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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A recap of our Buffalo trip

We had such a lovely time in Buffalo.

Friday morning we arrived at JFK's brand new Jetblue terminal way too early (0930 for a 1215 flight). Of course, if we had not given ourselves all that time, there would have been traffic or something to cause delays, so we were content to be early. One thing we learned is that the Kindles we have, that we consider reading material, are considered by the TSA folks in the same category as a laptop. So we got to spend an extra few moments at security waiting for them to finish doing their thing on the Kindles and the bag. I joked with the TSA guy- saying please don't take any of my granola bars, I need them all (it was an almost completely full box). They were surprisingly nice and we headed into the terminal.

New terminals rock. First, the whole process of getting the bag checked and getting ourselves checked in and through security was streamlined in a way the older terminals just can't do. Second, the food and stores in the terminal were awesome. Third, the light was great and the space was open and airy. We especially digged the counters where you could sit near your gate and at the counter there was a touch screen with the food menus of the eateries, and you could order from there and someone would bring you your selections. We also really liked the availability of electrical outlets (though we didn't need them). Oh, and being nice and new and all, the eleven or so trips the to bathroom were actually quite pleasant.

The one and only complaint I have is that the cleaning person, in the course of doing her job, had to open the doors that are alarm activated, so every few moments a loud obnoxious and impossible to ignore/tune out alarm would go off for a minute or so, then stop when she closed the door. Jetblue: could you give that poor lady the code or something. It was very unpleasant for us sitting in the terminal, but the lady had to hear it constantly and up close.

The flight was very short and soon we were in Buffalo. For a while it seemed as though Hertz was going to be a fail. We arrived right after a big rush and they were having trouble getting us the economy car we reserved. We were considering telling them to never mind (and going with Alamo or Enterprise) when they flagged E over and gave him the keys to a car a little bigger than we'd reserved. It was a very nice car and we enjoyed driving it all weekend. It had Texas plates though. We spent a good deal of time wondering who would drive to Buffalo from Texas in a rental.

The hotel we stayed at was the Hilton Garden Inn right across from the Airport. We've stayed there before and loved the easy access not just to the airport but to everything else we wanted to do. We checked in and rested a little, then headed out for lunch. Our mission was to find a Ted's hotdog place. If you've never had Ted's, boy are you missing out. Actually, it's the type of hotdog that makes it great: Salines. You can only get that brand in that area. My mom has been known to order ounds of Salines to have shipped frozen to her in Alabama. Best when char grilled, these hotdogs are everything I ever want in a hotdog. You cannot go to Buffalo and not get a char grilled Salines, and the best place to get them is Ted's.

Our satnav directed us to the Galleria mall, where it turns out there had been a Ted's until three months ago. By that time there was no time for searching for others. It was eat now or get sick time for me, so we got to have Arby's, which as you may remember from previous laments, there is only one in NYC, and it's in Queens.

From lunch we made our way to Canada. Our goal was to drive across the Peace Bridge and along the senic route to Niagra Falls. Our rental had an easy pass, which was an added surprise and apparently there was no extra charge for the tolls. Our trip to the border was very smooth.

If I asked you, who would give people more hassle at the border, the Canadians or the Americans, I would put money down that your first instinct would be the Americas would give more hassle and the Canadians would be all cheerful and happy and welcoming. That's certainly what we expected. When we pulled up to the booth, the Canadian agent asked us our citizenship as we handed her our passports. E had left his sunglasses on and she curtly (yes, a curt Canadian!) asked him to remove them. She asked where we were from, and in unison we replied New York City. With suspicion she replied, Who's car is this? (remember, Texas tags) and E said, Hertz's. She asked us where we picked the car up and what our business was in Canada. When we told her we were going to be staying only a few hours, she was incredulous. Why so short? she asked. So we explained that we were visiting family in Buffalo and just wanted to sight see for a while. Finally she let us pass.

We've driven there before (last time we went to a historical fort), and as I recall, we made the same directional mistake the last time too. We were supposed to take the very first right exit off of the expressway, but managed to miss it completely (we were talking about the border crossing). Eventually we got off and backtracked along a back road. The amazing thing is, if you were dropped out of the sky there with no idea as to what country you were in, you might have said you were in the US. We passed a Walmart and multiple chains common in the US. The realty signs were all US companies. We found that rather entertaining.

Normally we park on the American side and walk, but my ability to walk, especially in the heat, is limited so this time we drove to the Canadian side. On the American side it's a state park with walking trails and gardens and foot bridges that lead to the tourist attractions, primarily Cave of the Winds and the Maid of the Mist (you can get the Maid of the Mist tour on either side). Overall the American side is very low key. You might pay $5 for parking, and certainly if you've never done Cave of the Winds it's a must, but there isn't much more to it than any other state park. Well, other than the whole water rushing off a cliff thing.

The Canadian side is worse than Times Square. We hung out by the falls for a while, taking pictures (can never get too many rainbow pictures), then considered our options. We weren't quite hungry yet, but didn't want to kill time in the overstimulating schlockified tourist trap that is the only other thing to do other than looking at water obey gravity. So even though we'd only been there an hour and had paid an astounding $20 to park, we decided to drive over the Rainbow bridge and head to Anchor bar for real Buffalo wings.

The American crossing took longer wait wise, but the agent was very pleasant. A few polite perfunctory questions and we were on our way. The satnav directed us to Anchor bar.

There's Buffalo wings, and then there's authentic nothing else comes close Buffalo wings. We were not let down. We shared an order of mild (unfortunately I can't do any kind of spicy right now, so we had to go with mild. sigh) and some cheese sticks. Some people can eat an order by themselves, but I knew I'd only have four pieces at most (too much food does the same thing as spicy food right now) and maybe a cheese stick or two, so there was no reason to get more only to waste it. Next time we come back, I am totally getting the medium wings (those are spicy enough for me). E had a beer with his wings, so I drove to the hotel.

You know you're a Manhattanite when you get in the car and as you fix the mirrors and such, realize that you cannot name the last time you drove. And when you put it in gear to pull out, you really know it's been a while if the car goes forward instead of backward (sorry E, but we didn't hit anything so no harm no foul!). The satnav directed us to our hotel and by then the day's travel and tourism caught up with us.

Saturday we went to Tim Hortons (yum) and headed to Erie county fair (site of many pleasant and happy childhood memories for me). We got there at 0945, so it was pretty empty. That was awesome. We watched some horses and their primly dressed riders get judged, we looked at 4H historical dioramas, walked through all the places with the animals (milk cows, shaggy cows, cows being autioned later in the day for meat, cows with ribbons and awards and lots of proud 4H kids pictures on carefully made posters showing them raising the cows), and even watched llamas being judged (I needed to sit and it was in a tent). We also rode the Ferris wheel (it's the only ride I can ride).

We stopped in the Expo building to use the facilities, and came across a booth that was cleaning rings for free, so E had his wedding band cleaned, and boy did it make a difference! My engagement ring and wedding band are in desperate need of a cleaning, but the band I'm wearing now is a plain gold one that we got just for my pregnancy. So we got some of their cleaning solution and moved on. Still a little overheated I was loath to leave the building's ac, so when we passed by a demonstration booth that was about to demonstrate cooking without water, we sat. It was a great demonstration, and we got to eat the results- which were very tasty. Still, we don't need new cookware, even cool waterless kind, so when the show was getting to the price part we left.

The weather had changed and it looked likely to rain, so we grabbed the char grilled Salines hotdogs we really wanted and ate them as we were leaving. Our timing was perfect. By the time we got to the car, it was starting to rain. Surprisingly the satnav worked and directed us to our hotel. We changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool.

I found the water in the pool too cold to be comfortable (it was an indoor pool, why it was so cold is beyond me). So while E sat in the hot tub, I dangled my feet in and we relaxed for a while. Then it was time to get ready for dinner with my step mom and her friend. We had an absolutely lovely time visiting with them. We shared stories and I visited the bathroom enough times to consider getting my name put on one of the stalls. When we finished with them, we went in search of frozen custard. I'd already had dessert (Apple Pie), but was happy to help E enjoy a brownie and custard sunday. Yum. Then we headed back to the hotel to attempt to digest the multitudes of food (not all of it good for you) that we'd eaten.

Sunday's big plan was to visit with my uncle Jim and aunt Deb, so after another trip to Tim Hortons (they have great muffins as well as great doughnuts), we killed some time by walking around the Galleria Mall (it's a huge mall, multiple wings, two stories, and expansions ongoing.

Then we headed to Jim's. Only, our Satnav could not get a signal. Grumble. Thankfully Jim sent directions via email, and Google maps was working well enough on my phone. I opened the Google map and opened his email and navigated us successfully to his house where we spent the next 8 hours having a grand time. I had given them very little information on the menu, in an attempt to be flexible (though probably it was a little nerve wracking for them).

The meal was so yummy I wished I had three stomachs to fill instead of one (and that one limited by this little human growing inside of me). My other uncle showed up predictably while we were eating (he's always super late) and we got to meet Dylan, my first cousin who is two who we've never met before. He was clearly having a blast not having to share any of the toys with his brother, and we adults chatted the time away. When it was time to go, Dylan didn't want to leave and was giving his father quite the time of it. But he was very anxious to go once I told him I was going to go with his dad instead, and play with all his toys. You've never seen anyone run so quickly from the door to the car.

Monday was a travel day for us, but our flight wasn't leaving too early and we were directly across from the airport, so we slept as late as usual, packed and were checked out with plenty of time for a sit down breakfast. We ended up at Denny's, because the Satnav wasn't picking up well enough to find anything else, and I was quickly going from hungry to sick. That turned out perfectly.

And if you've ever wondered how many trips to the bathroom two cups of tea will induce, I lost count around a dozen, four of which happened within five minutes of each other.

We discovered that it actually takes longer to get from the airport to our place than to fly from Buffalo to JFK.

Our last chore before relaxing was picking up the boys from the vets. Thor was getting his blood sugar read and the vet wanted to see the results for a little longer, so we only took Loki home. Poor Loki didn't know if he should be happy to see us or angry/lonely for us not taking his brother home too. He cursed us out most of the night (in between cuddling with us and trying to get himself grafted on to our skin-leaving no small amount of fur on our shirts). He was lonely all night and let me know it. I say me because I was getting up every few hours to do the bathroom thing, and even if he was quiet and in another room when I stepped out of the bedroom, he ran over and meowed at me the whole time I was out of the room.

Overall an awesome trip. And we already have a list started for what we want to do/see/eat next time!

Me and E on the Canadian side of Niagra Falls.

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