Saturday, January 6, 2007

Niagara Falls on New Year's Eve


As I get on in years, I find that my capacity for social celebration is diminishing. As a teenager, I have fond memories of staying up all night on New Year's Eve, drinking champagne, kissing everybody, and having a great time. Since then however, I could count the number of years that I've made it past midnight on one hand. For the past 16 years, I've been at Ste. Anne's, to ring in the new year with our guests - making sure everyone staying with us had a nice time. More often than not, our spa guests choose to retire to their rooms after a good meal, usually before midnight. I suspect many spend those last few minutes of the year in the company of their best friend in front of a fire, reflecting on the year gone by and thinking about what lies ahead.
This year we had some friends visiting from Ireland so we decided to take them to Niagara Falls for the night. We booked rooms at the Sheraton Foxhead overlooking the falls, and signed up for a dinner and dance with entertainment provided by a 16 piece orchestra and Rick Sonata - a Frank Sinatra look/sound alike. The percussion man was missing in action for the first couple of hours, but once they got going, they did a good job of entertaining the group of about 200 revellers. We were told to show up for cocktails at 6:00, dinner at 7:00, and by about 9:30, we were all stuffed and getting a little restless. I made 2 trips to the casino to try to stay awake and keep the time moving forward, but by 11:00 we decided to head back to our room. As luck would have it, there was a party in full swing on the floor below us, and Foreigner was banging away in the rain on a stage set up in the park adjacent to the hotel, so sleep didn't come easily.
At midnight there was a spectacular fireworks display, and the party subsided somewhat, and finally about 1:00 I fell off to sleep. This was my second trip to Niagara Falls this year, both times entertaining visitors from Ireland and I must say that I was a little embarrassed. The falls never let you down - it is truly an amazing feature that I am spellbound by no matter how many times I see it. The problem is with what has grown up around the falls - just as tacky as Vegas, but not as classy, and not as well run. What troubles me the most is the blatant intent to rip off the tourist at every turn. Valet parking at our hotel was $19 the first night, and then it was jacked up to $35 for the second night, even though we paid over $700 for a room and one meal. The exchange rate being offered on U.S. currency on Clifton Hill was less than half of what it should have been. Where Vegas leaves you wowed with the service, Niagara seems to be resting on her laurels. I really can't blame Americans for shunning Canadian tourism when I see this kind of practice being engaged in. It's too bad that such a beautiful natural wonder has been spoiled by human greed. I don't think I'll be going back any time soon.

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