Travel is wonderful, scary, fun, annoying,exhilarating,restful and just plain fantastic! There are definite highs and lows when one travels. Learning to take the good with the bad allows one to have an overall great trip. Who wants one bad event to ruin a fabulous holiday?
Our departure from Charlotte could not have gone more smoothly! The ladies at Air Canada check-in were very friendly and it was a breeze. Security – super easy! TIP: if you are flying out of CLT, security check point E (all the way to the left) rarely has a line! After a smooth flight, we landed in Toronto. We easily found our assistant Gail awaiting near baggage claim. Travel highs!! Still smooth sailing…until we entered the rental car area. We had rented on line through a company called EZ Car Rentals. But…they were not listed on the sign at the airport. Online, it said this agency was at the airport, but we could not find it! So we inquired….and learned that EZ is NOT at the airport (not mentioned online). So a tram ride, courtesy phone call, and van ride later ( in an unmarked van driven by a driver with no name tag, or company logo), we arrived at the small office. Short story: avoid this company. It took well over an hour, and we were at the counter the whole time. They required a very specific insurance card to avoid the $30/day upcharge (not mentioned online) and put a $500 hold on your card (not mentioned online), and it took many hoops to get done what we needed. The car was clean, but was obviously smoked in. Live and learn!! Travel low!
We took the QEW down to Niagara Falls to our boutique hotel, the Sterling Inn and Spa. As soon as we entered, the travel low we had been feeling melted away! This beautiful, quiet hotel is a stone’s throw from all the lights and bustle of the Clifton Hill area, and a 15 minute walk to the falls. It is an oasis from the noise and throngs of people. Built in a renovated dairy production facility, this is Niagara Falls’ only boutique hotel. Every room is different, and elements from the original building are preserved in the new architecture. There are original ceiling beams throughout, and the entryway, a 3-story tall milk bottle, makes this inn truly unique! Our room is a lovely suite, with two sitting areas, a wet bar, fireplace, a spa-like bathroom. One feature we are excited about is their “Breakfast in Bed,” which is included in your stay. Definitely a travel high!
We set out to start exploring. But first – some poutine! Right around the corner on Victoria Avenue is Smoke’s Poutinerie, a chain here in Canada. They have a wide variety of specialty poutines, from Philly Cheesesteak, to pieorgi and bacon! All on top of fresh cut fries, savory brown gravy, and cheese curds. Not exactly health food, but wow did it hit the spot – plus it a local dish, so we gotta go with local dishes, eh?
We headed to the center of all the neon, touristy action – Clifton Hill! The FunPass gets you access to 5 attractions! We chose the Dinosaur golf complete with erupting volcanoe and giant T-Rex. The Sky Wheel offers fantastic views of both the American and Canadian falls as well as the whole Clifton Hill area. We actually rode the Sky Wheel twice, once in the daylight and once after the falls were illuminated. By the time we were done with those three things it was time to head down to the river to watch the fireworks. Every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday during the summer there are fireworks set off from the Canadian side. It was a definite travel high to watch the fireworks going off in front of the illuminated falls. A perfectly wonderful way to end our first day in the area! Tomorrow we are off to Niagara-on-the-lake for a totally different experience, we won’t find any neon here!