Archive | August, 2011

In Bloom

Niagara on the LakeOur paths routinely cross quaint little downtown neighborhoods, where clever little shops in historic structures ever bid the traveler to enter. Of those we’ve had the pleasure to frequent, Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, Canada, is the prettiest we’ve seen.

Timing is everything, and our time here couldn’t have been better. The entire town seemed in bloom. It’s possible we wouldn’t have found the area quite as fetching during a different season, but I’m guessing the impeccable landscaping we witnessed is a year-round feature. Certainly the picturesque Victorian architecture, moderately high-end shops, and close proximity to the Lake Ontario shoreline are worthy attributes for all seasons.

Travel advice from an unexpected source

A Souk in Marrakech, Morocco

New York Times celebrity opinion maker and columnist David Brooks discovers the benefits of simple travel in today’s column:

“Recently I did a little reporting from Kenya and Tanzania before taking a safari with my family. We stayed in seven camps. Some were relatively simple, without electricity or running water. Some were relatively luxurious, with regular showers and even pools.

The simple camps were friendly, warm and familial. . . . The more elegant camps felt colder…”

Brooks goes on to coin a phrase, the ‘Haimish Line,’ referring to the “warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality” found in some places and not others. He decides that more often than not, the extra dollars we spend on luxury isolate us and puts us on the wrong side of the ‘Haimish Line.’

We found this to be true in Morocco. For simplicity, ease and efficiency we took a group tour of the African nation. The tour whisked us through many of the country’s great sites. We covered far more ground in our single week of vacation than we ever would have been able to as independent travelers. But we paid a price for the convenience.

Break free from the culture bubble and enjoy the local hookah, like Shannon here at Djemma el Fna square

We stayed in large western hotels at the cities’ edge. We traveled in air conditioned buses. Most everyone we spoke to spoke English. It was all safe, comfortable, familiar and totally apart from the place we were visiting. The tour was like traveling through an exotic location in a giant bubble of western culture. We took so much of home with us that we didn’t really get to experience the place we traveled so far to visit. We were on the wrong side of Brooks’ Haimish Line.

Brooks proceeds to make broader points about how money is often unwisely spent to isolate us. He eventually concludes with a thought that is a bit of theme here at EverywhereOnce:

Surveying the vast literature of happiness research, prominent scholars suggest: Buy experiences instead of things; buy many small pleasures instead of a few big ones; pay now for things you can look forward to and enjoy later.

Cheers to that.

Maid of the Monsoon

What a difference a day makes. With the early morning sun shining, and the crowds from the prior evening mostly dispersed, Niagara Falls returned to its natural magnificence. Its power evident from the plumes of mist rising far above the 170 foot falls and dropping on us like rain whenever the wind shifts in our direction. To really feel their might, though, we needed to get even closer.

Fortunately, we can do just that with a Maid of the Mist boat tour. Departing every 15 minutes, the 80 foot long vessels sail directly into the basin below Horseshoe Falls. Getting closer requires a barrel and suicidal tendencies. Having neither, we board the next available ship and don thin plastic rain ponchos as we stake a spot along the port-side railing.

Within minutes we’re pulling away from the dock and charting a course past the America Falls. It’s immediately clear this tour is a good choice. Everything is more impressive from the river. The falls appear higher, broader, louder and more spectacular in every way. We watch as glassy emerald water, brightly illuminated by the rising sun, rushes past the precipice and transforms into a frothy curtain of cloud.

As we sail past, daylight wanes. The wind picks up and the gentle mist turns to a steady rain. A storm, of sorts, is moving in and getting worse. Our thin rain ponchos flap wildly around us, offering scant protection from the gale. Soon, the entire world is reduced to varying shades of grey. This is no ordinary squall. Elsewhere the sun still beats strongly on the town of Niagara Falls. But here, in the basin of Horseshoe Falls, a hurricane rages.

Barely audible beneath the roar of falling water, 700 horses of engine power labor against the currents. I shield my eyes from the driving rain and steal a glimpse of the cascade that now surrounds us on three sides. A stationary tidal-wave occupies my entire field of vision. The end of the world can’t be more dramatic.

The entire voyage lasts a mere thirty minutes, but it’s long enough to see, and experience, the falls up close. It’s also long enough to get completely drenched. This is one trip we wouldn’t want to take in the chilly off-season. It’s also one we wouldn’t want to miss.

Misfire

“I waited all night for this, and it was over in five minutes?” You’d think that after all of these years Shannon would be used to that; Read More…

Waterfall Madness

Che-qua-ga Falls, Monotor Falls New York

Che-qua-ga Falls in Monotor Falls New York

Everywhere we turn, a waterfall. Here, right in the middle of town, a 150 foot cascade. I guess the Finger Lake’s region in New York is getting us ready for the Main Event: next stop Niagara Falls.

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