I had this idyllic vision of Niagara Falls. Something spectacular, massive, breathtaking. Beyond that, I had no idea what to expect. One night, at my friend Melissa´s sister in Waterdown, Ontario, she suggested we get a package deal at one of the hotels, which would surely include wine tasting around Niagara on the lake. And sure enough, one afternoon in Burlington (45 min from the falls), Melissa received an offer for a Sunday night stay, including tastings at three wineries, dinner discount vouchers and casino vouchers (which we actually would never use), and breakfast, all for about 60 Canadian dollars, so, under 50 USD. (Parking was an extra $10 per day or so).
The Days Inn we stayed at had Fallsview in the name, but of course, there was no view to speak of, except for the view of the parking lot from the swimming pool. Nevertheless, our room was clean and comfortable, and I would soon get to see the magical Falls.
I had no idea there were American falls and Canadian falls. When I saw the US falls, I thought they were spectacular, but the size and power of the Canadian falls was really unexpected. It is always a humbling experience to observe such gorgeous natural wonders. To get up close and personal, we took the Hornblower boat tour, formerly known as Maid of the mist (apparently, this is still going on the US side).
When you prepare to get on the boat, they give you a disposable plastic raincoat. On a sunny day in the hot Midwestern summer, I concluded that there was no point getting close to the falls and not getting wet, so, I ended up feeling like the only rebel in a dystopian fantasy; everyone was covered in red plastic raincoats, except for me. I wouldn´t regret it. The falls sprayed as good. Other than trying to protect my DSLR camera, I was fine. If you wear a quick-dry fabric, you can always get away with this.
We got the tickets online for about $30, and it was really worth it. As much as I dislike being in a crowed of tourists, the experience of getting close to the falls was worth it.
Before or after the experience, I forget, we had a nice lunch at the only terrace with a view of the falls, much less overpriced than its location would suggest.
But my favorite part of the trip was our ride through the wineries. My favorite ones were Trius and Peller. I especially recommend the Wild Fermented whites. Truly unique. As well as some really interesting hybrids, like Baco Noir and Gamay Noir. I had no idea Canada produced such outstanding wines.
Last but not least, before we drove out to Niagara, I did my sunset research, and found out about the existence of SUNSET BEACH around Saint Catherine´s. That´s where we chilled in front of a spectacular sunset after enjoying those remarkable wine samples. Swimming when the sun is going down right in the middle of the horizon is one of my favorite things to do. It was perfect bliss on a perfect day.
We spent about 24 hours in Niagara, it was enough for me to swim in the hotel pool twice, and breakfast at the Hilton (included in our package) – if you happen to end up there, just avoid the eggs, they are not REALLY eggs, just some yellowish concoction that tastes more like plastic…
At night, for some reason, we realized we were hungry for dinner at about 11:30 PM, if that happens to you, just go straight to the Niagara Fallsview Casino, it is the only place you can get a meal after 10, in general. This may be different later in the Summer and on weekends, but nevertheless, the Casino restaurants will save you. The quality of the food was OK, and the service was really good at FAMOUS.
We did watch the changing lights on the falls. But that was nothing to write home about. All in all, I think the most unforgettable experience was the wine tasting. Melissa wasn´t drinking, so, I got to taste about 15 different wines, of wich 30% or so were rather remarkable. Of course, I brought home about six bottles, which were later shared among friends and family. The best kind of souvenir.