Sunday, April 18, 2010

Niagara Falls (2008 trip)

Continuing my recollections of past trips to Niagara Falls ...

On this trip, made over the May long weekend in 2008, we spent our first two nights at the brand-new Stirling Inn. It was incredible. The decor was modern and attractive, but not overdone. The building is a refurbished factory. It doesn't look like much on the outside, but inside is awesome.

I didn't take any photos of the bathroom, which is tragic, because the bathroom was my favourite part of the suite. It had a normal-ish sink, toilet, vanity (kind of lousy lighting for makeup), but the SHOWER. It was as almost as big as the whole bathroom in my apartment, had several different shower heads for an all-over water massage, and doubled as a STEAM ROOM. There were jets whose only purpose was to fill the shower with steam. I may or may not have taken four showers in two days.

Stirling Inn, exterior. Ok, maybe that's self-evident...
Our room. The bathroom is on the right, fireplace up the step and to the left. The couch is that dark form in the distance. This room was so massive that the king size bed wasn't the focal point. 
The "Healthy Breakfast" that was delivered to our room at 8:30am. This was included in the rate of the room, and was really yummy. Mmmm, coffee. 

May 23, 2008
After a good sleep and a healthy breakfast, we ventured out into the city of Niagara Falls. We strolled around a little, enjoying some good weather and taking a few obligatory photos of the falls while we waited for the shuttle up to Niagara Glen where we planned to hike. 

Niagara Glen is a short drive from the crazy tourism of Niagara Falls the city. If you've any interest in geology, there is plenty to see. It was a short-ish, easy hike with lots of fun photo opportunities. Especially if your photographer boyfriend likes to make you pretend to lift rock ledges, give you the camera as he pretends to fall into the niagara river, etc..
Dave pretends to fall into the niagara river
What? Of course I hike in argyle. Here I enjoy the view and look irritated about being posed.
One of the nicest things about the glen hiking trails is that they're not nearly as popular as a lot of the other Niagara Falls tourist attractions. I really enjoyed the peaceful quiet of it. We were alone most of the hike, except for a few times when we crossed paths with other groups of people. 

That evening, we went back to the hotel and got ready for dinner and a magic show at Greg Frewin Theatre. Dinner was a plentiful, yummy, buffet but nothing to write home about. The show on the other hand, was pretty incredible. Greg Frewin is a fantastic showman, with a really exciting and novel collection of illusions. His show includes all the tigers, sequins, doves, and lovely magician's assistants one could ask for. The only unfortunate thing is that (possibly) because he's in a theatre in Niagara Falls rather than in Las Vegas, the show opened with a somewhat awkward "The guy you're about to see is actually a big deal. World class. Even though he's in Canada." video montage. I understand why they did it, but for me anyway, the quality of the show spoke for itself.

May 24, 2008
The next day, we packed up and bid adieu to the Stirling Inn. We drove from Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake on the beautiful Niagara Parkway. This is one of the only drives that I really enjoy. There are so many beautiful houses and wineries to admire. Coming from further north at this time of year, it's also nice to just be surrounded by green things.

Niagara on the Lake is a complete change of pace from Niagara Falls. It's still extremely touristy and overpriced, but the focus shifts from wax museums to wine, food, and theatre. We checked in at Pillar and Post somewhat early, but they accommodated us. We, unfortunately, didn't have the foresight to take many location photos. Oops. This one of the Pillar and Post is from niagaraviews.com:

We had dinner plans at Peller Estates winery, but needed a light lunch to get us through. We wandered around a bit before stopping at Zees to eat on their gorgeous patio right across from the Shaw theatre. The food at Zees was wonderful, I had the best Macaroni and cheese of my life, and Dave had memorable crab cakes. We also had a half-litre of Inniskillin's pinot grigio, which has since become one of my favourite white wines.

After lunch, we took a walk around Niagara on the Lake, which can kill about an hour if you have a leisurely stride and maybe two if you like ducking in to look at the shops. The shopping definitely caters to the older crowd - I wouldn't have seriously shopped for myself in any of the clothing stores. That said, there were some cute jewelry and craft stores that were fun to look at. They have a Cows ice cream and T-shirt store - excellent ice cream, seriously corny t-shirts.

Pillar and Post provides a complimentary shuttle for guests around Niagara on the Lake. Peller Estates was a bit out of town, so we hopped in a van and got there well in advance of our reservation. This is the dining room, brought to you by tourismniagara.com:


Outside the windows on the left, there's a terrace that overlooks the vineyard. It was a little too chilly on this trip, but someday I hope to have a less extravagant dinner on the patio. I love eating outdoors.

The Peller Estates dining room has a couple of options: you can eat like at a regular restaurant and order each plate and wine individually, or you can do a tasting menu. They have three tasting menus: the red, white, and signature menus. The red and white are each five courses, the signature is seven. Each course comes with a not-quite-full-but-generous glass of paired wine. We did the signature menu over three hours. It is expensive, but you can consider it your food and your entertainment for the evening.

Dave's tip: finish your wine quickly, and if they aren't too busy you'll get a refill.
Liz's tip: take your time with the wine, or else you'll end up drunk. That said, I don't think they come to bring the next course until you've finished the food and the wine. If you particularly like any of the wines, you can tell your waiter and buy a bottle. They bring you the bottle at the end of the meal and just add the cost to your bill. Caution: some of the glasses of wine come from extremely expensive bottles.

Each course is small, and exotic. If there's something you don't like (Liz: foie gras, Dave: hen's egg poached in rosé, still runny yolk), you don't have to eat too many bites of it. The most amazing thing was the blue cheese saturated with ice wine. It takes two years to completely saturate a wheel of cheese. The coolest thing was the soup course where we were presented with shallow soup bowls, empty save a scallop. We each had two servers at this point, one of whom poured the soup in around the scallop (a substitution from the menu), the other drizzled cream over the soup. They did this at exactly the same time for both of us.



It was very fancy, and by the end of it we were both quite tipsy, but not totally drunk. We'd eaten a huge array of things, and definitely weren't hungry, but we weren't so stuffed we could hardly move either. When we were done, our waiter arranged the shuttle, and we were chauffeured back to Pillar and Post. After a tasting menu, you should not plan to be able to drive.

Pillar and Post does a turn-down of your bed with a lovely rose while you're out for the evening. This might prompt you to take a series of ridiculous pictures, only some of which are not blurry:


This pictures have been post-processed more extensively than usual. You know, to up the class factor. 
Shortly thereafter, we passed out. The end.

Epilogue, May 25, 2008
On our last day, we stopped at Inniskillin and bought the pinot grigio we'd enjoyed at Zees. I enjoyed it again in Montreal later.

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