of the crowd so were seated at a nice patio table with a wonderful view of Lake Huron. The tables were same as the tables at one of my old favorite places, Cafe Shannon – which made me smile.

We ordered drinks. I got the special, which was a Mango Smoothie. It was ridiculously fresh and delicious.

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After reading through the menu, I decided I had to get the Baked Cranberry Walnut Goat Cheese with Tortilla Chips. It was a warm dip and extremely good. It was different from any other warm cheese dip I’d had. Better, too. The cranberry added just enough tang, the walnuts added crunch, and the goat cheese was as wonderful as you’d expect goat cheese to be.

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For lunch Sriram got the fish and chips and I got a spinach sausage sandwich which must have been a special, as I can’t find it on their menu. My meal was amazing, and not only for the discovery that Canadians put bacon in their Caesar salads (brilliant – why do we not do this, America?).

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The service was a little slow, but they had seated the entire patio within 15 minutes of our arrival, so that was to be expected. Besides, when you are sitting someplace so beautiful, there is no hurry. We simply enjoyed the sailboats going by and the view of the fort over in the U.S.

Shipwrecked Lee’s
Tobermory

In Tobermory, after our tour boat adventure, we wandered over to Shipwrecked Lee’s. It seemed like an appropriate place to stop in. It looked like a lot of fun from the outside, and how could I resist a place advertising a beer called “Flying Monkeys” – even if I don’t drink.

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The atmosphere in the outside dining room was fun and festive. The staff were super friendly, some dressed in the restaurant’s pirate theme. Locals and tourists alike filled the picnic tables, staying out of the rain under the awning.

We ordered a strange array of items – Pepperoni pizza sticks (just because we kept seeing them on menus and decided to give them a whirl – they were a miss), mini vegetarian samosas (which were quite tasty), a jerk chicken dish (that was good, but the sauce was not quite as good as others we’ve had), some spicy corn on the cob (delicious), and poutine fries. The portions were really big, so we ended up with a bunch of leftovers that we packed into the cooler for a later date. I’d say a successful outing.

The Sweet Shop
Tobermory

After dinner we strolled over to the Sweet Shop. The shop was filled with the usual fare – fudge, brittles, candies of all sort. There was also a pretty extensive ice cream bar. We checked out the menu and noticed an item called a “Boston Cooler.” Intrigued I went to the counter and asked what it was. I was told it was ice cream and pop blended. Once my brain translated “pop” to “soda” I realized it was like a float, but put through the blender like a Frappe (or a milkshake for those not from the Boston area). Interesting. I asked why it was called a Boston Cooler, as after 41 years in Boston, I’d never heard of one, but no one in the shop knew. Sriram was intrigued enough to get one, while I opted for a cone. I ordered a creamsicle (orange sherbet swirled with vanilla ice cream) in a cone. It came in a wafer cone. A pointed wafer cone. In Boston wafer cones come with a flat bottom, only sugar cones come with a point. Fun and delicious.

Cafeteria
Chi-Cheemaun Ferry

Our final day in Tobermory started with some toast at the motel’s continental breakfast. Lunch was on the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry. The ferry has a pretty big cafeteria. The options were basic, but still more plentiful than any ferry I’ve ever been on. My last ferry ride was on the Provincetown II. I was riding it last January in the Virgin Islands, where it winters. I had a hotdog. I’m pretty sure the hotdog had made the trip south with the ferry. On the Chi-Cheemaun we each got a salad for lunch, and then after seeing the size of the bowl, split a bowl of chili. Our expectations for the chili were not high, but it turned out to be pretty good.

Tim Horton’s
On the Road

Before heading to the border, we stopped for one final treat on the road. Just as we had headed out of Massachusetts with a Boston Crème Donut, we thought it only appropriate to leave Canada with a Canadian Maple Donut from Tim Horton’s.

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Farewell Ontario!

Greetings from Tobermory!

Tobermory is a small town situated at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, which separates the Georgian Bay from Lake Huron, and is considered the fresh water diving capital of the World. The harbor boasts over 25 shipwrecks that divers and snorkelers can explore, as well as a few wrecks that tour boats can take visitors to. Tours also include a visit to nearby Flower Pot Island.

After much debate about how to spend the day we headed toward the Visitors Center for Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. Shortly after arriving at the center, the rain started up again. That would turn out to be the theme for the day. Rain, short break, rain … and so on. We contemplated skipping the day and simply moving on, but decided that, just like our first day at Niagara, the reality was – we were here, and this was the weather we had. So, we took a brief tour of the museum at the visitor’s center, watched the museum movie, and then geared up for a rainy day.

After the visitor’s center we headed downtown in search of a boat tour of the famed shipwrecks and Flower Pot Island. Stopping into the Blue Heron Co. revealed there were a few options to choose from. A quick 25 minute jet boat tour; a 2 hour round trip tour; and a 1 hour, 20 minute tour that dropped you off on Flower Pot Island for hiking, picnicking, etc. As tempting as that last option was, a look at the radar showed we could potentially be stranded on the island, in the rain, for two hours. A not-very-appealing prospect.

We opted for the two hour round trip tour on the glass bottomed boat, and with 45 minutes to kill, set out for a quick lunch. Most of the places we checked in on looked like they would definitely not get us to the boat in time, so instead we ducked into the local grocery store and picked up some salads and such at the deli counter. By the time we finished our purchase the sun was miraculously out again for one of its brief appearances. We spread the rain poncho I had packed on a bench and sat and ate before getting in line for the boat.

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As the weather had cleared up (for now), a lot of passengers headed topside for the open boat experience. We had debated our choice while in line and had decided the inside was better in case the rain came back. Plus, what was the point of being on a glass bottomed boat if we were upstairs and couldn’t benefit from the view? The decision was definitely the right one.

The first shipwreck came into view about 10 minutes after we left the dock. From the outside, looking down from the side of the boat, it was mostly just shadow. You could see that something was there, but that was it (the view is apparently better from the outside on nicer days). Looking through the glass bottomed section of the boat was very different. I was shocked at how closely we passed over the wreck – a mere 5 feet above. And the water was so clear you could see remarkable detail of the ship. Here is a collage of a few of the photos I took.

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It was fascinating looking at the remains of the ships and hearing the stories of survival and loss. One shipwreck of particular interest noted that while no one had died in the wreck itself, many people had died diving to the wreck. Diving in the area is only recommended for the highly skilled.

The boat tour continued on it’s way over to the famous Flower Pot Island. The island gets its name from rock formations along the shore that look like flower pots. Along the way we saw many kayakers and boaters; beautiful shorelines; and a variety of birds, including two immature bald eagles.

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As we finally approached the side of the island with the “flower pots,” the boat began to list to the side – everyone had moved to that side of the boat for the best view. I glanced back at the crew member manning the snack bar. If he wasn’t worried, neither was I. The “flower pots,” which are sea stacks formed over many, many years, were interesting. I didn’t think they looked much like flower pots, but they were certainly unique.

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One of the formations had a face in profile, reminding me of New Hampshire’s famed “Old Man of the Mountain,” which collapsed in 2003. For anyone who never had the pleasure of seeing it in person, you can find it memorialized on the back of the New Hampshire state quarter.

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After the boat tour, we took a drive around town and strolled out to the Tobermory Lighthouse over in Big Tub Harbor.

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We happened upon a group just finishing a shipwreck dive. We stopped to chat for a bit. One of the divers seemed really exhausted and frazzled. He mentioned that he’d been diving many times, but had never had such difficulty.

On the way back to the car we came across a couple who were also from the States. They had just come from the area we were heading next so offered some ideas of places to check out. They were really friendly and it was a great chat.

As the weather still wasn’t terrific, we later checked into a local motel for the night. The next morning we packed up (with the never ending tweaking of our systems included) and headed for the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry which would bring us to South Bay Town on the other side of Lake Huron. It was the first time I’d been on a car carrier ferry. It was fascinating.

The Chi-Cheemaun (which is Ojibwe for “big canoe”), holds 638 passengers and 250 cars, and can travel at 16.25 knots. The ship is 111 meters on length, and 19 meters across the beam. The bow of the boat opens up to allow cars to drive aboard.

As we waited in line to drive aboard we watched as small passenger cars drove into a long chute. The entire chute is then lifted to create a new row for larger vehicles beneath it. Our roof box put us onto the lower level, as the car became too tall to be in the chute. Just ahead of us in line were approximately 25 Mazda Miatas, with their owners all donning Mazda jackets. Clearly they were heading to or returning from some large Miata-family gathering.

The crossing was otherwise uneventful as there was no view to speak of due to the fog. Sriram actually remarked on the unusual fact that our ferry repeatedly used its horn while at open “sea” due to just how thick the fog was.

When we arrived on the other side we headed for the border via Sault St. Marie. We’d heard the American city of Sault St. Marie was more interesting than it’s more industrial Canadian counterpart. However, a quick drive through left us unimpressed. Despite being tired and hungry, we moved straight through Sault St. Marie on both sides of the border, and headed to our new destination of St. Ignace.

Hello Michigan!

Night at the Roxy’s Campground

Roxy’s Gas, Variety, Cabins & Tent Sites – scene of our second night of camping. May seem like an odd place to set up shop, but Roxy’s turned out to be a pretty great campground. We knew the campsites in the National Park in Tobermory were full for the night, but Roxy’s was only a short drive from our final destination, and they had tent spots available (their cabins were all sold out).

The owner Craig, and the store employee Alex, were super friendly and helpful. While Sriram picked out a site with Craig, Alex set me up with some firewood and kindling. Once the firewood was loaded in the car, I headed into the store for basic groceries and camping needs. I picked up a few supplies, and headed down to our spot.

Unlike our spot at Glimmerglass, Roxy’s wasn’t gravel, so that was certainly a plus for my feet. However, the sandy quality of the ground there made our tent not hold as taut, so that was a bit of a downside (the one problem with the style of our tent is the stakes aren’t just to keep the tent from blowing away, but are also key in the structural integrity). Still, we got the tent up, and then set out our camp chairs and began work on the fire.

One problem at Roxy’s (if you can consider natural things in nature a problem), while setting up I did notice an unusual number of spiders (well, daddy long legs, actually, which I realize aren’t technically spiders). Enough to be creepy. I found myself hearing Rupert Grint’s voice in my head as I worked. “Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be ‘follow the butterflies’?”

Once camp was set up we pulled out our camp stove to make dinner. Our dinner was pretty basic – a can of beans, a chopped onion, and a diced up potato, all made up in one pot. For seasoning we used Ms. Peppa’s Jerk Sauce, which is a crazy-authentic sauce that a friend of mine makes. She’s from Barbados. It’s legit. So, thank you Ms. Peppa for a great dinner.

Rather than dirtying up dishes just for dinner, we put the pot on a makeshift table between us in front of the fire and ate right out of the pot. Later, we sat by the “fire” for a while, but neither Sriram nor I have truly mastered the art of making a fire, so we eventually retreated out of the wind and into the tent. It was another chilly night under the stars, so we bundled up.

Our morning started rather abruptly the next day. We’d planned to reheat our leftovers from camp dinner as breakfast and spend some time reorganizing our camp stuff. Incoming thunderstorms put a quick stop to those plans and we broke camp as quickly as we could, finishing the last few items and packing up any way we could just before the rain set in.

Before heading out, we took advantage of the camp’s showers. I haven’t been to a ton of campgrounds, but enough to know that hot water is not usually an option. In my experience, it’s a good day when you have water bordering on luke warm. The showers at Roxy’s were hot, fairly clean, and had a really good set up (in fact, the National Park campgrounds don’t have showers, and send people down to Roxy’s – we only just beat the rush). The only downside was 2 minutes would cost you a Twooney. But, even though it was quick, it was a well spent $4.

If you’re ever in the area and need a place to stay, I’d definitely recommend Roxy’s.

New York: Eats and Treats

With our crossover into Ontario, we finally left New York behind. We’ve seen quite a bit already, and had some great food. I figured I’d post some highlights for those of you that might care about such things.

Depot Deli and Lakefront Restaurant
Cooperstown, New York

I previously mentioned the delicious sandwich I had at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival the first night. The next day in Cooperstown we started the day at the Depot Deli. We ordered bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches on Texas toast. They were a good start for the day – just a quick meal to get us going before our tour.

For lunch, at the suggestion of Jackie from the BHOF, we dined at the Lakefront Restaurant, at a table with a lovely view overlooking Otswego Lake. After looking over the menu, we decided we had to give their Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers a try. They are typically drizzled with a crab based sauce, but as I have a mild sensitivity, we got that on the side. Sriram said it was delicious. I enjoyed the peppers on their own.

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After the appetizer, I had the Cranberry Waldorf Chicken Salad Croissant (chicken salad with apples, cranberries, and walnuts served with lettuce, tomato, a side of potato chips and a pickle), and Sriram had the Roasted Beet Salad (spinach and kale with apple, cranberries, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and a fresh orange vinaigrette). They were both delicious. If you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend stopping in.

Dinosaur BBQ
Syracuse

The highlight of the day was certainly dinner. Our stop in Syracuse (on our way to Buffalo) was specifically to go to Dinosaur BBQ. The wait for seating was more than an hour (the place was packed), but we were told there were tables around back in the “Boneyard” which was essentially an outdoor bar with some shared picnic tables. We lucked out in getting a shared high top table to ourselves and looked over the menu. We decided on a combo plate to share. While waiting for the food to arrive, I checked out the variety of sauces – knowing I’d likely try them all. The choices were Wango Tango, Devil’s Duel, Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce, and Sensuous Slathering.

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When our order arrived it all looked fantastic. The combo consisted of pulled pork, smoked hot-link sausage, mac and cheese, black beans, and corn bread. We split the platter between us and each had a ridiculous amount of food.

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Everything was absolutely delicious, and as predicted, I tried all four sauces. Wango Tango was good, while Devil’s Duel and Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce had the most heat. The Sensuous Slathering was OK – it was sweeter than the others. My favorite turned out to be the Devil’s Duel.

It was a great stop, and easily the best BBQ I’ve ever had.


Top of the Falls

Niagara Falls

As mentioned in the Niagara post we lunched at the Top of the Falls restaurant. We got off to a good start with the loaded fries appetizer. Alison and I were both intrigued by the Barreled Over Burger. The menu’s description read, “Be adventurous! Gorge yourself with our signature burger hand-stuffed with WNY favorites! Angus Beef, Yancey’s Fancy Buffalo Wing Cheddar Cheese, Candied Bacon, Sweet NY State Apples, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Brioche Roll.” Despite it’s description turned out to be a bit of a dud – it mostly tasted like a plain burger, the “stuffing” was so limited. And despite the claim that it came with a free souvenir photo, we were never offered one, and forgot about it until it was too late. Sriram had the Beef on Weck and said it was quite good. But, despite it not being the best meal, the view was wonderful, and as that was mostly the point of eating there, I’d still recommend it to a friend.

The Anchor Bar
Buffalo

For dinner we journeyed back to Buffalo and The Anchor Bar – home of the original Buffalo Wing. I wasn’t sure if I was amused or frightened by our “greeter.” Probably both.

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As it was really crowded with an extended wait for tables, we opted to hang out in the bar with it’s fun and chaotic design and hoped for seats. We lucked out pretty quickly and settled in. We were intrigued enough by the Spicy Hot Chicken Wing Soup to each order a cup. It was really good, though more mild in flavor than the description implied. Still, it was hearty, and after a long, cold, damp day at the Falls it was a great way to warm up, so it definitely hit the spot.

After soup we shared a large order of wings (hot) and onion rings.

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The rings were very good, a little thicker than I prefer, but crispy and tasty with a nice dipping sauce. The wings more than lived up to their reputation. The heat was just right and they had perfect crisp. We agreed that they were indeed the best buffalo wings we’ve ever had.

If you like wings, it is more than worth the stop.

Duff’s Famous Wings

Buffalo

The next day we were up for more wings at Duff’s simply because we were there. I got my wings boneless this time round, and based on this warning, I ordered the medium.

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The sauce seemed a little tangier than the Anchor Bar, but it’s impossible for me to make a 1:1 comparison between Duff’s and the Anchor Bar because I got boneless wings at Duff’s, and it’s just not the same. Still, they were delicious, but despite the warning, I was very quickly asking for a side of the medium hot for more heat. But my tolerance is probably higher than most, so Duff’s probably has it right.

Sriram opted for the fried bologna sandwich and noted that it tasted like bologna, so I guess they got that right.

Other than some delicious Saranac Sodas (a creamsicle and a rootbeer) that we picked up at Dinosaur BBQ for the road, that was it for New York. Stay tuned for more sites and adventures and the next “Eats and Treats” installment.

Niagara on the Lake

While everyone has heard of Niagara Falls, just a ways down the road is the quaint town of Niagara on the Lake. We spent a morning strolling around the town and I positively loved it. The streets were lined with wonderful shops, galleries and restaurants. It was a bright and sunny day when we visited, so tourists were aplenty.

One of the things I loved about the town was how floral it was. I’d be surprised if there isn’t some type of city ordinance regarding landscaping. Everywhere you looked were beautiful flowers – park benches were surrounded by wonderful landscaping, the light poles had flower pots hanging from them, every restaurant and building contained a lovely burst of color and fragrance. Even the homes we passed seemed to be full of flowers.

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On our stroll, we came across a statue of George Bernard Shaw. Intrigued by the connection we did a little research and discovered that the Shaw Festival Theater, established in 1973, is located in Niagara on the Lake. It would have been nice if we were able to take in a show, but we were only passing through.

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Though we very much enjoyed our time there, the town wasn’t without flaws. We drifted into one shop called The Cheese Secret. Turned out the secret was terrible customer service. Beyond saying something along the lines of “nice weather,” the two employees simply stared at us the entire time we were in the store. They made no inquiry of our needs and offered no assistance, so we moved on without a purchase, despite the fact that we love trying new cheeses.

We had lunch on the water, across from Old Fort Niagara.

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After lunch we decided to check out a local winery that had been recommended to us the night before at dinner.

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Our visit to the Trius Winery at Hillenbrand was a lovely way to spend the afternoon – if you ignore that pesky wine tasting part. It was fun to see the vineyard and hear about the process for the various types of wine, including their ice wine (80% of all ice wines come from that region), which is made from frozen grapes harvested in January and contains no added sugar despite being the sweetest wine they sell.

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There were fun facts mentioned on the tour including the fact that Trius produces much of the wine for the area vineyards, including the wine for the Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Collection (we’d seen some for $30 per glass the night before).

We also visited the winery’s cellar, which included a beautiful tasting room.

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A very brief overview of the processes and equipment involved in making the wines was given before heading back out to the grounds and the garden for our official tasting. I went through all of the steps of the tasting – checking the wine’s appearance, smelling the wine, swirling the wine – I even tasted the wine, which only confirmed the notion that I don’t like wine.

We were offered three wines in all – a white, a red, and an ice wine. I tried both the white and the ice wines. The ice wine was slightly more palatable to me, but that’s not saying much. Sriram was impressed enough with the ice wine to purchase a bottle. As the teetotaler in the marriage I was happy to have simply enjoyed the stroll of the grounds and the information presented.

And I did learn a nice tip for my next party. Our guide recommended always following the 15 minute rule for wines. If you’re serving a white wine, take it out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to allow it to reach optimal temperature. If you’re serving a red wine, put it into the refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving for optimal temperature. Easy enough. I can definitely remember that.

Niagara – The Other Side

Sriram’s Perspective

Ask any tourist visiting America, “what’s on your itinerary?” and it will include Statue of Liberty, Times Square, White House, Disney World, Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood and Niagara Falls. There may be other places such as Yellowstone or Chicago or Grand Canyon, but Niagara Falls is a definite.

I had the good fortune of seeing all of the places listed above in my first 2 years in America. Seeing a place is one thing, experiencing is another. Experiencing requires the right location, and more importantly, the right mind-set.

Niagara Falls, is an experience. There is a great episode of This American Life about Niagara Falls. The radio show beautifully describes the drive along the river where the rapids get faster and frothier; the noise rising to a thunderous crescendo; the feel of the mist in the aptly named Maid of the Mist, getting wetter and ultimately soaked; feeling the hurricane in the Cave of the Winds; seeing the short lived rainbows that may form at any given moment – this is one of the greatest experiences in life. A word of warning – the radio show is rather graphic in some of its content and very depressing for most of it. So, please listen to it after your visit and not before.

My first Niagara Falls experience happened with my grad-school buddies during my very first summer in this country. I was able to visit again some years later with my family. To watch others experience this for the first time is a treat. Grownups become awe-struck little children. It gave me great pleasure to watch my dad and brother experience this.

Ask anyone who has been to Niagara Falls and they will tell you the Canadian side is better than the US side. However, due to the extra effort and expense needed to apply for a Canadian visa, I never got to see that side on either trip. I always told myself, one of the first things I would do after I get my green-card was to go to the Canadian side. Well, green-card and citizenship happened, but Niagara Falls, Canada did not. It is one of those things in life – as soon as something becomes attainable, it suddenly ceases to be as desperately attractive.

In the last five years, I have had to travel to the Greater Toronto area frequently for work. Flying to Buffalo and driving has been a lot cheaper than flying to Pearson International. I would give myself plenty of extra time for the border crossing and it almost always went quickly (especially after I was approved for Global Entry by the TSA) and I would stop by the Falls and have had the opportunity to see it frozen in winter, crowded in the warmer months, lit up at night – but always from a distance and from a car.

There were several times in the past few years when Kristen and I would think of going to see (correction, experience) the Falls but never got around to it. So, once we decided to take this road-trip, the Falls were definitely on the itinerary.

When Kristen had made plans to meet her friend Alison in Buffalo, I was curious if she would be interested in going to the Falls. I have had friends who lived in the Buffalo area who fell into two categories – those who said “yeah, it was great the first couple of times, but now I don’t care for it anymore” and the others that said “I go there every opportunity I get and I have been hundreds of times and will never tire of it”. I was curious which category Alison would fall under. Turned out, it was the second and she visits once a year.

The dreary weather on the day of our visit didn’t help; neither did the crowd and chaos all over. But the Maid of the Mist experience was as awesome as I remembered – a little wet, a little loud; getting wetter and louder every minute. We reached the point where we couldn’t tell the difference between water and air – it was just foam. I am told that’s what a Force 10 on Admiral Beaufort’s scale feels like – not sure I would want to experience that at sea.

And to watch Kristen’s reaction was truly the best part. She loved every minute of it – as detailed in her version.

We thought we would walk over the bridge to the Canadian side and wander around, but the weather took a turn for the worse and we went to the casino instead.

Thankfully, the weather got better the next day and we decided to stay an extra day and we found a hotel room on the Canadian side. Rule of thumb – falls view hotels cost about $100 more than hotels that are a couple of blocks away. The Canadian side is more commercialized and it has a carnival atmosphere. From what our taxi driver (who drove with one hand, eating pizza with the other and cut through traffic by driving on the wrong side of the road) said, I am led to believe that it is like a mini Las Vegas all year long, unlike the US side.

Yes, it’s better! Yes, it’s worth getting a Canadian visa to see it from that side!

Like many of the great experiences in life, words are grossly insufficient to describe the feelings – I scrapped a 1,000 word write-up because it sounded so lame.

Just go experience it for yourself! And don’t put it away because it is attainable.