COCKTAILS AND BUTT-SITTING

I’m writing this post as I sit in an Urgent Care Clinic in Brooklyn, the day before we head home, waiting for a doctor to see the Boy Child.

It’s actually our second visit to an Urgent Care Clinic in as many days, so as well as doing the US tour of rest stop bathrooms, particularly those within ten minutes of our point of departure, we seem to be specialising in US walk-in medical facilities too.

Both kids have needed medical attention this trip. Nothing major, just major enough that we’ve been afraid to stick them on a 24-hour international flight without arming ourselves with all the knowledge and medication.

That said, these visits have been brief detours in the overall frivolity that has been this trip. Really just a blip on the radar of holiday fun.

One of my dearest friends made me laugh the other day when she messaged and said we looked like we were having an epic holiday. “When I travel, I literally sit on my ass all day and drink cocktails,” she wrote.

It got me to thinking – this particular brand of holiday, the long haul travel, the constant sightseeing, the driving of unfamiliar roads and sides of roads, the multiple – shared – hotel rooms, the packing and repacking, the washing, the mere presence of our offspring – none of it makes for a particularly restful holiday.

And it didn’t come easy in the first place either. There’s epic planning, hours of research, the cost, of course, and then the subsequent, perhaps inevitable heartache over the reasonableness of the cost.

I’m absolutely not complaining. I love travelling, as a departure from lying by a pool or on the beach.

We’re lucky enough to have family on the Sunshine Coast where we visit regularly and so we get our fill of idyllic beach time (plus more than a few cocktails) there. I think this is why we haven’t felt the need to do the the beachy/resort thing in a little while now.

But.

As I sit here trying to explain to person after person that I don’t have medical insurance, nor do I have a preferred pharmacy, nor a local residential address and actually, we do birth dates backwards to you guys, I find myself wondering whether we might have erred in pushing ourselves (and the kids) so hard this holiday.

We have a huge few months of life and work ahead of us, what if cocktails and butt-sitting was exactly what we needed?

Nah.

The thought is gone almost as soon as it arrived.

This trip has been incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And to share it with my family…. There are barely words.

Even if the kids don’t remember it in any real detail, hopefully they’ll remember a few abstract notions.

If not where we went specifically, then maybe what it’s like to emerge from the darkness of a subway station to the streets of the Manhattan for the first time, the overwhelming, slightly terrifying chaos of somewhere new and different.

If not what we saw on Broadway, then maybe the thrill of the lights dimming and the first few notes of an overture.

If not the specifics of Amish life, then maybe the fact that there are whole communities, countries around the world, living a fundamentally different experience to their own.

If not the names of each of the Niagara Falls, then hopefully the incredulity of their mum and dad signing them up for a boat trip where they got totally soaked, fully-clothed, on a mild Canadian autumn day.

If not the regional specialities tried and tasted, then hopefully the surprise and joy in the understanding that mum and dad take a holiday from meal rules too.

Which is fine for a while, but eventually evolves into dinner discussions about which home cooked meal we’d like to eat first when we get home.

Which then evolves into a conversation about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’s protagonist, Ichabod Crane, and how perhaps if the headless horseman would have piffed mum’s pumpkin risotto at him in that dark, instead of a whole Jack O’ Lantern, then maybe he wouldn’t have been so scared.

Or maybe they’ll just recall how mum and dad were there, for the most part, all day, every day, and every night, and we how we did it all together.

Often annoying the crap out of each other but mainly just enjoying living, learning, loving and being together, without distraction.

If I’m honest, that would be enough.*

*Yes, this is a Hamilton reference. As ever – not sorry.

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Niagara Falls: Here’s what you need to know

And by that I mean, if you’re going there with a six- and four-year old. Not about the Falls themselves, so much. I’m still not exactly super-knowledgeable on those. I couldn’t hear a thing on our boat tour over the tonnes of roaring water and flapping ponchos.

(Side note: The Flapping Ponchos would be an excellent name for a Mariachi band, should I ever be in a position to name one.)

A room with a view

If you can get a room with a view, do it.

Because when you’re travelling with kids, there are so many things that you have to do with them in your hotel room every day – bathe them, feed them, answer their multitude of questions, ignore their multitude of questions during hotel room happy hour…

If you can do this in a room with a view, you can not only pass these mundane experiences off as something new and exciting – “hey kids, who wants to have a bath – with a view!?”, but you can maybe even do them in lieu of the plethora of alternative (overpriced) kids’ experiences, to which you will be subjected at Niagara Falls. More on that later.

Suck up the surcharges

Dining options in the Falls are plentiful but expensive. That said, don’t think you can cheat the system like I did.

I’d heard tell of a kitschy Flying Saucer themed restaurant a mere 3km walk from our hotel and a vastly better value breakfast than what seemed to be nearby. Given our kids had managed up to 14km walking a day in NYC, I figured the whole exercise would be a walk in the park, so to speak.

It was not a walk in the park. At all. It was a long walk on empty tummies, which took us past many a pawn, gun and adult shop in the process.

And the kids whined so much that we ended up taking a cab back to our hotel anyway, so kind of a false economy in the end.

Niagara Falls are kind of wet

I’ve seen many a pop culture reference to Niagara Falls and in particular to the Maid of the Mist boat trip and its Canadian counterpart – the Hornblower Journey to the Falls.

Note the dry hair

(Jim and Pam’s nuptials in The Office anyone? Sorry, spoiler alert.)

And on each and every fictional occasion, everyone ended up soaked.

Yet despite this, I was shocked at how soggy we all actually got in the end and I wished we were better prepared. I mean, the ponchos are lovely, but I should’ve put the kids in wetsuits.

And as far as capturing this beautiful, exhilarating moment we shared as a family? Water and iPhones famously don’t mix, so it depends how bad you want it. Time over, I would’ve brought a Go Pro, or at least a clear snap lock bag.

Fortunately we weren’t staying far from the boat drop-off point so it was straight to the hotel for warm showers and a fun game of – hey kids, how many things can we use in the hotel room as a clothesline?

Come for the view, and stay for the….view?

Niagara Falls are beautiful. And sailing directly into that foaming mist, barely able to hear myself think over the thunderous water will forever stick in my mind as a true highlight of our trip.

So if you’ve not had the pleasure, I highly recommend it.

Go there. Go on the boat. Or stand on the land and appreciate the view, soak it all in.

Just…don’t turn around.

As beautiful as the Falls are, the town (on the Canadian side where we stayed at least) is not.

I had read that the place has become a bit ‘Disneyfied’ which I think is generous at best and a bit of an insult to Walt and his kin at worst.

Think of every dodgy tourist trap you’ve ever seen and it’s all there, right behind the falls. It’s like a glittering who’s who of everything you never wanted to do. With a side dish of trying to explain to your kids why you’re not going to spend your time near one of the most beautiful places in the US inside a Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

That said, if you’re feeling really creative, you can pass the boat trip off as a water-themed roller coaster complete with matching costumes like we did. Everyone’s a winner.