Monday, June 24, 2013

My Travel Mishap—When My Transport to the Airport Went Awry

I’ve traveled quite a bit. And I’ve had my share of unexpected adventures and travel mishaps, such as the time I almost ended up sleeping on a beach in Cinque Terre after a hotel cancelled our reservation, or the time I exited off the train at the wrong train station in Genoa… But it was time for another travel mishap.

I recently took a trip to Canada (see more blog posts coming soon!). I live about an hour from a large airport, so I often pay for an airport shuttle to take me to the airport.

So, recently, on an early Saturday morning, I asked a friend if she could drop me off with my suitcase, backpack and travel bag at the hotel in town, where the shuttle would pick me up. The shuttle  a  large white passenger van  arrived. The driver glanced at me and the other guy who was getting on the shuttle, and loaded our suitcases. He glanced at his clipboard and said he had two of us to pick up, and then we were on our way.

About five minutes later, I got a call on my cell phone. “This is --- Shuttle Service, and we’re waiting for you at the --- Hotel.”

I suddenly realized I had made a mistake. I was on the wrong shuttle, with a different shuttle company. Oh no! “Can you take me back to the hotel so the shuttle can pick me up?” I asked the driver. He said no, he wasn’t going to stop back at the hotel and he had to get to the airport. “Can you wait for me? Can you pick me up somewhere else?” I asked the woman on the phone from the other shuttle service. She said no, and they couldn’t wait.

So then, the driver of my shuttle said he’d drop me off at another hotel in town near where we he was driving. I said I’d just get out there, feeling rather frustrated. I got out of the van, took my backpack and walked around to the back of the van. “Can I just get my bag?” I asked the driver. He walked away, hopped in the van, closed his door and began to drive away. With my suitcase in the back of the van!

I began running after the shuttle, waving my hands, yelling, “Stop! Stop! My suitcase! Stop! Wait!” I ran through the parking lot of the hotel and across the McDonald’s parking lot next door. But it was no use. The driver and the van were way ahead of me on the busy street, and headed back to the highway.

I stood in the McDonald’s parking lot, dug out my phone, and searched for the shuttle service on the Internet. I called and got a voicemail message, so I left a frantic message explaining the driver took off with my suitcase and I needed it.

Then I called my friend Marissa, who had given me a ride to the hotel. I anxiously said, “Marissa, I-got-on-the-wrong-shuttle-and-now-I’m-at-McDonald’s-cause-he-drove-off-and-has-my-bag-and-have-to-get-to-airport-and-need-my-suitcase-and-what-am-I-going-to-do????!!!!”

She calmly said, ”We’ll get a hold of the shuttle company. I’ll be right there. You’ve got a ride to the airport.”

I tried the shuttle service number again, and got a real person. He tracked down the number of the shuttle driver. I got a hold of the driver on his cell phone, and we made plans to meet and get my suitcase near the airport.

Marissa picked me up in the McDonald's parking lot, in her little Beetle.

                                                         Marissa's Volkswagen Beetle

I began to breathe normally and calm down on the ride up to the airport. I knew everything was going to work out. Marissa drove me all the way there, and she made sure I got there to make it on time for my flight. I was very appreciative!

I eventually reunited with my bag just before arriving at the airport.

                                                              My suitcase

I arrived at my gate at the airport, after dropping my suitcase off safely at the baggage drop-off, less than two hours after I had first been dropped off at the hotel. I was still a bit breathless, but relieved. I’d made it to the gate on time, and I was on my way to Toronto.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Niagara Falls

Everyone seems to want to go to Niagara Falls. I've always heard they’re amazing, beautiful and spectacular.

But, I didn’t really understand how amazing they were, or why everyone wanted to visit the falls, until I visited Niagara Falls this May.

Niagara Falls is just a short drive from Toronto, Ontario. Several wineries, vineyards and orchards are located near Niagara Falls. Several wineries offer tastings of the Ontario wine. The ice wine is sold at several wineries- it's a unique wine made with grapes that are harvested after they have been frozen on the vine.

Niagara Falls is a pretty busy, tourist town. I stayed in a bed and breakfast just outside of the busy tourist center, but just a short drive to the falls. To see the falls, we parked down the river a bit from the falls at one of the visitor parking lots and walked along the path by the river, first seeing the falls from behind.

                                                       Horseshoe Falls, from the river

We continued to walk until we saw the massive Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the falls. I kept stopping and taking photos to try to capture the falls.

                                                             Horseshoe Falls

I watched several boats, called the Maids of the Mist, go into the center of Horseshoe Falls, where mist and water sprayed up higher than the top of the falls. These boats, which leave from both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the river, allow visitors a close-up view of the falls. Everyone on the boats is given rain parkas to wear, but I’m sure their feet got wet! I decided to just see the falls from up above on the sidewalks.

                                                        The American Falls

The American Falls, down the river and across the way, on the New York side of the river, are also very pretty. Paths along the side of the falls allow visitors to get close-up views of the falls.

The falls were beautiful. I don’t know what I was expecting, but they really are amazing to see. If you get a chance, go see Niagara Falls, either in New York or on the Canadian side. It’s worth it!

                                                             Elements on the Falls

Along the way, we stopped to have a bite to eat in Elements on the Falls, which overlooks the falls. Our table was right by a window and had awesome views of the falls. The restaurant, with its mosaic and blown glass décor, had an interesting atmosphere. It also had great food! The desserts looked awesome too, but I didn’t try one!

                                                     Desserts at Elements on the Falls

We stopped at some botanical gardens (Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens) just outside of town, where the gardens were just beginning to grow in early summer.

                                                     Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens


Then we stopped in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town not far from Niagara Falls. Niagara-on-the-Lake has a lovely downtown, with many unique shops, an apothecary shop set up as it would have been many years ago, cafes, ice cream shops, an Irish tea room and more. Horse carriages offer visitors rides for a different perspective of the quaint town. It felt a bit like walking into a town in the late 1800s.

Many small towns in the areas offer attractions. For example, at Port Dalhousie, one can ride a  carousel from the early 1900s for a nickel, see the harbor and boats, or hang out at a beach. Many towns had great beaches, a variety of cafes and restaurants, and more.

My time went by too fast, and I didn’t have time to see everything in the area. I definitely plan to go back sometime and visit!