What a difference a day makes to the weather! Today was cold but dry, clear, sunny with a bright blue sky. Just perfect for our trip to Niagara! The Falls are about 150 kilometres from Toronto and the bus journey takes about two hours.
When we got to Niagara, John and I just looked at each other in dismay: “they have ruined it” we said. The main street down to the Falls Parkway is much more depressing than the Lonely Planet indicated; at eye level one is greeted by amusement arcades, funfair rides, cheap gambling joints, some sleazy-looking accommodation and the all-important photo opportunity with a life-sized plaster statue of Jack Sparrow! Johnny Dep, not your fault but what the hell has “Pirates of the Caribbean” got to do with Niagara? Look up and you see a big wheel, a viewing tower and block after block of high-rise ugly grey hotels. OMG!!! However:
As our bus turned a sharp corner to the right, down the nasty little street, there before us rose the spray, billowing into the blue sky, the roar of waters found our ears and then Niagara displayed her splendour! We forgot all
of the mess behind us and feasted our eyes on the power and beauty that is Niagara. On our left, the beautiful American Falls and ahead the big sister, the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Awesome!
Human settlement of the Niagara region dates back about 12,000 years. The Haudenosaunee people (Iroquois) lived at Niagara from about 3,000 years ago onwards. From one of these Iroquois tribes, the Onguiaahra, the name “Niagara” has derived.
In 1753, with the help of a local Iroquois guide named Crévecoeur, one, Monsieur M. Bonnefons was the first European to go behind the Canadian Falls:
“I passed a fine triangle of flat rock which led me under the sheet of falling water”
Today, on the sound advice of our son Nick, who went behind the falls several years ago, on his second trip to Niagara, we descended by elevator down to this same flat rock (now called Table Rock), donned our yellow ponchos and ventured out on to the rock, in to the spray and looked up at the mighty cascade of water tumbling and roaring down around us. Then, a tunnel through the rock took us behind the falls,
to view the water from behind the cascades; an amazing and unforgettable experience! In 1981, the opportunity to go behind the falls in this way was not available to us. What was available then but not now, was a trip on the little Maid of the Mist boat in to the rim of the horseshoe’s maelstrom of waters below the cascade. Today we looked down as crew were practising this, in preparation for the opening of the boat trip season in a few weeks’ time. We hadn’t planned to do this anyway, wanting to go down behind the falls instead, which we did.
We enjoyed a few hours at Niagara, just walking along taking photos of the falls and the river. We are so glad we came. It was a last-minute decision, having read about the development there and destruction of the natural environment, preferring to remember it as it was before, when one could see the spray of Niagara from miles away across the flat Niagara escarpment. Nick persuaded us to do so and we are so glad we listened to him! The environment has changed for the worse but the falls haven’t changed. They are
as magnificent as ever. How fortunate we have been to see them twice in our lifetime!
We drove from Niagara down to a little town called Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is a well-preserved 19th
Century town in a beautiful setting; perhaps a bit pretentious and outrageously expensive but well worth visiting. Across the lake, in the far distance, we could see Toronto. After this, driving through vineyards and stopping for a quick wine-tasting stop, we headed back to Toronto. A great day trip!
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