Nestled in the heart of the British Columbia interior is the largest ancient inland temperate rainforest on earth. The watershed of the upper Fraser River has given rise to a unique inland wet-temperate rainforest; a forest ecosystem that combines attributes of both the coastal wet-temperate rainforests of British Columbia and adjacent boreal forests of Alberta and the far north.
Though forests are plentiful in British Columbia (close to 25% of the earth’s temperate rainforests are in BC), this particular region of the province is something special. Showcasing trees that span five meters in diameter at their base, reaching hundreds of feet towards the sky, densely packed to canopy vegetation and plant life found nowhere else on earth, it’s estimated the trees in this forest range between 1,000 – 2,000 years old.
Though this land has been protected as provincial park for several decades, in 2016 a portion of the park was turned into a hiking/walking trail to teach people the importance of rainforests in our ecosystem. What a perfect place for Auntie Vee to take the little chickens for an adventure! Their dad works 5-5 on Friday’s and mom had to be in court, so I had my niece and nephew and we went for a day hike.
Without further adieu, here are some unfiltered photos from the largest ancient inland temperate rainforest on earth.
It was quite a rainy day for an adveture. But hey, there’s something poetic about finding rain in the rainforest. The kids loved it, and me, I’m always happy to experience just how vast this planet truly is and remind myself what a beautiful corner of this world I come from.
I’ve been away on a sneaky holiday in a sneaky location for the past week. It was exactly what I needed – to get away from reality, just for a few days. Though it rained the entire time, though everything didn’t go according to plan, though there’s always a ‘what could have been’ floating around the back of my mind, it was an incredibly calming, much needed week away.
For the first time ever, I flew standby for this trip. I’d always wanted to try flying standby before but have never really had the opportunity. It’s a luxury awarded to employees of airlines and their friends/family. Luckily, on of my connections decided to use his standby pass for me.
After five days, four standby flights, three airports and two time zones here is one list of things to know about flying standby:
It’s cheap. Hella cheap! For a trip that regularly costs roughly $1,000 Canadian, the entire trip’s fees were just airport taxes. I’d travel every trip this way, if I could.
It’s convenient. If you’re not needing to be anywhere at any given time, flying standby means you can show up at the airport whenever you want to and hop on any flight that happens to have an extra seat.
If the plane isn’t full, you have the opportunity to sit in your own row without paying an extra fee. One of the planes I boarded was only half booked. Not only did the airport gate attendant assign my seat to my own row, she assigned my seat to a row that didn’t have anyone around (four rows in front and four rows behind). You can always ask. It never hurts to ask!
If the plane is full, they will put you in whatever seat remains – which can include premium and plus seating. The second flight I got on was full. I was the last person to get a seat on the plane and the last seat available was premium seating… a seat/ticket that those sitting in paid an extra $500 for. I got it for free! Premium seating included having free drinks and a flight attendant waiting on us the entire flight… a perk I’ve never had before in my life as I’ve never booked a premium fare.
If the plane is full, you’re waiting for the next one. If you’re in a large airport, this might not a big deal. Another flight could be leaving for your destination in an hour, in which case I recommend grabbing some Starbucks and relaxing. But, if you’re in a small airport in a smaller city, this could mean several hours to a half day of waiting. This could be kind of a pain in the butt. It all depends on what type of traveller you are.
You can’t really check a bag. If you don’t know that you’re for sure getting on a flight, checking a bag would be rather stupid. Your bag will get to the destination and you just might not. For that reason, I highly recommend only bringing a carry-on bag and not paying for a checked-bag.
If you have connecting flights, you won’t know if you’re getting on them until you get there. You won’t know if you can get on flight two until you get off of flight one. If you’re a nervous/anxious traveller, this might not be an ideal scenario for you.
All-in-all, if you’re a laid back or easy going traveller and you have the opportunity to fly standby, I highly recommend it. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and packing in a carry-on promotes the minimalist lifestyle we all dream of finding on holiday.
On the other hand, if you get nervous about flying, anxious about connections, fearful of lost baggage or any of the other worries travellers experience, I would say that flying standby might not be an ideal option for you. Some people really don’t want to have to worry about anything so booking flights 5+ weeks in advance is ideal for them.
If you know someone who works for an airline, or you just have the opportunity and want to try it, go for it! Sneak away for the weekend, or for a longer holiday. Everybody needs a little more adventure in their lives.
There’s an unwritten code of commandments you’re supposed to follow when you travel by plane. Why? Because airports are busy places with people passing through from all over the world and they shouldn’t have to be subjected to things like your facetime breakup call or your stinky feet. Sadly though, it seems less and less people are getting the memo about how to behave in airports. Honestly, sometimes it feels as though airports are the place where manners go to die.
Turn off theringer on your phone. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to hear the exact same iphone ringtone on the highest volume over and over and over in the various nooks and crannys of the airport. Every phone has a vibrate function in 2019. You need not have your phone volume to it’s loudest in order to be able to answer it.
If you’re going to have a loud phone conversation, move away from crowded areas. I think that it’s part of the human condition to feel a need to speak louder into your phone when you’re in a crowded area. I’m not exactly sure why humans do this, but I wish they’d learn that they could just stand up and walk twenty or thirty feet away and not need to yell into their phone anymore. Furthermore, moving twenty or thirty feet away means that those around you need not hear your conversation breaking up with your girlfriend. Because… why do you need to subject strangers to that?
DO NOT take off your shoes. I’m not quite sure what it is about airport lobbies and lounges that makes people think it’s a great place to take off their shoes but this is gross. It really is. Firstly, the majority of time people have been travelling already that day and thus, they have smelly feet. Subjecting other travellers to your stinky feet is downright cruel. Furthermore, it’s not your living room and the furniture does not belong to you. Why are you smothering the chairs in your stinky foot sweat? The next person who has to sit there is not thankful, trust me.
Remember that you’re a parent. Yes, you may be on vacation, but the airport is no place to be taking a break from being a parent. People aren’t paying hundreds of dollars to listen to your children scream incessantly… just because. As much as I understand that kids are kids, I am also aware of what is a child screaming because of an issue and what is a child screaming because they want your attention. Pay attention to your kids. If they do something wrong, kick a stranger, throw their food on the floor, steal someone’s food, don’t just let them get away with this behaviour because you’re on a trip. The rest of us aren’t in a place where we can say much of anything about it, so with them being your kids, you damn well better.
Don’t jump the line. There’s no bonus to being the first person on the plane. It’s not as if they hand out medals to those who get on first. Honestly, we’re all just trying to squish into a sky-tin with you, so please wait your turn. You need not shove in front, you need not load out of the order the flight crew is asking for. You need not stand so close to me in line you’re breathing down my neck. We’ll all get on. I promise you! They’re not going to fill half a plane and then leave with you still standing at the gate.
Do not leave your suitcase in the middle of the hall, the aisle, the escalatator, etc… Also, do not stop with your crowd to converse in the middle of the hall, the aisle, the escalator, etc… Why? As I’m sure you’re all aware, airports are busy places. People from all over the world need to get through the airport, some in a massive hurry and the last thing they want is your complete lack of self-awareness slowing them down. Sometimes, the difference from two minutes means making or missing a flight. And if you’re stopping in the middle of ANYWHERE, you’re running the possibility of slowing someone down.
Don’t yell at the gate attendant. Firstly, the person working your gate at the airport is not responsible for your flight, they’re only responsible for ensuring that you get on it. So blaming them for any frustrations that you have is useless and quite rude. Secondly, holding up the boarding process so you can let out your grievances pisses off everyone else who’s trying to board behind you. There’s nothing you’re yelling at the gate attendant that cannot be explained calmly and professionally in a finely worded email to customer service after you get off the flight. And if you don’t want to wait that long to write the email… your problems really aren’t that bad.
Whatever adventure you’re on, wherever you’re headed next, I hope that you have an incredible time. And for everyone’s sake, I really hope that travellers around you are aware of airport etiquette. When they are, let me speak from experience, it makes travelling so much easier.
Have you ever noticed that paying for flights can, quite often, be the most expensive part of the trip? Thought flying is exceptionally convenient, it can also be exceptionally expensive.
Finding cheap flights, or at the very least, the best deal you can get on the day you’re purchasing, is important. So, here are some tips to finding the cheapest ticket possible.
Search prices using travel booking websites. Websites like Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Momondo, Cheap-O-Air, etc… all have the ability to provide you quotes of tickets from multiple different airlines. If you don’t have flexibility as to when you book, at least check prices across different websites before you book to find which might be cheapest. My favourite website for searching plane ticket fares is momondo.com because I find it provides the option for the most airlines.
If you’re going to be making stopovers,consider the option of flying with more than one airline. One of the things I most appreciate about momondo.com is that the quotes it provides you can often include more than one airline. This is how you know you’re finding the cheapest tickets. Momondo might include a flight from Calgary, Canada to London, England on Air Canada and then a flight from London, England to Copenhagen, Denmark on Lufthansa. This is important to deal hunting because, if you live in Canada you know how expensive our flights are! Booking London to Copenhagen with AirCanada rather than Momondo could mean that you pay for AirCanada fees, rather than Lufthansa fees for your Copenhagen flight. And Lufthansa fees are A LOT cheaper.
Be flexible with your dates! If you know you want your holiday to be during a specific time of year, but don’t have specific dates you need to travel for, be open to all dates during that season. IE – If you want to go to Mexico in Winter, flights in January might be extremely expensive, while flights in February might be several hundred dollars cheaper.
Fly on weekdays, where possible. I’m not sure if this is the case internationally but I’ve noticed that , when purchasing flights in Canada and the USA, it’s more expensive to fly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday then it is Monday-Thursday. This is especially helpful when you’re leaving for quick trips, or weekend trips. Leaving on a Thursday as opposed to Friday could save you a lot of money on flights.
Airlines biggest ‘sales’ are offered on the biggest holidays. Boxing Day and Black Friday/Thanksgiving will always have considerably reasonable seat sales. Other holidays where seat sales often occur are Mother’s and Father’s Day, Canada Day and 4th of July, and Family Day (if it’s celebrated where you are).
Always book in advance. Gone are the days when airlines would put up last minute offers. These days, the longer you wait to purchase, the higher the prices are going to be, with very few exceptions. I’ve noticed that if you’re flying within Canada or the United States, five weeks in advance seems to be the ‘sweet spot’ for purchasing tickets.
Fly into smaller airports, where possible. If budget is important to you, consider this, airlines pay heavy gate fees to be able to fly into major airports (especially if they’re international airports) and that gate fee they pay is passed on to customers through ticket prices. This is why flying into smaller airports can often be much cheaper. Example: Flying into Abbotsford Airport, 1 hour from Vancouver BC can be anywhere from 50 to 200 dollars cheaper (depending on where you’re coming from) than flying into Vancouver Airport.
Use a credit card that collects airline points. This is SOOOOOOO important. While you’re buying your groceries, paying for your hair cut, paying your bills, or doing anything that you spend money on, use that credit card. Even if you use the credit card for a purchase and pay it off 15 minutes later, you will be collecting Airline rewards points for those purchases. Do some research about what card will get you the best rewards for your lifestyle. I took this leap in 2014 and, since then, have earned anywhere from $200-$600 off flights per year depending on how frequently I’ve used the credit card.
People call me crazy, but I can’t help it. I want to see everything, go everywhere and meet everyone.
For my tenth birthday I was gifted a globe and this, it was probably the best present that I was ever given. From then on I can remember feeling this overwhelming urge of needing to see all of it, the whole globe, I needed to conquer it.
Slowly, but surely, I’ve been crossing places off of my ‘bucket list’. The thing about social media, though, is that the more of the world that I read about, the more places I add to my bucket list.
Full disclosure: I am more of an ‘off the beaten path’ kind of traveller. I’m absolutely certain the Eiffel Tower is breathtaking and that I will get there one day, but, as soon as I make my first million, here’s a few of the top places that I want to go:
Torres Del Pain, Chile
Torres Del Pain is a national park encompassing mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in Southern Chilean Patagonia. The region, breathtaking in any and all photos that I’ve seen online, seems to me to be the South American equivalent to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
This area of South America is high on my bucket list. It just seems as though the possibilities are endless. The mountains are breathtaking, the turquoise waters appear to be the picture of purity and the remoteness of the area makes it so much more appealing.
The tiny kingdom of Bhutan, located in the eastern Himalayas, is a modern and economically forward country. While there are some things about Bhutan that I’m not necessarily in agreeance with, the country puts a focus on the prospects of sustainability and ethical living. Bhutan has become known worldwide for pioneering the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’.
The scenery is stunning, the people are cultured and the country is diverse, in every sense of the term. When I think of Bhutan, I think of the saying ‘seeing how the other half lives’. To me, taking a piece of the happiness pie, learning how to meditate in a Bhutanese monestary, it seems like the trip of a lifetime.
South Africa has been high on my bucket list since I was in sixth grade. A girl named Kelly, transferred to my class at school, and came with incredible stories and photos of what her life was like in Durban, South Africa. My desire to see South Africa only grew when I started watching Trevor Noah on the Daily Show and reading/learning about him and his life growing up.
There’s so much history of love and heartache, legal struggles and inequality in South Africa, and even so much happening now. It’s a world that I’ve never experienced, a world that I think could teach me so much. Plus, the prospect of being able to go on a safari and see incredible animals that I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing (giraffes, lions, etc…) is a pretty big bonus as well. I’ve seen some people visiting penguins in South Africa, too. And I really want to see Penguins.
Petra is a historical and archaeological city named for its pink sandstone cliffs that have been carved into tombs and temples.
My brother and I had made plans to meet here a few years back, but inevitably life got in the way. That being said, the caves, temples and tombs of Petra showcase an impressive civilization that dates back as far as 300 B.C. and it’s a culture and civilization that I would love to learn the history of firsthand.
The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa, north of Madagascar. The country is home to an array of beaches, coral reefs and nature reserves, as well as rare animals such as giant Aldabra tortoises.
Seychelles is one of only a handful of countries in Africa with a high Human Development Index. Despite the country’s newfound economic prosperity, poverty remains widespread due to a high level of economic inequality, one of the highest in the world, and unequal wealth distribution among the populace which vastly favors the upper and ruling class
The Islands, which were actually formed following a the seismic event that led to the demise of dinosaurs, are sinking due to the effects of global warming. Nothing would make me happier than getting my butt to this remote location and experiencing its natural beauty and all the magic it possesses.
Honourable Mentions (places near the top of my list that I’ll have to hit when I make my second million):
I recently found myself in Calgary, Alberta for some job interviews and a need for somewhere to stay. Over the years, I’ve stayed in a few dozen hotels in Calgary and never been fully satisfied with the stay that I’ve had, so, knowing that I was going to need to book a hotel room, I decided to try something different.
Though my job interviews were right downtown, I decided to look outwards. In all honesty, the hotels in downtown Calgary seem to all be heavily overpriced for what you get.
Within just a two minute drive of the Calgary International Airport is a group of hotels, really nice hotels, with really reasonable prices per night. After doing my research on Expedia (always read hotel reviews before booking!), I settled on the Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport North.
*FYI – All photos were taking with my Iphone. The mismatch of quality between photos does not escape me.
Cost: $83 per night.
Amenities: Indoor gym for guests, laundry room, kitchenette in each room (with dishes included for your use), a ‘Pantry’ stocked with any foods you could possibly need for a hotel stay at VERY reasonable prices, a beautiful lobby with plenty of couch space to meet/interact with people, a computer station for guests (for if you don’t have a computer or need to print anything off) and a full kitchenette in every room.
I was impressed with the fact that everything was so readily available and so well thought out. I really didn’t need to even leave the hotel if I didn’t want to. This provided a great sense of relief as all I wanted to do was ‘hold-up’ in my hotel room and prep for my job interviews.
Having the gym just down the hall was appreciated. I found I was more inclined to get up in the morning and hit the treadmill knowing it was just a few steps away from me.
The room itself was perfect. Upon walking into mine, I was pleased to see that the photos online provided an accurate representation of what each room is actually like.
Each room has a kitchenette included, making it convenient for travellers who might be staying for longer than a few days. There were dishes in the cupboards and cleaning supplies under the sink. The appliances included: a toaster, a coffee maker, a dishwasher, a microwave, a fridge and a stove-top. Shy of being able to roast a turkey, anything you could possibly need to make could be cooked in this kitchen.
The room was equipped with a massive closet that I could actually walk into. Something that I really appreciated about this hotel was that the small details were thought of, including the providing of guests with a laundry hamper for storing dirty clothes. Small details like that make me appreciate a hotel just a little bit more because I know they’ve thought of how they can most help their guests.
My room, being a very accurate representation of the photos the hotel shows online, had a ton of desk spaces so that I could lay out all of my work, set up my computer and still have plenty of space for making a mess. Honestly, a desk like this is something I could only dream of having in my own home. And, the TV was conveniently located up in the corner of the desk so that it was out of the way, but still in view from both the bed and the bathtub.
As mentioned in the last paragraph, something that I really appreciated was the fact that I could lay in a bubble bath and watch tv while doing so. When it comes to staying in a hotel, it’s really the small details that seem to make all the difference. Being able to watch Frasier from the tub felt like one of life’s simple luxuries.
I booked a room with a single queen bed. Room’s are available with two queen beds for just $87 per night (a five dollar increase) or one king bed for $95 per night (a twelve dollar increase). The bed was exceptionally comfortable. The pillows were dreamy to sleep on, and I bet if he could attest to it, Knight would agree with me.
The room also came equipped with a lazy-boy style chair next to the bed, which was probably the only downside. It was not a comfortable chair. I’d probably rather sit on a slab of cement than that chair. That being said, that is the only negative I found to the room.
Worth noting: Though it was next to the airport, I did not hear one single plane landing or departing during my stay. The hotel was completely sound-proof. Noise is not a factor you need to worry about when staying near the airport if you choose this hotel.
Verdict: If you’re ever in Calgary, Alberta, I highly recommend the Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport North. Whether you’re flying in, flying out, or not using the airport at all, staying next to the airport can provide you all of the amenities you need with an impeccable price tag. The staff were friendly, the convenience was appreciated and the reviews online were 100% an accurate representation of the hotel and the staff who run it.
I’ll definitely be back there the next time I’m in Calgary.
Having spent a few hundred nights in hotels over the past few years, I’ve got a lot of opinions about them. In the past 3 weeks alone I’ve been in four different hotels, only one of which I deemed to be worth the value I had to pay for my stay.
When you’re booking a hotel stay, there’s a lot to keep in mind to ensure you don’t wind up having a terrible night in a shitty hotel. After all, if you’re spending your money to stay in a hotel, you want to make sure you’re not wasting your money. Right?
*Note – I mention Expedia a lot in this post because I use Expedia a lot. There are plenty of different good options to use for hotel research beyond Expedia. Just google it and you’ll see what I mean!
Tips for booking your next hotel stay:
Determine what’s most important to you. Are you looking for the cheapest room? Are you looking for the best location? Start with a list ahead of looking at any hotels. That way, you can narrow down your search right away and weed-out the hotels you don’t need/want.
Think outside of the box. If you don’t need to be right downtown in a city, there are plenty of available hotels for a lot cheaper that are just a five – ten minute drive from downtown.
Read Reviews. Read all of the reviews! Trivago, Expedia, Hotels.com, all of these websites allow people to post real reviews about said hotels that you’re looking at. Whereas a hotel’s own website might be able to hide the negative reviews, any negative reviews that exist will definitely be on a place like Trivago or Expedia. Personally, I’m partial to Expedia.
Don’t necessarily trust the pictures. Honestly, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. This is another suggestion that ties directly to the tip I have to read reviews. Websites like Expedia allow users to post pictures of their hotel rooms they’re staying in. So, whereas the photos the hotel posts might be heavily photoshopped, professional photographer taken photos – in the reviews you can see real photos from people who’ve stayed there, showcasing the state of the rooms as they are.
Check if there are extra amenities. Some hotels have gyms for guests to use. Some hotels have free laundry services. Some hotels have pools. Some hotels have kitchenettes in them, for the same prices as a room that doesn’t have a kitchenette. Some hotels have no amenities. Knowing the amenities can help you to know if you’re getting more value for your dollar when you’re booking!
PRICE CHECK. Price check on several different websites if you have the time. One hotel can have a different price listed on it’s company website, on Expedia, on Trivago, etc… Checking the prices before you book can help you to ensure that you’re booking your hotel room for the best available price.
Check Groupon. This one came at the suggestion of a friend of mine, quite recently. If you’re headed to a tourist destination, there might be some options on Groupon that allow you to purchase heavily discounted packages that included your hotel stay, restaurant vouchers and activities to take part in all in one purchase. If you’re headed to somewhere that’s touristy in nature, there might be a Groupon package available!
Collect Rewards. Most (I cannot speak to all as I have not researched all) hotels that have rewards programs are rewards programs that are completely free. Yes, it is an extra card for your collection, but if you know that you need to stay at a hotel then you might as well earn points for it.
Book ahead of time, where you can. When you walk up to the front desk of a hotel and ask them if they have a room available for you to book for the night, they are going to charge you the highest possible price EVERY TIME. There’s no competition, there’s no need to advertise, you’re standing right in front of them asking them for a room. You, as a customer, as a guest, lose your purchasing power in booking your stay and they can charge you as much as they want for your stay. Even if it’s so simple as you viewing the price from the parking lot five minutes before you walk to the front desk, book ahead of time. I have, in the past, experienced a hotel quote me that rooms were $159 per night. I then told them I was thinking it over, walked out to the parking lot and booked a room at that hotel on Expedia for $101. When I returned to the front desk they had to honour that booking, knowing that I wasn’t going to be paying the $159 they had just quoted me five minutes earlier. ALWAYS BOOK AHEAD. Even if it’s just five minutes ahead!
Pay ahead of time, where you can. Websites like Expedia allow you to pay for your stay when booking. To me, this is a convenience factor. Paying ahead of time means I need not give the hotel my credit card when I get there. It also means that I earn reward points for booking on Expedia.
If you have the time to research and plan ahead for booking hotel rooms, it can provide so much added value to the trip you’re taking. But, even if you don’t have time to plan ahead, I still strongly encourage everyone to book ahead of walking up to the front desk of a hotel.
PERSONAL STORY TIME:
Last week while in Calgary, I stayed at a hotel called ‘Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport’ that was just a ten minute drive from downtown. This hotel, brand new on the inside, had full kitchenettes in each room, a gym, a laundry room for guests, a computer station for people to do business, a pantry stocked with food guests had access too and it cost me $83 per night. This hotel I chose based on believing it would provide me the best value for my money.
Two weeks ago, I stayed in a hotel called ‘Super 8 by Wyndham, Hamilton Airport’ that was old, run down, had paper thin walls allowing me to hear the conversations of those in the room next door, a bath tub that didn’t drain, cracked foundation in the walls and zero amenities. This hotel was $159 for the night. This hotel I chose solely because it was closest to the Airport that I needed to fly out of.
Both hotels had beautiful photos listed on their websites and promised comforting stays in memorable rooms that would make me feel at home while I was travelling. One succeeded with their promises, one did not. One hotel blocked my Expedia account from being able to book rooms via Expedia for their hotel, after they read my review. But, the important thing is that my review of their hotel is still there. Always read the reviews!
I love the way that you look so beautiful, even on a cloudy day. I love your unfailing courtesy, even in the most dense of crowds. Thank you for welcoming me with such ease and treating me as though I belonged, though I’m sure I stood out like a sore thumb.
Thank you for allowing me to escape, for giving me the freedom to by myself, for allowing me the opportunity to truly feel whole. Though it was but a quick visit, the time I spent with you meant a whole lot more to me than anything I could explain to my family.
It’s funny, you know, as we grow we change so much. Complete facets of who we thought we were become moments passed, memories faded and desires forgotten. It’s almost as though, one day when you weren’t looking, all of your goals changed. I have such a love for the West Coast, for the mountains, for the Pacific Ocean and the rainforest, and now, for a city in the 4,000 miles away.
While I’m still very much the same me that I’ve always been, I feel calmer. I feel more relaxed about life, more in tune with who I am and what I am capable of. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to find that within myself.
Toronto, thank you for reminding me that kindness and courtesy are the two best gifts we can give strangers. Thank you for the Eaton Centre, having all of my favourite places inside of one building was extremely convenient for me and not so convenient for my wallet.
I love downtown traffic. I love that everyone has somewhere to go, and that everyone courteously waits for one another at traffic lights and crosswalks and in parkades. It’s a pretty glaring reminder that patience is a virtue, and that we’re all important… to one another… when it matters most.
Thank you to the kind man who helped me find my car when I was walking the wrong direction down Yonge Street looking for it. Thank you to the kind woman who told me that I had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Complimenting a stranger is a sure fire way of making their whole day. I don’t think we do that enough.
Toronto, you’re noisy, but also somehow completely serene. It’s a complexity that masks the simplicity of my heart, an oxymoron that showcases that things need not always make sense to work just the way it needs too.
Thank you for Lakeshore Drive, for the multi-million dollar homes that I know I’ll never own but love to tour anyway. And thank you for the coffee… the best coffee that I’ve ever had. Thank you for reminding a small-town soul like me that it’s a great big world full of wonder and amazement out there and that, if I really want it, I can reach out and grab it.
I’ve often found that when I travel with people, I struggle to be able to do the things that I want to do. I cater to what the person I’m travelling with wants, and it always seems to happen that they won’t cater to what I want. As such, I find myself giving up on the things that I want and dealing with a sub-par trip when I know it could have been better.
This past week I tried something different. It’s something that I’ve read about, quite frequently, but never dared to do. I went solo-travelling.
Let me tell you, if you ever get the opportunity for solo travel, DO IT. DO IT and don’t ever second guess it.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
For me, Niagara Falls isn’t anywhere exotic. There were no beaches, no bikinis, no foreign folk speaking foreign languages (unless a Boston accent counts). But, the jaunt across Canada meant a great deal to me, being my first dive into solo travel.
I’ve always been fascinated by natural wonders. Mountains that reach the sky, forests that go on forever, beautiful pristine (untouched beaches) that stretch as far as they eye can see, these are the pieces to our world that make me feel obsolete in the very best way. I admire things that are the way they are, not because ‘man’ made them, but because nature made them that way.
Niagara Falls, formed naturally at the end of the last ice-age by the receding of glaciers, is located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. There are three falls, The Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The three combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America and has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres (160 ft).
The Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls.
When I was looking for a hotel in Niagara Falls, I knew that I wanted to stay on Fallsview Blvd. because I wanted to be as close to the falls as I could be. The Tower Hotel stood out to me online due to it’s odd shape compared to every other hotel on the strip. The Tower Hotel is a tall, skinny tower with rooms only on the 25th-30th floors.
The Hotel itself was quite basic. There was nothing overly fancy about it. The view from the hotel was exceptional, though. When you’re guaranteed a room on the 25th floor, or higher, there’s a fair chance you’re going to get an exceptional view. And, the view from The Tower Hotel did not disappoint .
*Point of note for booking hotels in Niagara Falls – on Thursday, Friday and Saturday hotel rooms cost (at least) $100 more per night than they do on Sunday – Wednesday. Purchasing a hotel room on ‘off-days’ (Sunday-Wednesday) will save you some big bucks when it comes to accommodations. And, if you can afford it, book a hotel on Fallsview Blvd. You won’t regret it.
One of the things I most wanted to do while I was there was eat at ‘The Keg’ in the Embassy Suites hotel. This Keg restaurant is pretty famous for it’s views, and for the fact that every table in that restaurant has been strategically set up to have a view of the falls. The restaurant sits on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel.
I called ahead and made a reservation for 7:30, asked if I could sit as close to the windows as possible and hoped for the best. And honestly, the view did not disappoint. Nor did the food. The Keg, known for it’s steak dinners, was very accommodating to my dietary needs, ensuring that my food was cooked separately as to have not touched any gluten, nor to have any dairy in it. I’m not a huge fan of red meat – only eating it once every blue moon – but this dinner was absolute perfection.
*Point of note for the Keg – While the restaurant is situated to have nice views from every table, if you call ahead and make a reservation you can get seated at the windows, where the seats point towards the falls. It’s a romantic setup, and there were a lot of people there on dates/anniversaries that night.
The Light Show
The light show of Niagara Falls was something that I have been dying to see. After the sun sets, the illuminate different coloured lights onto the falls to create a light show, in representation of the charity they’re bringing attention to that evening.
I’ve seen incredible pictures of the light show online and always wanted to see it in person. So, I bundled myself up in warm clothes and wandered down to the falls at 10 pm to wander.
I ended up spending over two hours walking up and down the pathway alongside the falls. The Horseshoe Falls were illuminated in beautiful, rainbow arrangements, flashing on and off and the American Falls were illuminated in yellow. The lights themselves lit the pathway for walking, and, because it was so late at night, there were a lot less tourists on the path. (I guess people chose to just not venture out after dark)
Honestly, the night was so freeing. It was almost as though nothing else existed in the universe but me, there, in that space and time. Quite a few people stopped to talk to me along the way, many of them with Boston accents, but overall, the night was filled with the most peace that I have had in a long, long time. I just walked along the edge of the falls, listening to millions upon millions of gallons of water pouring over the edge, rushing down the river into the great lakes. Nature is incredible.
The Honeymoon Capital of the World
It’s worth noting that Niagara Falls’ claim to fame is that it is ‘The Honeymoon Capital of the World’. There are couples EVERYWHERE. Which, is adorable and sweet. If you’re painfully single, though, I could see it being a bit of a nuisance to you. It’s definitely not a place for the faint of heart.
I crossed paths with many a people who were wondering where my better half was, asking my why I was alone or why I didn’t have a man with me. While I know they were just being friendly and talkative, it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for next time. Maybe I’ll bring a man back with me next time. HAHA!
The Niagara Skywheel
The Niagara Skywheel is the largest ferris wheel in Canada that, at the top, reaches 175 feet in the air – providing truly breathtaking views of the Horseshoe and American Falls for the very reasonable price of $14 (adult ticket).
Having a love of ferris wheels, I actually wound up on the skywheel twice. Once, during the day, and a second time after the sun had set to see the light show from the top. To add to the list of romantic settings there are in Niagara Falls, the view from the top of the Skywheel is unmatched. Had I had someone to take with me, I am sure it would have been the perfect spot for that ‘romantic movie moment kiss’ if you know what I mean.
The Skywheel is located at the edge of what is kind of a theme park in Niagara Falls. To be honest, I didn’t really venture into the theme park. Things like bumper cars weren’t really going to provide me the peace I was searching for with my trip. But the Skywheel, that is a must-see stop.
Other touristy activities (that I didn’t take part in):
Helicopter tours of the Falls (I would have loved to do this, but it’s quite expensive)
Riverboat cruise of the Falls
Winery Tours (the southern portion of Ontario is known for being wine country, and there are a lot of Winery’s you can tour)
Skylon Tower (a rotating restaurant and observatory)
Parking at hotels is EXPENSIVE. Just two blocks up from the Falls you can find parking lots that charge $10 for 24 hours. If you choose to park your car with the hotel, it’s going to cost you anywhere from $40-$120 per day/night.
Take warm clothes with you, for night. The mist of the falls can make it feel a lot cooler out than the temperature actually is.
Niagara Falls has a 13% tourist tax that exists solely within it’s boundaries. Be prepared to pay more in tax while visiting.
There are tourist markups the price of virtually EVERYTHING. Something as simple as your coffee at Starbucks can be $2-4 more when purchasing it at Niagara Falls. Those extra expenses add up quickly, so be prepared.
If you book a ‘city-view’ hotel room, there’s still a good chance that you can see the falls from your hotel room, anyway. The reasoning for this is because many of the hotels are built diagonally facing the falls, as to be seen from three sides – instead of just one. So, if you’re looking at room prices and you’re worried about the price of a ‘Fallsview’ room, a city view room might provide you just what you need.
Though there are towns on both sides of the river, I noticed that the Canadian side was filled mostly with Americans. I think this is largely due to the fact that the view from the falls is sooooo much better on the Canadian side of the border. While there are attractions on the American side, I’m a little biased in saying that you’ll enjoy yourself more on the Canadian side of the border.
Make friends! There are so many wonderful people in town. I crossed paths with so many American tourists who were so excited to talk to me when I told them I was Canadian. One, from Ohio, even gave me his email address. He says that he’s travelling to Vancouver this summer and wants me to provide him some tips to make his trip amazing. I mean, sure, why not? There are nice people everywhere, but making friends on vacation can just make it seem so much more memorable.
The trip was incredible. It was everything that I had hoped it would be and so much more. I went in search of some peace of mind, calm and adventure and I found it. All of it. I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of thinking.
I have so many plans for my life that have become so clouded and convoluted the past few months with everything that has gone on. Being able to travel on my own and really stop to think about what my goals are and where I am going with my life was an invaluable experience to me.
ALSO – I survived! Not only that but I thrived. I looked after myself just fine, didn’t get into any trouble, have any issues or struggle at all. I was seriously doubting my abilities to do so prior to leaving, so the fact that everything went so smoothly for me was a huge relief.
I’m ready to go on my next adventure. And honestly, I’m somewhat already planning it.
Niagara Falls, thank you. Thank you for your beauty, your hospitality, and the peace of mind that you gave in just a few short days. I felt a great sense of calm being there, which meant a lot to me. It was just what I needed at this point in time and I wouldn’t change any of it.
I highly, highly recommend solo travel to anyone who has been thinking about it or wanting to go somewhere. Going on your own allows you to do things on your terms and choose your own itinerary. You don’t get wrapped up in the likes of what your travel companion wants, so the trip becomes solely about your desires and inspirations. It’s an empowering feeling, and one that I will seek more of in the future.