Monday, March 11, 2013

Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Deepening Our Love

+JMJ+

My mind is still reeling from our weekend trip to Canada because I'm still busy processing and thanking God for all of the beauty and blessings He rained down upon us. I had never been to Canada (save for a childhood day trip to Toronto with my family of which I remember exactly nothing) so I had no idea what to expect. Suffice it to say that our trip was truly beyond anything I could have imagined and I'm so glad Michael suggested it as one of the destinations for our "let's use some of the money we would have spent on a 1-year anniversary trip to Europe and try to take weekend trips before the baby arrives in August"  travel plans.

In the past 6 weeks (gotta travel while it's still comfortable and safe during pregnancy!) we've been to Washington D.C., Chicago, and now Niagara Falls and Toronto. While all three of these trips have given us ample quality time and allowed us to experience new adventures together, this weekend was the most jam-packed with new experiences and "firsts" for me.

We arrived in Niagara Falls at around 8pm Friday night, so we quickly set out to find dinner. After eating we spent the evening sightseeing and window shopping. Our hotel was situated one block from the Skylon Tower which made it really feasible to explore the casino, the Falls, and the buzzing Clifton Hill neighborhood all within a few hours and only a couple miles of walking.

After spending Saturday morning exploring the Falls (breathtaking!) we tried to follow up on a great tip from Celeste and visit the Canadian National Shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, but unfortunately it was closed for some renovations. Because we accomplished so much Friday night and because so many standard tourist excursions (like Maid of the Mist or Journey Behind the Falls) were closed until later on in the season, we were able to head to Toronto sooner than originally planned.

The Skylon Tower, Clifton Hill attractions, casino, and Canada's Horseshoe Falls at night & during the day

Heading to Toronto earlier meant we were able to arrive for lunch and spend Saturday afternoon thoroughly exploring Chinatown. Although none of the street vendors had fresh lychee (which I've only had in various smoothies and drinks), I was able to try 2 new foods (not at the same time): duck and what were advertised by one vendor as "mini-puffles" (think pancake-waffle-esque [but better] batter cooked in a unique hot griddle).

After checking into our hotel (which we definitely recommend) and taking a brief nap we journeyed to the CN Tower to catch a great view of the city and Lake Ontario from the world's second highest observation deck. The view was incredible and standing over the glass floor section was terrifying, so it was certainly an experience for the memory bank. After dinner and heading back to our hotel the 5+ miles of walking we had done that day started to catch up with us - so we opted to unwind with the best gelato we've ever had and get some rest.

Sunday began bright and early with 8am Mass at St. Michael's Cathedral (a hop, skip, and a jump from our hotel). Afterwards we explored the Eaton Centre before heading to Casa Loma - the former home to Sir Henry Pellatt and one impressive castle on a hill in Toronto. We spent the afternoon discovering the history, secret passages, and glory of the castle (which has been used in numerous movies, including the first X-Men [the interior of X-Mansion, anyone?]).

Toronto's Chinatown, St. Michael's Cathedral, view from the CN Tower, homemade gelato, and Casa Loma

All of our weekend plans were executed without a hitch and went more smoothly than I think either of us could have asked for, which I certainly attribute to Divine Providence and many blessings from God. Even the weather was far nicer than any we've experienced in the past million years months of Michigan winter. As we headed home we reflected on how much we had done (and how many miles [10+] we had walked!). We listed off all of the "firsts" I had experienced which, not including the painfully obvious, are:

  1. First trip to Canada (in my adult life)
  2. First time having anything from Tim Hortons (apparently we have 2 of these in Ann Arbor?!)
  3. First time seeing Niagara Falls
  4. First time setting foot in a casino
  5. First time gambling (we played 1 slot machine so I could say I had done it)
  6. First time touring the CN Tower (and standing approximately 1800 feet above the ground)
  7. First time eating duck
  8. First time eating a "mini puffle"
  9. First time touring a castle
  10. Feeling the baby make a lot of movement (incredibly exciting!)
Like I said, my mind is still reeling from processing it all. The Lord was very good to us this weekend and I'm so grateful not only for all of the new and first-time adventures, but mainly for the opportunity to experience all these things with my husband by my side (and our 18-week old baby in the womb!). Even the nearly 5-hour drive back to Ann Arbor was fruitful and beautiful for us, which I plan to reflect further on in another entry.

Blame it on the fact that I'm a newlywed, my pregnancy hormones can make me sentimental, or whatever you want - but my favorite thing about the entire weekend is that I can say it made me fall even more in love with Michael. The simplest gestures, new discoveries about one another, shared adventures, and a million other small things I can't even think to put into words all brought me even closer to my husband, which is perhaps the single most important thing I could hope for in any adventure, excursion, or vacation we take together - especially before our baby is born. When I reflect on all of this I simply thank God for being so good to us and I know I have so much to look forward to.

"The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever."
Psalm 121:5-8

2 comments:

  1. What a fun trip! Aren't the Falls beautiful?? sounds like a great time away with your hubby :)

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  2. I'm so glad you two had an amazing time! Unfortunate about the renovations..it is something amazing to see... you must head there again sometime, uh..maybe with the baby? hehe!!! :)

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