I can remember being a kid and my parents had this book, the title was something like the Sunday Times Book of the World. It was a big hard back book with full page photographs of some of the most amazing places in the world. One of these photographs was of Niagara Falls. I was drawn to this photograph of these waterfalls, kept opening the book just to have a look at that one photograph every now and again. I couldn’t get over the dramatic scene, I was hypnotised by it…how was something like this possible? Where was it? I remember asking all these questions, and I remember that childhood feeling…the feeling over time you sometimes lose…that feeling of total wonder and amazement…and that childhood feeling of want! I wanted to go there! Why couldn’t we go there? Why can’t we afford it?
One day I’m going there…
We visited Niagara Falls as a day trip from Toronto…we had booked train tickets with Via Rail in advance…now when we have actually got on their trains, they are really good comfortable and on time. However we have had some troubles of our own making…on one train you could not have a suitcase/bag over 40 pounds, on the train to Niagara Falls…it was an American train…it was continuing to America after Niagara Falls…so you had to have your passports with you…this was something I had been unaware of…we had forgot our passports…even though we had tickets for the maid of the mist boat ride, where you have to cross to the American side to board…we screwed up and forgot them. The staff would have let us on the train, however…the risk of being kicked off at some point combined with not being able to do the boat trip we wanted to…we left it, went back to our accommodation, picked up our passports and organised alternative train tickets. The via rail train would have been the best option if everything had of been right, but we got Go Transit tickets where we got the train from Union Station Toronto to Burlington and then the number 12 bus from there to Niagara Falls, it was easy and took about two and a half hours. The via rail tickets had been $99 (canadian) the Go Transit tickets had set us back $75. (Exchange rate at the time of writing this was about $0.62 to the pound).
When we reached Niagara Falls we came to a stop on a highway, the driver announced it was the closest stop to the falls so we disembarked! Only to find there were no signs or anything telling us where to go…we were pretty much in the middle of no where…Google maps it was! We had got off at the junction of Falls Avenue and Stanley Avenue, we found our way to Clifton Hill and began to walk towards the falls. Here is where it really hit how much of a holiday/tourist destination this place has been turned into.
We passed a wax works museum with a model of Taylor Swift performing outside, Dracula’s castle, endless casino’s and arcades, it is a spectacle, and if it’s what you’ve travelled there for then fair play, you will probably love it…it just wasn’t the reason I was there! I had that picture from the book in my head. I have had people from the UK say its like Skegness or Blackpool…and it does have that cashing in feeling about it…and a lot of the buildings are tired and in need of a real makeover…we didn’t spend much time here! Just passed through!
As we approached the falls…the anticipation grew…I was genuinely excited, the kid in me was coming back! The camera came out of the bag, the lens cap was off…I was ready. That first view of the falls…it’s hard to describe…it was as amazing as I had imagined…but I started thinking beyond the pure wonder. The immense force of the water, the way the water had carved through the rock, the rock falls at the foot of the falls…it was the epic power of nature at its fullest that really hit me here, this is what stopped me in my tracks, even above the natural beauty of the place.
After the travelling and the navigation through the town we needed a drink, there was this market place with seats on the edge overlooking the falls, we snagged a table and I ordered some chicken wings and drinks. So here was where the pure Kitsch of the place collided with the beauty, we had an Elvis impersonator performing…while we were gazing out at the falls. Soooo cheesy…but hey (or eh as I’ve learnt the Canadians say!) I embraced it, and was singing along to Jailhouse Rock whilst loving the view!
Maid of the Mist
We headed off for the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which took off from the American side of Niagara Falls and is the longest running traditional ride, there is now the Hornblower ride available on the Canadian side as well, but all our friends had done Maid of the Mist and recommended it, so we played it safe with them, we were not to be disappointed! Crossing over to the American side was a bit of a weird experience. For those who are unaware the border between the USA and Canada runs pretty much along the middle of the Niagara river with the Bridal Veil Falls being on the American side and the Horse Shoe Falls being…the horse shoe shaped falls…on the Canadian side. We crossed the border at the Rainbow Bridge, the closest crossing to the Maid of the Mist boarding area. You enter a building with a load of warnings telling you how once you enter you can only come back once passing through Canadian Security…you also pay 50 cents for the privilege! As you go across the bridge its kind of cool, there are the two flags at the centre of the bridge which everyone stops at to try and get a pic of themselves between the two countries…yeah we did this…terrible selfie alert at some point on social media! But there are really cool views over the river and the falls from this bridge.
On reaching the USA border the staff were really friendly, we got chatting with them and explained the full extent of our trip, our plans on going on to Montreal then New York and Iceland and the guy sorted out a piece of administrative work with us with our finger prints and stuff which will hopefully expedite the process when we travel from Montreal to New York by Amtrak rail.
When we got the other side we followed the signs to the Maid of the Mist boat ride and got on just as one was due to leave, they leave every 15 minutes, but the staff told us at the weekends it can be massively busy, I’m talking busier than Nemesis at Alton Towers on a bank holiday Saturday busy (UK you know!). When we got on board the top deck was crammed and it was pointless trying to get up there, but the lower deck was fine and we could move about around the boat to get pics. It was an awe inspiring experience!
One of my friends had told me to not bother with cameras and things because you will get soaked, he was right! At times the water really hit you in the face with force from the falls, it was a really exhilarating experience, up there for me with going on a roller coaster, I was letting out the Woo Hoo’s with no shame here! I got a lot of really cool footage on my GoPro camera here which I will share soon on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The stylish poncho’s do the trick though and none of my clothes were soaked during the trip.
When we disembarked the boat we wandered off up a foot path next to the American Falls, here you really felt the force of the falls! The incredible power of the water thundering over the cliff face here was clear in all it’s glory. This was a place where even though it was crowded…I was lost in my own little world. Just incredible!
We went back up to the top of the American falls and explored a little way along the river, and again it was another moment of wonder! The rapids along here are sure to be deadly, the old stories of people going over the edge of the falls in barrels…yeah right…try it now! Even if you wee allowed to… I can’t imagine a scenario ever where someone would survive it. This is white water at it’s most ferocious!
Walking along the river here is a really pleasant experience and you realise the importance of this place, the oldest national park in the U.S.A. When we were there it was not very crowded and was very relaxing, we had the perfect weather as well, it was a really special day.
After this we crossed back into Canada and searched out food! We ended up at the Hard Rock Cafe, the food was at it’s usual good standard with the usual tourist standard prices! Plus we were on a high… easy pickings…we bought a pint glass and cocktail glass…and the photographs…and anything else offered pretty much, gluttons for punishment right there!
We then went off to the Skylon Tower, who had very kindly provided us with complimentary tickets to ride to the top and admire the views. Now I can truly say that for photographs of the falls, there is no better place! O.K when you get to the top it isn’t a completely clear view, you are inside a steel structure, but you can get some of the most amazing photographs….Sunday Times Book of the World…I’m there!
These were the best views of the place, where I could finally comprehend the place…the size, the uniqueness, just the absolute awesomeness of the place!
We really enjoyed our time here…it wasn’t about the the city coming here…it was all about the falls, and they are amazing no doubt about it! More than a million bath tubs of water smashing over the edge every second, incredible!
This was something which had been on my bucket list before I even knew I had a list!
It was something which had to be done….and we loved it!
Thanks for reading…we are exploring Ottawa now then off to Montreal for the final leg of our brief tour of Canada and loving every minute of it!