Over eight years, a long time ago in kid years, Bhavna, the kids and I vacationed in Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. It was a vacation with extended family; my two sisters-in-law, their kids, and one set of my nephew's grandparents. Niagara Falls was our first-ever extended family vacation and our second international trip.
I just rediscovered the images, which I had never posted to this blog until now. Sometimes It takes me a long time to get around to things. I don't remember all the details, but I reconstructed the trip below based on the notes I had put in the image description field in Adobe Lightroom.
After a day of driving, we arrived at our hotel, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Niagara Falls. Our room was on one of the top floors facing Niagara Falls.
The Embassy Suites by Hilton Niagara Falls was about a 20-minute walk along the streets of downtown Niagra Falls at the top of the hillside from Niagara Falls Park. However, for practicality and to reduce the complaints from the smaller kids, we purchased a day pass to use the incline lift. The lift takes about 5 minutes to get down the incline, including the wait time in line. The ride is a type of railway transport called a funicular. A funicular uses cable-driven cars to connect the points along a steep incline, using two counterbalanced passenger cars attached to opposite ends of the same cable, looped over a pulley at the upper end of a track.
The area overlooking the Horseshoe Falls was quite crowded given the holiday weekend, but we did manage to squeeze in a few family photos. After a few snapshots, we ventured to tour the park, starting with the Journey Behind the Falls. The ponchos are an indication of how "wet" everything was.
We continued our tour of the park with a walk down near the foot of Horseshoe Falls. It was like standing near a giant sprinkler.
We waited until our second day to ride on the Maid of the Mist. The rainbows, caused by light reflecting off the ever-present mist in the air, can be seen from almost any vantage point around the park.
We took a break to get some dinner at Elements on the Falls before walking over to the field to lay out some blankets and claim a spot for fireworks. Families and friends were spread out across the lawns.
We visited Niagara Falls just in time to celebrate Canada's Independence Day. The fireworks started around 10 PM. Thousands of people gathered in the Queen Victoria Park for the fireworks on July 1st, Canada Day. While fireworks lit the sky over the falls, large coloured lights illuminated the water pouring out from Horseshoe Falls. It was an impressive light display.
The next day after a leisurely continental breakfast at the hotel, we walked down to the falls for more family photography.
On the agenda for the day was a ride on the Maid of the Mist. I stowed my Nikon camera away to prevent moisture from wrecking my gear, inserted my iPhone into a waterproof case, and donned a blue plastic poncho to keep myself dry. As we got closer to the Horseshoe Falls, I felt a strong wind with water coming from all directions.
The spray from the falls was everywhere. I am so happy I put the Nikon away. Despite the ponchos, we were soaked.
After the Maid of the Mist ride, we walked around looking for other things to do. There was no lack. I started to realise that Niagara Falls was a prominent tourist trap.
We walked to the Bird Kingdom where we were able to occupy the kids for several hours.
After everyone was in bed, I snuck out with my tripod for some blue hour photography. I was tired from walking around on our second, but I wanted to explore some of the paths ways I could see from my hotel room. I wandered off with my camera and trip along the footpath from my hotel and through the grounds of the Falls View Casino. I walked over to the footbridge over Murray Street.
These were all shot as long exposures (1 to 15 seconds) at different apertures on my Nikon and then combined in Photomatix Pro to create an HDR image.
The next day we walked around the area for a bit before the younger kids were bored, so we drove to the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture. We spent most of the time at the Butterfly Conservatory.
Queen Alexander Birdwing Butterfly was everyone's favourite. If I remember correctly, the naturalist explained that this species was on a protected species list.
After dinner, we walked downtown to the noise and lights. We had promised the kids some amusement and candy.
I had to have a photo with Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla was the genius who gave us alternating current, which Edison tried to discredit. In comparison, Thomas Edison was nothing more than a businessman who patented or took credit for other people's genius.
In September 2018, Bhavna and I booked a weekend getaway on Seneca Lake on the Finger Lakes region of New York. This is day three of three.
Two years ago, in September 2018, Bhavna and I booked a weekend getaway on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Here are links to Day 1 and Day 2.
I was tired from the long drive back from our balloon ride, and my muscles were sore from all the hiking we did yesterday.
Several years ago, Bhavna, Shaan, Kiran, and I had lunch at a local restaurant just before we drove back from a weekend road trip to Williamstown, Massachusetts. On the way back, we stopped at Saugerties Lighthouse to take pictures. I reached into my camera bag, and my heart fell as I realised I had left my camera at the table in the restaurant. I made a panicked phone call, and then we turned around and drove two hours back to the restaurant. So now, I find the last day of an out-of-town adventure the most challenging. I panic about the things and places still on my to-do list and worry about remembering to pack all our belongings.
We had it all sorted in fifteen minutes, and checkout involved dropping our key into a dropbox inside and exiting The Farmhouse. As we packed our bags into Bhavna's CUV, we were bathed in the warm early morning light coming over the hill. The Grist Iron Brewery and the Farmhouse looked beautiful. We drove into Watkins Glen for breakfast and hiked the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park.
Driving home from ballooning the previous night, we visited Watkins Glen State Park before leaving the Seneca Lake area. Bhavna's sister and her family had visited the area a few months before and suggested it was worth visiting. There are waterfalls. How could I do my best to work it into our schedule?
Breakfast in Watkins Glen Village
While breakfast is included in our package, I wanted to eat at one of the well-known breakfast spots, The Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli. We arrived too early, so I explored the street with my camera.
Glen Theatre opened in 1924 but fell into disrepair, eventually becoming an adult (a.k.a porn) movie theatre. In 1996, a Watkins Glen resident purchased and restored the property, offering mostly second-run movies. However, for unknown reasons, in 2019, the theatre shut its doors.
Once the deli opened, we found a seat near the window. I ordered a bagel with lox, cream cheese, and locally sourced fair trade coffee while Bhavna settled on a muffin. I was excited to learn that my coffee that morning was from Gimme! Coffee, an Ithaca-based roaster from whom I have ordered whole beans in the past.
Besides ourselves, the deli had one other customer, but several more tables were occupied as we ate breakfast. It seems some customers were regulars as the host greeted them warmly by name.
The two murals on the outside walls of Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli pay homage to the bountiful racing history of Watkins Glen. I’m a Formula 1 racing fanatic and looked online for more details.
On October 2nd, 1948, the Grand Prix began with 15 cars racing 8 laps covering 52.8 miles. Frank Griswold from Wayne, Pennsylvania, clinched victory driving a pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C2900 coupe. Briggs Cunningham closely trailed him in his iconic Bu-Merc. Notably, William "Bill" Milliken had a mishap during qualifying, flipping his Bugatti 35, hence the origin of "Milliken's Corner."
Charles Addams, the creator of the Addams Family, also participated, alongside Miles and Sam Collier, significant figures in American road racing history.
In 1961, Cameron Argetsinger revamped Watkins Glen to host the final round of the Formula One World Championship. The upgrades included new pits meeting European standards, with overhead cover and enhanced safety measures. The United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen became a cherished autumn tradition, attracting enthusiastic race fans who admired the vibrant fall colours of upstate New York.
This race was a global favourite for both teams and drivers due to its generous starting and prize money, often surpassing the combined total of other races. It received the Grand Prix Drivers' Association Award for "Best Staged Grand Prix" in 1965, 1970, and 1972.
I can only imagine how exciting (and dangerous) those early races must have been with high-performance cars zipping around the streets of Watkins Glen.
We didn't linger over our breakfast. We wanted to maximise our time hiking at Watkins Glen State Park.
Watkins Glen State Park
Earlier in the year, Bhavna's sister and her family took a road trip through New England, stopping in Watkins Glen to visit the gorge. They suggested we start at the top of the gorge trail and hike toward the entrance. They had attempted the trail starting at the bottom near the official park entrance and had a rough time. We heeded their advice, parked on the lower level and rode a shuttle to the upper entrance to the park.
Watkins Glen State Park, in the Finger Lakes, is famous for its mesmerising beauty. The glen's stream cascades 400 feet over 200-foot cliffs, creating 19 breathtaking waterfalls within a two-mile stretch. The gorge trail takes you close to these waterfalls, allowing you to walk beneath and around them, even feeling the refreshing mist from Cavern Cascade.
Visitors have various options for recreation, including an Olympic-sized pool, guided summer tours through the gorge, campsites for both tents and trailers, picnic areas, and excellent fishing spots at Seneca Lake and Catherine Creek, famous for its annual rainbow trout run. Watkins Glen State Park truly captivates with its natural wonders and outdoor activities.
Near the start of the Gorge Trail, we passed the Railroad Bridge, a deck girder bridge over Watkin Glen Gorge, which forms part of the Norfolk Southern Railway. The bridge, built circa 1935 to replace the previous deck plate bridge destroyed by a massive flood, is still open to traffic from Conrail, New York Central Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway and Penn Central Railroad. The previous Watkins Glen Bridge was built circa 1901. The current bridge is 96 metres long, with the largest span just under 37 metres.
Lucky Hare Brewing
We exited Watkins Glen State Park just before noon. Bhavna and I were hungry. After some discussion and knowing that all those hikers coming off the trail would also be hungry and perhaps dining downtown, we settled on our last brewery tour of the trip.
After a few days at Seneca Lake, we realised that Hector is home to more than a few of the lake’s breweries. We decided to visit Lucky Hare Brewing Company.
The brewery sits on a grassy corner between Beckhorn Road and Route 414. Initially, we sat inside, working our way through the tasting menu. Another customer overheard our conversations about beer and our recent brewery tours in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. After some exciting banter, we were invited outside to sit at their table.
Angel and Brian Ash are from Cuba, New York and often vacation in the Finger Lakes. They had just attended a beer festival in Rochester and spent a few days at Seneca Lake. We hit it off.
We talked about beer for a while and realised how much we all love it before I pulled Bhavna aside. “I still have a crowler of Fustigated on ice in the cooler.” Bhavna agreed we should share with our new friends. I got the cooler, schmoozed some fresh glassware from the cicerone, and sat to share one of Troon Brewing’s top-rated IPAs. Brian loved the beer and inquired heavily about Troon. He then said, “These are good people”, got up and went to his cooler. We shared a crowler of “X to the Next” from Red Dragon Brewing that he had purchased at the beer fest. This is one of the things I like about beer culture.
It's year-end and almost all of the UK staff are on holiday and much of the USA staff as well.