Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our Trip To NY

My trusty driver and I set out early for our shopping trip to New York.

The day was slightly overcast but nice temperatures and no rain.

And the QEW Niagara was fairly clear outside of Hamilton with traffic moving well.

Once we got closer to St. Catharine's we ran into road construction. What a surprise (she claimed sarcastically). There always seems to be construction happening in this area.

This is the Skyway Bridge in St. Catherine's. If you look to the right, you can see the Welland Canal. I tried to get a picture of that, but it didn't turn out.

Our exit....getting closer

Almost out of Canada

Coming up to the border crossing...

Yay! We're in! Heading south on 190 towards Niagara Falls & Buffalo.

Niagara Falls in a major source of power on both sides of the border. We pass a lot of sights like this one.
One thing that is really kinda weird is this sign. It's HUGE!

We couldn't even escape Tim Horton's!

When we're in Niagara Falls, NY, I always stop here. I'm like a kid in a candy store. The place is huge and they have a pretty good California wine section. I find the prices for imported wines is not a whole lot cheaper than in Ontario, and with the exchange rate, it's not really worth it. I look for California wines that I don't see in Ontario or favorite ones that are so incredibly cheap that even with taxes and duty, I still save. I also keep my eyes open for a unique find - like the time I bought some wine from Idaho! It was very good and I haven't been able to find any since.

Another friggin' Tim Horton's. It's as bad as being in Canada. We did some grocery shopping in Niagara Falls and then headed towards Buffalo, stopping in Amherst. There's another good liquor store there, but I'd spent enough money already on wine, vodka and tequila. I didn't want to be tempted, so I just avoided the place altogether.

As soon as we crossed the border, there always seemed to be a plane flying by.

These weren't commercial flights either. Jim's a huge military/history buff and said these were military planes.

This went on all day long. No matter where we were, there was a plane. I started feeling like Henry Hill in Goodfellas.

Once we were finished all of our shopping, we were starving, so we decided to stop for dinner before heading home.

We'd passed this early in the day and knew this is where we wanted to eat. Neither one of us has ever been to a Chili's. There are a handful of locations in Canada, but they're all out west. This is the location in Niagara Falls, NY, which is fairly new. The place was really hopping and the hostess said it would be a 20 minute wait. We decided to relax at the bar. They had 2 for 1 margaritas! WOOT!

So I got myself 2 margaritas. We looked through the menu while we waited. It was pages long. They have an awful lot of things to choose from. After about 10 minutes, we got called to our table. I'm wondering if they secretly knew we were Canadian.

We were seated across from this....

and had a good view of this. HAHA!!

I was still looking through the menu, which was loaded with meat dishes, when our server first came by. We ordered up a plate of tortillas and salsa to munch on while we decided on our food.

Whoa! They certainly don't skimp on the chips!! Since I seem to have lost all of my ability to deal with overly spicy dishes, I was hoping I'd be able to enjoy the food here and not burn the crap out of my mouth. The salsa was perfect for me - lots of flavour and just a hint of heat.

Jim got himself a Coors Light for $1.99!! Around here, a beer at a bar or restaurant is on average about 5 bucks. Our waitress was great. She was very speedy & busy, but very attentive. She's obviously a pro.
I ended up ordering from the Guiltless Grill® part of the menu - a black bean burger that came with steamed veggies.

OMG! This was so freaking delicious! If all I could ever eat at Chili's, EVER, was this I wouldn't care. Even the broccoli was cooked perfectly. It still had lots of crunch. Jim got a mixed fajita dish that included beef, chicken and shrimp which he said it was very, very good.

A day spent shopping certainly gave us huge appetites. Jim & I both cleaned our plates,

And pretty much killed the chip plate. Granted, we'd only eaten breakfast, which explains our over-indulgence.
We asked for the bill and whoa - Look at the total! We ate and drank all that for $36!?? Amazingly cheap!

We had one more stop to make before heading home -

Yup! We always stop at Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee and some Munchkins for the ride home.
I don't know why we like this place so much. Maybe because it's like an American version of Tim Horton's - but better! (or perhaps the way Tim Horton's USED to be). The coffee here tastes better and since Tim Horton's has gone to par-baked (read frozen!) donuts, their donuts suck. There are some Dunkin' Donuts locations in Canada, but as far as I know, they're all in Quebec. Because this is unavailable to us, it's more of a treat.

Now, we're ready for the road!

The hot drink lids at Dunkin' Donuts are the best. Here it is closed....

And opened. Easy to reclose and they don't rip all to hell like plain, ordinary plastic lids.

We're driving out of the country and there's another effing Tim's. Sorry guys, we run on Dunkin'. HA!
As we're driving along, I'm compiling all of our receipts and figuring out how much we spent on groceries & how much we spent on booze. I always claim everything and pay the required duty and taxes. I just don't want to risk it, because if they do a search, I'm out the money I paid because they'll confiscate my liquor.

We get to the customs booth and they ask us the usual - nationality, where do you live, where were you & why, how long were you in the US, did you buy anything? When I told him we bought some vegetarian products, snacks and dog treats, he said "Do you do this often?" I said "Maybe 2 or 3 times a year. The selection of vegetarian products is amazing in the US." Customs doesn't care about this and I've never been charged any duty on that stuff. The big question is - Any tobacco or alcohol products? I told him what we bought and he looks confused...why wouldn't we buy this in Canada? Jim said "My wife works for the LCBO and she picks up wines they don't sell here." We also had some Van Gogh Vodka (Vanilla and Citroen) and Don Julio Tequila and I offered up receipts but then...the angels of heaven started singing....and the officer said "Would you be terribly disappointed if I just sent you on your way?" I said "No. In fact I'd be extremely grateful." With that he said "Have a good night guys. Drive safe." WootWoot! Awesome!
It had started to rain and drizzle a bit and the drive from the border is about 45 minutes, so we settled in with our coffee and revelled in the fact that we didn't have to pay duty or taxes on our booze.

What a long day! This is a weary shopper finally home. I'm in the lobby of our building waiting with our coolers and bags while Jim parked the truck.

Even after driving and shopping all day, he's still acting goofy & cheeky. We did in fact have a nice enjoyable time away, just the 2 of us.
Now....wait until you see what I bought!


Ellen said...

I enjoy reading about your adventures..especially your trips over the border. We used to have a Dunkin Donuts here a long time ago and did like the coffee better there than at Tim's. Enjoy the booze!

Randi said...

Isnt it amazing when you eat in the states? Its so much cheaper. We just came back from Florida and the majority of our meals( no booze) were between 22-25 bucks. The most expensive meal was 55.00 but we got a HUGE amount of seafood.

Its also great that you werent charged any duty or tax. Saved you lots!! The exchange rate is getting a lot better too!!

If you want some good Italian, try My Tomato Pie on Sheraton street in Cheektowaga. Also, Zetti's makes good pizza and pasta. Bagel Jays has excellent crusty NY bagels and Wegman's has amazing subs. The cheese( no modified milk ingredients) is cheap TOO!!

ps: I have a friend who lives in Lewiston so I go over every couple months.

aTxVegn said...

How fun! Would you be jealous that there are probably 10 Chili's locations and 20 Dunkin Donuts here in Austin?

urban vegan said...

Thanks for taking me along. This post was so much fun to read.

Isn't it funny how some chain restaurants are regional? I've never heard of a Tim Norton's. We have a Chili's here in Philly about 3 blocks from my house, and I have never been there.

We routinely go "across the brigde" to New Jersey, a 15-minute ride from Philly, where gas, liquor and some groceries are much cheaper. We have to pay a $4 bridge toll, but we more than recoup it. (Do you have to pay to cross the border?)

The big question is, what did you bring Simon? :)

Tanya Kristine said...

dunkin donuts was my first job. i still, to this day, love DD. they uysed to make these donuts called maple squares. oh my god. i sitlldream about them.

you're so lucky to take a day trip to fricking' new york! funny becuase applebees is nothing but meat too. we had fries and a salad. wasn' as good as your dish.

maragaritas look amazing though.