Today’s blog post is about my family’s annual tradition of visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake at Christmastime, but I’d like to briefly begin by discussing something that put a damper on this year’s trip: my migraines.
We were scheduled to leave on Friday, December 22nd in the morning and arrive on time to see a Christmas Carol at the Shaw Festival theatre at 1pm. Watching a Christmas Carol is also one of our family traditions that I look forward to – whether we’re watching the movie versions, or seeing it performed live.
Unfortunately, I woke up on Friday morning with one of the worst migraines I’ve ever had. The pounding was unbearable, I could not look at any light, and the nausea was intense. So intense that I did throw up incessantly, even after all the contents of my stomach and even the bile was gone. I apologize because that’s definitely TMI, but at the same time I want to shed some light on how awful migraines are. I actually consider myself lucky that I only suffer 1-3 days a month. I know there are some who live with it chronically. A migraine is more than just a headache. It irks me so much when I’m at work, and someone says they have a migraine but they’ll be fine to function the rest of the day. In my eyes, you can’t POSSIBLY have a migraine and be operational. That is what I would call a bad headache (which I do work through sometimes as well). A migraine is truly debilitating.
I feel lucky to have a family who is extremely understanding and sympathetic – there is nothing worse than being around those who consider migraines headaches that can simply be treated with advil. I ended up sleeping for a couple of hours after throwing up, and was well enough to travel to NOTL (Niagara-on-the-Lake) by the afternoon. Unfortunately, we had missed the showing of A Christmas Carol, and I felt very guilty and upset. It’s one thing to have a migraine ruin my weekend, or force me to take time off work, but it’s quite another to miss a family tradition that only comes around once a year.
Once we got to NOTL my condition worsened and I was pretty much bedridden with my medication for the rest of the evening. My brother and dad had a nice afternoon and evening reading and drinking in the bar/lounge of the hotel we stayed at, the Prince of Wales. My mom spent some time on the main street and then my family had dinner at the hotel. They brought me up some soup 🙂 but that day was pretty much a write off for me.
Fortunately, the trip was perfect after that. The next morning we had breakfast in the solarium at the Prince of Wales, which was an absolutely magical experience as we watched the snow falling in big fluffy flakes outside the window. As horse and carriage buggies drove by, and as I admired all the beautiful Christmas decorations, I really felt as if I were in a Dickens novel.
After breakfast I managed to schedule myself a massage at the 124 on Queen Spa. I had wanted to book a massage at the hotel, or at the Pillar and Post, but both were completely booked up. The 124 on Queen was able to take me at the last minute, and I had the most wonderful neck and scalp massage – it was life-giving!! Any residual pain kicking around from my migraine was gone after the massage, and I was ready to enjoy the rest of the trip.
I walked back from the spa along the main street, stomping through the thick blanket of snow that was still falling. My mom and I had a lovely afternoon tea back in the Drawing Room at the Prince of Wales, and again sat by the window to watch the snow fall. With the fireplace crackling and everyone in a Christmassy mood, I felt SO happy.
After tea came the best part of the trip – our visit to the hot spring at the Pillar and Post hotel. This year was even better than the last, because as we were in the hot spring the snow was gently falling, covering us and all the beautiful trees and decorations around us in soft snow. Relaxing in the hot water is especially restorative, and it was so lovely being there all together with my family. I’ll use the word again – it was magical.
After the hot spring we jumped in the car and drove to the butterfly conservatory, which is on the way to Niagara Falls. I was wearing a big bright red and pink scarf, which did a great job of attracting the butterflies. They landed right on me, and I have to admit I freaked out a little when one landed next to my face and felt its wings brush against my cheeks. Butterflies are incredible beautiful…but they’re still bugs 🙂 I loved the big blue ones, and the ones whose wings mimic owl eyes to fool their predators. So cool!
We drove to Niagara Falls after the butterfly conservatory to have dinner and look at all the Christmas lights. We ate at Weinkeller, which is a favourite of mine. Our server described the restaurant as “the most Un-Niagara Falls restaurant in Niagara Falls” :). It’s a cozy, classy establishment right off the main strip, and the food is divine. They also pride themselves on their wonderful assortment of wine and beer, which they help you pair with your meal. We sat right next to the fireplace and enjoyed our decadent Christmas Eve’s Eve dinner. My bacon-wrapped filet mignon was heavenly, and the truffle fries were perfect. Even better (if that’s possible), was the service. My dad’s blood sugar was low when we arrived, and the server quickly put together a plate of crostini and biscotti for him to munch on before we ordered dinner. My dad loved the biscotti so much that they put together a box for him to take home! The chef himself came out to say hello and see how we were enjoying dinner. It was my second time at Weinkeller, and I’d never hesitate to recommend it or go back again and again. Such a lovely experience!
After dinner we walked down to look at the Falls, and all the fun Christmas light displays. It was super chilly, so after snapping some obligatory pictures we walked back to the car. After arriving back at the hotel, I snuggled up in my robe and watched Harry Potter with my mom 🙂
The next morning was our last in NOTL, and also Christmas Eve! We walked from our hotel over to Queen’s Landing (another sister hotel), and enjoyed our last breakfast. The hotel was totally decked out in decorations, and my mom made me and my brother pose next to various reindeer statues, fireplaces, and Christmas trees so that she could take 320482304823 pictures. She has now learned how to upload photos to Facebook, and even knows how to write captions. It’s cute, but I never know what I’ll be tagged in, and it’s often a surprise when I log in to Facebook 🙂
We checked out after breakfast and said goodbye to NOTL for another year. It was such a wonderful trip, with lots of cherished time spent together as a family.
Christmas this year was one of the best I’ve ever had. I was lucky enough to spend time with loved ones from near and far, and took a nice long break from work. It has been restorative, and I am very much looking forward to 2018. It’s going to be a good year.
Thank you as always for reading! Sending so much love, well wishes, and happiness your way. Xoxo