Monday, March 11, 2013

Canada: Niagara Falls & winery visits at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara Falls, at the border of Ontario, Canada and New York, USA, is on the bucket list of many travelers. It's actually a popular day-trip from Toronto, Canada. In fact, we visited Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town known for its wineries, during the Philippine Airlines (PAL) inaugural flight to Toronto.

The day actually started quite nice since the sun was out. We visited Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin in the morning to try out their famed ice wine. So what is ice wine? It's a type of dessert wine, really sweet. What makes it sweet is the manner in which the grapes are harvested and processed.

The grapes are allowed to freeze and are usually harvested early in the morning, before the sun comes out, to maintain the cold temperature since the grapes start to thaw by sunrise. Because the grapes are frozen, the water in the grapes freezes, but the sugars do not. So when the grapes are pressed, it produces a smaller amount but more concentrated must (juice) which ferments into a much sweeter wine.

Lunch was at Inniskillin, where we were served salad, salmon and prairie rice, which is not actually rice, but an oat known as Cavena Nuda. It cooks and tastes like rice. But the flavor also reminds me of white corn. I regret not taking a few kilos of Cavena Nuda with me to the Philippines.

On the way to Inniskillin, We also made a brief stop in Fort George, the scene of several battles during the War of 1812, a war between the British and the Americans. Opposite the Niagara River is Fort Niagara in New York.

We also passed by the Living Water Wayside Chapel, the smallest chapel in the world as per the Guinness Book of World Records with only six seats. Yes, some people actually hold their intimate wedding ceremonies there.

We also drove through the town center of Niagara-on-the-Lake before proceeding to the falls. Too bad the afternoon weather didn't cooperate when we visited the Niagara Falls.

By the time we arrived, it had started to rain. So it covered the view of most of the falls. There are actually three falls, two on the American side and one on the Canadian side. They say the view is best in the Canadian side. Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the most powerful waterfall in North America. No doubt, because we definitely felt its thunder as we went behind and stayed very close to the falls.

The Journey Behind the Falls offers you an observation platform and tunnels near the bottom of Horseshoe Falls. This attraction is accessible via elevators from the street level entrance. Fees vary depending on the season. From April to December, it's $15.95 (13+ years) and $10.95 (6 to 12 years). It's cheaper from December to April at $11.25 and $6.95 respectively.

If you want an overhead  view of the falls, you can visit Skylon Tower or the Minolta Tower. During the summer months, you can try the Maid of the Mist, a popular boat tour of Niagara Falls.

After exploring the area, we motored back to Toronto.

How to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto
Toronto is about two hours away from Niagara Falls, approximately 133 kilometers. There are various ways to get there. But the most popular would be renting a car, taking the Niagara Airbus or Megabus, or joining a guided tour. The guided tours are convenient options since they usually include visits a winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies direct from Manila to Toronto. Thank you for inviting me to join the inaugural flight last November!
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