Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

You can't just have a quick look at Niagara Falls. At least, not on the Canadian side.
You can drive past it, but you can't park unless you pay big bucks, or park miles away and buy a ticket on the People Mover, which is what we did. It was hot, and humid, and crowded, and it took hours.
But yes, the falls are wonderful. Even Bao was impressed.
Crossing the border took even more hours.
First, there was the matter of the GST. The Canadians tax everything. However, tourists can get a tax refund, provided they apply for it at the border. This sounds good, but because the Canadians don't really want to give your money back, they make as difficult for you as they can. Here's now it works. You park your car and form a line in front of a window. There's only one window, and only one woman on duty. She's sitting inside an air conditioned cubicle which is part of the Duty Free Shop. You and all the other poor slobs are standing outside in the broiling sun and rising humidity. You stand there and you wait.
Nearly half the people who were in the queue when I joined it eventually despaired and left.
Half an hour passed. When my turn finally came, I handed over my sheaf of receipts and waited as the woman read through them, very slowly. I'd purchased two paintings and a sculpture. She said needed to inspect them. So we went out to the car, and I unpacked everything. This took at least half an hour, and when we returned, there were a dozen new people in line.
It was another fifteen minutes before the paperwork was done. But it wasn't over yet. I had to go into the Duty Free Store, and wait in another line to actually get my cash refund. I got it, though.
Crossing the border titself took another two hours. No problems, just lots and lots of cars. And I didn't have to pay duty on the art, or the wine.
I had a lot of difficulty booking accommodation in Utica, where (anticipating delays at the border) I'd planned to spend the night. I was a bit concerned about the hotel where I finally did succeed in getting a room -- justifiably. It was very basic. Comfortable, but basic. And they did short-term rentals. Three to four hours, no refunds. (Are you thinking what I 'm thinking?)
But, hey! I had Bao, I had Johnny, it was okay.
And Pownal, Vermont -- where I'll be for the next five nights -- is to die for!


Blogger waupacawinter said...

My wife & I visited Niagra Falls last summer on our way from WI to CT; neither of us had been there before. We stayed on the Canadian side. Unqestionanably the Canadian side provides the best views. We spent one day touring the area which I found sufficient. Niagra Falls and area is one of the few places that exceeded my expectations. I particularly liked the walk along the rapids area. We then headed off to Cooperstown, NY to see the baseball hall of fame (another of those items on my must-see-before...).

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