Saturday, August 18, 2012

Family Vacation Day 4--Toronto!

Our plan was to do Toronto on Monday, so, uh, we did Toronto on Monday.  Sick of big breakfasts, we went to the little grocery store across the street and picked up some danishes and drank the milk I had the foresight to bring from home.  In need of coffee (and not really wanting to go through the effort of brewing it in the house and then having to clean it), I went to a little coffee shop down the street for some.

We breezed across the border this time, which allowed the border agent to ask us more questions (though at least she did it with a smile; I still think the second agent we met the other day was a word that rhymes with stick).

Driving in
M was excited about going to the Hockey Hall of Fame.  I initially found it on the Disney Family Fun website, where it was listed as great to do with toddlers and school aged kids (apparently I read that wrong, as it now says good for preteens and teens--oops), so I figured I'd be entertained too.  Fortunately, M and A really enjoyed the museum, but unfortunately, E and I were sort of bored.  Don't get me wrong, it was super cool to see all the memorabilia and learn about some of the stories (this one in particular was super interesting to me), but for me, I think I'd have preferred to do something else on the list.

Patrick Roy in the same case as Bernie Parent of the Flyers?  They knew I was coming.

By the time we finished with the museum, it was time for lunch.  We checked out this place called Marche, which is right outside the hall of fame's exit.  It was a really cool cafeteria style restaurant, but it took the idea of a cafeteria and combined it with a market--food was fresh and fairly healthful, not to mention delicious.  Prices were reasonable and portions were HUGE.  Why exactly do we not have any of these in the US?

After lunch, we headed to our third Hard Rock Cafe.  Because we did not get data on our cell phones, we took the Tom Tom with us.  Our Tom Tom is notorious for not behaving, so it is of no surprise that we trekked up and down Bay Street three or four times trying to figure out where we were supposed to be going (should this happen to you, look at the directions; they'll be right, though the GPS may not know exactly where you are).

When A saw me snapping pictures on the drive in with the P&S, he wanted to take some too.  Instead, I told him he could take a picture of the very first Canadian flag he saw when we got out of the car.  Since we parked in a deck below the Hockey Hall of Fame, the first one he saw was after lunch, on said trek up and down Bay Street.

I thought the blend of architecture was amazing.  Here's an example of the very modern architecture, but there's lots of examples of some very old stuff in the city too (old, of course, being subjective; I believe they were from the mid 19th century).
We noticed that, in Toronto, people smoke a lot more than we are used to.  The European influence on their culture was really apparent to me in terms of style and also in the smoking.  I found this so interesting.

As I said, we trekked a lot on the way to and from our three destinations.  We got to see some interesting things, like this sculpture, Immigrant Family.  Of course, A wanted to have his picture taken.

I noticed several street signs like this one on our walk around town; I don't know if it was promotion for the movie or something else, but it sure was neato.  (Yes, I just said neato.  I didn't say nifty, which came to mind as an alternative).

From the Hard Rock, we headed to the CN Tower.  After waiting in quite a line to pay, we were told there was a 40 minute wait.  No problem, we said.  An hour and 45 minutes later, when we got to the elevator to go up, we were two very tired parents from chasing and entertaining two very bored little boys.
There's construction all over at the base of the CN Tower; they are building an aquarium for future visitors.

We only saw one Mountie on our trip; he was nice enough to take a photo with the boyos.
Waiting in line is boring; looking out a window at weeds is exciting, especially when you're parents have said you'll be seeing cool stuff out of windows.

I am not a nearly skilled enough photographer to make this work, but that's our feet on the glass floor of the CN Tower.  My leg is at 6 o'clock, M is to my left, E's two feet are at noon, and A's foot is between E's foot and mine.

I had a mixed review of the Tower.  I really wasn't all that impressed, probably because I was so put off by the long long line but really, while it was cool, it was expensive and not all that impressive.  The elevator ride (super fast up something like 150 floors) was cool, and the boys enjoyed looking out the windows and the floor window!  I had a minor panic attack when we reached the top, totally expecting a Tower of Terror elevator moment (yes, I realize I was not strapped in and that I was not at an amusement park, but I almost screamed as I waited a second for the drop).

In short, we had a great time (though frustrating with the lack of directions) in Toronto, but one day is definitely not enough time.  I am bummed we didn't make it to the Royal Ontario Museum or the Ontario Science Centre, not only because I would have enjoyed it, but also because I know the kids would have as well and they might not enjoy it as much at an older age.  M was also disappointed we didn't make it to a ball game (crossing a field off our list of baseball field visiting); I vetoed the idea because there was so little time to explore the city and so many things we wanted to do.  So, next time we go to Toronto, we'll need to go for TWO days and see everything we want to see!

Surprisingly, not sleeping boys photo from this day.  What was I thinking????

One more day, and it's a travel day....

Friday, August 17, 2012

Family Vacation Day 3--Where the BUFFALO roam

 On Sunday morning, I came into the living room to find the boys cuddling and watching some tv.  We went to breakfast in Lewiston, at the Villa Coffee House.  I went for the mixed eggs, which were specifically mentioned by a reviewer on Yelp, and they were different and delicious.  By this point, though, we were definitely looking for something different and lighter for breakfast!

Since we knew we couldn't go to the zoo until about 10, we took a few minutes to explore Lewiston.  The restaurant had information about the town and I noticed that there was a memorial commemorating the Underground Railroad's crossing into Canada, so I wanted to see it.  Since it was unplanned, all I had was my cell phone for photos; we all know how well my cell phone takes pictures.
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We planned to go to Buffalo to check out the (super inexpensive!) zoo there.  We also planned to visit the Hard Rock, but there is no Hard Rock in Buffalo.  Oops!

E had so much fun playing with the point and shoot that the battery died.  A used M's cell phone for his photography at the zoo instead.

 We took a break from the zoo for lunch and decided to try Kostas Family Restaurant, which was walking distance from the zoo (we had a sweet parking spot--directly across the street from the zoo and FREE) and quite good.  I had chicken souvlaki, which was not at all what I expected but had the most delicious grilled chicken ever while the boys order mac and cheese and got Kraft mac and cheese.

The zoo was really cool--we liked seeing the polar bears (one was just hanging out in the pool with his/her head on the edge but then he/she saw A and started doing tricks--swimming, diving, etc!), and they have a really cool rainforest area where birds fly over your head as well as other animals are around right there in your face.  We almost missed it, but I'm so glad we decided to go in and check it out!

We had plans to go sailing with J and S upon our return from Buffalo, but they decided the weather was not favorable and didn't want to take the boys out, so we decided instead to check out the NY side of Niagara Falls.  I'd heard many times from many people to not bother with the NY side of the falls.  M commented that it was much more built up than he remembered, but it just seemed...dumpy.  There weren't the attractions like on the Canadian side, and there was really nothing on which I would want to spend money.  Unlike the Canadian side, the American side of the falls allows you to get super close to the waterfall.  We only did this on one area since we were getting tired and cranky, but it was cool and I got to play with shutter speed and moving water again.  YAY!

When we got back to Youngstown, we met up with J and S and went out to dinner.  This time around, we went to Brickyard BBQ and Pub.  It seemed like it was delicious; I only got about three bites before having to take Mr. E (aka, "two bites is all I need to eat tonight") out for a walk.  We walked for awhile while everyone else finished their meals, and I got to see more gorgeous 19th century homes.  We were heading for the Artpark, since I've seen signs all over for it (it turns out to be a concert venue), but it was just too far of a walk.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Family Vacation Day 2--O Canada!

On Saturday, I explored Youngstown by going for a run.  It took me into Niagara State Park, which was cool because I was running in the US but could clearly hear church bells from Canada.

When I came back, E helped me stretch.  You can get a sense of our room in this self portrait!

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Self explanatory?

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Niagara-on-the-Lake from the State Park

After my run and breakfast and a little bit of park time, we met with J and S to go to Canada.
I've never been to Canada, so this was a new experience for the boys and for me.  We got up early and had breakfast in Youngstown at the Village Diner.  It was pretty standard breakfast fare, though they were great with the boys and we had a great view of the river, Lake Ontario, and were even able to catch a glimpse of Toronto out the windows.

We waited a LONG time to cross into Canada via the Lewiston-Queeston Bridge, but our first border crossing was a pleasant one; the customs officer asked pretty basic questions (so we were unprepared for our other three crossings, which had much shorter waits) and we were in Canada!

E was VERY excited to go to a new country for the first time.
We went to the Butterfly Conservatory, where we saw all kinds of gorgeous butterflies.

 Whenever I used my dSLR camera, A was allowed to use our P&S camera.
 We also explored the Botanical Gardens just outside the Butterflies.

 The boys were enthralled by the water fountain; we could barely pull them away from it.
 And I love to play with shutter speed with there's moving water around...
We also went to check out The Floral Clock; we'd driven by so I thought it would be nice to have a picture since it was so close.  The boys stayed in the car, but J and I went to check it out.

Next, we needed some lunch.  We drove around looking for a place to eat; I'd heard great things about Niagara-on-the-Lake from friends, so thought that would be a great place to eat, but there was a festival going on so finding parking was pretty impossible.  We stumbled across The Little Red Rooster Family Restaurant, and had a good meal!

With fortified bellies, we headed on to Niagara Falls.  M described the area so accurately when he compared it to Pleasure Island in Disney's Pinocchio.  There was so much to see, so much to do, and so many ways in which to spend money!  First, we walked to the Hard Rock Cafe, and then on to see the Falls.

Tim Horton's is a Canadian Dunkin Donuts type place, though they have a much more extensive lunch menu.  I'd heard of them and pretty much needed to try their coffee.  It was (phrase of the trip) bangin.  Totally wished I'd gone for the medium.

While J, S, and I were in Timmy Ho's (as I called it in my mind), A told M he wanted to "buy something or do something or eat something."  As we were walking around, it started to drizzle, which turned into a rain.  We were standing outside what looked like an awesome thing to do, glow in the dark mini golf, but I really thought this would take a long time on a day we had a lot to do and we ultimately didn't do it.  But a dinosaur caught A's eye.  We walked around for awhile trying to figure out what he meant, and it turns out he saw a dinosaur place that was a kid's playland!

When he described it today, he mentioned shooting balls, a volcano of balls, and a rain of balls.  J, S, and I sat at a Ruby Tuesday's across an alley and happened to have a great view of what they were doing!

We were pretty tired at that point so went back to the room.

Pizza Rolls

But wait, there's more!  J lined up a babysitter for us, so we fed the boys, put them to bed, and went out on the town in Youngstown!  We checked out the Yacht Club, Bandana's for dinner (where we discovered something called Pizza Rolls--basically a won ton wrapped mozzarella stick that is deep fried and served with marinara sauce.  So good!), and on to Brennan's Irish Pub.

We had a great day and a fun night!  Clearly, we tuckered the dudesicles out!