Our first stop today was to visit Punxsutawney Phil in his burrow. However, it has certainly not been Groundhog Day for us. As always we’ve had some amazing new experiences, and are starting to really see some fall colors appearing on the hillsides. Hopefully they will become even more spectacular in the next couple of weeks. The other big event for me today was that I finally got to spend more than 20 minutes in Canada. The Niagara Falls are wonderful and we enjoyed walking among the gardens on the Canadian side.
We were up and moving by 7:00 am, showered, tidied bags, ate breakfast with Nancy and Wayne (coffee, fruit, yoghurt, muffins), bade our farewells and were on the road by 8:30 am.
Wayne had kindly plotted us a route via Punxsutawney (home of Phil of Groundhog Day fame) and Brookville, which offered a quilting shop with 8000 bolts of fabric. I pointed the GPS toward Punxsutawney and after a couple of wrong turns and corrections we were out of town and on our way.
Our route into Punxsutawney took us directly past the kilted Phil so we stopped there for a photo. When Majella spotted Phil’s Burrow in the library window across a park we decided to feed the meter and walk the short distance for that photo. Phil did not seem to be alone in his window but there was no information about his companion. Along the way there and back we spotted more costumed effigies of Phil. There were more to be seen as we drove out of town.
We made it to Brookville in good time but saw no sign of the quilt shop as we drove the length of the main street. That was not really surprising because 8000 bolts of fabric would need more space than is typically available in a main street store. We parked and walked up and down the main street so that Majella could ask directions. We made it all the way to one end and half way back without getting directions before we spotted a coffee shop that Majella thought might have answers in addition to cappuccino. They had no answers about quilt shops but they did have WiFi which I used to locate the quilt shop using Maps and extract directions. Majella finished what she could of the bowl size cup of coffee and we headed north out of town toward the quilt shop. We found Heirloom Quilting and Antiques a bit out of town on the road that went north the way we needed to go in any case. We didn’t count the bolts but it was a big store and was crammed with bolts of fabric in more colours and patterns than I could imagine. Majella bought her samples and headed off toward the north with the GPS pointed to our Niagara Falls hotel.
Much of our drive from that point was through the Allegheny National Forest. Since we had left Indiana this morning we had noticed an increase in the frequency with which trees appeared to be showing Fall colours and that trend continued through the day, at least until we dropped some altitude as we approached Buffalo. At some points whole hillsides were visibly changing colour though for most of the trees it was still subtle with the occasional bolder splash of colour from individual trees.
We stopped for lunch, fuel, and a change of driver at Kane. We ate at Pepe’s Pizzeria where Majella had a cup of their soup of the day which included pasta and spinach in the soup. I had an Italian Wheeler – a sandwich on crisp-crusted Italian bread with salami, provolone cheese, lettuce and tomato. We shared a root beer to wash that down.
The driving was mostly through wooded hills with splashes of Fall colour and occasional small towns with interesting old buildings. For a while toward the end of my driving spell we wound along the Allegheny River which we had last seen in Pittsburgh yesterday. We stopped briefly at Springville to change drivers and then headed on toward Buffalo and the Canadian border.
As we approached Buffalo we could see a sliver of Lake Erie but Majella was keen to see more. Soon after we joined the I-90 we decided to deviate to the west to see the lakeshore. Such a large body of fresh water is a wonder to Australians. We joined another major road along the shore but exited and found a park where we could get a view of the lake and where we could check that we had passports and other documents handy.
The GPS directed us to the border crossing at the southern end of Buffalo. We had no issues in crossing the border, paid our $3 toll using US dollars and drove on to find our hotel, Michael’s Inn Fallsview Hotel, which I had selected on a combination of proximity to the falls, price, and availability of parking. I’d taken the option to specify a room with a balcony view of the falls. It’s true that we can see the US falls from our balcony if we lean on the rail but it’s not the place for a quiet drink with a view of the falls. However, parking was easy and it was an easy walk across the street to the riverside walk that goes to the top of the falls. It’s good value for what we need.
We arrived around 4:00 pm, checked in at the hotel, dropped our bags, and headed out to see the falls. We walked upstream to the top of the falls, pausing to take photos along the way. The falls are impressive for the volume of water that flows over and the force generated as it falls from a height. The mist rising from the water shrouds the falls and they always generate a cool breeze. Depending on wind direction sections of the walk can be damp and it is like walking through cloud or a light shower of rain. We watched people on both sides of the river standing or walking in the spray below the falls and watched the Maid of the Mist boats struggle up the river against the current and disappear in the mist before turning and running back down river. We did both the Cave of the Winds (walk on timber steps below the falls) and the Maid of the Mist from the US side when we were here in 1998. We enjoyed both but did not think it necessary to repeat either experience this time.
On the way back down river we enjoyed the gardens in front of the casino between the Sheraton and Crowne Plaza. They are extensive and formal with interesting patterns. We looked for somewhere to eat and eventually settled on Planet Hollywood where Majella had South West Salad and I had Caesar Salad, both with grilled chicken, washed down with margarita and beer, respectively. From there we headed back to our hotel for a well earned rest.
Distance today was 375 km. Tomorrow will require more driving as we head for Kingston.