Nov 16, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Niagara Falls, Canadian Style

We have seen so many cool things today, I hardly know where to begin, so I want to apologize ahead of time for the very long post and extra pics.

So we checked out of our little condo near Barrie and we headed for Toronto. We still had a couple of things on our CitiPass so we decided to do one of them. The Casa Loma was practically on our way to Niagara and my sweetie definitely had a castle on his list.

We loved the castle!! My favorite part was actually the Girl Guide display... the lady who owned the castle was the Girl Guide Commissioner for all of Canada. She held receptions in her quarters where she would give out the Silverfish, the highest adult pin for Girl Guides.

That was all a happy surprise though. We had no idea when we went there. We walked the tunnels so we could see the antique cars and we climbed all the way up 2 flights of a scary spiral staircase so we could be on top of the turret.

After the castle, we got back on the road and my sweetie surprised me with a stop at one of the little parks I had wanted to do yesterday. We walked right up to Lake Ontario! It is so beautiful; just extending for miles and miles until it melts into the gray blue sky.

Then we climbed back in the car and drove along the QE Highway toward Niagara Falls. The most amazing part of this highway happens when Lake Ontario is surrounding both sides. Now one side is the bay and it is possible to see buildings, but the other side is the endless cobalt sea. We drove about a third of the way around Lake Ontario and got to see it from the other side, and it was still just as beautiful. Honestly, I love the Great Lakes. I'm not sure why I feel so drawn to them. I don't even feel that way about the Great Salt Lake and I've lived near it for most of my life.

But I digress...

We drove into Niagara about 5:30. The GPS messed up and drove us on a wild goose chase, but it turned out to be just perfect because we got to see nearly all of the Christmas lights that had just been turned on for the Winter Festival. It's a lot like the lights we drive through in Spanish Fork only the path is longer and Niagara Falls in raging in the background.

My sweetie splurged on a Fallsview room at the Hilton with his membership points and honestly, it is amazing! We can see the Canadian Falls and the United States Falls. We have a huge pane window in our room on the 43rd floor and from here we can see nearly everything.

At 8:00 pm they even shot off fireworks over the falls. I didn't take any pics because I was video calling with the kids and letting them watch what was going on outside. I love that my sweetie and I have had this opportunity to go tripping together, but there are sure a lot of things I would love to share with my kids and this blog is the best way to keep the memories forever.

When we finally got off the phone with the kids, we walked down the Casino tunnel and found food at a place called Famous. You know I haven't been that impressed with Canadian food in general and once again I was disappointed, but this time I spoke up.

Our server's name was Eric and he went out of his way to make sure we didn't leave his restaurant unhappy. He told me to Yelp about the bad salads and when my sweetie complained about his mashed potatoes being dry, he brought him a whole plate of new ones that were definitely much better. When he asked about my meal, I told him that peas were not sauteed in the US. He wanted to fix it and I said my sweetie's mixed veggies looked better and he brought me a whole plate of freshly steamed broccoli, zucchini, peppers, carrots, and cauliflower, all drenched in just the right amount of butter.

I was in heaven! It was the best thing I have eaten since I left the US over a week ago!! Not only that, Eric packed us a huge piece of carrot cake to eat back in our room and he didn't charge us a thing for any of the changes. I don't know if we just got the most amazing server on the planet or if Famous treats all their customers this way, but I highly recommend them and will definitely go there again if given the opportunity.

Back in our room, we swam in the jacuzzi tub and then watched the lights bounce playfully off the water of the Niagara. OK, my sweetie watched the Falls while I shared all of this with you. Tomorrow we drive to Detroit and then climb on another plane and fly home. In a week or two this will all seem like a dream. But my heart will be forever changed toward our Northern neighbors. I will wear my Canada hoodie proudly and maybe even a little reverently. Oh Canada, for a few short days we called you home... thank you for letting us be part of you. That part we will never forget.

Our Grand Adventure - Orillia

We got back to our condo pretty late on Thursday night, so it's a good thing Friday was our down day. I knew we didn't want to run nonstop since this is supposed to be our vacation, but there are so many things to do and see around here that we didn't sit around for long. My sweetie had an idea about how we could see another lake so we punched it into the GPS and took off.

...after we cleaned up the kitchen, of course.
The weather has cleared up a bit here, but there is still about 6 inches (Li'l Bro you can do the conversion this time...) of snow on the ground. This part of Ontario is interesting. There are little pockets of cities here and there and scattered homes in most places that aren't covered with trees. Looking at the map, we had no idea that we were heading for a place that was well-populated. What looked like a deserted point was actually a long row of mostly small homes all bunched up with their backs against the water.

We finally drove down to what promised to be "water attractions" and we found a nice little park with a boat dock and what was likely a little beach when it wasn't covered with snow. All of the little summer shops were closed up tight with signs that read "See you next season!" and similar things. So we drove on.

Our little town was actually quite big and called Orillia pronounced O-relia (I asked someone just to be sure) and as you know, Relia is a family name. I quickly texted Scout to let her know since it is her middle name and she was quite excited at the prospect of a town named after her. Since it was way past lunchtime, we started looking for somewhere to eat, and we found a main street that reminded us of our own hometowns. We settled on "Chinese Canadian," a decision we would come to regret, but they had restrooms so that sealed the deal.

Those are called sweet and sour chicken balls. My sweetie had a lot of fun with the name...
After we paid way too much for sub-par food, we decided to explore the shops, Unfortunately, we like shopping way more than we should and several hundred dollars later, we climbed back in our car to make our way to Barrie. My sweetie had purchased some studs for his shoes (like for tires) and he had the wrong size so we needed to exchange them.

We had already decided that if things worked out, we wanted to see the new Ford vs. Ferrari movie. After a frustratingly long wait for customer service in the WalMart, we almost changed our minds, but at the last minute we quickly drove to the theatre and bought tickets. I was hoping to hear from Crafty since it was our time to Skype, but after about 30 long minutes, she emailed me to say that she was having trouble with her phone and we would only be able to email today. For me, even that was sporadic. We finally gave up and she said goodbye right before the movie started.

We enjoyed popcorn and treats right up until the last 10 minutes of a rather long movie. I'm recommending you leave about then if you see it. The movie and all of the old cars was amazing! Sadly, you can't change truth and this one was historical for the most part, but I don't want to give anything away.

We drove back to the condo, ate leftovers and packed so we can check out on Saturday morning. We have the condo for one more day, but we decided that we want to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side tomorrow and my sweetie doesn't want to drive all the way back up here since we will already be much closer to Detroit.

I don't have many pics today, but I should have plenty of amazing ones of the falls for tomorrow. See you then.

Nov 15, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Lake Ontario

The Great Hall and Skywalk kept us warm and dry.

Ok, my post is a little misleading... I didn't actually get to see Lake Ontario up close, but I did see a whole lot of it from the CN Tower! But wait... I am getting ahead of myself. When I left you yesterday, we were just bedding down in the ginormous Chelsea Hotel. I have to say that the room wasn't bad, but when I got up, my back hurt terribly! Of course, you know I'm a bit picky when it comes to hotel beds so I was glad we didn't stay there a second night. 

We got up pretty early, checked out of the hotel (but not the parking) and took the subway to Ripley's Aquarium. It is probably the best aquarium I have ever seen and I have been in quite a few good ones. The water was right over the top of us as we rode on a moving sidewalk around the largest exhibit that included sharks and giant sea turtles.

My sweetie was impressed with the size of the jellyfish and of course I had to take a pic of a stingray just for Sport. They had some huge ones! Although I'm pretty sure the one he tangled with in California was of the smaller variety.

After we left the aquarium, we walked across the plaza to the CN Tower. My sweetie was excited for this one. I had made a reservation for us to each lunch in the 360 Restaurant, a fancy eatery that costs a fortune but rotates around the 131-story tower so you can see the entire view while you eat. Actually, the tower is taller than that; it is the 9th tallest building in the world, but we only went that high. Some crazy people do go even higher...

The tower took us a little longer than we had planned and we got stuck in Friday night traffic leaving the parking garage. I had wanted to stop at one of the little parks so I could see Lake Ontario a little closer. Hopefully that can happen for us in a couple of days. Our last destination for the day was the Toronto Temple.

First glimpse of the Toronto Temple.
They have a limited schedule, so we were afraid we might miss the session, but we got there just in time to change and be asked to serve as the witness couple. The temple was beautiful and amazing, a mini Jordan River temple and their brand new paintings are so different and so perfect.

After our session was over, we stopped for gas and a burger on our way back to the condo. I'm not super impressed with food in Canada. It's probably just that I am so spoiled with amazing cooks all around me, but if I lived up here I would have to have a constant supply of Bounty bars to keep me from wasting away.

More tomorrow. We have another down day since we are old and we have to rest once in a while...

Nov 14, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Toronto

We wanted to get on the road early, but that didn't happen.  Mostly my fault; I can't seem to adjust to the time difference. The drive to Toronto just kept getting longer and longer too, and with construction/weather, we didn't arrive at the Ontario Science Centre until almost 2:00. Since the Centre closed at 4:00, that didn't give us much time.

This is what our drive looked like until we got a good part of the way to Toronto. Pretty, huh? Reminds me of a song...
"Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go..."
We started out with a star show in their little dome theatre. I didn't know that Polaris was not always the North Star! The constellations over Toronto are way different right now from the ones over the Salt Lake Valley. This huge globe was not their dome theatre. It was massive!

My sweetie's favorite displays were the one on Diabetes and the interactive hall with all the engineering stuff (no surprise there). I liked the ones on races and babies. Did you know that "of all the thousands of genes that make up the human genetic code, only a tiny fraction influence skin color"? Neither did I! Although I have always known that we are all brothers and sisters and when all is said and done, none of that matters anyway.

But I digress...

We left the science centre right before they turned out the lights (not really, but almost!), and we drove into the downtown area to check into our hotel. We decided to spend the night here since there are so many things to see and do and we didn't want to drive that hour and a half back and forth. The hotel we are staying in has almost 1400 rooms! But we only needed one and the price was good.

This is the view outside our hotel balcony. We are on the 9th floor.
After we got all checked in, we spent a little down time before we walked a couple of blocks to the subway station, bought return tickets, climbed into the subway, rode 3 stops, got off and then walked a couple more blocks to the Meridian Hall. We had tickets to see the rock opera, "Another Brick In the Wall." The venue was fun, an old time concert hall with tons of seats. It was the opening night for the opera and we were fortunate to have empty seats next to us. The opera itself was a little edgy for us, and at one point I averted my eyes although I don't really think I would have seen actual naked bodies on stage, but the giant screens behind the action also told the story and I didn't want to take any chances. (This is my one quick commercial about the evils of pornography... stay away from it... it is addictive and can ruin lives and break hearts.)

We were some of the first people seated. Pics weren't allowed after the show started.
But I digress... again...

When the show was over, we walked 2 blocks back to the subway station... you know, all the things we did before except for in reverse. When we reached our final stop, before we walked our couple of blocks, we stopped at a Tim Hortin's in the station to grab a quick bite of dinner. It was ok, but not quite as exciting as we were hoping considering we have seen these all over Canada and we were expecting something miraculous.

On the subway
Now we are back at the room and I just got off the phone after talking with the kids for nearly 40 minutes. My sweetie is sleeping and I guess I better get to bed as well. We have SO many more adventures planned for tomorrow!!

You're coming back to hear about them, aren't you?

Nov 13, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Lake Huron

Living all my life in Utah, I have not had many opportunities to spend time on the water, but ever since we took our big family trip back east, I have been fascinated by the Great Lakes. My first glimpse of Lake Michigan is something I will never forget; one of those moments that literally takes your breath away... and the kids just loved swimming in the warm water without salt.

So when we decided to take our trip together this year, and Canada became the destination, one of the things I wanted to do the most was to see more of these beautiful lakes. Our little resort is not far from Lake Huron, but an early snowstorm made it difficult to do what I had planned. I was hoping to take a ferry ride out to Christian Island on Monday, but the snow kept us in town. On Tuesday, I was determined that we would get out and see the lake. 

We climbed in the car and set the destination, but it kept winding us around these little Concession roads. My sweetie saw a sign that said Tiny beaches, so we decided to make our way there. As we drove between quaint houses on a snow-covered road, we realized that Tiny was the name of the town. After a few minutes of twists and turns, we finally turned a corner a caught our first glimpse of Lake Huron. 

It was not quite as life-changing as Lake Michigan, but amazingly beautiful nonetheless. I knew when we left Utah that we would not be able to frolic on the beach in November, but I had hoped to at least be able to touch the water. The angry waves that bit into the snowy banks kept us safely inside our toasty vehicle as we admired the seemingly endless water. Lake Huron deserved its own blog post.

The GPS reminded us that we still had Christian Island on our radar, so we followed the promptings until we were sitting in our car at the ferry landing. It wasn't there, but should be returning in about half an hour to make yet another trip to the island. We only hesitated for a moment before we decided not to wait for it to return. The waves were still angry and the snow had begun falling in earnest. We only had about 4 inches on the ground (or should I say 8 cm), but we had other places to go and things to see. 

My sweetie punched in the address for Captain Ken's Diner, a place that was famous for authentic Canadian fare. We were not disappointed with the service or the experience, but we didn't really love all of the food. Poutine was provided free of charge by our excellent server although after a couple of tries each, she laughed at us and took it away...fries covered in cheese curds and brown gravy was not our thing. I ordered pickerel which was a fish that sort of tasted like our trout in Utah, but I shared it with my sweetie when he was completely disappointed with the fish chowder. (I think he was expecting it to taste more like clam chowder.)

Back at the hotel, we spent the evening swimming and hanging out in the outdoor hot tub, playing games in the arcade (I actually beat my sweetie at pool!), and meeting some new and interesting friends.  On Wednesday, we head into Toronto for a couple of days. That will definitely be different from the way we are spending our days out here in the countryside.

Nov 12, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Growing up in Utah and living on the Wasatch Front for most of my adult life means that I have been in plenty of snowstorms, so I didn't exactly travel all the way out of the country just so I could experience snow.  Basically, the snow in Canada is pretty much like the snow in Utah except that without the mountains that shelter the Salt Lake Valley, when the wind blows across this part of Canada, it is cold!!

We had originally planned to drive out and see the Lake Huron this morning, but the weather kept us much nearer to our condo and we ended up in the closest city which is Barrie. It's a nice place, with friendly people and a small town atmosphere.

We hadn't packed boots and things for weather this cold, so after a nice lunch at Applebee's where we saw more than a dozen people sporting their Canadian military wear for Veteran's Day, we headed for a little mall to see if we could buy some boots. Applebee's gives out free meals to military every November 11th which I think is super awesome. I was just surprised to see that it happened in Canada just like in the United States (or the States as everyone says it here).

After working our way through most of the mall shops, we didn't find any boots, but we did eventually find a bowling alley and we decided it was a great idea to challenge each other to a quick game. My sweetie won the first game, but I actually won the second one. It was the first time I can recall ever beating him at bowling.

We grabbed an Orange Julius on our way back to the car, stopped at a little Chinese market, and then drove to WalMart. It took us about 2 hours to buy new boots and a bunch of things to eat back at the condo. Food here seems to cost way more, but the exchange rate is off too, so it is hard to tell.

After a long and slow snowy drive, we were back at the condo. We made our own dinner of lasagna, salad, and wheat bread. It was nice to just be by ourselves for a change. Hopefully the storm will let up a little tomorrow so we can drive down to see the water.

I will let you know.

Nov 11, 2019

Our Grand Adventure - Detroit

I'm not sure it is really fair to call this post Detroit since we barely stopped there, but it was the first destination on our Grand Adventure so it will stay. On Saturday afternoon, my sweetie and I climbed into an airplane in Salt Lake City and a few hours later we got off in a much colder airport in Detroit. Actually, the airport wasn't cold, it was pretty awesome! It even had a small commuter train that shuttled passengers from gate to gate that ran on a track above our heads.

From the airport, we climbed on a little shuttle of our own that ran us to the hotel where we would spend one quick night. On Sunday morning, my sweetie picked up our rental car before we packed up, checked out, and headed off to the nearest church which just happened to be nestled right in the middle of the Ford campus.

After sacrament meeting, we quickly got  on the road. We had a 5-hour drive ahead of us and a storm was rolling in.  Our ultimate goal was to cross the boarder into Canada since yours truly had NEVER been out of the country before!

We arrived at our little resort condo just after dark and we were both ready to relax and enjoy some down time.

Don't worry, I'll have lots more for you tomorrow!

Nov 9, 2019

Bingham Football 2019

On Thursday night, we had the year-end football banquet at the Brick Oven pizza place for Curly's Mity Mite A-Team. They lost right before Halloween in the first round of playoff games. It was a heart-breaker and the season all ended so fast.

Curly is such a good kid and almost as tall as me now, and to see the tears just rolling down his cheeks at the thought that he wouldn't be seeing his friends a few times a week, wouldn't be wearing those pads and #97, or hiking that ball. The loss was hard, but the things he lost were devastating.

None of that was evident at the banquet though. The boys had a great time all sitting around a huge table in the center with the parents grouped around the edges.

The coaches said great things about the boys and then the head coach presented each boy with his very own football dog tag engraved with the team motto. It was an amazing night and one I'm sure Curly will remember for a long time.

One other thing...

For some strange reason, about half a dozen of his football friends got perms and they all sport this awesome curly hair now.

Curly took one look and now it sounds like he wants to live up to his blog name again, so when we get home from Canada in a week or so, he will be sporting a new 'do. Don't worry, there will definitely be pictures!