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Hello From Niagara Falls, Ontario: An Uplifting Experience (Part II)

Feb 21, 2008
A modern glass-enclosed pavilion opened in 1996 holds a gift shop and a climate controlled tropical biotope that holds more than 2000 butterflies. On this cold winter day, a little reprieve inside a warm and colourful sanctuary like this was just what the doctor ordered. A 7-minute video provides an introduction to the butterflies and plants housed in the Conservatory.

After taking off my jacket I walked inside the conservatory and was immediately enchanted by the fluttering brightly coloured creatures that were coming at me from all angles. Some of the roughly 45 butterfly species on display include the brownish Magnificent Owl, the Blue Morpho (featuring an almost neon blue wing surface), the orange and black Queen, the yellow and black Zebra Longwing, and the intricately patterned red, orange and black Red Lacewing.

180 metres of walkways snake through the conservatory, surrounded by an impressive tropical forest. Butterflies flutter all over the place, sit on the glass windows, on the walls and on several feeding stations that feature colourful plates with oranges on them. In fascination I watched some of the butterflies eat, who actually do not use a chewing mouth, but rather a structure that is reminiscent of a sucking straw which allows them to ingest nectar, pollen and fruit juices.

After having spent almost an hour in this tropical retreat I was ready to venture outside again and started driving back into town on the Niagara Parkway which was peaceful and quiet on this sunny yet cold winter day. I stopped at the Whirlpool Aero Car, a cable car that was built in 1913 by a Spanish engineer and that has been a fixture among the popular tourist sites in Niagara Falls, Ontario since 1916. During winter the entire complex is closed, but from about mid-March to mid-November the cable car offers a perfect aerial view the treacherous Whirlpool Rapids about 150 feet (more than 40 m) below. The view towards the American side of the Niagara River and towards the Robert Moses Generating Station in Lewiston, NY, is outstanding.

Well, I had not eaten since I had left Toronto early this morning, so by now I was dearly in need of a late lunch. I drove back into town and decided to park in the Fallsview Casino Resort, a $1 billion entertainment, hotel and gaming complex that was opened in 2004. Parking during the week is free and offers one of the most convenient ways to access the great falls. I walked upstairs onto the main floor which features the Galleria shopping concourse and a variety of dining options.

I stopped off at "The Famous", which is a 24-hour upscale diner that features fresh foods in a casual ambiance. The decorating theme at The Famous is inspired by Art Deco, and a huge globe suspended from the ceiling represents the major attraction in this stylish eatery. The menu features a variety of all-day breakfasts, omelettes, fruits and salads, soups, hamburgers, hot and cold sandwiches, various meat and fish entrees and desserts.

Frank Scordino, one of the co-owners, joined me for a bit to give me more information about his dining establishment. Together with Robert Sniderman (son of Toronto's famous Sam Sniderman of "Sam The Recordman" fame) he owns the Senator, one of Toronto's most well-known fine dining establishments. His business partner Robert, an avid world traveller, picked up the globe during one of his international excursions and made it the visual anchor point of their Niagara Falls establishment.

When I asked him about what makes "The Famous" unique, Frank said that everything is freshly made on site, "nothing is bought in a box". Even the famous cream pies and cakes are all made on site, and celebrities such as Regis Philbin and Wayne Newton have all stopped in here during their trips to Niagara Falls, Ontario. My stomach was really happy when my lunch arrived and I enjoyed my hearty potato leek soup as well as "The Famous" Club House sandwich with its freshly roasted chicken breast, accompanied by bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo. To top it all off I had a slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream which hit the spot after a long day of excitement.

But my adventures weren't over yet: I was yet to experience the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights, highlighted by a personal tour of the Illumination Tower which creates the nightly light effects on the waterfalls, followed by a my first real magic show.

My first exposure to Niagara Falls had definitely been an uplifting experience...
About the Author
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions. Travel and Transitions deals with travel to foreign countries and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travelers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. Check out some of Susanne's several hundred video clips at http://www.youtube.com/user/travelandtransitions
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