Adventure in New York

According to my friends, everyone in Rochester is in agreement about the city's number one attraction.  Back home in Columbus, Ohio, people might argue over the zoo, the Ohio State University, Franklin Park Conservatory, a couple of magnificent old theaters, or a sports park.  Well, that isn't the case in Rochester.  The top attraction isn't the Erie Canal, Lake Ontario, the Eastman (of Eastman Kodak) home, or any museum.  If you visit Rochester, you have to go to Wegmans.

Perhaps you are like me and you've never heard of Wegmans. Perhaps you really don't have a clue what a Wegmans is.  Well, it's a grocery store.  But, it's not like any other grocery store.  There are reasons why Consumer Reports ranks it the number one grocery store in the United States.  It's clean.  It's spacious.  It's well arranged with fruits that I'd only seen in my world travels and never before in my home country.  When I returned to America from my two years in the Peace Corps, my favorite thing to do was go to the grocery store.  This one might have killed me.  In that current state of deprivation, too much of a good thing might have really been too much.

Upon entry in Wegmans, after a free sampling of blueberry and feta cheese salad, the first place I noticed was the salad bar.  It had Asian, Latin, hot veggies, sushi, vegetarian, and kosher selections.  Actually, there were more, but I can't remember all of them.  And, after you made your selections, if you so desired, there was a huge dining area to enjoy your meal.  The bakery had the most amazing variety of fresh bread.  As I waited, much to my delight, they sliced the bread for me before I left the bakery.  And finally, if there were just too many selections and choices to cope well with, there was a tea bar right in the middle of the store.

So, let me be clear, if you ever visit Rochester, your friends (if they are true friends) will take you to Wegmans.  Don't be skeptical.  It will be better than anything you ever imagined.  There should be no doubt. After all, is Consumer Reports ever wrong?  I don't think so.

In my ignorance, and since I'd never heard of Wegmans, there was actually something else that I wanted to do in the Rochester area.  I wanted to go to Niagara Falls.  I remember visiting the falls when I was a kid.  However, sad to say, I don't remember much about the experience.  It was time for a refresher.

Since I recently visited Iguazu Falls in South America, I wasn't sure if Niagara Falls would hold up in comparison.  I'm pleased to report that it held up just fine.  But, it's my guess that the whole place has changed a lot since I was a kid.

One of the things that I enjoyed and appreciated in Brazil was how most man-made things in the area were hidden by trees.  The view around the falls was mostly unspoiled (except for a terrible hotel on the Argentina side).  That's really not the case around Niagara Falls. There was a lot of greenery and some tall buildings on the American side of the falls.  But, the Canadian side was build up with sky scrapers and city development right up to the riverside.  I just had to get over that and carefully take my photos without annoying buildings in the way.  It was possible.

The American Falls and the rainbow's end near the Maid of the Mist
On both sides of the falls, you are able to take paths that lead up to the water's edge.  I chose to do this on the American side.  It can be a wet experience, but it's more beautiful than wet.  The spray from the falls created the smallest double rainbow I've ever seen.  And, much to my delight, the two rainbows ended about thirty feet away from me. Unfortunately, the rainbow's end and I were separated by a fence that nobody was permitted to cross.  Naturally, I was tempted to look for Leprechaun gold.  I couldn't see any from my side of the fence. Perhaps those Leprechauns hid it just behind those slippery rocks? Was it worth risking the wrath of park rangers?  Worse than that, was it worth slipping over the edge of the falls to check for that illusive pot? Not on this trip.  Sad to say, I don't have that much faith in Leprechauns, even when I did spy the end of the rainbow, in fact two of them, for the first time in my life.

The one thing I remember from my youth about Niagara Falls was the Maid of the Mist boat ride.  The advertising claimed that the boat went under the falls.  At the time, I believed everything I heard in advertising. When they said "under", I expected to go under the falls.  Floating up to the edge of the Canadian Falls, without actually going under them, was just not that satisfying.
The Canadian Falls
On this second trip, I was mentally prepared not to go under the falls. And, I didn't see even one sign with false advertising.  Like I said, times had changed.  In my memory, I don't recall the Maid of the Mist being as large as it is today.  It's a double-decker boat, meant to hold at least 100 people.  I don't remember that extra deck.  Anyway, I headed to the boat ride early in the morning to avoid longer lines in the afternoon.  My progress in line was slowed down by a family of four in front of me.  I was slightly annoyed when this family made it on to the boat and I was left behind.

That disappointment didn't last long.

If I had made it on that first boat, I would have squeezed in wherever there was available space.  But, since I didn't make that boat, I was the first person to step on to the next boat.  And, believe me, I knew where to go.  It had my Leonardo Di Caprio moment on the front tip of the boat.  I was the king of the world, or at least Niagara Falls, wrapped up in my blue raincoat on my way to the Canadian Falls.
The Canadian Falls
You can't take the boat too close to the American Falls.  There are lots of huge boulders that have fallen along the bottom of the falls.  So, when you pass by on the Maid of the Mist, it lives up to its name.  There is a mist.  On a hot day, I must admit, it felt so refreshing.  But, when you approach the Canadian Falls, that maid turns into a dame.  The boat should change its name at that moment to Dame of the Drenched.

There was no more mist.  Water splashed in all directions.  It was nearly impossible to see anything, but that didn't stop feeling my surroundings.  And, my feelings were soaking wet and absolutely drenched.  I pulled my raincoat's hood around my face and held on tightly to my royal position at the front of the boat.  I have to say that on this ride you get your money's worth.  It wasn't a carnival trip that in a matter of seconds was over way to soon.  We toured the entire length of the Canadian Falls.  By the time the trip was over, I still felt like the king of the world, only a completely drenched one.  Although my shoes were sopping wet and never fully dried out the rest of the day, each time I thought about the dampness, I remembered how wonderful it felt to be a king for that brief moment.