Week 18: To Niagara!

Have you ever gone down to Niagara Falls for a night, in the middle of winter, mid-week? No? That’s so weird. Perhaps you are gainfully employed?

Well I’m not so I went! Actually my boyfriend had some vacation time he had to use, so we decided to go down and see the Falls, eat some nice food, and stay in a fancy (read: not fancy) hotel.

Groupon is great for a lot of things, and one of those things is travelling to Niagara. We got a hotel room with a king size bed, meal vouchers, and some other stuff we didn’t use (who would ever need a coupon to East Side Mario’s… no one wants to eat there! A slight discount won’t help), for about sixty bucks. And if the Canadian dollar weren’t in the toilet, it would have been even less.

We took a Via train down from Toronto bright and early Wednesday morning, and arrived at a desolate train/bus depot in Niagara. Even though the weather had been really nice the week before, it was snowy and windy and frigid that day. Perfect timing, Mother Nature, thanks for that.

A taxi was the only reasonable way to get from the train station to the hotel, so we taxied. We warmed up and relaxed in the room for a while before trekking outside to find nourishment. At 2pm on a Wednesday in winter, there’s not a whole lot going on in Niagara – who’d have thought? We coldly walked past chain restaurant after chain restaurant, and finally decided on a chain restaurant. Niagara is a bit of a tourist town (read: hard-core tourist trap).

But the Falls were beautiful. There was one bus of tourists to share the view with, and that was it. We were free to wander and take photos leisurely, without competing for space with the hordes. We walked the whole length of the boardwalk, read up on the history of the area (OK, I did this), and took some photos.

After a quick afternoon nap (because it’s vacation time and that’s what one does on vacation), we were off to dinner. We had made reservations at Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse, unnecessarily. There were two other people there when we arrived. But the reservation got us a gold booth, not just a red booth. They were the same booth, but with different colour fabric. Most of the booths, which made up 90% of the seating, had big walls between them, and privacy curtains. This was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

We ordered some delicious (yet overpriced) steaks and sides, and shared a bottle of wine (and three bottles of water). The food was delicious – the steaks are seared in butter. I don’t like steak much, but I really liked this steak, and the butter.

You know how when a server puts a plate down and says “careful it’s hot.” And you’re like “but how hot is it?” And you touch it and it’s warm, but not too hot. This was a hot plate. I guess it goes in the oven beforehand to help keep the steak warm on the table. Fortunately our server told me this beforehand, because otherwise I would still be growing back my fingerprints.

While we ate the main course, the curtains were closed. It was very fun, strange, and oddly exciting. It felt like a mix between what I imagine a harem looks like, what I think the VIP area of a club looks like, and how I want the private room of a strip club to look like. But in a classy way.

After our delicious (but expensive) meal we went to the casino. This was a compromise on my part because casinos are pretty boring. But I learned how to play blackjack! Sort of. It seems like it would be a pretty easy game, but once you get into the theory behind it, apparently it gets a little more complicated. When I had a 15 I would look at the guy next to me, and he would either say “book says stay,” or “book says hit.” I lost $9.

We had a leisurely breakfast on Thursday and made our way back to the bus/train depot to return to Toronto. It was much colder on Thursday, so on the way over we were able to see white, frozen trees lining the edge of the Falls. While the Falls weren’t frozen, there were huge icicles hanging from the cliffs nearby. It looked like we’d gone beyond the Wall.

Next time I go to Niagara (which will be in another 5 years, because Google images exists), I will drive. The area is not designed for pedestrians. Most of the times the cross signal at an intersection doesn’t go, because they don’t expect people to actually use them past September. Or maybe I’ll just go in the summer.




Goodbye 2015!

It’s been quite a year for me. I’ve tried lots of new things, learned a bunch about myself, and had some fun along the way. Here are some of the highlights of my 2015:

  • Moved in with my boyfriend. This was a biggie because neither of us have killed each other in the almost 11 months we’ve been living together (because yes, I’m writing this blog post mid-January). Good thing too because I gave my bed away so I’m pretty committed now.
  • Started an herb garden. And kept it mostly alive. They don’t look great and occasionally they go through a prolonged drought, but they’ve been alive since the summer, which is really good for me. (Let’s just turn a blind eye to the orchid I killed.)
  • Got a full time job. And then left said full time job. Sometimes I’ll be doing something and I’ll just stop and think, “I’m so glad I quit my job!” If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have the opportunities and the time that I do to enjoy myself and do things that make me happy and fulfill me.
  • Got into and out of a funk. I got really unhappy toward the end of my full time job and I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I left that job. All of a sudden it was like a weight had been lifted off of me. I felt more confident, happier, and lighter. A few people commented that they noticed a difference in me. But more importantly, I noticed a difference in me.
  • Started a series of part-time jobs. These part-time are mostly in fields that interest me, and at the very least provide adequate income and don’t take up too much of my time – this allows me to continue doing things that I love, even if they don’t pay.
  • Travelled to Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal, but not on a bike. Vacationing is fun! And it had been quite some time since I had taken a vacation that wasn’t also an epic journey across a country. So that was fun.
  • Started my challenges challenge. Even though this sort of fell off the tracks at the end of the year (I was busy!), it’s back on track now. The challenges challenge has opened me up to new things, and forced me to try things I’d always wanted to try because I have a deadline! Deadlines rock.
  • Found a better balance between saving and spending. I’ve always been a good saver. My credit score is ballin’ (bet that’s the first time anyone’s ever used ballin’ to describe their credit score). This year though, I started spending a bit more money on things I would enjoy – like the occasional nice dinner or new clothes so I don’t look like a homeless person.  I still have a budget and savings and RSPs and all of those fun things, but I also have the memories of the experiences I spent the money on.
  • Bought a stove. OK, half of a stove. And we’re still paying it off. But this is a big showing of commitment for me. A few years ago I had a lot of trouble signing a two year phone contract because I didn’t know where I’d be in two years. At least now, wherever I go, I’ll be bringing half a stove.
  • And of course I had a birthday and matured as a human being and met a bunch of cool people yada yada yada.

All in all, it was an amazing year. Thanks to everyone who made it so special.