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2011 The Nightingale's Oddessy Our exchange year in Canada.

Family Day/Presidents Day Long Weekend

CANADA | Wednesday, 23 February 2011 | Views [256]

Welcome back dear readers, to another long winded diatribe on our adventures in Canada.

This time we turn our attention to the previous long weekend. Monday was a public holiday to celebrate families here in Canada and Presidents past and present in the USA. President's Day long weekend is supposedly only surpassed in sales by Thanksgiving in the US, but more of that later.

Originally we had only planned to head down to Buffalo across the US border for Saturday night, but on advice from Chelle's work colleagues regarding the fact that if we crossed the border for less than 48 hours we could only bring back $50.00 CAD duty free per person, whereas if we extended over 48 hours it went up,to $200, we decided at the last minute to extend it to make it a two night stay. The extra night turned out to be a good move.

Up and out early Saturday morning, we headed down the Queen Elizabeth Way to Buffalo, a trip of only about 90 minutes, with a compulsory stop at Tim Horton's so Chelle could get a coffee. A small digression, Tim Hortons is a national institution over here, no matter which outlet you go to people are standing in line for coffee or there is a line up at the drive through, apparently they even opened up an outlet in Afghanistan to supply Canadian troops. Michelle has become addicted to it, I on the other hand have been labelled a freak by my wife because I don't get it.

Back to our trip, leaving Canada at Fort Erie, (We saw Lake Erie, that's now three of the five Great Lakes ticked off) we crossed the Peace Bridge to the USA. Crossing the bridge you come into the middle where the Maple Leaf and the Stars and Stripes are fluttering and in between them is the United Nations Flag, WTF. Is this some secret UN peace keeping post to keep the two warring parties apart? For the RAAFies reading this maybe you should see if you can get a posting to the Canadian/USA demilitarisation zone, it seems to be pretty quiet, didn't see any tanks drawn up on either side:-)

Entering the USA it was time to go through customs, where some very serious men, with serious jobs and serious sidearms took their time processing us. It must be a hideous job as not once did the guys checking our passports smile.

After leaving customs it was a drive through the Buffalo suburbs to our first hotel. It is striking the difference between the suburbs of Buffalo and Toronto. Buffalo is suffering from the depression and most of the major industries have moved out. A quick look at Wikipedia states that Health Care and Education are the major economic drivers, largely owing to the University of Buffalo. All the heavy industry moved out years ago and the population has been on the slide.

Once we had checked in and dropped our bags, it was off for one of the main purposes of our visit. SHOPPING... Many people, both locals and exchangees told us to go to the Outlet Malls of Niagara Falls, so that's where we headed and promptly came to a halt as we found that everyone from Canada and New York State had the same idea. There were tour buses that had come up from Toronto full of shoppers, anyway after about a half hour of driving around looking for a park and the inevitable arguments and ensuing tension we got inside.

Now this place is huge and has almost every designer name you could want, on top of the discounts on offer Chelle's boss had also provided her with a number of coupons he had downloaded off the net, so we were compelled to use these. We didn't just burn a hole in the credit card, we totally incinerated it. I lost count of the number of trips Ryan and I made back to the car to drop off bags. If we keep going at this rate we will need to ship everything back to Aus in a 40" container.

We got plenty of bargains, for ourselves and the kids. Yes girls I even did some shopping. The poor old kids were bored stiff by the end of about 4 hours shopping.

Back to the hotel, we inquired about places to eat, specifically somewhere that did Buffalo Wings, does anyone else know that Buffalo's have wings??? Unfortunately the place we were sent to was packed, so after driving around we settled for burgers at Johnny Rockets.

Sunday, we headed up to the American Falls in Niagara, maybe not as spectacular as the Horseshoe Fall on the Canadian side but still well worth making the trip. This time around it was glorious blue skies with still quite a bit of snow on the ground. We spent a good couple of hours walking around all the trails in the area taking photos. I've given Ryan one of my old digital cameras and he has shown a real interest in it and has taken some really artistic shots.

After leaving the falls it was off to another shopping mall, but this time to see Gnomeo and Juliet as we had promised the kids this because of their valiant effort in staying awake the day before. For those who haven't seen it and like Elton John's music it is surprisingly good. Ryan was also allowed to go shopping for a DS game and Tash chose to buy some clothes at the Build a Bear workshop for her bear Coco. I didn't realise how long it takes to select an outfit for a Teddy Bear, I thought girls had enough problems buying clothes for themselves sheesh.

Dinner was back at the hotel because we didn't want to spend time driving around trying to find something to eat and I needed a beer. No wings on the menu unfortunately, oh well next time.

Monday, up early and after the complimentary breakfast it was make a dash for the border to hopefully beat the lines that we had been told to expect. What a difference, pull up present our passports, declare how much we had bought, only $650 officer, yeah right and the rest and then it was on our way, all up about 5 minutes.

From Fort Erie we headed up to Niagara On the Lake at the other end of the Niagara river, I had hoped to follow the river up from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, but our trusty GPS had other ideas and took us the most expeditious route missing out most of the sights.

From Niagara On the Lake it was back home to arrive early afternoon, once again having enjoyed a great weekend and totally tuckered out.

Now the more observant of you will have noticed that not once have I ranted about my ongoing Saturday battle with snow. Well after a week of unseasonal temperatures most of the snow had gone and so not content with this we drove to Buffalo just so that we could drive in a blizzard, Saturday afternoon. Sunday as I mentioned was a glorious blue day, cold but perfect for seeing the falls. Sunday night after we got back to the hotel the snow set in again and we had about 15cm on the ground the next morning, the temp overnight and Monday fell down to -10 with the wind chill at -19. While we were  away it did snow in Burlington, so I had Ryan back out with the snow shovel when we got back, today however it is sunny but cold with the temp hovering around -9 degrees.

Well once again this has been a novel, hope I didn't put to many of you a sleep.

Hope all are well and our thoughts go out to those that may have friends or relatives in Christchurch.

All the best Ken, Chelle, Ryan and Tash

Oh yeah, Monday was our second anniversary, we've now been here two months, time is flying by.

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