Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Niagara Falls

I don’t really have a travel bucket list. I want to go everywhere and see everything but if I did have a list then Niagara Falls would be on it. When we were in New York we toyed with the idea of a day trip but it was too cold and too far. I’m glad we didn’t go then because if we had then we mightn’t have gone today and I think it’s safe to say that the view from the Canadian side must be superior to the view from the US.

We booked our tour from Australia, based on TA reviews. We had to meet the bus in town and we still had an hour on our bike share so we were confident of making the 8am departure. Unfortunately, there were only two bikes on the rack when we got there so Geoff had to walk. It’s a good thing he’s a fast walker!

The trip to Niagara was interesting. The driver was knowledgeable and so we learnt quite a bit about Canadian history and to break up the trip, (140kms) we made a few stops. I’m not entirely sure of the reason behind some of the stops but I imagine the tourist network is a closely linked organisation. It did remind me a bit of our trip to the Cuchi tunnels in Vietnam – we’ll just stop at my brother’s cousin’s sister in laws café for a snack in case we can’t find food later! The first stop was at Niagara on the Lake, a picturesque little retirement/tourist mecca, reminiscent of Hahndorf, with nicely restored colonial buildings and a magnificent view out over Lake Ontario to the United States on the other shore. It was here that much of the battle for Canadian territory between England and America took place.

Niagara on the Lake

Next stop, a fruit stand featuring the smallest wayside chapel in Canada. Interesting. I bought a lot of cherries and two giant apples (in case I got hungry later).

After that, a winery where the speciality is ‘ice wine’. This syrupy concoction is made in the depth of Winter from frozen grapes, picked at midnight and trampled by fairies (ok, I made up the fairy bit). Anyway, it’s very expensive because each grape only yields a tiny drop. Either 11 am is too early for me to taste wine or someone is having me on because I’d rather scull a glass of maple syrup than that stuff.

Ice wine
We also stopped at what is purported to be the largest floral clock in the world. I think the Melbourne City Council might choose to disagree but it did provide an option for a toilet break. Eventually we made it to our destination, Niagara. Maybe it was the ice wine but somehow Geoff convinced me that a helicopter flight over the falls would be a great way to see the big picture. He was right! I nearly wet my pants as the chopper took off (I blame the wine drinking again) but after that I was too mesmerised by the view to be scared.

Turn your head sideways, I can't figure how to rotate!
Back on the ground we tried another vantage point, this time on the Hornblower boat to the base of the falls. Any other time a boat ride with a hundred other sardines in pink plastic ponchos would seem absurd, but the company was irrelevant. To top it off, we walked the length of the bank to see the display from yet another angle. On July 4th, Niagara is crawling with people on both sides of the river border and the banks are littered with outrageous, gaudy attractions. I never fail to be bemused by the extent to which humans can take a natural resource of such beauty and turn it into a carnival – but remarkably, none of this takes away the majesty of the falls. It is simply awe inspiring.

When we come again to Canada, (I already know once will not be enough), we will stay in Niagara and take the time to fully appreciate the beauty and power of the landscape.

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