© Lionel Beck - North Yorkshire - UK Pauline & Lionel ~ Transatlantic Flying Virgins (not to be confuse with Flying Virgin Atlantic)  .. and why choose to fly the Atlantic?!  Hopping the Pond  We have studiously avoided flying. Our reluctance was fuzzily bound up with sitting in an enclosed space from which there was no escape, and in my case a fear of travel sickness. I've never been travel sick in my life! But as a young boy I listened to mother banging on about Dad's inability to step on to a boat without “going green”. I grew up convinced I would be similarly cursed. (Thanks Mum!) So why now? Life was slipping by. Other people flew. Why should we be different? Also, some Americans had been in regular e- mail contact with me after visiting my  website, so we had some incentive to cross the "herring pond" knowing we could meet up with people we had come to know quite well.  [Mouseover this for additional information] We don't much like hitting on the regular tourist hotspots, so here was an opportunity to see parts of America neglected by most British tourists, meeting people like us, in ordinary places, doing typical jobs - in some ways a lot more interesting than doing the Disney thing in Florida or seeing Las Vegas. We found a Canadian Charter Company called Air Transat who were so much cheaper than the major airlines that we could afford to upgrade to "Club Class". If we were going to force ourselves into the air we might at least do it in some style and comfort. We drove from our North Yorkshire village to Manchester Airport the day before our flight and booked into the SAS Radisson Hotel (Directly linked by covered walkway to the terminals so ideal for aero-virgins.) Saturday 6th September 2003 Breakfast overlooking the aircraft aprons for Terminal One. Chatting to the waitress we learned they were only paid £4.20 per hour, and were often expected to work overtime. The catch was, though, that any overtime worked was at the same pay rate! (21st Century and still shamelessly exploiting workers.) We entered the aircraft (a Lockheed 1011) with some trepidation, and were surprised (and slightly disturbed) by how well-worn and slightly down-at-heel it looked inside. Air Transat operate a fleet of Lockheed 1011s and Airbus 310s (see left). The Lockheeds are much older than the Airbus (left). Still, we reminded ourselves that the company had an unblemished safety record! We were flying Club Class, and this was a 20-seat section in the front of the aircraft, separated from the "great unwashed" by a couple of curtains. We had big comfortable leather seats, and good leg room. Contrary to my expectation, take-off was exhilarating and I liked it .. the sudden surge of acceleration and the sight of everything whizzing by at incredible speed, before suddenly finding ourselves floating, and looking down on a rapidly diminishing countryside. The flight time was announced by the Captain as being “7 hours and 1 minute”. (I wondered how important the 1 minute was.)  It was a smooth flight: 35,000 ft at 590 mph with an outside temperature well below freezing. The "cloudscape" was amazing. Drinks, snacks and meals were served with surprising frequency, so that together with watching a couple of (third-rate) movies and the occasional doze 7 hours went surprisingly quickly. Landing (disliked by many) was again, to me, enjoyable, though disconcerting at times, because at a height where you can see buildings and roads very clearly you are still high enough to have no appreciation of your speed relative to the ground, then when the the wheels go down you can feel the aircraft slowing, and there is a moment when you feel that if the damn thing goes any slower it will just fall out of the sky! But as you approach the runway, and you see buildings whizzing by, suddenly your speed becomes very obvious and you appear to be speeding up just when you are thinking, "Hang on, aren’t we supposed to be slowing down?". Surprisingly we had enjoyed the whole experience and not by the prospect of the return journey in two weeks' time. I was extra pleased with myself, because the doctor had provided us with tranquillisers in case we needed them, but I didn't use them. At Toronto Airport we caught a shuttle bus to our hotel (about 10 minutes from the terminal). During the drive we noticed our driver executing a scary manoeuvre that I would have to come to terms with over the next two weeks - going through a red traffic light (legally) to turn right (if the road is clear). (This is of course the equivalent of a driver in the UK going through red traffic lights to turn left.) It was now 5 hours earlier than UK time. We had a pleasant evening meal in the hotel restaurant then retired to bed for nine hours. Sunday 7th September 2003 Up at 6 a.m. for a decent cup of coffee using the room's coffee maker, then down to a breakfast of fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potato cubes, toast, marmalade and coffee ... pretty much like a typical English breakfast, except that in Canada the toast always seems to come ready-buttered. We took a taxi and paid $39 for the 20 mile trip into the centre of Toronto. We were dropped off at the harbour front and jumped straight into a boat doing trips on Lake Ontario, around the harbour area and the Toronto Islands, from which we had a magnificent view of the city, its skyline dominated by the massive CN Tower and the "Skydome" sports arena. Residents on the islands use ferry services to pick up provisions in Toronto, and during the winter, when Lake Ontario is frozen to a depth of 4 inches an ice-breaking ferry is used.  When we got off the boat, we thought that having met one challenge (flying the Atlantic) we would take on another by ascending the CN Tower. This is 1800 ft tall and is the tallest structure in North America. There is more concrete under the ground than above it.  Ascending in one of the lifts is either terrifying or exhilarating, depending on your frame of mind. The tower contains four continuous "windows" extending from top to bottom behind which each of the lifts operate. The lift doors are glass, so that once you start the ascent (at a speed of about 15 mph) and rise above the base of the tower the rapidly disappearing ground is starkly and continuously visible. Some occupants turn and face the squeamish back of the lift! The main viewing area near the top is at about 1400 ft., but there is another observation point at the top. There is a revolving restaurant. Studies at the design stage showed that the average three-course meal took people about 70 minutes, and so the mechanism was timed to complete one complete revolution in 70 minutes. Just below the restaurant and main viewing area there is another viewing section with a glass floor apparently strong enough to support a large number of hippopotami. (None was present to put it to the test!) You could stand on this glass floor and look straight down to the ground. Scary! People were skirting around the glass panels like frightened rabbits. At lunch time we tried several waterfront cafés but they were so busy we felt we would never get seated, but eventually we found one specialising in sweet and savoury crêpes, so we sat there on the open terrace under a sunshade devouring cheese and ham crêpes with side salad, and a glass of orange juice, watching the world go by. It all felt very Mediterranean, except that people were speaking English. After lunch we did a 2-hour conducted tour of the city by minibus. The driver was chatty and treated us all like friends whilst delivering a highly impressive and informative commentary on all the sights, drawing from a wealth of statistical information stored in his remarkable brain. How he did all this whilst negotiating the traffic was a minor marvel. All the people on our bus were "Brits" (including one of Pakistani origin who ran a Post Office in Nottingham). The driver told us that a few years ago all his passengers were Americans. Now, he said, since 9/11 "Americans aren't going anywhere", and in any case "they don't like the Canadians any more since we refused to join Bush's Iraq war!"  Most of his passengers these days were from the UK. Toronto is a clean and pleasant city with attractive buildings, new and old. The policy on old buildings of historical interest is that when building new skyscrapers on such sites, they preserve the old building within the lower part of the new structure; a novel approach. New development is also required to be accompanied by some form of "street art" (see left). Crime rates are low, and during the whole day that we spent in Toronto we saw less than half a dozen policemen and perhaps a couple of police cars (and there was a big baseball game on as well in the Skydome, attracting big crowds). Our taxi driver picked us up at 6 pm and took us back to the airport hotel. A fantastic day was completed with an excellent dinner in the hotel restaurant. Monday 8th September 2003 Now we start motoring. Discount Car Hire sent a driver to collect us and our luggage from the hotel. When we arrived at the office he said "Just leave your baggage on the side-walk while we go inside and do the paperwork." We were concerned, but he said, "Don't worry, nobody is going to touch your bags". And no one did. They gave us a Chrysler Sebring - automatic gearbox, air conditioning, and cruise control. This was not my first experience of driving on the "wrong" side of the road; we had driven many times in continental Europe, but always in our own car. This was my first time behind the wheel of a left- hand drive car, and it felt really weird. My perspective was shot to pieces. I pulled out gingerly into the road and off we went, desperately trying to gauge how close I was to the side of the road to my right. It was difficult to remember that I had half a car to the right of me, instead of just the thickness of my door! The problem became acute when we hit the express-way to get out of Toronto travelling north. Multiple lanes of traffic, large trucks with blaring horns, and road signs hard to understand in the heat of the moment. I nearly ran into the side of a truck to my right, because I had temporarily forgotten that most of my car width was now on my right hand side.  We missed the slip-road (they call it a ramp) for our road north, because we were in the wrong lane and couldn't get back into the right one. So we had to come off several miles along the road, turn round in a residential area and get back on the express-way in the opposite direction until we found our link with the road going north towards Owen Sound (our next destination). We had lunch in a little roadside restaurant and bar in a small village called Singhampton. The place looked nothing at all on the outside but was charming inside; the lady running the place was very nice, and kept asking "What would you like now, dear?"  After lunch it was onwards to Owen Sound, on the banks of Georgian Bay. We only got lost once! We found the Best Western Inn on the Bay, on the waterfront, which was to be our stopover for the night; a pleasant hotel. That evening I used my mobile phone to ring Roberta and let her know we had successfully crossed the Atlantic. It was good to establish that the phone really did work on this side of the pond. Then I received a text message from the phone company informing us that we should not use the charger because it was dangerous, and should contact them about a replacement. Now  they tell us - just when we've arrived in Canada with a phone purchased specifically for use in North America. We decided to carry on using the charger, if required, until we got home, and just keep a careful eye on it. (In the event it never did catch fire, so we didn't burn down any hotels!) Tuesday 9th September 2003 Heading west from Owen Sound then south on Highway 21 towards Sarnia and Bluewater Bridge (the US border). Whilst still in Ontario traffic was minimal, but we’d had to drive at the very sedate maximum speed of 55 mph on dead straight roads stretching into the distance for as far as we could see. It was relaxing, (sometimes too relaxing), but when we hit the Interstate between Toronto and the USA the traffic became more intense, and approaching the border at Sarnia we came up against several miles of trucks all backed up queuing for cross-border inspection. Fortunately, we could use the free outside lane to speed through to the border. On arrival at the Customs point the officer noted we had no Visa Waiver Form and I asked if I could get one at this point. I also asked if I could use a "rest room" (i.e., toilets!) to which he replied I would have to go to the Immigration Office "to be inspected" first. I asked which part of me they would like to inspect, to which, fortunately, he laughed. We parked up and entered the Customs & Immigration office and we were seen by a very pleasant female officer. We filled out the required forms, showed our passports, and she wished us a pleasant vacation. It has to be noted that our experience at this border crossing was a pleasant one, and all the officers we met, talked to, or observed talking to others, were good-humoured and courteous. (It was - to be honest - not quite what we had expected.)   And so we crossed the high bridge over the St Clair River into the USA and headed south and west, towards Romeo, Michigan. We arrived in Romeo about 4 pm and I was surprised to find I almost knew my way around the place, having talked to Roberta about it so much, as well as looking at Romeo websites, descriptions and maps. It was therefore easy to find her road of classy looking houses and also Brabb House - our B&B for this night. We checked into Brabb House, which was run by a very pleasant lady. It was all Victoriana, and there was a lot of wedding stuff about, since weddings were also conducted here. Our bed was the highest we had ever seen and a footstool had been provided to help us climb up on to it! Having sorted out our luggage we phoned our friend Roberta and arranged a suitable time for us to walk round to her place and meet up with her for the first time. It was an easy walk to her house, and it was exactly as we had come to know from photographs. Her husband and two boys greeted us outside, and we went in to find our friend standing in her front room looking somewhat apprehensive. We gave her a  big hug, and she opened the bottle of champagne I’d sent her and which she had saved for this occasion. We doled out our gifts, including some from our mutual friend from Shropshire, Jennifer (see left). After we had chatted for a bit we all travelled in their MPV to the Appletree Inn where we had a splendid meal. The waitress was well versed in all the varieties of everything that there was to be had. Salad? What kind? Dressing? What kind? Potatoes? What kind? I was introduced to a fish called Orange Roughy, which I had with French Fries. Delicious. After the meal we returned to Roberta's house, and discussed our next meeting which would be in Algonac in a few days time, then walked back to Brabb House for a good night's sleep. Wednesday 10th September 2003 After breakfast we headed for Interstate 69 to start the next part of our journey, travelling westwards across to the other side of Michigan. I was disappointed with the condition of the Interstate Highways; they were mostly made of concrete which, at the best of times, create a noisy ride, and some of this stuff was not in great condition. Lunch at McDonalds half way across. We noted that American McDonalds Restaurants seemed to be more civilised than those in the UK - i.e., fewer screaming kids and less noise from the oven alarms in the kitchen. We picked up the I-96 at Lansing, heading for Grand Rapids, then the I-196 to Holland, where we checked in to a Days Inn  motel. This was a miserable place, looking more like army barracks (inside and out). Our room smelled a bit odd, and although the room brochure stated that "For your convenience each room includes ironing board, iron, hair dryer and coffee maker", none of these actually existed! When we protested to the girl on reception she professed total ignorance of the brochure contents, and made some lame excuse about printing errors. (On our return to the UK I wrote a letter of complaint to the company's CEO in the USA. After several weeks it was returned as "undeliverable") This encounter was a significant deviation from the normal American concept of service. The motel location was out of town on a busy cross-roads carrying a lot of commercial traffic. After taking our life into our hands crossing various roads, we eventually found a half-decent little restaurant serving Italian food, so at least we had a good evening dinner. By mid-evening we were the only ones left in the restaurant, and we began to get the general sense that Americans who go out to eat, start and finish their evening meals much earlier than we do. "9/11" ... a poignant date in the American calendar, and everywhere there were flags flying at half mast. Today would see us in the Victorian Guest House, Nappanee, Indiana (Amish country). We left the Days Inn dump in Holland and travelled via Saugatuck, Michigan, where we stopped and had a walk around this beautiful little exclusive lakeside yachting community. (Feast your eyes on the public toilets mosaic!) We spied a Mini parked in the town - a reminder of home. After Saugatuck we headed south towards Indiana. Soon after crossing the State Line we got ourselves lost! Instead of skirting round the edge of South Bend on the Interstate, we took the wrong exit and found ourselves heading right into the middle of the town, then Benton Harbour which turned out to be a map-reading nightmare, but Pauline did her usual sterling map work and we eventually found our way on the road to Nappanee.  We stopped off at Amish Acres - a beautifully developed commemoration of the Amish way of life, with visitor centre, theatre, restaurant, and gift shop selling stuff prepared by the Amish people or goods developed in the style of the Amish people. It was here that I examined a fancy box of soap, only to discover that it had been made in Bradford, England! There was a busy freight rail-road nearby and we counted 130 wagons on a passing freight train. The Victorian Guest House in Nappanee was an absolute delight, run by a pleasant lady (who was also very religious). She recommended a restaurant called the Country Table for our evening meal, so we took a walk down to the shopping area to find it. We encountered Amish buggies and some were tied up outside the local supermarket. (They were driven at a fair old lick and were a match for any car in urban areas with a 30 speed limit.) The restaurant was a disappointment - friendly enough but the food left much to be desired, and I felt we'd have done better in the local Burger King! It was unlicensed too, so my somewhat stringy steak and over-cooked vegetables were accompanied by a glass of lemonade. The coffee tasted like washing up water. (Come to think of it, we'd not had a decent cup of coffee in a restaurant since we entered the USA.) Sleep was difficult this night, because of the freight trains running through the town every 20 minutes or so, with their mournful horns wailing and bells clanging at each and every level crossing (of which there were many). Friday 12th September 2003 Breakfast with all the other guests around one large table. The lady of the house called for a volunteer to say Grace (I told you she was religious) but there was none forthcoming, so she said it for us. It was an interesting breakfast - fruit cake, bacon, some kind of quiche, muffin, coffee. Table conversation was lively and interesting. There was a couple from Northern Ireland, but he had come over to the US years ago to work with Boeing. I telephoned Sue from the guest house, and she said she was on her way from Elkhart to Nappanee  to take some photographs for one of her community development jobs. She would meet us at the guest house. She soon arrived and we met face to face for the first time. None of us felt the need to run a mile. Having already met our first internet friend and not been disappointed, I could not believe our luck in meeting Sue and finding that the three of us felt comfortable.  She suggested we join her on the photography session she had planned at a local housing development for elderly single people. We were introduced to some of the community development people and a couple of the residents, and also inspected some of the building work still ongoing. It was all very interesting, and the people we met were tickled pink about the fact that we had come from England and the reasons behind our visit. We then followed her back to her home town, Elkhart, travelling through minor rural roads (all dead straight of course, and with many of those accursed 4-way Stop signs at cross roads) and finished up outside her apartment. She showed us around her stained glass fabrication studio, and we were pleasantly surprised when she told us she had made us a piece specially take back home. (It now hangs in our dining room window and looks stunning in sunshine). We visited her local coffee bar together. Pauline and I had coffee and she had some weird fruit juice and iced tea concoction, then we had a walk and a chat by the river, before we had to leave and wend our way eastwards to Ohio. She told us that she would shortly be visiting London, to see her partner she had met on the Internet. She sounded serious about eventually moving to London to live with him, in which case we could easily keep in touch with each other. Note [Feb 2005]: as things turned out, by 2004 she had indeed moved to London, married her London friend and finished up with dual citizenship - a bold but successful move, ending happily. We headed for the Indiana/Ohio toll road to take us to our next overnight stop - and our third internet friend, Marcia. We were heading for Milan in Ohio (forget Italy! this is pronounced locally as "Mylen"). We arrived at the Red Roof Inn at about 6 pm and checked into a pleasant enough room, finding that Marcia's daughter had been there before us and left us a basket of goodies - another example of American generosity and kindness that we found throughout this trip. We had previously arranged to meet Marcia at the Homestead Inn Restaurant, Milan, and duly turned up at 7.30 p.m. just a few minutes before she arrived, accompanied by her daughter and her little girl. Again the gods were with us; we all hit it off together very well and our meeting didn't destroy our appetite! What are the odds on meeting three internet friends from the other side of the Atlantic face to face and finding out that "virtual friendship" can turn out to be "real friendship"? Marcia's daughter was charming, and her little girl was a real cutie. We all had a good meal, during which our friend's daughter told us all about her drug awareness talks to schools (as a result of losing her brother to a heroin overdose a couple of years back).  The meal was excellent and it introduced Pauline to Clam Chowder and as for me, well having had Orange Roughy the other night, I decided to have to same again, but our friend had Perch, and I tried a bit of that. I've never eaten it before, and I thought it was OK. (I was always told that the best way to deal with Perch was to nail it to a piece of wood, season with salt and lemon, cook for 20 minutes, then throw away the fish and eat the wood!)  A lot of fish on restaurant menus in this region of course comes from the Great Lakes. Note [2005]: I was sorry to learn that this restaurant was about to close. Note [2009]: Hooray! It reopened again! Saturday 13th September 2003   Breakfast at the Red Roof Inn was an uninspiring affair - self-service, with paper plates and plastic cups - juice, coffee, doughnuts, bread or toast and jam. After that it was off to Marcia's house in Norwalk. We got lost in the maze of residential roads thanks to some duff route instructions from Yahoo maps. We got there more or less by instinct, and found Marcia's husband in his garage polishing their beloved 1969 Pontiac Firebird.  The housing estate was very pleasant, nice gardens, and plenty of trees. We were taken around Norwalk town for a look in one or two shops and lunch at Berry's Restaurant, where I had veal cutlet and fries. The restaurant was very pleasant inside - classic 1930s style. After lunch we drove out to Milan and visited Edison's birthplace, which included a demonstration of his original phonograph. The weather was unbelievably hot, and we were grateful for the car's air conditioning on the drive back. We then said a temporary goodbye to our friends and returned to the hotel to freshen up and get a change of clothes, before returning to Norwalk to join the family and friends in an evening "cook-out" in the back yard. Everyone was incredibly nice and the kids entertained us with little performances of song and dance. The one problem with meeting internet friends who live 3,500 miles away is that at some stage you have to say goodbye; and who knows when you will get the chance to meet up again? And so we returned to our hotel with mixed emotions.   We awoke to more hot and sunny weather, checked out of the Red Roof Inn and returned to the Ohio Turnpike, heading west for Toledo, then north via Detroit - Interstates 75 and I94 - making for our next destination - Roberta's week-end house in Algonac, Michigan, next to the St Clair River. We appreciated her great generosity in letting us have the exclusive use of this house for three days and nights. It was a welcome change from hotels! The next-door neighbour had been forewarned of our arrival, and we knew where to find the front door key. The freeways through and around Detroit were a high- speed nightmare but we made it without getting lost or hitting any other vehicle and finally found ourselves (after yet another McDonalds lunch) travelling eastwards along the shoreline of Anchor Bay towards Algonac, arriving about 3 pm, and found the delightful little house backing on to a little cut connecting with the St Clair river. All the properties round here had boats, and the general appearance of the place put us very much in mind of parts of the Norfolk Broads. The Algonac waterfront along the St Clair river was clean and spacious with pleasant houses and boats, interspersed with an abundance of green open spaces. Roberta and family came over from Romeo and we went out for dinner at a local restaurant. Pauline had a Sea Food Platter (which inexplicably included frogs legs!). There were butterfly shrimps, clam strips, cod, and walleye. I treated myself to butterfly shrimps with curly fries and coleslaw, with chocolate sundae to follow. It was all very good. On our return to the house we sat up late chatting and getting to know each other a little better. We all got on well, which was a relief and which suggested, to me at least, that it was possible to turn internet friends into real friends. They returned to Romeo late evening leaving us the run of the house. Monday 15th September 2003 There had been some overnight rain, but the day promised to be another dry and sunny one, and it was. Roberta had programmed the coffee maker so that fresh coffee was ready for us when we got up, and we had a breakfast of coffee and banana bread, reading a copy of the Detroit News. Roberta reappeared and drove us into Detroit for a tour around the city which included a visit to her radio station WWJ950 News Radio where she works as a well-known reporter and news anchor. We met her colleagues and also watched two of them working on air. It was a new and interesting experience. We stopped in the middle of Detroit for a Coney Island Hot Dog in a rough and ready diner - great! Roberta said that because I was wearing a jacket everyone would assume I was the boss taking his two secretaries out to lunch. That was fine by me! After lunch we went to the Henry Ford Museum, where we saw a fascinating widespread collection of vehicles ranging from the original Model T Fords to more modern cars. There was also the biggest steam locomotive I'd ever seen. The collection included an MG sports car circa 1930s, and the car in which President Kennedy took his final fateful ride; still on the theme of assassination, the chair in which President Lincoln was shot whilst at the theatre was on display. (Lincoln's assassin, Wilkie, was hurt whilst escaping, and was eventually treated by a Doctor Mudd, much to everyone's disgust, from which the expression "his name is mud" is said to have originated.)  After the museum we made our way to a large arts and crafts superstore, in which Pauline spent a long time totally immersed in the vast collection of bits and pieces. This was followed by Roberta driving us into a Taco Bell  drive-thru restaurant where she purchased a couple of large examples of their fare for me to eat in the car just so I could say I had partaken of a typical American fast-food meal. I had some difficulty biting into it without exploding it all over the car dashboard. On our return to Algonac we had yet more food - roast chicken and garlic potatoes. We chatted all evening and listened to music on the CD player. Tuesday 16th September 2003   We inflict an English Roast Beef Dinner on unsuspecting Americans! Continuing dry hot weather, and a shopping expedition in Algonac for a parting gift, and some food shopping for Pauline's proposed roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding dinner - entertaining our friends to a meal this evening in their Algonac property. We found a superb supermarket called Farmer Jack who had a good selection of international foods; we found some Australian wine, English mustard, English and French cheeses, horseradish sauce and some excellent beef. We found a garden centre where we bought an ornamental bird bath and placed it on the decking at the back of the house. We got ourselves a picnic lunch from Farmer Jack's and drove to Algonac State Park near the St Clair River, and sat under the trees eating our sandwiches, watching the gigantic freighters plying up and down the river. Then it was back to the house to start preparing for the evening's "English Meal". We switched on the oven and filled the entire house with thick smoke! PANIC! We opened up all the doors and windows and put the extractor fans full on. Eventually conditions returned to normal and the beef went into the oven. The meal appeared to be a success, (the Americans are so polite!) - no stomach cramps or food poisoning but even a few demands for seconds. The English mustard (much hotter than American) went down well. After dinner our friends took us out in their motor launch on the St Clair river. We cruised upstream under power for about 3 miles and then drifted back with the current. Bliss. We said our final good-byes late that night, there was much hugging and kissing and some tears. Wednesday 17th September 2003 We left Algonac at 10 am to start our drive back to Canada, crossing Bluewater Bridge about an hour later. We had a long but uneventful journey to Niagara Falls (via London, would you believe!) arriving about 3 pm. As usual we got lost but eventually located the Skyline Inn. The place was packed; their car park was full and we had to get a hotel ticket for the public car park on the other side of the square. After settling into what seemed much like a block in an army barracks, (though the rooms were good enough), we took a walk around town, taking in the cacophony of sounds - music and voices blaring from loudspeakers outside shops, restaurants and amusement arcades. We suddenly found ourselves looking across a deep gorge, facing the famous Niagara Falls. (These are three Falls - the "American",  the "Bridal" - a small one adjacent  - and the "Horseshoe" Falls. ) The "American Falls" are on the US side, and the "Horseshoe Falls" stretch from the American side to the Canadian side. In the evening tried the Hard Rock Café, but the music was so loud you couldn't speak and the lighting was so dim you couldn't read, so we walked out, deaf and blind, and found a good restaurant, where we had an excellent meal served by possibly the cheeriest waiter in the whole of Canada, for £30 per head. Thursday 18th September 2003 Hotel Breakfast: two fried eggs, three sausages, hash browns and four slices of toast (all on one plate!). The Canadian practice for serving toast assumes you want it ready buttered. It would have been a good breakfast had it been (1) hotter and (2) served on separate plates. After breakfast we encountered something totally unexpected .. a collection of old London Routemaster Buses being used for tours, complete with original sign boards for London destinations. I used to go to school on these buses back in the 1950s. (Routemasters earned a reputation for reliability, longevity, and ease of use and a few are still being used in London today.) We took the lift down to the jetty for one of the "Maid of the Mist" boats and donned the issued blue plastic waterproofs before getting on the next boat for a spectacular cruise, first alongside the American Falls, then up to the Horseshoe Falls (as close as you can get without being drowned or shipwrecked). It was an awesome experience with all that water cascading down at 150,000 gallons per second causing a perpetual mist and a noise like thunder. We spent the afternoon shopping in Niagara, then walked over Rainbow Bridge into the USA (US Customs again!) to see the Falls from the American side viewed from a pleasant park alongside the river just before it plunges over the edge. Dinner in the splendour of the Restaurant at the top of the Brock Plaza Hotel, overlooking the Falls (now illuminated). It was the most spectacular setting for an excellent meal: Anti-pasta, Rack of Lamb, Tiger Prawns, Chocolate Mousse, Deep Fried Ice Cream. Later the TV News reported the progress of Hurricane Louise which had been devastating the US eastern seaboard. The tail end of the hurricane would be pass over us and into Toronto at about the time of our return to the Airport. I phoned Air Transat for an update on flight times, and learned we would only be 10 minutes later than expected, and would be flying to Manchester via Gatwick (which was a bit of a surprise - we hadn't expected to fly to the south of England to reach the north of England). Friday 19th September 2003 A wet and windy drive back to Toronto, returning our car to the Car Hire people. We had driven 1,800 miles. We felt as if we had been in some kind of fantasy. But one thing was certain: we had overcome our fear of flying, and had consolidated our internet friendships. What more could we ask? Against all expectations we flew the Atlantic again in 2004, this time to Washington DC, and so did Jennifer with her friend Pat; we enjoyed a week's vacation there with Roberta and husband Alan, also Marcia and her friend Sally. Thanks to the kind assistance of Roberta we all got to tour the White House and the Capitol Building. Our Route Map (click it to enlarge)  HELLO CANADA! We venture into Downtown Toronto  Toronto Waterfront from Lake Ontario Harbour from top of CN Tower Harbour from the Tower. Click to enlarge Toronto Waterfront. Click to enlarge Is it vertigo? Yes - about 1600 ft! Don’t look down! Click to enlarge Toronto Street Art ON THE ROAD .. Wrong side of the Road .. Wrong side of the Car Chrysler Sebring Click to enlarge Georgian Bay, Owen Sound, Ontario Click to enlarge HEADING FOR THE U.S.A. and our First Internet Friend - Roberta Bluewater Bridge Border Crossing Trucks queuing for the US Border Click to enlarge Bluewater Bridge border crossing from Canadian side Click to enlarge Romeo, Michigan USA Click to enlarge Brabb House B&B Click to enlarge Jennifer Click to enlarge Crossing Michigan .. from Delightful B&B to 4th-rate Motel! Thursday 11th September 2003 We get lost on the way to Amish Country Saugutuck Public Toilets Click to enlarge Saugatuck Click to enlarge Amish buggies Click to enlarge Inside the Victorian Guest House Click to enlarge 2nd Internet Friend - Sue in Elkhart, Indiana - then on to Ohio Sue Click to enlarge Sun Catcher by Sue 3rd Internet Friend - Marcia in Milan and Norwalk, Ohio Red Roof Inn, Milan, Ohio Click to enlarge Marcia Click to enlarge Homestead Restaurant, Milan, Ohio Click to enlarge We find Marcia's house, (and a 1969 Pontiac Firebird!) Pontiac Firebird Click to enlarge Norwalk, Ohio Edison's birthplace Click to enlarge Sunday 14th September 2003 We head West, then North, around Detroit, then on to a Riverside Retreat Algonac, Michigan Click to enlarge Lake Freighter on the St Clair River Click to enlarge Our 41st Wedding Anniversary in “Motown” .. a Tour of Detroit Back-seat Passenger's view of Detroit Click to enlarge Home of WWJ950 News Radio, Detroit Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Final Day in Algonac and our Final Day in the USA Back to CANADA - Next Stop Niagara Falls Yours Truly at Niagara Click to enlarge Getting Wet, "Hello again USA", & a High-rise Romantic Dinner London Routemasters in Niagara Falls Click to enlarge "Maid of the Mist" below the Horseshoe Falls Click to enlarge Top of the American Falls Click to enlarge Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top Return to Top American Adventure - Canada & America Vacation 2003
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