This weekend we celebrated our 15th anniversary with a wonderful date that started Friday morning. Unfortunately there are no pictures because I inadvertently broke the LCD screen on my new Canon SD400. The good news…it’s probably covered under warranty and even better news, it should be ready in a few days. But back to the fun stuff…
We drove to Niagara Falls to see my favorite duo – Hall & Oates (better than ever) who were singing at the new Niagara Fallsview Casino (quite a Vegas like casino, I must say…but more about that later). We took the scenic route – although it was a particularly grey, cold and windy day. It is quite remarkable how Nature hibernates and the stunning pink and white blossoms of spring and fruit laden trees of summer are transformed into rusty brown sticks. The quaint and charming town of Niagara on the Lake, famous for its Shaw Festival Theater and charming Victorian Bed & Breakfasts seemingly right out of the nineteenth century, and shopping (artisan, wine, home-made preserves and jams and Victorian collectables) is a perfect place for strolling along – just not when it’s below freezing. This is Wine country and some of the local vineyards have fabulous restaurants that we usually enjoy visiting in the summer. There's even a Culinary Institute I keep meaning to check out. This time, though I was just looking for some home style cooking – chicken pot pie to be exact. Although I couldn’t find that, we did have a fine lunch – burger for my honey and club sandwich for me at the Old Towne Restaurant.
Next stop – Niagara Falls. We checked into our hotel – the Sheraton Fallsview and our room on the 20th floor really did have a spectacular view. We were right over the Falls and when we arrived there was the most awesome rainbow. After some relaxation it was off to dinner. Now Niagara Falls is not known for its cuisine, but we were both in the mood for meat and decided on the Keg for two reasons: 1) the food is usually consistent at all the franchises and we weren’t sure about some of the other restaurants with some funky names like Copacabana Grill House; 2) it was way too cold and windy to go far and the Keg was halfway between our hotel and the Casino. This Keg is in a hotel and we actually had some trouble finding the entrance (signs kept leading us by other restaurants) and once we did find it, I wasn’t sure it was the environment I was looking for – way loud over the top heavy metal music and it seemed more like a lounge. To my surprise the hostess led us to an elevator and told us to get off at the ninth floor. Every table has a fabulous view of the falls and is very elegant. We even got to watch the Winter light show on the falls. It changes color every few minutes and that and the mist create a magical setting. We had a local merlot (I’m ashamed to say I forget which vineyard) to go with our meals: honey had the steak au poivre with an even spicier sauce that was overcooked and so spicy he couldn’t finish it; I had prime rib that was sitting under the heat lamp too long, but I wasn’t really expecting an amazing meal and the view and the company certainly made up for the mediocre dinner.
On to the Casino - neither my honey nor I are gamblers but we love to go to Las Vegas. I call it the Disneyland for adults. Amazing restaurants, museums, shopping and every hotel is like its own theme park. We often stay at the Paris because…..well Paris is one of our favorite cities and you can actually purchase fine imported wines, cheeses, French breads, pastries, chocolates, etc., that you can bring back to your room for romantic picnics in bed……….but I digress, as usual. This casino has a similar vibe to high end Vegas casinos, complete with fancy stores and free performances. There was a great blues band in the Casino lounge and one of those living statue performers in the lobby. Rooms at the Casino hotel start at $350 and I’m assuming are lovely, but we didn’t get to see them. While waiting for the show, we played a little slots poker and …for the first time ever… I actually cashed in $55….whooohooo!!
On to the reason for going to Niagara Falls in the first place…..Hall & Oates. I’ve loved these two for years. Now some old timers - you know - the ones that used to be sooooo hot but when you go to see them today, just remind you of how old you are? Well not Hall & Oates - it was the best concert I think I’ve ever been to as an adult. I’m usually disappointed – the sound not nearly as good as listening to music in the comfort of my own home (or iPod); unless you spend a gazillion dollars, you can barely see them on the stage that’s a million miles away…or maybe I’m just getting older and like my creature comforts. The Avalon Ballroom at the Fallsview Casino is billed as “intimate” and seats 1500 people all sitting on plush wine colored upholstered seats. We sat in the 15th row and, I must say, it really did feel like seeing a group at a club rather than in a big theater or concert hall. Wait staff took drink orders at our seats – so civilized.
The show was fantastic – the guys looked cute and they ROCKED!!!!! They opened the show by asking for requests. Some guy in the back yelled “sing them all” and Daryl shouted back “all 315?”. They sang most of my favorites for over an hour and then did FOUR encores and I swear, they sounded even better live than they do on CDs. I was dancing in the aisle – it was awesome.
The walk back to the hotel was actually surreal. It had warmed up and the wind had died down. All the neon lights of the hotels kept the sky a bright deep blue and it started to snow big, fat, slow-falling flakes. I felt like I was inside one of those souvenir snow globes.
We went to sleep with the curtains open and because the red Sheraton sign was over our room, many of the big snowflakes were red and looked like fireflies or sparks swirling around a giant bonfire. It truly was magical to watch.
The morning started with breakfast in bed (well almost in bed – we were eating in front of the window and the spectacular “show” nature puts on this time of year at the Falls. The rising mist and the cold air create mythical, mystical icy sculptures on trees and rocks near the falls. Clouds of mist rise and alternatively cover and unveil the falls themselves…breathtaking, really!!
Well, it’s finally time to go back to Toronto (after all, my daughter Joanna is in from Halifax on business and we do want to spend time with her – but that’s for another post). By the elevator, is a glass wall overlooking the falls and due to the weather (grey & dreary and snowing again) it looks as if we’re watching a film being shot in black and white….absolutely no other colors…another surreal experience.
The car was covered with about two inches of snow, so while my honey cleaned off the outside, I warmed up the inside (hey someone has to do it!). The drive home was bleak and slow-going but we didn’t mind. We just plugged in the iPod and listened to Hall & Oates all the way home.
So that’s about it for our very special anniversary date. As I reread this post, I realize that this was a very visual and auditory feast and (very unusual for me) NOT focused on food at all. It was the ambiance AROUND the food rather than the food itself that was so memorable.