Saturday, 28 July 2012

Road Trip - Day 7 Niagara Falls

We've all heard about Niagara Falls, seen the photos and images on TV, I certainly have but I never thought I'd ever see them up close and personal, although Canada has been a country I've always wanted to go too and Niagara Falls a place I've always wanted to visit, this is probably true for a lot of people, but for whatever reasons we don't always get there, so I feel so lucky that I have and I have really enjoyed it and that my girls have too.

Niagara Falls

Our day at Niagara Falls was brilliant, we started by heading straight off to see the falls - which were amazing, although Mr C & I both commented we thought they were smaller than we had imagined, that was until we took the world famous Maid of the Mist boat tour and got up close to these magnificent falls, and magnificent they are - it was truly an awesome sight - the falls are huge, noisy and wet.

The American Falls - On The American Side New York State
Horseshoe Falls - On the Canadian Side

There are three falls, collectively named the Niagara Falls - from largest to smallest the waterfalls are Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, the Horseshoe Falls are on the Canadian side of the border and the side we are on, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls (which fall between the other 2) are on the American side.

The World Famous Maid of The Mist Boat Tour
Horseshoe Falls directly behind us

After our boat trip, we had an early lunch overlooking the falls, then we took a walk along the cliff top savouring the view all along the way and ended up at Niagara Falls Fury - the top of the Canadian Falls, the spray coming off the falls was amazing you were soaked in seconds,

View of Niagara Falls from the Sky Wheel

Then we had a long walk back into the main strip of Niagara Falls - called Clifton Hill this part of town is very commercial, crowded, neon-lit that brings a certain tackiness to it but in a fun and exciting way it's packed with wax museums, arcades, and souvenir shops, this area provides ways to spend money at every turn and luckily our girls are too young to be demanding they go in every haunted house or wax museum on the strip, so instead we went on the Niagara Sky Wheel this was really good and provided a great view of the falls and the other treat as the girls really really wanted to go in the "Space thing" was we did Galaxy Golf - a cool indoor mini golf game in the dark it was all fluorescent inside and lots of fun, the girls couldn't get over how they were so fluorescent too - great fun.

Playing Galaxy Golf

Then it was back to the hotel for a swim, although Tilly feel asleep, Ruby got to have a good swim and play in the pool. We also managed to watch quite a bit of the brilliant Olympics opening ceremony - I was very proud to be British, sat in my Canadian hotel room, with my Australian children.

Dinner was at the Rainforest Cafe - a place we nearly went to at Euro Disney but didn't, so the girls were very excited to be going there and it was great inside perfect for two animal loving girls, Ruby said it was the best restaurant ever..... and fine it was, but I have to say the food was average and expensive, but the experience with the kids was worth it.

Our dinner ended perfectly in time for us to make our way back to the Niagara Falls viewing areas to be treated to a free fireworks show - all I could hear from Ruby & Tilly was wow, wow, wow, wow they loved it and to cap it all off the falls where illuminated too. A brilliant end to a brilliant day.

Niagara Falls you have been an awesome adventure, not sure if we'll ever get back to see you, but thank you for having us. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Road Trip - Day 6 Toronto

Our second and last day in Toronto and the weather wasn't too great, our first bit of rain since we've been on the road, it was quite refreshing though and nice it was a little cooler, however a little rain doesn't stop us, so we took a streetcar as the Canadians call them (to us they are trams) to China Town for a little look around, then we hopped back onto the sightseeing bus - our destination was Steam Whistle Brewery - we didn't do the tour but we did sample the lovely pilsner they make and bought some, next to the brewery was a train museum, although we didn't go in we did get to ride on the little train around the complex - it was fun.

After the brewery stop we were going to do the cruise, but the weather wasn't looking too good and time was getting on so we hopped back on the bus and got off at the St Lawrence Food Market - which was great I had a peasmeal bacon sandwich for lunch - a Toronto tradition apparently and it was delicious, the market was a great place and had everything from cheese, wine, meats and fish etc it's well worth the look around.

After lunch at the market it was time to head back to the hotel, where we picked up the car and set off for our next destination the famous Niagara Falls

Toronto is known to be the third most congested region in North America and we sure experienced the congestion, but other than 2 impatient girls in the back (and we haven't succumbed to the portable DVD players either)who wanted to get to the hotel to go swimming we had a really easy ride to Niagara Falls with certain areas of the QEW being more congested than others, but once outside of Hamilton it was plain sailing.

We arrived into Niagara Falls about 6pm, where we got upgraded at our hotel, as the front desk lady thought we were from Australia (well we are) and had travelled a long way to get here, we didn't have the heart to tell here we were actually now living in Chicago after all we might not have got the room upgrade, and the room is great too.

Once settled into the hotel, we headed out for dinner and a look around, no swimming for the girls though, but a lovely meal out instead and an early night as we wanted an early start to explore Niagara Falls.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Road Trip - Day 4 & 5 Stratford & Toronto

It was late afternoon on day 3 of our road trip that we arrived in Stratford so we only had time for a dip in the pool and dinner out, but the next day we spent the whole morning in Stratford which is a charming Victorian town, internationally renowned as one of North America's great arts town - and it reminded me so much of England probably due to the fact it was very much based on Shakespeare.

The first place we visited was Shakespeare's gardens these were lovely and the girls loved them, Ruby even said Grannie would love it here, from the gardens we followed Tilly and had a walk around the Avon River, we came across a boat house selling drinks, a good place to stop for a cup of tea with a lovely view of the river, the girls persuaded daddy (Mr C) to take them out on a paddle boat which they loved and they got to feed the ducks, we then went on a walk along the river feeding more ducks before we headed back for lunch.

After a late lunch it was time to set off for Toronto, after 2 hours on the road we got to Toronto late afternoon, we came in along a lakeshore drive which was lovely, we considered heading straight out to explore but Ruby & Tilly just wanted to go to the hotel pool, so whilst I did some washing Mr C took the girls for a swim, then we headed out for dinner and went to the Hard Rock Cafe in Dundas Square, Toronto's answer to Times Square

Day 5 sees us exploring Toronto after a good breakfast we took in a sight seeing tour on board an old London bus, I always recommend these tours when you don't have long in a city it's such a great way to see all the main sights and learn about the city too - did you know originally Toronto was called York same as the English city but named after Prince Frederick Duke of York, George III's second son and where I am from (no wonder I love Toronto) but the name was changed to Toronto (aboriginal for Meeting place) in 1834.

We hopped off our bus at the CN tower and of course went up this amazing structure which was classified as one of the Seven wonders of the modern world in 1995. At 553.33 m it was the world's tallest tower as defined by Guinness world records, until the Burj Khalifa was built.

The view was amazing and gave a good view of Toronto, we even got to see a plane taking off at the city airport and the girls had fun on the glass floor - not for me I didn't even like the lift up which you could see out of and you could see down too, the girls hold no fear and they loved it.

From the CN tower it was back on the sightseeing bus, this time we had a trolley bus, to enjoy the rest of the tour which was very interesting and highlighted a few more places we wouldn't mind seeing if only we had the time, we left the tour near our hotel and after another swim in the pool and a dinner in our room it was time for an early night ready for our cruise tomorrow hopefully, a visit to the Steam Whistle Brewery and a quick look around the St Lawrence Market - the No 1 food market in the world and I love my food so I can't wait to visit this market

All in all it was a fantastic day in Toronto.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Road Trip - Day 3 - Greenfield Village, Detriot

Day 3 was a fantastic day so fantastic I have to dedicate a whole blog post to it - we spent a good 5 hours (and didn't see all we wanted so plan for a full day as is it a truly brilliant place) at Greenfield Village - Greenfield Village is the life of Henry Ford, one of America's greatest industrialists and innovators, from childhood through the founding of his Ford Motor Company. 

We got there bang on opening time and started off by taking the steam train to Porches & Parlours one of the seven districts of Greenfield Village - here we discovered the home life of America's past, saw the oldest building the village had which was an old Cotswold cottage from the 1600's - It is said Ford fell in love with this house and paid for it to be shipped over to Greenfield Village stone by stone and there was the oldest windmill ever in the US - all these buildings Henry Ford had relocated to his Village.

After a ride in an old vintage bus for a ride around the village we stopped at a 1913 carousel for the girls to have a ride, then it was a ride on a horse drawn carriage - where Stephen & Foster (the horses named after Stephen Foster who is known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States. ) took us on a ride back to the steam train.

Our next adventure in the village was candle making the old fashioned way using beeswax - we were told families would follow bees back to their nests and mark the nests with the families initials, after the summer the families would then harvest half the beeswax to make candles from scratch - this involved melting down the wax, then making the candles by dipping a wick wrapped around a stick into the melted wax, then cooling the wax off in a large cauldron of cold water and so on until the candle become thick and candle like - we were impressed enough to have a go at making our own candles it was great fun but took quite a while to do - Mr C and I did the hot dipping into the wax whilst the girls did the cool dipping into the cold water, and we intend to light these candles on Christmas Eve

After the candle making our next exciting place we looked at was Sarah Jordan's boarding house - why is this so special well it just so happens to be the first house in the WORLD to have electricity and we went inside it to take a look, the house is in the Edison at Work district and it was great to look around the house and the Menlo Park complex where Thomas did all his work - he invented the world's first ipod well it was called a phonograph back then, but it was the first device to ever record and playback sound and do you know what the first thing he recorded and played back no well it was Mary had a little lamb after all he was a family man with 2 young children.

After living a bit in the awe of Thomas Edison it was time to grab some lunch and as we were in a village in the 1850's it would only be fitting to have lunch in the Eagle Tavern - a pub that Calvin Wood ran from 1849 to 1854, offering travelers a place to eat, drink and sleep. It served only food that was true to the 1850's - so we ate in the tavern where customers shared tables lit only by candlelight as they did back in those days, Mr C & I both had the Salmagundi (very much like a ploughmans lunch) and it was delicious.

 After our lunch it was time to see more of the village and time to ride on a Model T, so making our way there we saw The Heinz family home - where they first started their empire but not with Tomato Ketchup or baked beans but horseradish sauce who'd have thought it, the Wright Brothers home and bike shop was next - where they designed the first plane, and look where planes take us these days. The original Ford Motor Company Factory was next and then it was time for our ride in a Model T - yes we got to ride around the village in a Model T the first car to be mass produced, and we liked it so much we had another ride around.

After the Model T ride, it was pretty much time for us to be on our way as we had to drive to Canada that day, so we walked back to the entrance passing the home that Henry Ford was born in, and surprisingly the last house to be relocated to the village even though it had the shortest distance to come.

Our Greenfield Village adventure was over but we will definitely be back as there is so much more to see and do.

Leaving Detroit meant only one thing we were on our way to Canada - we drove up to Port Huron and crossed the border there with ease - Canada being the 5th country in 8 months the girls and I have been too - quite an adventure and our first stop in Canada Stratford but more of that later.

Hello Canada I've always wanted to go to Canada and can't wait to explore you more

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Road Trip.......Day 1 & 2

We're already on day 2 of our Great American Road Trip

Yesterday saw us travel very briefly through Indiana, into Michigan - a brief brunch stop at Denny's then it was onto St Joseph, our stop for the night, it's a gorgeous beach town along Lake Michigan

First we ended up coming across a lovely beach, a good walk away from the car so we had no swimmers or towels on us but that didn't stop the girls, they stripped off to their undies and paddled away in the lake whilst I reminisced about the good old days doing the same myself and the joys of being a kid and I'm so glad my girls get to do this too, so after a paddle & swim, it was back to the car to dry off.

Then it was ice cream time, so we headed into the town for ice cream and a look around. The main strip had a great sea/pirate theme going on

Then we found a brilliant beach area called Silver Beach, it had a great indoor carousel, which the girls went on 3 times, plus they had coloring in, hula hoops and chalking activities - we had fun with the chalk I drew around the girls and they did the rest

There was also a fab beach playground, where we spent a good hour playing, a water park and a great pizza restaurant where we had dinner, it was an old station depot, an Amtrak train even stopped at the station - it was a very busy day.

Day 2 has seen us hit the road for Detroit - a bit longer driving today but we did manage a stop off in Kalamazoo at a lovely cafe for tea & cupcakes

Next stop Detroit, the birthplace of Henry Ford and Global HQ of Ford, but as we arrived late afternoon, we didn't get chance to visit any of the many Ford museums around and tomorrow we are off to the Greenfield Village - a museum where we are transported back in time - the girls are going to love, then it will be time to head over the border and into Canada for our Canadian adventure.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Crafty Mummy Days

What a sewing week I've had, I've been sewing like mad and getting ready for a 2 week road trip phew....

So of course knowing what a busy week I had ahead, I took it upon myself to whip up 4 skirts for the girls (2 each) - I let them pick their own fabric after all they have to wear them. Ruby was so cute as she picked the fabric for her skirts, from the fabric, I had used ages ago to make 2 versatile wrap skirts by Make it Perfect one of my favourite pattern designers. Tilly on the other hand picked two lovely floral fabric. I also made myself another versatile wrap skirt it's my favourite go to skirt pattern from Make It Perfect

The skirts I did for the girls were very simple and each only took about 40 mins to make - I love the gathered skirt tutorial from the book Making Children's Clothes by Emma Hardy but it can take awhile to do - so I basically just simplified it and didn't use as much fabric so the skirts have a less gathered look.

In addition to the 5 skirts I whipped up this week, the butterfly craft, and getting ready for the big road trip, I also made the girls a fabric pencil roll each, as it was a surprise for them I hand picked the fabric for the girls, the fabric came from Retromummy when she was at one of the Mathildas Market, she always has the most wonderful selection of fabrics and at good prices, plus she is so lovely that's always a bonus, to make the rolls I followed this great tutorial from The Pleated Poppy

The only thing I changed, as I knew I was going to put marker pens in the roll, instead of crayons, was I cut my fabric to the appropriate sizes to accommodate for the markers and this is how they turned out, plus the girls were treated to new marker pens to put in the roll - this is going to great for our travels and each girl has ownership of their own roll & pens - brilliant

And I have to say the girls loved them. All in all it was a very busy crafty week