I don’t know why I had never gone to Ripley’s Believe It or Not before. It seems like the kind of place that I would have enjoyed as a kid, and goodness knows that I went to the Falls enough times over the years (with each trip inevitably leading up and down Clifton Hill to tour the raw tackiness of it all) that I really should have gone it at least once.
“Come on,” my wife cajoled, pulling me by the arm. “It will be fun.”
“Of course it will,” I said, thinking to myself that it would likely be a gross disappointment, much as the great freakshows of yesteryear were.
However, I was greatly surprised to find that Ripley’s is actually a labyrinthine wonderland of shrunken heads, freakish animal carcasses, bizarre collections, and a tunnel that makes you fall over when you try to walk through it. (Seriously, it’s just a fixed walkway with walls that rotate all the way around it, but I kept falling into the railing every time I tried to get through it. It was a very strange experience, and I think I would like to install one like it as an entrance to my house; it would deter salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
We left Ripley’s with a souvenir booklet and a greater appreciation for all of the things that can be made from human skin and butterfly wings.
Dinner that night was at the hotel’s upscale Italian restaurant. After a day of walking up and down that bloody hill (where we passed a pair of middle-aged women who mocked themselves for being slower than the pregnant woman), we were definitely looking forward to stuffing ourselves silly with expensive pasta and fresh-baked bread. But on arriving, we were confronted with a pet peeve of ours (okay, mostly of mine): tourists wearing novelty t-shirts and shorts to nice retstaurants.
I get it. You don’t want to pack a nice pair of slacks and a collared shirt with your bathing suit and sleeveless Lynyrd Skynyrd top. You don’t like ironing things before you go out. You’re on vacation so you ditch the nice clothes for ripped jeans and sandals. That’s fine! Just go eat where those outfits belong: Applebee’s. Stay out of the nice places where the wine list doesn’t include Wild Irish Rose. Or, if you want to go out to a place where “Cafeteria Style” isn’t printed under the name of the establishment, throw on a golf shirt and a pair of pants that only has factory-made holes in it.
Now, before you start jumping on me about being elitist, I will point out the fact that I don’t particularly like to get dressed up either. But I do believe that if you are going to spend $100 for a meal out, you can probably afford to go to the Gap and pick out a pair of khakis that don’t feature grease, paint, or oil stains.
And just because your UFC 79 t-shirt is black, that does not make it “evening wear.”
The night’s entertainment consisted of losing some of the money we had won the previous night, this time branching out from slots to a fancy, fully-automatic and digital version of roulette that looks like something off of a space-casino orbiting some kind of resort planet. (Seriously, it had a Plexiglas dome with an actual roulette wheel under it. The ball game spitting out of a pinball hole, rolled around, landed in a slot, and then was dropped back into the fancy internal mechanism, one that is probably run by gnomes. You placed you bets on a personal touch-screen display. It was like I was playing in Cloud City.)
After determining that our luck had left us, Erin and I played a fun game we like to call “Watch people in their falls-view hotel rooms to see if anyone is doing anything dirty with the blinds open.” We saw someone ironing. That was the most exciting thing going on that night.
On our last morning, we were sent up to the 33rd floor for breakfast. It seems that the good people of the Hilton are not great at anticipating a breakfast buffet rush on a Saturday morning, and their downstairs restaurant was all filled up by the time we got there. However, I have a bit of a problem with heights, so I had to fight back a spell of vertigo when we stepped out of the elevator and I felt the building moving gently in the wind. The view was worth it, though; eggs taste better when you are watching millions of litres of water pouring onto rocks far below.
We left Niagara Falls behind us that day, understanding a bit of why honeymooners have made it such a popular destination over more obviously romantic spots. It turns out that even Ripley’s Believe It or Not can feel like Paris when you’re there with your best friend.