Saturday, June 17, 2017

Niagara Falls!! First Day

As a young adult living in the New England area, I always thought of Niagara Falls as the honeymoon destination for losers. This is probably wildly politically incorrect to say, but for those of us who were college educated and planning our weddings back in the 1960's and 1970's, going to Niagara Falls was considered tacky and low class. The same for places like the Poconos or the Catskills.These were honeymoon destinations of our parents and grandparents, not for us. We were upwardly mobile college graduates who were "going places," setting our sights on more exotic honeymoons in European destinations or the Caribbean.

So, unbelievably, even having lived in New England for a couple of decades, I'd never been to Niagara Falls. A couple of my motorcycle trips or half marathon destination trips took me close enough to take the short side trip, but I just never did do it.

Now that I've completed my 50 States + DC quest, have done more than 100 half marathons all over the country - even checked off my Rome Marathon bucket list item - I've started looking for other goals to keep me running and keep me traveling. Our 50 States Half Marathon Club has added a new quest: Canadian Provinces. Hot damn!

I had already "bagged" the Province of Quebec when I ran the Rock n Roll Montreal Half Marathon. And I've always wanted to visit some other Canadian cities west of the Great Lakes. So here we go! Top on my list of cities I most wanted to visit was Vancouver. I'd read so much about the city, seen so many gorgeous photos and talked to others who'd been there. So that was the next Canadian destination. I flew to Vancouver this past fall and ran the Rock n Roll Vancouver Half Marathon. It was everything I expected and more! I took advantage of that trip to see and do as much as I could while there. It didn't hurt that the race route ran around the perimeter of the peninsula....gorgeous!! Now I had the Province of British Columbia done.

Which brings me back to Niagara Falls. In browsing some websites that list upcoming half marathons, I was specifically looking at half marathons in Ontario Province when I noticed the Niagara Falls Womens Half Marathon held on the Canadian side of the falls. Perfect!! I registered for the race, booked a room at the Embassy Suites with a fabulous view of Niagara Falls and then, as the date drew nearer, booked my flight. I was really looking forward to this trip. From all that I'd read, Niagara Falls had really morphed as a tourist destination with good restaurants and Starbucks, along with the gorgeous views from the Canadian side...everything I needed.

My rental car: a nearly new Ford Taurus, fully loaded

 I flew into Toronto, picked up my rental car, and then stayed the night at a nearby Hampton Inn (using Hilton Honors points for a free room). I had to make two U-turns trying to navigate the 6 miles from the airport to the Hampton Inn, even with that built-in GPS in my rental Ford Taurus. Sometimes I can be such a bean brain!  After checking in, I walked a couple of blocks to a Japanese Steak House and had a large hand-rolled sushi plate for dinner.

My first meal in Canada...hand-rolled sushi and a Japanese beer

The next morning I made the drive south and then east toward Niagara Falls. Packet pickup was at an outlet mall on the outskirts of Niagara Falls. Thank goodness my lovely rental car had that built-in GPS.  Fortunately it had no problem directing me to that outlet mall.
Kathrine Switzer at packet pickup

Then it was on toward Fallsview and Embassy Suites. I turned my car over to valet parking and went inside to check in. When I booked my room, I really didn't pay close attention to the room descriptions at their website. This hotel has made an art of finely granulating the categories of rooms based on room description/amenities. All I noticed were the words "falls view" and "city view" and opted for the former. What I ended up with was a narrow room at the end of a dead-end hall with only a tiny sliver of a view of the falls. The rest of the view was filled with the side of neighboring hotel.

Well...I could have probably lived with this but I couldn't live with the fact that I absolutely could not get and retain either a wifi signal or a cell phone signal from my room. If I walked toward the door, the signal came in a bit, but would completely drop out as I walked the other way toward the main living area of my room. This room was tucked behind another room. When I unlocked the door and walked inside, I had to navigate a little hall then take a left right-angle turn down another little hall to reach the main room itself. I had the walls and furnishings of two rooms between me and hotel hallway and, no doubt, the wifi repeaters. I simply could not live with this for three nights.

I went back down to the lobby, my cellphone and tablet in hand, and talked to the registration desk about this, showing her the strong signal indicators on both devices and describing what happened to those signals as I entered my room.

Here's where I heard the dreaded "No one else has ever complained about this." The implication here is that I didn't know what I was doing and/or was a complete idiot when it came to technology. For many years I managed departments that dealt with customer service. If any one of my employees ever said that to a customer they would have been counseled and possibly even fired. Totally unacceptable.

I asked to speak to someone else. Their only solution was to move me to the same room two floors up - which most likely would have not cured the wifi problem, given the floor plan - or upgrade me for $50 a night. I was between a rock and a hard place here, as I was totally unwilling to live without wifi for three days/three nights. So I returned to my room, packed my things, and went back down to the lobby and registration to get a different room for way more money. In retrospect, though, it was most definitely worth it for the larger room, strong wifi and cell signals, and kick butt views!

View from my room - 22nd floor of Embassy Suites

View looking north toward American Falls and Rainbow Bridge

Once settled, I stopped at the Starbucks off the hotel lobby then walked the short distance down to the incline rail car that transported everyone down to the Niagara Falls Visitor Center.

View from the incline rail car as we descended toward the visitor center

I was really impressed with the quality of the center, the several gift shops, the several food choices and the gorgeous terrace overlooking the falls. I grabbed a Tim Horton hot dog and sat outside at the covered patio with picnic tables to eat and just enjoy. Then I walked over to the railing to totally soak in the views, the mist, the roar of the horseshoe falls.

This was on the plaza behind the visitor center. Canada's Sesquicentennial

View of Niagara Falls from the visitor center overlook

As I walked through the visitor center to return to the incline rail and then my hotel, I ran into friends Dan and Pam. Back when I made these plans, Dan told me he had family in Niagara Falls area and that he just might make vacation plans to visit family and meet up with me the day before the race. They were staying at the same hotel for the night and he had made reservations for dinner for us at Skylon Tower. Cool!

Fun photo magic at Skylon Tower 

So we agreed to meet back out front at 6:30 and drive together to Skylon for dinner. Another friend who lives in Buffalo was coming up to join us for dinner. I hadn't seen Sal since a group of us met up in Buffalo for lunch several years ago as I passed through there on my way to run a race in Verona NY. It was so good to see him again. The views were nothing more than perfect from the vantage point of this rotating restaurant. The food was pretty good, too. I had that night's special of lobster tail and sirloin steak. A never-empty basket of fresh, warm bread, a glass of sparkling was a great evening!

American Falls lit in red, white and blue

Beautiful Niagara Falls lit up at night

It was close to 10 PM by the time I got back to my room. I laid out my things for the race the next morning and then laid in bed with the lights off and curtains open so that I could enjoy the view of the falls as I fell asleep.

Next: race day at Niagara Falls!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like upgrading the room was the right call. A perfect view out your window and a great day of sight seeing and hanging out with friends too.