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Saturday, April 21, 2012


Niagara's Canadian Falls in Spring
Canada's Horseshoe Falls

Niagara Falls is a sight to behold in any season, but in Spring it is a display of Nature’s awesome power against a setting of gentle greens and vivid yellows as daffodils try to steal the show.  It’s a wonderful time of year to visit and to join the nearly 12 million people who marvel at Niagara Falls each year.

A trip to the Falls can successfully begin on either side of the border, but as we drive up through New York State, we’ll begin in New York’s Niagara Falls State Park.  It’s a wonderful entree to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  (Occasionally self-appointed groups alter this list, but seeing is believing.)  There’s plenty of parking and activities aimed at introducing visitors to the mighty Niagara River and its turbulent, rushing power.  The negative on this side of the river is that you are behind the falls.  There are some wonderful side views past the American and Bridal Veil Falls to the Horseshoe Falls, but you will not face them.  Nevertheless, the opportunities here should not be missed.  The park is lovely, the views beautiful, and the activities are mind-blowing.

Niagara's American Falls in Spring
The American Falls

One adventure only available on the American side is the Cave of the Winds Tour where visitors descend 175 feet via elevator and then, clad in slicker and sandals, take a series of walkways to within 20 feet of the Bridal Veil Falls.  You’ll be thoroughly doused, but you’ll experience the Falls in a unique way.  There is no longer a cave to visit, but this is quite an experience.  As a note, there is a special area of viewing for people unable to do the walk.

In the Spring, this tour continues on the Gorge Trip where you’ll see workers rebuilding the Permanent Deck 75 feet from the base of the Falls.  That deck is dismantled each year to protect it from Winter weather and is used by visitors during the summer months.

Maid of the Mist in Springtime
The Cave of the Winds Tour will give you an entirely different vantage point from the one you’ll have from the Maid of the Mist.  It’s the tour no one should miss (t).  Once again, clad in a yellow slicker, your boat will take you right to the base of the thundering Horseshoe Falls where the water pounds so loudly as it crashes from the heights that conversation is almost impossible.  This is an unforgettable ride.  Beautiful.  Massively powerful. You can’t help but wonder why anyone would go over the Falls on purpose!  This tour departs from either the U.S. or Canada, but tickets are not interchangeable.

You might consider this option: There is a Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass available that is reasonably priced and offers passes to five different venues including these two.  If you have time, this is a good way to go. 

Whether you begin or end there, the Canadian side of the Falls is a MUST. That’s where the majestic views are found.  Cross the Rainbow Bridge by car, foot, or bicycle and face the Falls head on.  Watch the water roil and plunge, throwing up huge misty plumes. Walk along the flower and tree-lined boulevard.  If you’re close to the railing, you’ll feel the mists yourself despite being across the river from the Falls.  Guard your camera lens from the mist to prevent spots on your photographs.  All the photographs here are taken from the Canadian side.

Niagara's Canadian Falls
Fallsview Boulevard is along the River.  If you drive across from the U.S., you’ll park near the very beautiful Visitor Center, but even if you walk, make this a stop to learn more about the history and power of Niagara Falls as well as about some of the antics of daredevils going over the falls or tight-walking across the falls.  The Center is located somewhat up the hill, so you’ll see the Falls from an additional vantage point. 

Fallsview Boulevard offers spectacular views of all three falls, and I am always astounded by how close to the thundering cataract the Maid of the Mist boats venture. 
Niagara's Horseshoe Falls
Canada offers similar attractions to the United States.  Canada, too, has its Niagara Falls Adventure Pass which includes The Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls which is 150 feet down and takes you for an up close and personal look to the Horseshoe Falls, and two other venues.

On Fridays, Sundays, and holidays—both Canadian and American—from May until September, there are fireworks displays from the Park.  Each night of the year, at dusk, the Falls are illuminated, a tradition dating back to the visit by the Prince of Wales to Canada in 1860. 

If you are staying overnight, stay on the Canadian side.  There you can book hotels on Fallsview Boulevard with fantastic views.  Depending on your hotel, you might be able to see the illumination and fireworks right from your room.  You might also like to go to the Observation Deck or restaurant in The Skylon Tower for a revolving view.
The Skylon Revolving Observation Towerspring in Niagara falls

I’ve just touched on some of the activities here.  The real deal is to see the Falls and enjoy the "Whoa!" moments as your jaw drops in wonder.  Everything else is secondary. The area is rich in other sights as well, so if you have more time, there is plenty to see and do.  There are those who complain of the tourism here, but look beyond that and simply enjoy Nature’s Show.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


Yeocomico Church Cemetery
I love Virginia!  After spending a few days in Massanutten in the Shenandoah Valley, we head to “the Rivah.” That’s where my cousin Rita invited us—to her and Bruce’s home on the Yeocomico River in Kinsale, Virginia. 

The Northern Neck is a part of Virginia we hadn’t visited before, and its beauty opens our eyes to a Virginia very different from the stately Shenandoah Mountains with Skyline Drive running along its ridges overlooking the gorgeous, lush, Shenandoah Valley below. 

It is different from Blacksburg and Virginia Tech, so reminiscent of our own Warwick, New York with its farms, green rolling hills, and small town ambiance. 

It is different from Northern Virginia and Arlington with its young, professional and worldly population bustling about in the DC’s monumental atmosphere or enjoying the majesty of the Potomac. 

It is different from Richmond, a city that exudes a comfortable, suburban sophistication and less than two hours away from Kinsale, close enough even for an ambitious commuter hungry for daily connection with the flat farmland and the myriad coves—the nooks and crannies of the rivah.

Yeocomico ChurchFamily names in Rita and Bruce’s area can be traced back for generations, yes, to the first Englishmen and women who settled this part of the country. To experience this history, we head to the Yeocomico Church to visit the centuries’ old churchyard and get a glimpse of another time and place.

knotsThis peaceful church, the original one of wood built in 1655 and the current brick church in 1706, is nestled in an incredibly beautiful setting.  We stroll through the churchyard, reading headstones. Some graves are decorated with flags.  The ancient trees with their knotted trunks and the autumnally-harvested brown cornfields across the way guard all who sleep here in the palpable peace.

Yeocomico Church
1706 = the year.  The M and C are the craftsmen
Peter Moon and John Cogger
Yeocomico Church cemetery

Fishing at the RiverThen, driving to the Potomac to scout out some fishing sites, we witness three or four men reeling in bluefish one after the other.  We make note of the sandy spot with hopes of future expeditions.  Homes, dockages, and boats line the shore, and from where we stand we can look across the beautiful water and see Maryland’s shores.
At the RiverThe Fisherman's Catch

Virginia can proclaim herself living history.  But here by the Rivah, the history is tucked away in family names, country churchyards with their silent voices, and older homes with modern additions that sometimes do and sometimes do not blend with their histories.

America the beautiful.  This is driving through Virginia with stops in local museums and churches and along the roads where signs signal special events in our history.  In this area Mary Ball spent her youth. Here at the Yeocomico Church, Mary Ball and Augustine Washington were married.  Their child, born in 1732, was George Washington.
History was made here

Truly a beautiful part of the country, try to spend some time here.  You’ll not regret it.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012


caught on a Groupon-inspired
The nice thing about Groupon and travel is that you can change the settings on your Groupon account to accommodate your trips.

Not only do I avail myself of Groupon offers here at home, in Northern New Jersey and in New York City, but also I look ahead to the places we expect to visit.  Groupon discounts have led us to deep sea fishing, good restaurants, museum tours, boatrides, and a spa day to cite just a few.  Groupon has even led us to try some new and different things we might not have known were available.

Additionally, there have been discounts on photo processing, canvas prints, etc.

If you haven't availed yourself of Groupon's offers, you're probably spending too much for something!