Monday, September 1, 2014

Thousand Islands & Boldt Castle

Posted by Stu On January - 15 - 2014

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Photos Taken October 2011

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From my experience, few people are aware that The Thousand Islands refers to an actual place and not just salad dressing.  The area in question is between Ontario and New York, along the St. Lawrence River and the uppermost section of Lake Ontario.  The name The Thousand Islands is also a little off; there are actually closer to two thousand of them.

Several companies offer boat tours of the islands.  Many tours allow you to visit one of two castles, either Boldt Castle on Heart Island or Singer Castle on Dark Island.  This time, we opted for Boldt Castle.  Someday we’ll return and check out the other one.

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If you are coming from the US side, you do not need a passport for these tours since the boats do not land in Canada.  The two islands with castles are also entirely within the United States.

The tour itself consists of a boat ride with a guide giving short histories and random facts about many of the islands, houses, and owners.  At the end, if you want (and why wouldn’t you), the boat drops you off on Heart Island, and for a small fee you are allowed to roam the island and its buildings.

One story I found fascinating involved some statues on the US side.  During Prohibition, according to our guide, whether or not the statues’ eyes were lit up let bootleggers on the Canadian side of the river know whether or not it was safe to bring over their booze.

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The following is a somewhat blurry photo of the smallest official island, known as Tom Thumb.  Our guide said to qualify as an “official” island, it must be bigger than a square foot, has to be above water year round, and must have at least one tree.

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So those are some of the sights to be seen during the boat tour.  It’s amazing how some of the houses have virtually no yard between them and the water.

After going up and down the river a bit, the boat then pulls into Heart Island.  A quick history – in 1900, multimillionaire George Boldt ordered the construction of Boldt Castle for his wife.  She died four years later.  Heartbroken, George halted all work on the island and never returned.  The castle and its surrounding buildings remained abandoned until 1977, when the Thousand Islands Bridge Commission  paid one dollar for Heart Island.

All money made on the island goes toward restoring and preserving the castle and grounds.

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You are allowed to roam most of the castle.  There are two other buildings on the island as well.  The powerhouse is at the back of the island and now serves as a museum.  Alster Tower, at the front of the island, was closed for repairs when we visited.

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Popularity: 3% [?]

Maid of the Mist

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2011

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The Maid of the Mist is a boat (there are several Maids, really) that takes off from either side of Niagara Falls and brings tourists almost next to the bottom of the falls.  You get a tour of the basin and surrounding area as well.  The “Mist” part is an understatement; you’re going to get wet.  Mist patrons are given ponchos beforehand.

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When you get close enough, you can barely hear anything over the noise of the falls.  The boat gets pretty close and just hovers there for a few minutes.  Getting shots without getting my camera drenched was quite a challenge.

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Rainbow Bridge connects the NY & ON sides of Niagara Falls.

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Of all the tours/attractions we took/saw, not one acknowledged this place on the shoreline of the Ontario side.

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Elevator/observation deck for Cave of the Winds on the NY side.

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Popularity: 8% [?]

Journey Behind the Falls

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2011

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On the Canada side of Niagara Falls you can quite literally walk behind them, after an admission fee, of course.  A manmade tunnel was blasted behind the falls and has 2 observation areas.  Observation is used loosely here; all you’re going to be seeing is rushing water.  Visitors are barricaded from the ends of the tunnels.

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It’s also not much of a journey; an elevator brings you down to the tunnel, and the tunnel is not all that long.  It is cool to be standing directly behind the falls, though.  All in all, interesting experience, but something that is likely not a repeat.

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Popularity: 7% [?]

Flying Saucer Restaurant

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2011

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There was no way we weren’t stopping here.  This diner from another galaxy can be found along Lundy’s Lane, just minutes from Niagara Falls.  It’s a diner shaped like a UFO.  ‘Nuff said.

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There are 2 main rooms; each is its own “UFO” and is connected by a center hallway.  The insides of both rooms are obviously round.  The lighting and colors inside the place reminded me of most of the arcades I went to in the 80’s.

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Pretty good diner food, and at very reasonable prices, considering its proximity to the falls.  If you’re ever on the Canada side of the falls, look it up.

The restaurant’s official website is http://www.flyingsaucerrestaurant.com/

Popularity: 6% [?]

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