Tag Archives: new experiences

My Favourite Things to do in Niagara

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Niagara region over the last few years and after a recent comment on my blog I realised many visitors don’t know how much there is to do in this little corner of Ontario. Here are some of the things my family and I have thoroughly enjoyed doing.

Niagara Falls

The waterfalls themselves are spectacular.  One fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water comes over Niagara Falls, how mind blowing is that statistic?  Stand by it for a few minutes and you understand it completely as over 2 million litres per second charges passed you.  To view the falls themselves is free of charge and it’s amazing to see in almost any weather, clear blue days often give brilliant rainbows in the spray and during the winter the river and area around the falls freezes, giving a breath-taking wintery scene.

Jet Boat

Strictly a fair weather activity the Whirlpool Jet Boat tour leaves from Niagara-On-The-Lake and travels up the Niagara River to the point where the river makes a 90 degree turn resulting in the whirlpools.  It is a truly thrilling ride.  You will get wet and most likely you will scream! I know I did! 😀

The Jet boat on a gentle ride up the river

The Jet boat in the rapids, Me, hubbie and sons getting soaked on the back row

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helicopter

Unrivaled views of the area are gained by a Helicopter tour over the falls.  This is quite an expensive attraction but the experience is truly memorable.

Taking Off!

The Horseshoe Falls from above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vineyard Tour

There are approximately 180 vineyards in and around the Niagara Region, many of them make award winning wines.  Chateaux des Charmes was my favourite and probably because it is a family run business like my business was.  Situated in a beautiful part of the Niagara peninsula they produce on average 900,000 bottles of delicious wine per year.  Their tours take visitors through the vineyards all the way to the bottling room with a few tastings afterwards.  Inexpensive and includes a money off coupon to spend in the store.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fort George

A destination for the history buff where you can learn all about he 1812 war, the involvement of the British, Americans and Canadians and it’s effects on the Canada we know and love today.  An interesting, educational and inexpensive attraction

Musket Demonstration

British Canon pointing at the Americans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Town of Niagara On the Lake

Originally burnt down at the end of the 1812 war and rebuilt in the regency style Niagara-On-The Lake is one of the few old towns in Canada.  Formerly the Nations Capital, the town it is now one of the main tourist attractions of the country. Free of charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maid of the Mist

North America’s oldest tourist attraction first opened in 1846, The Maid of the Mist takes its passengers right into the basin of the Horseshoe Falls as thousands of litres of water drop from over 50 metres above you.  A mid price attraction but worth the cost, bare in mind you will need the ponchos they provide because you will get wet.  The Maid of the Mist runs in the summer months when the river is free of ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whirlpool Aero Car

Originally opened in 1916 the whirlpool aero car travels across the Niagara Gorge and back.  It gives an aerial view of the whirlpools that you experience in the Jet Boat Tour. Inexpensive but only lasts about 20 minutes.

Niagara Parkway

The Niagara Parkway is a pretty drive along the Niagara River, I like to take it from the Falls to Niagara-On-The-Lake.  It follows the course of the river and passes the Whirlpool Rapids and the Brock Monument (another must see for history buffs). Free of charge.

Marine Land

The Marine Land theme park has a couple of rides but the main attractions, as the name suggests, are the Dolphins, Killer Whales and Beluga Whales. The admission cost is inline with other theme parks.

 

Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill is the part of the town of Niagara Falls that is often deemed as tacky.  Amusement arcades and flashing lights give it a mini Las Vegas feel, having said that I spent a great night in the Boston Pizza which also houses an arcade and bowling alley that kept the kids amused while the ‘grown ups’ enjoyed the food and sampled the local beverages ;-).  Next to the Boston Pizza is the Niagara sky wheel that is an inexpensive ride that gives fabulous aerial views of both the Canadian Horseshoe and American Falls.

View from the Sky Wheel in April

  

Watching Wildlife – Magic Moments #5

When my husband chose our house (see magic moments #4) he picked one that had tall trees and a river at the bottom of the garden.  The boys and I were completely over the moon, although for different reasons, they were excited about the possibilities for fishing in the summer and ice skating in winter when it freezes and I was excited about the wildlife the river attracts. Husband  made a very good choice because I adore where I live and I’m often in awe of how beautiful it is here, It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane day to day part of life without taking a second to realise where you are and how stunning your surroundings are but I make the effort to walk around and see it all, I don’t mean just look at it I mean really see it, absorb it, marvel at it.

Discovering new creatures has been the most exciting and fascinating part of moving to a different continent and finding something new is still a regular occurrence.  If I had a dollar for every time I looked out over the river and exclaimed ‘what the hell is that?!’ I’d be a rich woman! Only yesterday while out on a bike ride we could hear the strangest noises coming from some bulrushes only to discover they were huge bull frogs, I didn’t know they lived around here.  On Thursday, while out cycling I got my first glimpse of a Snapping Turtle.  Not the best pic because of the bulrushes but you can just about make it out basking on the log.

 

I spend a lot of my free time on the deck at the back of the house that overlooks the garden and river to see what wanders/swims by.  A few weeks ago I got the magic moment I’d been waiting for… A pair of beaver sitting on the riverbank right at the bottom of the garden. Again, I apologise for the quality of the photo but I was so excited I couldn’t think what settings to put the camera on!  An animal that is quintessentially Canadian, in the wild, where I live, MAGIC!

My Personal A to Z of Canada – C is for Camping

I am continuing with my personal A-Z of Canada and this time – C is for camping in Canisbay Lake

One of the things we love about Canada the most is the vast, beautiful wilderness.  Opportunities to go camping are abundant in every type of environment whether it is beaches, lakes, mountains or forests. On the long weekend last week we packed up the truck and headed 3 hours north to Algonquin Provincial Park.  Something I should point out is that to Canadians camping is an Rv/Motorhome or Trailer/Caravan.  When I say camping (which they call tenting!) I mean under canvas.

This was the first sight that greeted us at the entrance to the campground and I admit it freaked me out a bit. :-0

Although there were bear sightings close by we didn’t see any although we did see moose which I was really excited about.

Algonquin attracts over 250,000 visitors every year the vast majority of which are here for the camping, canoeing and hiking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike most UK campsites that are usually just a big field, Canadian campsites are often in forests with each site having it’s own little clearing complete with a fire pit.

One of my favourite parts of camping is sitting around the fire during the evening with a glass of wine while the kids toast marshmallows.

 

Another great thing about camping in Provincial or National parks is the hiking opportunities.  Hiking trails are marked and advertised so you can get out right into the wilderness and see sights like these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beaver Dam

Beaver Lodge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Teen and the Tween also enjoyed themselves despite two days with no phone signal or internet access!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This summer we are planning more camping trips to get out and enjoy this stunning country we live in.

Changing Lives

As I stood looking out on Canisbay Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park last Saturday I literally had to pinch myself.  I couldn’t help but exclaim out loud. “I live here, I live HERE”.  

After almost two years of our expat life I’m finally starting to feel more content with our new lives, dare I even say settled?  The bad bits are still there of course but the bouts of homesickness are now becoming less severe and shorter.  Chatting with my family on skype now seems as normal as popping round for a cup of tea would have felt two years ago.

It’s been quite a journey to get this far and I admit there has been many a time when I wanted to get off the expat emotional roller coaster, I wanted to throw my hands up in surrender and say ‘I give up, I can’t cope with living in a different continent to my family and friends’. There are still days when I would give anything to have Sunday dinner at my parents house surrounded by family or have a glass of wine or five with my friends and chat into the early hours.

As I stood on that beach looking at that spectacular place, that is only a couple of hours from our new home, I began to reflect on our journey and how far we have come.  Little remains of our former lives now and for the most part that is not a bad thing.  I don’t miss the days of 12 hours in the office and trying to juggle the needs of our business with the needs of our boys.  I don’t miss barely keeping up with the housework or running out in the middle of sports day to take a call from an important client. I am a ‘stay at home mum’ right now, I am there to take the boys to school and pick them up afterwards.  All four of us have dinner together every single night. We are relaxed and calm and spend more time together than ever before.

I have discovered more about myself in the last two years than I ever thought possible, when you live outside of your comfort zone your strengths and weaknesses become so apparent.  I have surprised myself with my own bravery and realized I can live perfectly well without constant reassurance from my nearest and dearest.  I have become more assertive and more decisive.

The boys are blossoming in a newfound confidence.  Something that happens with migrant kids is they develop skills to cope with change and the experience of living in different cultures broadens their horizons.

Emigrating was the toughest decision of my life but it has been the most exhilarating journey

 

 

The Gallery – New

I’m kind of spoilt for choice with Tara’s theme this week for The Gallery but nevertheless I still spent the best part of two days deciding what photo I would use or what new thing I would talk about.

 

So I chose this photo of a new shoot that was taken last week when my husband was giving me some instruction on the use of my camera.  I thought it represents us perfectly.

Part and parcel of expat life is the newness of it all.  New experiences and new discoveries are still everyday occurrences: driving down a new street, finding something new in the grocery store or meeting a new person.  As we rapidly approach the two-year mark since our move we still have that feeling of being brand new immigrants and we’re still trying to find our feet in many respects.  The upcoming summer months promise to continue on this trend of newness.  My husband is unhappy in his job so is looking for a change either he’ll change his role at work or we’ll go ahead with our own business again.  Eldest son leaves high school and is off to College and we’re planning on exploring some more of this amazing country we live in.  So that new little green shoot represents our family who are just at the beginning of our expat journey with the promise of it blossoming into something amazing.

Canadian TV – strange Eh?

I don’t like to be negative about the place I have decided to call home, it just doesn’t sit right with me but truth be told Canadian TV is pretty bad.

I suppose that’s a bit of an unfair statement in as much as a huge percentage of our TV shows and channels are actually from the States.  We have a ridiculous amount of channels so a large amount of airtime is taken up with repeats. There are these bizarre infomercials; 30 minute adverts where people try to convince you that you cannot possibly live the rest of your life without some crazy gadget.  Because we spend a large amount of time inside in the winter that’s when all the best TV are on which means the opposite is true in the summer. Summertime programming is awful at best and to top it off there are a constant stream of reality shows about people from every walk of life from Alaskan pilots to polygamists and pageant queens to swamp people.

It took me a few weeks living here before,to my utter horror, I discovered the ‘watershed’ that I was so reliant on in the UK does not exist here and TV and radio has no content censorship during the day. It is down to the individual channels to have their own policy about whether they ‘bleep’ out foul language or moderate their content.  TV channels have a disclaimer after every ad break but if you tune in midway through a programme you will have no idea whether the content maybe appropriate family viewing or not.  19 months into living here and I’m still not entirely sure which channels are ‘safe viewing’.  The radio is exactly the same, eldest son being a teenage rocker likes to retune the car radio to a rock station when I’m not looking, I was gob-smacked on the school run one day when I actually started listening to the conversation going on between presenters of the breakfast show, it was very adult to say the least and it was 8.20am.

Check out this snapshot I took the other day.  The (R) alongside the title stands for Restricted which, according to the Ontario Film Review Board means this film is  ‘restricted to persons 18 years of age and over.  Content not suitable for minors.  May contain:  frequent use of sexual activity, brutal/graphic violence, intense horror and/or other disturbing content’.  What you may also notice is that it’s on at 3.30 on a wednesday afternoon, nice…just in time for the kids to get home from school!

I now understand why parents have to be so strict about what channels they allow their children to watch.  I thank my lucky stars my boys are old enough and I can trust them not to watch inappropriate TV shows even so I won’t be allowing youngest son to have a TV in his bedroom like he had in England.

One thing that is now blatantly obvious to me is how great British TV is and why the BBC in particular is held in high regard all over the world.