After my three-day adventure in Niagara Falls, Ontario we crossed the border into the United States for the second portion of our winter getaway: from Niagara Falls we went to spend a day and half in Buffalo to finally fly out early in the morning on December 11 to our final destination: Puerto Rico.
Buffalo is just about two hours from Toronto where I live, and just a bit over half an hour from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Due to the high Canadian dollar “cross-border shopping” has become an issue in the last few months. The now greater affordability of many American retailers is luring Canadians across the border in droves. In addition, the Miami Dolphins were playing on this day, so all the various football fans were adding to the lineups at the border.
Buffalo City Hall
Finally, after lining up for about an hour on a gray and cold morning, we crossed the border and drove south towards Buffalo. As a special surprise for my husband’s birthday I had gotten us tickets to the Miami Dolphins / Buffalo Bills football game. We managed to find our way to the Elmwood Village Inn, our home for the next two nights. Hostess Karen Powell was out and had kindly left the keys for us so we could get in, drop off our luggage and get changed into some heavy duty winter attire for a football game on a freezing day.
We had to rush off to the football game at Ralph Wilson Stadium which is located a good twenty minutes or so south of the city. By the time we got there the game had already started. We parked our vehicle about 20 minutes away in some enterprising local resident’s backyard. It seemed all the houses on the access road to the stadium were renting out their front yards and back yards to eager football fans.
Street scene in Buffalo
On the stadium parking lot we could see the evidence of lots of pre-game tailgate parties; debris was scattered everywhere. Finally we made our way into the stadium, and my husband had a chance to get a glimpse at his beloved Dolphins (who, to his chagrin, have not been doing so great this season). Knowing that I usually get frozen to the bone I was wearing many layers plus a waterproof outer layer. This was after all my first winter football game.
I was trying to watch the action on the field although some rather passionate Bills fans in front of me hampered my view with their gestures and rituals. Beer was flowing freely, and I was amazed how watching live sports can induce so much thirst. As the game progressed (and no, the Dolphins did not win) the snow was turning into rain, and despite my supposedly waterproof clothing, I felt chilled to the bone. I think this will probably be my first and last winter football game for a long time. But I had promised myself not to whine and let my husband enjoy his favourite spectator sport, in a live experience no less. So I fought the clammy conditions and we left a little bit early in order to avoid the big rush of football fans exiting the stadium.
Buffalo – a mecca for architecture lovers
Afterwards we engaged in one of the holy traditions that many Canadians follow when they are in Buffalo: we checked out the Walden Galleria, a big shopping mall in the east end of Buffalo. Because it was prime pre-Christmas shopping time we decided to visit various stores and see if we could find a bargain. Despite our high Canadian dollar, we could not really find any great underpriced values at this well-known shopping mecca. So we decided to have dinner in the food court and headed back to our abode for the night and rest our weary and chilled bones.
Monday morning I finally had a chance to meet our hostess Karen Powell who was so kind to take me on a tour of the Elmwood Village Inn. But first we sat down in the living room so I would have a chance to find out more about this unique hospitality entrepreneur. Karen hails from Seattle, which she calls “a little town next to Canada”. Karen is not only a business person – since she was a child she has had a keen interest in issues of social justice and alternative spirituality. Her parents were quite conservative and traditional, and Karen broke with many family traditions.