What to do? Where to go? When to go?
These were the three most important questions we had to ask ourselves aside from How much do we want to spend?
First we talked briefly about Boston, where my brother lives.
Then we talked about Chicago, where my aunt lives. And if we're already driving all the way to Chicago, let's maybe go to Wisconsin Dells, famous for water parks galore. (Did I tell you I'm not a fan of water parks? Did I tell you I don't get to vote in this case?) And if we're going to Chicago and Wisconsin Dells, let's plan the trip around meeting PsychoToddler. Even better, let's plan the trip around meeting PsychoToddler and attending his band's free concert in the park. And in Chicago I hoped to meet the blogger behind Ten Li Koach.
And we talked, and we planned, and hubby researched, and we confirmed dates.
We received two Toronto-area bar mitzvah invitations for the same week we thought we might be away. And we wanted to attend these bar mitzvahs. Maybe just a wee bit more than PsychoToddler's concert!
AND SO...we began to make other travel plans.
We would be attending the Thursday morning and Thursday evening bar mitzvah affair in Toronto, and the weekend and Shabbat bar mitzvah would be taking place in Hamilton, Ontario, about a 45 minute drive west of Toronto.
Should we make Hamilton alone our "summer vacation"? Then I suggested going from Hamilton on to Niagara Falls and maybe Buffalo, NY, for a bit of shopping for school and Yom Tov wear. And there was a consensus!
UNTIL...the main planner decided that we would spend a couple of days at the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, supposedly the largest, enclosed waterpark in North America. Still relatively new, several hotels offered one and two night packages that included the waterpark, so official family planner made a reservation with one of them.
So our planned vacation was to have three parts to it: Hamilton from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning; Niagara Falls from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday morning; Buffalo from Tuesday morning through the late afternoon.
Okay, okay, I agreed to grin and bear the waterpark leg of the trip...
And we also had to do the unavoidable: we had to put Max in a kennel for a few days. It was his/our first time, and we were worried and torn about having to do so, but we knew he'd be in good hands.
So all went well. My kids had a blast over Shabbat in Hamilton, making new friends very quickly and having play dates on Shabbat afternoon with these new playmates, even exchanging e-mail addresses after Shabbat was over.
Just a note about Hamilton: Hamilton has a lovely Jewish community -- yes, small, but people are close -- both geographically and emotionally, and helpful. The Orthodox shul draws quite the variety of people because there is only one Orthodox shul in the community, so you see black hatters davening with knit kippot. You see women with wigs chatting with women who don't even cover their hair. But they are all accepting of one another...how a Jewish community should be.
The current rabbi is the son of the longtime Orthodox rabbi in the community. Father sits alongside his son, as Rabbi Emeritus. I can only imagine how the father kvells each and every time his son speaks or davens. One son stayed in Hamilton to follow in his father's footsteps; the other sons live and work in Toronto.
A sad footnote about Hamilton is their Yeshiva high school. People from Toronto would send their sons to Hamilton Yeshiva because of its reputation and quality of learning. We stayed in a private residence beside the yeshiva high school -- the school is empty, like a ghost town. Now a couple nights a week there are classes held in the building, but it is not the vibrant learning center it once was -- a sign of the dwindling community...
Anyhow, we had a lovely few days in Hamilton, then drove on to the wondrous city of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Yes, the falls are magnificent, and we watched late-night fireworks over them on Sunday night. Yes, I know that many people come from all over the world to view the falls. Yes, I know that many people have come from all over the world to honeymoon in Niagara Falls. But please tell me: WHEN DID IT BECOME SUCH A FAMILY-ORIENTED CITY? WHEN DID IT BECOME SUCH A BRIGHT AND CHEAP-LOOKING (but certainly not cheap prices) CENTER? WHEN DID IT BECOME KITSCHY, WITH A CARNIVAL MIDWAY FEEL TO IT, OR EVEN A VEGAS FEEL TO IT?
It is certainly a city of sights and sounds, with lots of games, lots of eateries (even a Kosher pizzeria, a sister branch to one that's down the street where I live, finally opened up there; Ezzie, while we were there, I kept my eyes open for you. The likelihood of you walking in while we were there was strong indeed), and lots of opportunities to drop money along the way!
As for the waterpark...my kids were THRILLED with it. My youngest was fearless, going down as many of the water slides and tubes as the height allowance alloted. I'd barely see my daughter as she ran past with a wave and a smile, on to another tube. Oldest son was nary in sight, either, off with his rubber raft or ring and cascading down a tube called "the bowl" -- similar to flushing something down a toilet.
Dear old mom was plain CHICKEN, and I went down one raft, on the least adventurous tube of all. (read: the least dangerous tube of all!)
But I did enjoy the wave pool, sitting atop a rubber raft as the ever-frequent, time-controlled waves rocked and rolled me...oftentimes back to the "beach".
And when I wasn't out there in the wave pool, I was actually reading...something that has eluded me for too long. I'd toted along a book that my former employer had produced for their NEXT line, for the older reader. Yikes, I'm in that class already!? I'd given my mother a copy of this book, had given my sister-in-law a copy of the book, and each had thoroughly enjoyed it. And I hoped that I might allow myself the pleasure to read. And read I did -- no, I didn't finish the book yet, but it drew me in enough to drown out the sounds in the waterpark.
And so, may I suggest Riggs Park by Ellyn Bache, a very interesting, well-written book...
And today we went to Buffalo to check any and all deals we could find. But time was of the essence, and although we did get to a couple of places and picked up a few things (I think my daughter is following in my footsteps, excuse the pun, 'cause I bought her 4 pairs of shoes today!), including several groceries that we can't get back home, we had to head back at a reasonable hour in order to allow for lineups at the border, slowdowns due to traffic, and to pick up our beloved Max at the kennel.
And now it's already the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and we've been home for about 5 hours already, two loads of laundry already being done. Our official summer vacation is over, the prepare-for-school mode has begun, and it's back to my regularly scheduled blogging...!