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Red Wine, White Wine, Blues and Raibow

A half-dozen rainbow lorikeets are perched on my head, arms and shoulders, fighting to see who will be first to drink the cup of nectar I hold in my hands. Meanwhile Blue Macaws high up in the rain forest are screeching to each other and in the background the ever present thunder of a million gallons of water tumbling over the edge of an ancient cliff. Finishing the nectar the lorikeets fly off in search of more treats, while we head into a nineteenth century Java House for a well deserved lunch.

With the raging river boiling and tumbling on our right we leave the Java House and follow it downstream the few miles to our next destination. Parking our car we journey back into the rainforest for a completely different experience. Stepping onto the track we are greeted by a shimmering rainbow silently drifting through the trees and brushing our faces as more than 2000 butterflies float around our heads before chasing each other off into the distance. But too soon the sun is beginning to wane and we have to be at the airstrip for our sunset tour back along the river and over the Falls. Reaching the airport, Greg, our pilot is already warming up the helicopter as we are given instructions before boarding. Strapping ourselves in and donning headphones we’re greeted with the theme to Top Gun as the helicopter rises majestically into the sky. Not encountering any bogies, we turn east along the river as the sun gently sets behind us, casting a purple glow over the water. In just a few minutes we are treated to the spectacle of almost 700,000 square kilometers of water from 4 great lakes coming together and crashing 57 meters to the river below. Banking round for our return to the airport the endless panorama is displayed beneath us and in perfect synchronization the music changes to the love theme from Braveheart, completing a perfect trilogy of soundtrack, landscape, and sunset.

After a quick shower and change of clothes back at the hotel, we head off to the casino for a night of food, gambling and worldclass entertainment. Located on the bluffs overlooking the Falls our senses are overwhelmed once more as we enter the grand lobby with its marble floors, soaring hand painted ceiling and spectacular chandeliers. An elevator whisks us up to 17 Noir, the casino’s gourmet Asian restaurant, where our table has a perfect view of the Falls, which appear so close it feels as if we can just reach out and touch the spray with our hands. The food arrives perfectly presented, the service is attentive but understated, and the ambience is romantic, but tonight there is no time to linger, we have a date with B.B. King.

Two hours of steaming blues, played by one of the industry’s truly legendary performers later, we enter the 200,000 square foot casino itself. Hand painted ceilings, arching over the 3000 slot machines, 140 gaming tables, and a clock with 2 faces, one that runs forward and one backward await. A few hands of Blackjack, a few spins of the roulette wheel, a toss of the dice, twenty dollars in the slots, and both faces of the clock tell us it’s time to return to the hotel, another busy day will be arriving very soon.

Waking up as the early morning sun floods our room, we eat a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, toast and coffee. Refreshed and refueled we grab our cameras and prepare to spend a morning with the wildlife. We arrive at the park at whale feeding time. As we approach the killer whales they swim up to greet us, allowing us to pet them before opening their mouths wide in preparation for a tasty breakfast of herring and capelin. The experience of being this close and interacting with such an astonishing creature is truly indescribable and must be experienced to be understood. Killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family and, despite their name, are one of the gentlest affectionate and intelligent creatures in the sea. However since they can grow up to 9 meters and weigh up to 7256 kg they have very large appetites, eating as much as 113 kg per day.

Moving on we are introduced to the belugas. If the killer whales are awe inspiring the belugas bring a smile to everyone who sees them. Looking like something created by Disney they are both playful and humorous, and uniquely, as they get older they lose their pigment until, turning completely white, they look like a marine version of Caspar the friendly ghost!

The park is also home to bears, buffalo, two different types of deer, and a herd of elk, many of which can be petted and fed. But we have a tight schedule and must leave the park early for lunch at one of the more than 70 wineries in the region.

The River Bend Inn and Vineyard is one of the area’s newest, its first vintage is due to be released in the fall of this year, and will be completely estate bottled. The Inn is located at the end of a tree lined drive, and as we enter the 1860s Georgian mansion we are treated to the old-world charm and historic elegance of one of the finest houses in the region.

Lunch is served in the cozy 26-seat dining room overlooking the 12 acre vineyard. The southern inspired fare is prepared using locally grown ingredients and served with wine from the Reif Estate Winery which is located just a couple of kilometers away.

Sated and relaxed we decide to spend the afternoon touring the vineyards, stopping at one or two to taste their award winning wines, and then heading back to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours before getting dressed for our final evening downtown.

We have a dinner reservation for 9.00pm and since we have an hour to spare we visit the IMAX theatre to watch a 40 minute film on the history of the Falls projected onto a screen 6 stories high!

Leaving the theatre, suffering from sensory overload once more, we wander over to the Skylon Tower a few short steps away. Taking the elevator to the revolving dining area, 150 meters above the Falls, we are seated at a table by the window where we watch the thundering water, now bathed in a shimmering glow of coloured lights, continue its inexorable journey towards Lake Ontario and the Atlantic Ocean.

And so, as we partake once more in a fine meal, award winning local wine, and an ever changing dramatic view, our weekend of discovery in Niagara Falls finally comes to its unforgettable end.



For more information on sites visited in this article:
Birds of the Lost Kingdom http://www.niagarafallsaviary.com/
Butterfly Conservatory www.niagaraparks.com
National Helicopters www.nationalhelicopters.com
Niagara Fallsview Casino www.fallsviewcasinoresort.com
Marineland www.marinelandcanada.com
River Bend Inn www.riverbendinn.ca
Coyotes Run www.coyotesrunwinery.com
Chateau des Charmes www.chateaudescharmes.com
Imax Theatre http://www.imaxniagara.com/
Skylon Tower http://www.skylon.com/
Tourism Niagara www.tourismniagara.com





 

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