Day 3 – Girls’ Weekend in Niagara Falls…

Our last day. We lingered over our coffee and although we had a couple of things we wanted to do on the way home, we weren’t moving too fast – and it had nothing to do with the amount of booze we’ve consumed these last couple of days. Unlike yesterday morning, there was no fog and the sun shone brightly – an omen for a wonderful, scenic drive home. Still it was a bittersweet morning. We wanted to go home to our husbands and big-Jesus dogs but there was something magical about the weekend that we didn’t want to end.

Once we got checked out and called for petrol, we made our way to the floral clock. I remember visiting it back when I was a young girl the year my mum and I went and spent a week at my cousin’s house. I’d forgotten how far out of town it was. On our way there, we made a couple of stops along the Niagara Parkway to take photos. Even though it’s not the falls, the whirlpools and magntitude of the cliffs make it a breathtaking sight.

Boat tour heading up river

At one of our stops along the parkway, a Zodiak filled with tourists in plastic raincapes and life jackets worked its way towards the falls. Even it struggled against the strength of the current.




Eventually, we arrived at the Floral Clock. It’s almost all the way to Hwy 405 and the bridge to the USA. The clockworks were under repair but the flowers were still gorgeous. Too bad the background is scarred with hydro pylons and wires because of the power dam.

The Floral Clock

This trip to Lock 3 on the Welland Canal was much more pleasant than when we took  my friend, Anne, from Wales there back in 2005. Unlike back then, this was a much better route and was far more direct.

The bonus of this trip was a ship was going through the lock just above the one we were going to as we crossed the lift bridge. Couldn’t have timed things better.

I’ve seen ships pass through the locks at Iroquois but that’s nothing spectacular because of the lack of lowering the ships to exit at the other end.

Today was fantastic! Watching the lift bridge rise and the massive freighter approach the lock was breathtaking.

Coming under the lift bridge
Approaching the lock
Entering the lock
Lower gate opening
Exiting the lock

After watching the ship clear the lock and the gates close once again, we had a picnic lunch at the visitor centre and got back on the road.

We had a great time in the ‘falls’, made new friends, and it was the experience of a lifetime. I’m really glad we went ahead with our trip rather than cancel it.

Day 2 – Girls’ Weekend in Niagara Falls…

It’s really foggy this morning, although it could be the mist from the falls blowing back this way towards our hotel. Sometimes it seems to clear somewhat then we’re totally socked in again.

So since we’re on vacation we decided to start the morning off with mimosas. Okay, we already had coffee and muffins.

The plan for today is go for a ride on The Maid of the Mist this morning and then our wine tour is this afternoon. Then later tonight, we’ll check out the falls again and hopefully the fireworks and finish our night with a wander through the casino.

Shortly after boarding, an older gentleman from Korea came over and spoke to us. In the sea of blue, hooded rain gear he soon vanished in the crowd.

The American falls from the Maid of the Mist

The ride on The Maid of the Mist was quite the experience. Even with our lovely, fashionable blue rain capes, we got soaked. The force of the water cascading over both sets of falls blew water drops practically sideways, whipped our hoods down, our raincoats billowed up. We stayed on the lower deck but right next to the railing. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be on the upper deck.

After our boat ride, we walked through Oakes Garden Theatre. A wedding party was there and they were either getting set up for the entire event or perhaps just wedding photos. There were two small children dressed up in their best bib and tucker running around having a blast and giving the older folks a great deal of grief. Somehow, a white dress with a pink sash wouldn’t look very nice with a big grass stain down the front of it.

Our original plan was to wait and walk through the casino at night but because we were right there, thought we would do it on the way back to our hotel before our wine tour. Inside the main doors, it almost looks as if the building was built around a historic one and they left some of the original features intact. We walked up a grand sweeping staircase and made our way to the “official” casino entrance. A waterfall cascaded down on both sides of the escalators. Before them, a huge metal structure with changing colour lights, is in the ceiling and goes up at least two levels, if not more.

Looking up through the metal and changing lights

I stood directly under it and took a photo. It was really something to see.

Back at our hotel, we had a snack while we got de-frizzed, dressed and our makeup reapplied. We certainly couldn’t have gone in the state we were in. Quite surprised we didn’t frighten the folks when we wandered through the casino.

We were the second “couple” to be picked up by the bus. Then we went to another hotel here in the city for another couple. They weren’t there yet. When they finally arrived, we headed off to the home base of the wine tour company and picked up more people. Once everyone was aboard, we were fourteen couples.

Inside the barrel room

Our first stop was at the Niagara College Winery & Brewery (although we didn’t tour that part of the business). Our guide was a young girl who will be getting her degree in tourism in a few short weeks. She led us through the various stages of the wine making process and then it was off to the sample room where we learned how to properly drink wine so take advantage of all the complex flavours going on in it. We sampled a white, a red and an ice wine.

After the structured tasting, we were led into the gift shop and sample bar where we were allowed to taste many of the other wines made there.

Our next stop was at Hinterbrook Winery. This operation has only been open to the public for tours for less than one month! They are also an eco-friendly business. They have a huge bank of solar panels, and also use geo-thermal technology.

At the Hinterbrook Winery

Here we sampled a number of white wines as their reds weren’t ready yet and a rose. I shouldn’t say we didn’t sample any reds. We sampled one but it was a darker white, made from red grapes but the skins were separated from the juice so it didn’t turn red.

Vineyard at the Hinterbrook Winery

I don’t normally drink a lot of white wine and can honestly say, I’m not that stuck on it. But, I found two here that I enjoyed a great deal – a Reisling and a Sauvignon Blanc.

Reif Estate Winery

Our next winery was Reif Estate Winery. Here we were led through a structured tasting of a white, a red and an ice wine. After this was over we were free to go to the sample bar and taste on our own.

In the herb garden at Reif Winery

This winery also has an herb garden so we wandered through it and discovered they had Patchouli plants growing. We had to ensure this was the real deal so rubbed the leaves and then sniffed our fingers. It was. I think we rubbed every leaf on one plant between Mary and Yvonne and MJ and me.

Our tour wrapped up with supper at DeLuca’s. We didn’t get the three course meal, but we could choose any two options from the menu… starter and main course, main course and dessert. I had the spring mushroom and goat cheese salad and organic BC salmon. OMG! They were so delicious! MJ and I shared a bottle of red wine with our meal as did Mary and Yvonne.

Mary and Yvonne at DeLuca's

Then the four of us split on another bottle. You’d almost get the idea we liked our wine.

Al and Heather at DeLuca's

The other couple at our table was Al and his wife Heather. We were all in agreement that it took too long between courses to get us our food but had it not, we wouldn’t have had the time to chat and get to know each other.
After returning to Niagara Falls after dropping the other couples off, we suggested we meet up with Al and Heather on a patio for a beer. We would meet at TGI Friday’s in about an hour and go from there.

We settled on the patio at the Casa ‘doro Restaurant right next door to our hotel. We stayed and chatted with them until about midnight and by then it was very chilly out and time to get inside where it was warm.

Day 1 – Girls’ Weekend in Niagara Falls…

We weren’t sure what the day would bring since it rained heavily during the night. However, the weather was much better than predicted. We drove through a few showers on the way but nothing extreme. Even when we made our first trek from our hotel to the falls, it was dry…

Here we are above the falls

until we got close enough to Horseshoe Falls when the mist drifted over the sidewalks and dampened us. As you can see from our picture we’re a bit frizzy.

While in the portals behind the falls, a younger gentleman offered to take our picture. By that time I had discovered my wee Kodak camera had a backlight feature.

In one of the portals behind the falls

In return, I took his picture with his fancy digital SLR. It was very similar to my new one but I’m just barely getting to it so I couldn’t offer much help. It took a few tries but he found the backlight feature on his and I finally was able to get a good picture of him. He thanked me for being so patient and we parted company. In the meantime, my digital SLR was tucked safely under my lovely, yellow rain cape. After our falls adventure, including the Journey Behind the Falls, we walked through the gardens, the flowers in which were spectacular,


Rhododendrons in Queen Victoria Park

and worked our way to The Hard Rock Cafe where we enjoyed a couple of cold beer.






Enjoying pints at The Hard Rock Cafe

After returning to our room and fed with a pizza takeaway from Pizza Hut, washed down with a bottle of red wine, we went out on a trek to see the falls illuminated at night. We didn’t know a band was playing by the water and that there were to be fireworks at 10:00. Two tests were done but it was deemed to windy to hold them tonight.

The American falls at night
Horseshoe Falls at Night

Hopefully tomorrow night, the wind will be a bit less blustery and we’ll be able to see them, if they do them again.

We finished our night off at TGI Friday’s where we had a beer and shots. Good thing it’s only across the street from our hotel.

The view from our room at night

This is what we see when we open the curtains in our room on the sixth floor at night. |A good view of the strip and Clifton Hill.

Coming to Brockville – A Writing Contest like You’ve Never Seen

The Thousand Islands Writers Festival Storefront Writing Contest will be taking place on August 27, 2011 at various locations along King Street in downtown Brockville.

Dorothy Bush and I approached the festival committee last November with our idea (borrowed from an annual contest held in Bruton, England) and they enthusiastically embraced the idea.

So what makes this contest so different? Well, you’ll get to see the writers working feverishly at their laptops or with pen and paper whilst they sit in the storefronts and write a story of up to 2000 words between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm when everyone will stop writing and make their way to the drop location.

Everyone will receive the same prompt/theme/first line so we’ll all be writing on the same topic. The organizers will select the topic that day so no one has any advance notice of what it will be. The contestants will draw the location where they’ll be writing from a hat. There will be at least two people writing at every location. Writing is a solitary venture so being with another like-minded person hopefully will help generate some good writing vibes.

Now, we’re not done yet. Contestants will be writing under a pseudonym so if you have always fancied yourself as being the next Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker etc…, you’ll get your chance.

Watch this blog and the Thousand Islands Writers Festival website for updates as the contest time draws nearer.

Gordon Lightfoot concert – GREAT!

Just home from the concert. WOW! Great time. Even at the young age of 72, he can still hit the high notes. I didn’t take a camera with me because at some concerts, you can’t take them in and I didn’t want to run the risk of having it confiscated.

Didn’t even take my purse so my wee Kodak that I carry everywhere with me stayed home. However, all was not lost. I had my Blackberry with me and managed to get some reasonably decent pics, with it.

The only downside to the concert was the people who sat directly behind us never stopped talking all night! I was tempted a few times to tell them to shut the f$%k up but I would have been the one kicked out. Not part of my master plan so I tuned them out (as best I could). It was quite the relief when they left partway through the second set.










Gordon Lightfoot concert

Off to see Gordon Lightfoot tomorrow night. Have thought about it since the posters first went up. Mentioned it to the hubby last night and he bougth our tickets today. Told me he’d been thinking about it, too. What can I say, great minds think alike.

Should be a good evening… and even more importantly, a night out for just the two of us.

Niagara Falls or Bust… or When Life Serves You Lemons – Make Lemonade

Back in early January, I received a brochure from the local bus company with their 2011 tours. The last weekend in May caught my eye. It was exactly the trip my girlfriend from Kingston and I had planned on doing for years. Niagara Falls and tour some wineries. I tore that page out the brochure, scanned it and e-mailed it to her. It was agreed, we would go.

A couple of days later, I booked our vacation and we began planning what we would do in our free time. Until the trip hit my credit card and even from then until the invoice arrived, the whole thing seemed totally surreal.

Then on May 5th, the unthinkable happened! The trip was cancelled. Only twelve people (including the two of us) had signed up.

What can I say, we were handed lemons. But, what do you when life hands you lemons? You make lemonade. A couple of quick text messages back and forth and we decided we would still do it but on our own.

So by May 6th, I had a room booked for the two nights at the same hotel my husband and I used the year my friend from Wales came over and we were tentatively booked on Grape and Wine Tours Best Kept Secret Dinner Tour (wine tour with tastings and 3 course gourmet meal at an undisclosed restaurant) on the Saturday. They come and pick us up at our hotel and bring us back afterwards. I confirmed our booking by phone the following weekend.

While in Niagara, we’re going to do something that one of us has never done before. We’re doing the Journey Behind the Falls which I’ve done but not my girlfriend and the plan is for the Saturday morning before we head off on our wine tour, we’re going to go for a ride on The Maid of the Mist which she’s done but I haven’t.

Weather permitting, on our way home we’re going to stop in St Catharines at Lock 3 of the Welland Canal. With any luck we’ll see a ship going through.

All in all, it promises to be a wonderful weekend. I think I made us a fine jug of lemonade.

And before anyone gets any ideas about our houses being empty during our absence… forget it. Our husbands are staying home and we each have a large dog.

Additional Voices for ReadPlease

In addition to the voices that come standard in Readplease, you can download more. With these voices, you only get one male and one female but that’s okay. What languages can you get these voices in you ask? British English, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

I downloaded the British English voices and can’t wait to listen to my manuscript being read back to me in that accent!

The nice thing is after you download and click install, you’re finished. The software automatically adds your new voices into the program.

Reading Software

My fellow writing partner showed me a piece of software she had downloaded on her laptop before we went our separate ways after our “writing date”. It’s called ReadPlease 2003. Best of all, you can download it for FREE! Yes, I said free. And better still, it sounds natural. It’s not that tinny, monotone voice that some reading software programs have.

I downloaded it as soon as I got home and tried it out for myself. I copied and pasted the first chapter of my WIP manuscript into it and hit the play button. The software read what I’d written back to me.

In the free version of the software, there are four voices to choose from – two male and two female so you can choose the person you want to read your work back to you.

Reading your work aloud is the best way to judge the flow, pick up on wrong or missing words, or over-usage of a word within a short span of text. Now you can keep yourself from going hoarse and still get the job done.

ReadPlease can be found here:



Subscription by e-mail

After a great deal of aggravation, frustration and consternation, I finally got a proper “subscribe by e-mail” link set up on my blog. When I finally succeeded, the simplicity of it all was mind-boggling.

Here I’d been making it far more complicated than it needed to be. Anyway, to make a long story short, if you subscribe by e-mail to my blog, every time I put a new post up there, you’ll be notified.

Some months, I’m quite prolific on the blogging front… other months not so much.