Disclaimer: As much as I’m sure we all wish this weren’t the case, unfortunately we are still in a global pandemic. Although things are starting to open up here in Ontario, I absolutely do not condone traveling right now in cases where it isn’t safe! My partner and I are both double vaccinated, and our travel destination was in the same province where we live. We were also extremely diligent throughout our trip when it came to masking up, not touching our faces, sanitizing and responsible hand hygiene. Keep this in mind if you plan on traveling in the near future!
Earlier this month, my partner and I finally went on our belated honeymoon to Niagara Falls. When we got married in October 2019, my partner had just started a new job and understandably wasn’t able to take time off. Then that pesky Canadian cold weather set in, so we decided we’d hold off until Spring 2020.
Well, you know what happened next–COVID slammed the door on those plans pretty quickly.
Upon some reflection, my partner and I agreed that we’re glad we waited until this year to go… Especially after the year and a half we (and everyone else, I’m sure) have had. Can you believe we’re going on two years of this crap!? Needless to say, it was nice to have something to look forward to while we were stuck inside. It felt like a light at the end of the tunnel, even when we weren’t sure exactly how long the tunnel would be. It also gave us time to build up some more savings, which allowed us to extend the trip from our original four-day plan to a week.
Now that we’re back home, I’m more thankful than ever that we waited. The past year and a half has been rough, particularly for couples. Statistically, divorce rates are highest within the first two years of marriage. Studies have also shown that the early years of a marriage set the tone for the rest of a couple’s life together, and most marriages that are going to end will do so within those years. Things get even more complicated when you add a deadly virus and multiple emergency lockdowns to the mix. I never thought my first two years of marriage would happen in the middle of a global health crisis, but here we are, and I’m beyond proud of us for surviving it.
We did pretty well, all things considered. During the first couple months of the pandemic, my partner and I were thrilled to spend every second of every day together. We went for long walks, finished some projects around the apartment that we’d been putting off and did a ton of binge-watching. But having your own space and nurturing your individuality outside your relationship is not only reasonable and healthy, but necessary. Spending 100% of your time with one person while being largely cut off from the outside world will inevitably start to feel suffocating for any couple, especially when you’re in a small apartment with very little personal space.
Needless to say, by the time the lockdowns drew to a close, my partner and I had faced some rocky terrain. We were at each others’ throats more often than either of us wanted to be. We found ourselves arguing about the most inconsequential things. Although we were technically together most of the time, we failed to really connect. We’d sit side by side without speaking a word to one another for hours at a time. We stopped showing affection toward each other, although I don’t think either of us really meant to do it. Most critically, we forgot how to have fun together.
And that’s exactly why this trip came at the perfect time. Could we have waited longer to travel for the sake of the pandemic? Probably. But we were both gasping for air. We felt like we were cruising on autopilot, and decided we had to break away from the routine we’d somehow fallen into.
So, we took all the precautions we possibly could to keep ourselves and the people around us healthy and safe. We also made sure our trip would fall on our second wedding anniversary, meaning we were there mostly on weekdays and the tourist season had ended. This allowed us to avoid most lines and crowds. Then all we had to do was make arrangements for our furbabies while we were gone, and it was time to take off!
As it turns out, the trip was exactly what we needed.
I had never been to Niagara Falls despite living in Ontario my whole life, and when my partner went as a kid he says he didn’t get to do much. So, I made sure to pack our itinerary full of activities we’d both enjoy. It rained for the majority of the trip, but we hardly noticed. We saw the falls from every conceivable angle, got up close and personal with the Class 6 rapids on the Niagara River and even spent an afternoon hiking in the Niagara gorge. We went to a bunch of attractions including Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium, a massive aviary filled with free-flying birds of every shape and colour and the beautiful and serene Butterfly Conservatory. We also found an old-time candy shop where we spent a ridiculous amount of money (seriously, I don’t even want to admit how much) on retro candy, soda and treats.
My partner and I agreed that the most memorable part of the trip was the food. We ate like kings all week. I’ve been asked why we didn’t go out clubbing or to the famous Fallsview Casino, but neither of us enjoy drinking, partying or gambling all that much. What we do both enjoy, however, is a delicious meal. In fact, for one of our first dates, I made him a massive homemade lasagna in the slow cooker. So, really, it only made sense that most of our budget went to food.
On the night of our anniversary we had a luxurious dinner in the upscale revolving dining room atop Skylon Tower, while enjoying a bird’s eye view of the city and the falls. Another memorable meal for me was at the restaurant at the Table Rock Centre, where I got a seasonal butternut squash and mushroom ravioli that was to die for. We also got to enjoy a tasty and entertaining Teppanyaki dinner on our final night, at the restaurant owned by our wonderful Airbnb hosts. It was a first for us both, and we had a blast! They were even kind enough to give us a complimentary mango cheesecake to share for dessert.
If you asked my partner, he’d tell you his favourite culinary experience of the week was the ice cream. We ate an outrageous amount of ice cream over those seven days. On day one, my partner made it his mission to try every single ice cream parlour Clifton Hill had to offer. Trust me, considering the fact that the main strip is essentially a giant midway, there were many.
But even more than the food, the views and the attractions, the thing that stands out most to me about our trip was how I fell in love with my partner all over again. We spent the entire trip smiling, laughing and genuinely enjoying one another’s company for the first time in a long time. We didn’t bicker or snap at each other once. There were no distractions or stressors to worry about, it was just the two of us. It was almost like we were rediscovering each other. We held hands like teenagers and found ourselves snuggling, hugging, kissing and just generally showing more affection toward each other than we had in a long time.
Although we had been spending practically all of our time together leading up to the trip, I realized that simply being in the same room with someone doesn’t necessarily equal quality time. And the quality time we spent in Niagara was sorely needed.
There are two moments in particular that stand out to me:
The first was at Journey Behind the Falls, where we got to stand almost directly underneath the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, right at the base. I wish I could properly describe the energy in the air, but truthfully I’m not sure there are words to capture it. I could feel the raw power of the thundering falls, almost like static electricity. That combined with the cool mist on my skin made me feel so alive. More alive than I had felt in months. I just remember watching my partner as he stood there in that silly yellow rain parka, pointing out the bands of built-up rock and mineral making up the cliff face behind us explaining how each represents thousands of years of evolution and history, and suddenly finding myself completely overwhelmed by sheer love. I remembered all the reasons I fell for him in the first place, and all I could do was wrap my arms around him in the tightest hug I could muster.
The second moment, funny enough, was at the wax museum. We went on a rainy Monday afternoon, so we had the entire place to ourselves. We goofed off the whole time–I actually got a pain in my side from laughing so hard. I imagine the employee at the entrance had a good chuckle watching us on the cameras. It was so nice to spend the afternoon laughing together–I realized I had almost forgotten how. Not that we don’t laugh and joke at home, but when you’re stuck inside for the better part of a year it can be all too easy for things to start feeling stagnant. Apparently a change of scenery and some creepily realistic wax sculptures were all we needed to revitalize that part of our relationship.
Actually, that’s the perfect descriptor for how our relationship felt when we finally returned home–revitalized. We’ve been home for two weeks now and that overwhelming feeling of love I had standing at the base of Niagara Falls hasn’t gone away. In fact, our marriage feels stronger than ever. We’re communicating again and making time for each other. As it turns out, all we needed was to escape real life for a little while and spend some much-needed quality time together.
If I could give one piece of post-pandemic advice to couples who are feeling the strain of surviving a major historical event together, it would be to plan a trip. Seriously, it’s like hitting the reset button.
It doesn’t have to be an overly elaborate affair; there’s no need to break the bank. But a simple change of scenery can work wonders, even if it’s just a weekend trip out of town. Take a break, tune the world out and remind yourselves what it feels like to actually enjoy each other’s company. Turn your notifications off and leave the computer, video games, emails and other distractions at home. Just take time to focus on the things that brought you together in the first place.
Like I mentioned in the disclaimer above, given the current situation it’s obviously crucial to ensure your plans are COVID-conscious. Be safe and don’t put others at risk. But I’m not here to lecture you. If there’s enough interest, I’d be happy to make a post about how we planned our trip to be as pandemic-friendly as possible. I’ve also had a couple people ask about how I put together our itinerary on a budget, so if you’re looking to visit Niagara Falls and would like to hear more about that I’d be happy to post a blog on that topic. Send me a DM on Instagram or Twitter, or leave a comment below if you’re interested in either of those things!
One of the most insidious relationship-killers is apathy, and it can creep up on you without anyone noticing until it’s too late. I didn’t even fully realize my partner and I hadn’t been on the same page until we were again, and I was reminded how good it felt. Relationships take work, and simply coexisting isn’t enough. It’s important to actively make time for each other, and a romantic getaway is a perfect way to do that.
© Victoria St. Michael 2021