Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 5 Day Adventure

I just returned from five days on the road with my friend Katie. Last year, Katie and I went to Iowa for a few days to do a mini wine tour. She is not much of the road trip/driving type, but is willing to try anything and wants to visit new places. All I need is someone to go with and I'm willing to go anywhere! The thing about Katie, is that she's willing to try almost anything once, and she's willing to do things just because, and will talk to just about anyone if it means having a good time...and she likes to drink. (No, neither of us having a drinking problem...we just like to have a good time and make memories!) This year, she suggested Frankenmuth, MI...but wanted to stretch it out for four or five days, which is what lead us to Niagara Falls, Canada, and so on. So here it is...

Day 1: Frankenmuth, Michigan
Downtown Frankenmuth, MI
We drove from Chicago to Frankenmuth, which is known as "Little Bavaria". It is also known for Brommer's, the largest Christmas store in America. We arrived in Frankenmuth around 11am, checked into the hotel, and headed out for some trouble. Besides just the traveling, Katie and I like to go to wineries and frankly, but wine cabinet is empty right now! So we started with St. Julian's Winery. They have multiple locations in Michigan...and they have good wine at great prices! We did our tasting and then each bought a few bottles.

From there we headed to Brommer's to check out this Christmas madness. And it was just that...madness! Anything you couldn't possible think you need and ornaments for any fetish, this place was insane. I really thought that I was going to have a complex walking through there with everything making noise and twinkling lights, yikes! We each grabbed a couple of ornaments and after taking over an hour to see the whole store, we escaped into the heat of the day.

Brommer's Christmas World
We then walked around the small shopping centers, cheese shops, and finally made our way to a boat ride/river tour. They had wine here as well, so we did a wine and chocolate pairing, grabbed a bottle and headed to the boat. We had an hour long ride and shared it with a couple from Kentucky. It was a nice break in the day, but man was it hot! We were all stuck to the seats at the end and practically sweated through our clothes by then end. I felt bad for the kid driving the boat too, because I'm sure that there were many things that he wanted to tell us about along the river...but our conversation was so much more important at that point! Hot and sweaty, with no more wine...we hit up a couple more shots and then headed back to the hotel.

Our hotel had a happy hour with free drinks and hot food. Beyond fighting through the crowd of big hungry people, we ate and our fill and headed to the hot tub. It wasn't the most exciting thing to do, but for a Monday night in a small town, it would do.  Overall, it was a successful first day!

Day 2: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Hello Canada!
We drove into Canada today, which Katie had never done. Always fun with firsts. Getting through customs was no big deal and we headed towards the falls. We didn't have much of a plan, but as we got closer, we noticed that there were a lot of signs for wineries popping up. We stopped at a welcome center to get some information and learned that there were over 70 wineries in the Niagara region. That's a lot...even for us! So as we drove along, getting closer to the falls, we stopped at 4 different places. They were all very unique, some of them very beautiful...but their wine was a little pricier than what we were looking for. So we paced ourselves, and eventually just knew that it was time to head towards town!
Colaneri Estate Winery
Cheateau des Charmes

Niagara Horseshoe Falls
Our hotel was sketchy, but it was cheap...not always a great thing, but it had a pool and the hotel was full, so it couldn't be that bad! We dropped our stuff and headed to the Falls. Niagara Falls is amazing. I've been there before, but it's something great to see again and again, like the Grand Canyon. (For those of you who are looking for something similar...check out Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil....I can't even explain how breath taking they are. I can't wait to get back!) We took some pictures of the falls and then headed down to ride the Maid of the Mist, which is the boat that takes you into the horseshoe and the mist of the falls.
Niagara Falls

Maid of the Mist Ride
Everyone is in blue ponchos, that are sticking to you because it's so hot...and they cram you on pretty good...but riding into the falls is a bit bumpy, yet amazing. I didn't ride the Maid of the Mist the first time that I was there, but this was something that I think everyone should do at least once. It's almost funny to watch people and I got some cool pictures.

After the boat ride, we grabbed some average italian food and then walked around downtown Niagara. It reminded us both of the Wisconsin Dells, a little run down with shit-shops on every corner and tons of attractions that have nothing to do with anything. Oh well, it was for a night and seeing the falls was worth the drive! We sat by the pool that evening and drank a bottle of wine...talking and relaxing, it was nice.
Horseshoe Falls from the boat
Day 3: Erie, Pa...NOPE! Hershey, Pennsylvania
We didn't really know where we wanted to go the next day. We knew that we didn't have to be home until Friday and it was only Wednesday. So we headed towards Erie initially...and when we stopped at a gas station, we decided to go the opposite direction and head to Hershey, PA. We didn't know what to expect except for chocolate. Oh well, it was an adventure and we didn't have anything set in stone, so here we go!

The drive was brutal. Simply because it was all back roads in PA, through small towns with changing speed limits, but we made it. And we found a great hotel at a great price. We checked in and headed to Hershey World...or Chocolate World, I guess...either way, we took a short ride to learn about how they make Hershey's candy, and then had the chance to buy anything and everything Hershey. Just what I needed!

From there we went to the Hollywood Casino, because frankly, there wasn't much else to do. Neither of us are really gamblers, but $20 in the slot machine wastes an hour and you never know if you'll win. It's worth a shot! It was a nice casino too, so a great detour.

The ceiling on the bar!
We were hoping to find a place to go hang out and see what happened...but there wasn't much to choose from. So we ended up at the Holiday Inn Express Bar, where they were having Wednesday Wing Night. This was going to be interesting. What it turned in to, was a bunch of country line dancing, and plenty of men with few teeth trying to hit on us. We kept our distance for a while, had a few beers and some wings..and eventually sat down at the bar. Shortly after, I started feeling drops on my arm and realized that the ceiling above me was leaking. On the down side, I was getting dripped on...on the up side, I was getting free drinking because this was happening. So I made a deal with the bartender, until the ceiling collapsed. Yes, three or four of the ceiling tiles came down right onto the bar! At this point, we had to move. It was getting late, so we were trying to finish our last drinks anyways...and then came defaults. I'm not going to really explain that...but Katie and I both had a great time at the bar and made it back to our hotel safe:)

Day 4: Cleveland, OH
Greendance Winery
We wanted to pick a place that would get us approximately half way home, and only leave a reasonable drive for Friday morning. Cleveland was the ticket. On the drive to Cleveland, we stopped at a couple wineries, which were both super cute. In PA, we stopped at Greendance, outside of Pittsburgh and had lunch. They have a berry farm there as well, but grounds and gardens big enough to host events or just have lunch with your friends. We then stopped at Candlelight in Ohio. This place was definitely off the beaten path, but also had a great outdoor area where they had light shows and family events. (Plus their wine was pretty good!).

Nothing crazy was planning for the night in Cleveland...just getting to the hotel, possibly going to the pool (but it was rainy),, and having a good meal. We did just that. Relaxed, had a good meal, and enjoyed the evening. Nothing fancy...but lots of driving will do that to you!

Day 5: Chicago, IL
We were heading home today, so nothing too exciting was happening, but we did stop at a winery in Indiana on the way home. We stopped at Satek Winery, which was a great find. The people there were so friendly and definitely loved their jobs! It was a nice break in the drive and Katie was able to fill her case of wine for the trip...I was a little beyond a case...but hey, this is wine to last me for the next year!

We finished the drive successfully and without incident. Another successful trip and we both saw things that we hadn't before. We didn't drive a really far distance, but there are some great things within a reasonable distance that everyone should see! Looking forward to the next.

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