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North America » Canada » Ontario » Niagara Falls
August 5th 2013
Published: February 7th 2014
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When:2nd - 3rd August 2013

Where: Niagara Falls

Highlights: N/A

Prelude:

I have been avoiding to visit the Niagara falls for the last 10 years. I am not a big fan of doing touristy stuff and this would be #1 on the "Top 10 places to see in North America". G has been to NY and Niagara falls(on the US side) Sep 2011. So, he was willing to see the more beautiful Canadian side. As for me, there was no way I could escape from it due to our current residency in Toronto. But as much as I agreed to go, I had already framed my judgement about the place. Not a good mindset to make a trip with! Ironically, we ended up making the trip twice, less than 2 weeks apart!!!


TRIP 1 - CANADA




Friday, 2nd August 2013

We had reservations on the 9:15 am Greyhound. S was super surprised when she was woken up at 7:00 am. She is still on Mountain Time. 😞

We picked a quick breakfast and hailed a taxi to the Coach Terminal on Dundas and Bay streets. We were early(as it always happens when we travel with G).

The bus left on time. The ride was smooth and S(et moi) caught up on sleep. There were no stops and we reached Niagara in little over an hour.

Down at the bus station, we were contemplating on our choices to get to the hotel.

Statistics:

On foot = 50 min

Taxi=$15

WEGO Bus=$2.50 one way



G wanted to get a WEGO pass. It is the main means of transportation on the Canadian side. But the one day pass($7) he got was valid for 4 days. We realized that only when we activated the card on their tap machine.

We changed buses at Clifton hill and had the first view of the falls. Not many people had set in. So looked appealing.😊

We checked in early at Marriott Fallsview hotel and from the 16th floor had the firsthand view of the Canadian horseshoe and faraway American Falls. This was our first time to get a room with a view and it was so worth it. We opened up the window to hear Niagara roar. And she roared! The falls looked appealing from far.😊 Maybe not so bad after all, eh.



Hoping for experience as good as the view, we ventured to the Journey Behind the Falls, the only activity that we wanted to do in the area. Since it had a 90 min wait time, we had a Coldstone Icecream to relax with the view of the falls and all the people slowly pouring in. We got in line for the experience. It seemed pretty interesting. Take a look!

As we grabbed the infamous yellow poncho, we met a family on the line who mentioned that they were doing it the 2nd time as they lost photos from the first time. G and I looked surprised. And I am sure it showed😊. But then the lady mentioned that they had Maid of the Mist tickets that she wasn't planning to use. She wanted to give it to us but couldn't find it then. We left it at that hoping it was a sign not to do the ride and got on the lift to go down 37 floors. The roar of the water excited us. The 2 portals from the side and behind were neat! We realized the big feat in digging those long tunnels 100 years ago. As we were reading one of the many details printed about the falls, the same lady we met earlier approached us, not sure if it was us under the yellow poncho.

We were surprised! She handed us 2 tickets to the Maid of the Mist boat ride. We thanked her and felt like a sign. Maybe we will experience it, after all.



S did not enjoy Journey behind the falls as she was being splashed on her face big time. She could not see. But it was my best ride in Niagara as I will recollect later.

G was busy protecting the camera lens from the water😊. I took some snaps from my phone hoping it won't give up on me. It didn't.

Once we got up to road level, we were all done with falls for then. We decided to relax and come back in time for the lights.

We headed back to our room and relaxed for 2 hours.



The bad part about having a room with a view is that you don't want to leave the room. We realized it at 9.00 am. We almost settled for "Niagara by the night" views from the room. Thankfully, common sense rushed in and forced us out. We took the bus to Table rock only to be welcomed with thunderstorm. Awakened by a sudden enthusiasm, I set up my tripod and camera in the rain protecting it with an umbrella. Unfortunately, there wasn't interesting lights on the horseshoe falls for as long as I was seeing through the camera lens.

We got home by 11.00 pm and S fell asleep on the bus. Amazes me how easy it is for her to fall asleep when she is tired!



It seemed like a very long bus ride and we saw the Las Vegas attitude in the air. All the rides along Clifton Hill were still on. There was excitement in the air. But we were glad to be home. Back to our room with the view. The falls lifted my resistance quite a bit, I should confess. We left the windows open all night!



Saturday, 3rd August

We woke up to the sound of the falls!😊

After breakfast, we packed and checked out. We headed to THE Maid of the Mist. The almost never-ending line(we are talking thousands here) thankfully moved faster. Its amazing to see how many people fit into 1 ferry. And how uninteresting it made us feel!

We took the ride but could not get the best place to view. As a result, it was just once crowded rocky ride. We did not even get wet. But it turned out that S enjoyed her view of the falls and the seagulls, of course.

Grateful for the ride being over, we headed to Niagara Falls's Bird Kingdom. I was hoping to give G and S a taste of Jurong Bird Park, but I was sadly mistaken. At $17, it was a huge rip-off! S saw the macaw at the entrance. There was not turning back.



To their benefit, I should say they have quite a few parrots and Macaws that talk! They really do. A lot actually! 😊

S was mesmerized with all the birds and reptiles and even pet their giant lizard. She was going Aviary after aviary to see whatever was in store.

Their large birds aviary was...well, pretty OK size. The lorikeets they had reminded me of Singapore again. With $2 we went in to feed them. But the truth was, everyone loved to feed these birds. Apparently they have been over fed which(blatantly) meant that I had to escape their downstair leak(which was one every minute). There were just too many and eventually, I was conquered. S seemed to enjoy when I got pissed at. But was too scared to get one on herself. We headed straight out. The WEGO did not disappoint us and we found our way to The Rainforest Cafe. After a 20 min wait time, we called ourselves the "Giraffe safari for 3". Being our first time, S and I were mesmerized. It was an awesome place! S even found a craft to work on. Wow! I loved this place already.

We took our time looking at the sounds and lights that was all around. The hefty bill was soon forgotten.😉



We walked back to our hotel to grab our luggage and took our final WEGO journey to the bus station. Our Greyhound was slightly delayed. But we settled just fine into our seats and woke up in the concrete jungle less than 2 hours later. It was no fun carrying S all the way back to our room. But it was worthwhile to spare the midnight crying.




TRIP 2 - USA




Saturday, August 10
We made a 2nd trip to the falls as my cousin and his family were in the USA. Planning this trip was very difficult. We could not find reservation in any hotel. Thankfully, our Western familiarity gave us a clue and we did find a pool-overlooking cabin with KOA on Grand Island, NY (some 15 min from the Falls).Generally, we squint at KOA. It would be our last priority while camping. But, just finding a campground in the middle of NY seemed heavenly. Finally a campground!!! though we were not in a tent😞

Car-rental was time consuming @ Union station! We could not leave before 10.00am

When we were finally on 401 towards Niagara Falls, the board read 45 min wait time on the Rainbow bridge. Hoping Buffalo would be a better option, we drove farther. It was wonderful to see the expanse of Lake Eerie. It was water as far as our eyes could see. They really are the great lakes!



Still in NY, but not quite. We got selected for special secondary immigration treatment! And that took a whopping 2+ hours! Thankfully S found a friend among the 100 people already there. While it seemed never-ending that they would call out our names, our turn finally came. After paying the land entry fee, we left the building never looking back once. Frustration was in the air! No cell phones, no food, nothing to drink!!! Everyone was lining up at the vending machine.



Anyways, hoping never to cross the border again in the East, we reached Buffalo. A lunch stop at Panera Bread almost changed our attitude for the day and we headed to our cabin on Grand Island. Being completely satisfied with the cabin, we left almost immediately to the falls.

The mist from the horseshoe falls and the familiar Canadian hotels(by this time we knew which was which) loomed in the foreground.



But the drive as such was pleasant. I was pleasantly surprised that the US side was designated as Niagara Falls State Park. What a relief! They had a few buildings, but nothing compared to the Las Vegas-like buildings on the other side of the river.



Since we had already seen the falls from the better side(yes! Canadian side has the best view) we just walked to Goat island and experienced horseshoe falls. There was as much crowd on this side of the falls as on the other side. 😞

We took a few detours and found some hiking trails.



Since we mainly came to meet our cousins, we did that over dinner at Taj Grill.

We were glad we checked in earlier as we reached our cabin around 11pm. The stars were up and it was as dark as I could imagine it to be in New York. S had a long day walking and socializing with her cousins. So, she slept on the way.

The cabin was cozy and it got slightly cooler at night.



Sunday, August 11

We woke up to bright sunlight next morning. Unfortunately, we did not have time for S to jump in the pool but we compensated with time at the playground. I wouldn't mind staying in a KOA if I was in New York!!!



We left the country after brunch. The customs line on Rainbow bridge was moving faster and we crossed over in 20 min tops. "Welcome to Canada" greeted the Officer. We did feel welcomed.

S was taking naps to catch up on the extensive travel. We stopped at the Whirlpool. The Aerocar seemed like a trap and we were glad to have missed it.

G was adamant to stop at Niagara-on-the-lake and we were glad we did. It is a quaint little Victorian town and the day we went there was a Peach festival. The place was flooded with people and interesting stuff to eat. We took turns to go around as S was still asleep. As luck would have it, she woke up when we left town. 😞

The drive back to THE city was crowded, jammed and uneventful.



Back home, we both decided not to visit the Niagara Falls area for another 10 years! Niagara-on-the-lake, maybe.



~travelbuffs

“...there ain't no journey what don't change you some.” ― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas


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