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Daphne

travel

Part II: Niagara Falls

From New York, we drove 8 hours up towards Niagara Falls where we spent the next 4 days.

Niagara Falls has been on my bucket list for a long time and I’m glad we finally did it because WOAH IT IS GORGEOUS.

We had initially planned to fly in to Buffalo airport but it was Thanksgiving weekend and the flight prices were out of control. It would have cost about $2,000 instead of the usual $450 to fly all 6 of us so we decided to make a road trip out of it. It only cost us $150 for a one-way minivan rental from La Guardia to Buffalo and as a bonus, we were able to make a nice stopover at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets for some shopping.

Pro tip: Instead of doing a one-way minivan rental from LGA to BUF for all 5 days (which would cost $800+), we split it into 2 separate rentals: a 1-day from LGA to BUF ($150), followed by 4 days in BUF ($330). This meant that we had to make a 20-minute pit stop in Buffalo Airport to do the paperwork but it was very painless and they let us keep the same car so we didn’t even need to swap it out.

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You guys, Niagara Falls is unreal.

I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I know it’s just water and rocks but when you put them together like that, it’s nothing short of magnificent. It’s like standing in a huge cloud of mist and you hear the thundering roar of rushing water and you look out and there are all these rainbows all around and it’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.

Every time the kids got too close to the edge, my heart would drop and I’d be like “3 steps back, guys!! Don’t make me have to go in after you, I’m not that good a swimmer.” They thought it was hilarious to see me this nervous so they took turns to get as close to the edge as possible and after a while, the only way to make them stop was to be all “You know what, going in after you would be futile anyway so hey, it’s been nice knowing you!!

And did they buy it? Not for a second.

It’s impossible to not visibly flinch when a piece of your heart is a small barricade away from plunging down the Niagara Falls.

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Here are some of the highlights:

1. Looking at the falls

I’ve always been a city girl but this made me question everything I knew about myself. I loved standing next to the falls and looking out at the rushing water. We couldn’t get enough of it.

We looked at it from the top of Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Terrapin Point, from the boat at the bottom of the falls, from behind the falls, and I still can’t decide which view I liked best. They were all spectacular.

2. Niagara-on-the-Lake

I love me some small town charm and Niagara-on-the-Lake is as charming as they come. We spent a whole day browsing quaint bookstores and looking at trinkets and having coffee, it was delightful.

3. Hiking

Again, I’m not really the hiking sort and unless you count the one time I walked around Coney Island, I don’t think I’ve gone on a proper hike in my life. I certainly didn’t think I’d enjoy it this much.

The weather was beautiful and we kind of just took a leisurely walk into some woods for a bit to hang out with some dogs and squirrels and ducks. It was an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

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4 days turned out to be the perfect amount of time to spend at Niagara Falls and those turned out to be some of my favourite memories of the trip; we could take things slow and I woke up to the best mornings ever.

travel

6 days in New York

It’s been over a month since we got back from the trip but it has taken me a while to finally sort through the obnoxious amount of photos so yeah, this is the time where we’re gonna talk about it.

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that New York with 4 kids was challenging. I’ll always have love for the city, but when you’re hoisting 4 jet-lagged kids around everywhere, NYC isn’t the easiest place to navigate.

And I knew this, so when I was putting the itinerary together, we had already planned for a laid back touring style but even then, these guys were seriously slowing down our travel game. I think we eventually managed to cover like half of what we intended to, but it still made for a very enjoyable trip with some pretty rad moments.

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We spent 6 days in New York and these are some of the highlights:

1. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

One of the things we really wanted to do was go for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We were prepared that it was going to be crazy (6 million people along the sidewalks level of crazy), but it was Thanksgiving, and we were in New York City, and we had to at least try. So try we did.

The plan was to reach Columbus Circle by 6.30am to stake out a front-row spot along the curb, so we set our alarms for 5am. Amazingly, everyone was up at 5 on the dot (yay jet lag!!), but we had to put on 17 articles of clothing per child (x4 kids) and re-clothe them after enforced toilet breaks (because it was going to be a 4 hour wait at least) so despite our best efforts at making all the kids hustle, we only managed to leave the room at 6.45. Columbus Circle was buzzing with crowds by the time we got there.

If we get to do this again, everyone’s getting up at 4.

We didn’t get to be as close to the action as we wanted and it was way too cold to be sitting by the sidewalk for so many hours, but the vibe was so full of happy it made the long wait worth it.

2. Parks + Playgrounds

These kids have not met a park/playground they didn’t like so we spent a lot of time exploring playgrounds around the city.

It might seem like a waste of time to hang out at playgrounds when we were in New York City, where there’s so much else to do, but as we discovered, NYC has some of the best playgrounds.

Their favourites in order of preference was heckscher playground, brooklyn bridge park, and east river state park.

3. Christmas markets

This was mostly for me. I love Christmas markets so I dragged everyone along with me to the markets at Bryant Park and Union Square. And it was lovely. We had hot chocolate and chocolate truffles and cookies and churros and pork buns and hot dogs and cheesesteaks under the lights and chilly wintery air.

4. American Museum of Natural History

We had planned to visit more museums but after dropping rest from the itinerary, the only one we managed to spend time at was the one at the top of the list, the American Museum of Natural History.

Why? Two words: Dinosaur bones.

I can totally understand their fascination with dinosaurs because it’s quite something to be up close with all these magnificent fossils. We spent half a day there and only managed to cover a fraction of the exhibits so I guess this means we’ve got to come back again to explore the rest of it.

5. Ice skating

Ice skating in New York is a special kind of dreamy. Maybe it’s the view of the city in the background, or too many rewatches of Serendipity or just something in the air, but it’s probably my favourite place in the world to go ice skating.

// And a couple more photos to round this up.

from around here

The one with the unwelcome visitor

So this happened last week.

It was 5.45 in the morning and I was in the kitchen getting Truett’s breakfast ready. Out of the corner of my eye, I detect a flash of motion (something small and black and fast) near the fridge so I froze for a split second but it was too early and my brain wasn’t awake enough to adequately process what it was.

It’s nothing, probably just some gunk in my eye,” insisted my brain, so I went back to making Truett’s milo, taking my time to spoon the milo powder and calmly walking over to get milk from the fridge, completely oblivious to the amount of danger I was presently in. Moments later, I saw it again, a black mass darting across the kitchen floor right next to my toes. My ability to process information at 5.45am is very limited so it took me a while before I realized that this was a rat. AN ACTUAL RAT. In my kitchen.

Okay I’ve seen Ratatouille. I know that rats can turn out to be be excellent cooks that hide in your hat and take over your motor functions by yanking on your hair and we can all be friends. I was almost sold on the idea when there were happy accordion French tunes in the background and the adorable rats got the premium Pixar animators treatment.

But the monstrosity I was looking at was the Peter Pettigrew/Scabbers version rat. It was neither cute nor did it look like it could cook. It was full on beady eyes, twitchy whiskers and the whole suspicious disposition going on with this rat. Generally, it’s not a compliment when someone says you look like a rat and I think it’s because they were referring to this guy.

Normally, my self-preservation autopilot kicks in immediately but I have not amassed enough real life experience in my 35 years to deal with such a situation so I stood frozen in my spot while the rat (sensing my presence) scurried around the kitchen searching for an escape route. It decided to head for the living room, which is the point I finally processed the danger and activated my fight or flight response. I followed after the rat, running into the living room yelling “RAT RAT RAT!!!” because I felt like those were the 3 best words to get my message across. It was very succinct. Also, I wasn’t actually planning to get closer to rat, I just knew that I needed to be in a spot with a bigger floor area so that I had more surface area to work with if I needed to escape.

thankfully this all went down when baby Hayley wasn’t casually lying down here

My helper, Muan, came running in as well and by this time, the rat was darting everywhere serpentine style like it was drunk. The 3 of us were engaged in this high stakes game of Pepsi Cola 1-2-3 where we were trying to not let it touch our feet while staying close enough to maintain eyes on it because the only thing worse than having a rat in your house is not knowing exactly where it is.

Muan grabbed a shoe and valiantly threw it at the rat. She had an excellent arm and the first attempt made contact. The rat started squeaking like a manic squeaky toy while still running everywhere.

I was like “this isn’t going to work, we need to open all the doors and chase it out” but this rat seemed determined to not leave the house so we went with plan B, which was to trap it with an upside down bucket. Turns out that one needs to get very close to the rat in order to successfully trap it with a bucket and neither of us was willing to take that kind of risk.

Finally, it ran into the bathroom and we slammed the door shut, trapping it inside. It wasn’t in ideal solution but at least it was stuck in a confined space and the danger was temporarily contained.

Pest control came to get rid of it that afternoon and when they tried to search the entire bathroom for it, the rat was nowhere to be found. It disappeared like an apparition. The pest control guys were like “There’s no rat here. Maybe it scratched open the gully trap and went down the drain.

Yeah, and then politely closed the gully trap after himself? I don’t think so.

I was certain the rat was hiding in there somewhere just biding it’s time until the coast was clear. It’s a classic heist move, making everyone think you pulled a houdini when you’re actually still there; I watched it in The Inside Man. But after spending 20 minutes combing through the bathroom, they couldn’t find it so they left us with a couple of rat traps, wished us good luck and left.

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I was certain the rat was still around but it was smart enough to lie low for the next 2 days. On Friday night, it surfaced again.

This time, the husband was determined not to let it get away. This valiant man chased it around the house and after a long, epic battle, managed to get it stuck on the rat trap. “Babe, I got it!” he yelled in triumph. I ran over to take a look and the moment I saw it (so gross!!), I knew that this wasn’t the rat we saw 2 days ago. This was much smaller, like two-thirds the size.

Still a win but you know what this means – there’s more than one rat and the original rat is probably coming back for revenge. We’re going to have to figure out a way to get it first.