Archive for the ‘vacation’ Category

Interesting Times

November 26, 2007

I was in Niagara Falls (Ontario) this weekend for a quick mini-vacation. On the first night, after checking in, (to the Doubletree which I highly recommend and is suprisingly affordable this time of year) I drove down to a 7-Eleven on the corner to grab a carton of milk.

When I approached the counter there was a guy roughly my age who was handing the clerk a $20 US bill to pay for his stuff – they take both currencies in the Falls area of course. She politely told him that it was only worth $19.00 Canadian (and what he was purchasing was something like $19.75). He chuckled, took the bill back and handed her his credit card. He turned around to me and said, “Boy, how times have changed.”. I chuckled back and agreed.

We then had a short, but interesting discussion. He thought Canada (at least the Niagara Falls part of it) was very expensive. He wondered how we live with these costs along with our relatively high taxes. He asked aloud whether everyone up here must make correspondingly higher salaries just in order to live comfortably. I assured him that this was *not* the case. 😉 I told him that Niagara Falls was a tourist area and significantly more expensive than the norm. I also brought up the fact that that we seem to have a very large middle-class in Canada while the US seems to foster a much bigger widening between the rich and the poor – at least that’s the way I perceive it whenever I’m visiting the states. There seem to be lots of SUV and Caddy driving rich people and lots of destitute people, and not nearly as many in-betweens as we have up here. He nodded in agreement.

A second interesting thing I noticed was when I made a quick trip into a Rexall drugstore to pick up some Advil. As I was paying, I noticed a stack of pamphlets on the counter which proudly explained the fact that Rexall was now honouring US prices on all of it’s magazines, gift cards and stationary. This is I think inevitable since we have the higher dollar and yet I’m still paying a buck or so more for magazines than US customers.

Interesting times.

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Mini-minivacation

April 28, 2007

We’re heading out for a super-mini vacation down to Niagara Falls this weekend. As cheesy as it might sound to some, the Falls are only an hour and a half away from me and they’re spectacular despite the tourist-y cheese. My daughter hasn’t been to see them since she was a few months old so it’ll be fun for her too.

Besides, with a nice hotel room and pool facilities, it’ll be a much needed recharge before the work week begins again on Monday.

Who knows, I might actually get to do a little photography while I’m at it. I haven’t had the chance to even pick up the camera lately. 😦

Things are warming up nicely so I likely won’t get a photo similar to what you see up at the top of this post. 😉 – I believe it was taken in 1911 when it was so cold it actually froze over .

Some Cross-Border Observations

January 30, 2007


Back from the annual trek down to Myrtle Beach. As you can see from the photo above, we didn’t let the mid-50F weather hinder us too much. It’s going down to a balmy 5F here tonight, so you can see how to us, mid-50’s was A-ok.

It was kinda funny sitting on the beach barefoot, making a couple of sandcastles, my daughter running knee-deep into the icy Atlantic to get water. All the while, people were trudging by with heavier coats (some even wearing winter hats!) giving a polite smile to the two lone crazies on the beach.

At the risk of generalizing far too much, here’s a quick, completely un-researched set of observations (some serious and some silly) I made about the U.S. while I was down there this week. Hopefully it might generate some comment, and hopefully not any harsh feelings. Take these with a grain of salt, and of course preface just about everything with ‘in the small part of the US that we were in…’

In no particular order:

1. You seem to have pre-pay for gas everywhere that we went. I never seem to have to do this up here. Although I don’t frequent downtown Toronto gas stations that often, I don’t ever remember having to pay before I pump (unless it’s via debit/credit card at the pump).

2. Southern hospitality is definitely not a myth. The hotel, airport and restaurant staff we dealt with seemed significantly more friendly and helpful than they are around here.

3. Maybe it’s just me, but it always seems like the US is lacking in middle class. There seem to be a lot of people with large cars, large homes and money to burn, and a lot of people with very little. Homes seem either huge and pretty or small and decrepit. A lot of people at each end of the scale and not so many in-between. Up here it seems like there are a lot more people “in-between”.

4. There are a lot of abandoned buildings and malls. Stores move to new locations and the old malls remain partially empty or completely abandoned. This seems more prevalent in Western NY, but I saw the same thing in Myrtle Beach. In southern Ontario old buildings get torn down and replaced, they’re not just left to sit. I’m not sure why this is so. Maybe it’s the real estate laws, or maybe something else.

5. People in the states seem to eat out at restaurants *a lot*. In Cheektowaga I was mystified as to why the IHOP was full of people at 9pm. Granted Myrtle Beach is a bit skewed as it is full of tourist-types, but even the smallest, greasiest looking places seem to be doing a brisk business on week nights.

6. Portions in US restaurants are huge compared to those here. My in-laws love this since they are all about the portion vs. cost relationship. I won’t lie. My belly loves this also. But when you order a plate of spaghetti from the kid’s menu you get a full size heap of pasta along with a huge side of fries. My daughter is currently in veggie rehab since arriving back. It does seem like you’re getting ripped off when you get back here. 😉

7. Quality fruits and veggies seem in short supply in the grocery stores. And the stuff they do have is significantly more expensive than it is here. I noticed this in Western NY as well as down south. Maybe something to do with the freeze in California?

8. This is weird, but I noticed a lot of people buying food in gas bar/convenience stores. To me it is strange to see a guy perusing the hot cashews or hotdog rollers in a gas bar. I had to line up behind 6 people at a convenience store when buying some milk. Four of those six people were buying food to eat (Little Debbie cakes, microwaved sandwiches and the like). Our gas bars have a small refrigerated section holding microwavable sandwiches, but I’ve never in the past ten years actually seen anyone buying or eating them.

9. Gospel shows and Evangelicals seem to clog the Sunday morning cable channels. While we have our fair share of evangelicals on Sunday mornings, you definitely see and notice how religion seems to play a much more prominent role in the US. The alternatives seemed to be infomercials out the wazoo. It was either finding God, getting ripped abs, or running whole meals through a juicer!

Americans and Canadians share so much culture that it’s hard to believe you could ever tell the difference. It’s actually quite surprising that there are any differences at all, but there are.

Have I generalized too much, have I got it all wrong? Please educate me.

Pre-Vacation Stress Disorder

January 19, 2007

Is there such a thing as pre vacation stress disorder ? (No doubt there is.) Why is it that so many clients somehow sense that I’m about to go away for a week and decide on Wednesday to ask for meetings and drawings to be ready for Friday? E.S.P? Bahh.

Half a day at work tomorrow to clean up some last minute stuff and we’re off for the annual trek down to Myrtle Beach SC. Yeah yeah, I know, the weather’s not the greatest right now. But for us to walk along the beach – even in a sweater or jacket – in January is still a treat. Remember, January for us is regularly well below 0C (32F) so anything in the 50’s is ok by me.

This time we’re driving to Buffalo (only a couple of hours) and then staying over night and catching a plane to (I think) Charlotte and then direct into Myrtle. Last time we flew to Raleigh-Durham and it left us with a 4 hour drive. Better than 17 hrs of driving but still a pain. This time we’ll be leaving Buffalo by 8am and into Myrtle by 12. Fuddruckers here I come!! 🙂

If I’m lucky I might even find the time to throw up a post or two while I’m gone. 😉