Sunday, November 30, 2008

Niagara Falls for Thanksgiving

Rather than staying in dark, gray, cold Michigan for Thanksgiving, we decided to run to the border and visit Canada, our ultimate goal being Niagara Falls and Toronto. Fortunately the weather was good and we encountered no snow on the way, making the 5.5 hour drive no problem. On the way, we stopped in London, Ontario, a neat little city with a nice downtown with lots of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. We took a walk there to stretch our legs and enjoyed being in a city again. We also enjoyed some Canadian humor: at construction sites there are signs that say "Danger due to _________" and the workers have to fill in what the danger comes from. Well, on the sign in London it was "Danger due to Ninjas" where they were working on a church. London is also where Labatt beer is brewed, but due to time constraints, we couldn't take a brewery tour. After leaving London, we got a little bit lost, and wound up in Hamilton, actually a bit north of where we wanted to be. After establishing that the people there seemed to be unable to read (maps, at least) we decided to just spend the night there on Thursday because the remaining drive to Niagara Falls was only about another half hour. In Hamilton we also discovered something else that was interesting: beer can only be purchased in Canada (or at least in Ontario) in "Beer Stores", which are actually named "The Beer Store". This only after a trying incident in a supermarket where my German husband attempted to ask for beer, but the supermarket employees couldn't understand his pronunciation of beer. "Bouillon?" they asked. Then he said "Beer! Alcohol!" and they tried to direct him to the wine section. Wine was not what he wanted. Finally, "beer" was understood, and they directed us to "The Beer Store".
On Friday we got up and had a quick drive to Niagara Falls, and were lucky to have not so cold sunny weather. The only drawback of the falls is all that water that they spray! But regardless of getting soaked, it was still nice to get out into the fresh air and walk, and the spray did have a nice side effect: rainbows!

Here's the rainbow created by the sun and all that mist from the falls. In the background is the Rainbow Bridge, which connects Canada and the United States.

All that natural beauty is not without danger: if you feel yourself drawn to the falls like sailors used to be drawn in by the song of the Lorelei, these signs are there to remind of the evil lurking behind that natural splendor.

We had actually planned to drive on to Toronto on Friday afternoon, but after spending the day walking around the Canadian and American sides of the falls, and noticing that they light the falls in the evening, we decided to spend a little more time and have a look at the falls at night as well. The city of Niagara has been built up like Las Vegas--in the top picture you can see the big flashy hotels, and yes, at least one of those buildings is a casino. In the downtown area there are also all of the tourist traps you find in every major tourist destination these days: Hard Rock Cafe, Rainforest Cafe, Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, Guiness World of Records Museum and of course lots of restaurants that you can also find in your local mall. And once you leave these tourist areas on either side of the border, all you can find are some sad, run down little towns that look like they've seen better days.

On Friday evening we crossed the border back into Canada after a long wait on Rainbow Bridge and being questioned intensely by a Canadian border guard with a bullet proof vest on. We drove back to Hamilton, where we stayed again due to its convenience and proximity to Toronto. Saturday morning we drove to Toronto. I've never visited Toronto before, but it definitely has the flair of a big city like Chicago or New York with its skyscrapers and shopping areas. We didn't do any touristy stuff there really, we just walked around town and soakedup that big city feeling. We also had a great breakfast at the Sunset Grill--definitely a good choice for all day breakfast if you are very hungry, like friendly service and want a change from the normal fast food fare! This seemed to be a popular destination for the locals, as it had an amazing turnover and was completely full the whole time we were there.

One more thing that gave me a laugh in Toronto: fries poutine. This is something I had heard of before, but couldn't really believe. It's fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy. Delicious? You be the judge. I didn't try it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

In the news

For my German readers: An article in der Zeit about Obama voters in the southern states. This article doesn't reflect my experience in Michigan with the mood surrounding the election, but is an interesting report nonetheless.

And a link to the fake New York Times...haha. Apparently readers were a little slow on the uptake that this was not the real news when they bought this paper.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gas today: $1.92

I was a little worried when I drove into work today and saw that gas had gone up to $2.09 after dropping to $1.92 yesterday, but on my way out of town I had to stop for some bread, and the Meijer gas station had the lowest price in town, so I filled her up!

In other news, I won some kind of prize from a car dealer. I got a flyer in the mail with a little scratch off thingy, and my number matches the number printed on the inside of the flyer, which means I may have one a 2008 Ford F150 truck, $7000 cash, an island getaway, or $25 cash. The dealer is not too far from my work, so I think I will go tomorrow and see what I did (or didn't) win. That should be good for a laugh.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Gas today: $2.13 per gallon!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gas today: $2.18 a gallon!

Check out the neat stickers you get when you vote! Actually, regular people just get one, but when you bring a foreigner and an exceptionally cute two-year-old, you get two stickers and some candy. Voting was never such a great deal!

I have to say that voting this year was strange. As previously stated, I have voted from my undisclosed foreign location for the last 5.5 years, so going to the polls was strange this year. Fortunately, I didn't have on my Sarah Palin T-shirt, so they couldn't send me away from the polling place for wearing campaign clothes. But down to serious matters, my secret ballot didn't feel so secret. I recall voting in the past in little booths with a curtain that you close behind you so no one can see your supposedly "secret" ballot. Well, this time around there were some booths, but without curtains, and some tables with little privacy walls, and some seats right out in the open where you could just sit and fill out your ballot for all to see. Really, in any of these three voting situations, someone could easily see how you were voting by just looking over your shoulder. The most hilarious thing, however was the fact that you get your ballot and it's inside a privacy envelope. The ballot itself is huge, about the size of an A3 or ledger sized piece of paper, and printed on both sides. So you get out your huge ballot, fill it out where someone may or may not see what you are marking, then you have to put it back into the privacy envelope so no one can see what you marked on it (this year you had to fill in little lines, not punch holes as previously), feed it into the voting computer and then, finally, you get your stickers and candy. We'll see how this all turns out tomorrow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Registered to vote and ready to go!

I just checked my Michigan voter registration online to be sure I am ready to go on Tuesday, and sure enough, I'm registered. I was concerned because I had voted from overseas for the last 5 years or so, and now that I'm back, I wasn't sure if I was still on the roster or not, but I am! So on Tuesday I will be headed to the Beaverton Township Hall after parent-teacher conferences to cast my votes. As usual, there's lots on the ballot, not just president, but tons of other state and local offices, as well as some proposals, like one (Proposal 1) regarding the use, production and sale of medical marijuana and one (Proposal 2) regarding the use of embryonic stem cells for research. Two very interesting and highly charged topics.
Here's a look at the political signs that lots of people have in their yards right now. You can see they aren't only proclaiming who they want for president, but also which local and state candidates they support, for offices such as district court judge, treasurer, clerk, congress person, state representative, etc.
Gas: $2.29 per gallon!

And that price in Beaverton. It's probably even less in Midland! Sweet! We should go on a road trip to celebrate.