my trip to Niagara Falls: to be reminded of our place in nature
Niagara falls is INCREDIBLE.
I’m talking about the falls themselves, not all the gubbins around them. If you’re an entertainment kind of person, then there is plenty to do, but I myself am a bit of a stick in the mud. I don’t really like casinos or gift shops or amusement parks. You could even say I don’t like FUN. Nah, fun means different things to different people, and I am personally most comfortable marvelling quietly at nature’s wonders.
Well, not just nature’s wonders, man made wonders are just as fascinating (such as the feel of Niagara beer on my taste buds), but on this occasion nature was truly the main event. The beer is definitely worth a go too, though.
The falls are easy to get to from Toronto. You can either take a tour there for something like £100, or you can take the Greyhound for £20. The tours generally take you to a vineyard along the way, which does sound awesome. But for me, not £80 worth of awesome. I took the Greyhound and it was very sufficient. I even somehow got a window seat and didn’t need to sit next to a stranger. But I was lucky, the coach was pretty full. So if you’re travelling along at a popular time (I went at 9:00) then expect to sit next to a stranger. If you’re travelling with someone, get there early. I made what could have been the fatal mistake of loitering inside the coach station for ages, when in fact the coach was waiting outside. I really was lucky. They don’t specifically let you know when your coach is there, so it’s worth checking before you loiter.
If you’ve read any of my posts about Europe, you will know that I have a thing about seeing EVERYTHING. That includes the general landscape of a place, the outer city, the suburbs, the roads and the railways. The hour and a half journey flew by for me because everything is fascinating. The roads were so clear compared to the UK. There was no traffic to get stuck in, everything ran so smoothly. I completely understand now why the tours you pay loads of money for include an vineyard trip. There are SO MANY vineyards around Niagara. Most of the scenery was comprised of baby wines in their grape cocoons.
The coach stop for the Greyhound is a little way away from the falls themselves, which I guess is also a perk of paying for an actual tour. They set you down right in the middle of everything. There is a bus that goes directly from the coach station to the falls, but I chose to walk it. If you can, you should too. There’s a path all the way along the river to the falls, and it takes about 30 minutes to walk. The views were fantastic, I’m so glad I didn’t take the bus.
The Hornblower boat tour
This was the main event for me. I wasn’t going to go all the way to the falls to not actually go all the way to the falls. The wait wasn’t long to get on the boat, and they give you a lovely pink plastic poncho on the way on which is nice. I wasn’t sure if they would include them in the price or not, but thinking about it OF COURSE they do. The Hornblower people don’t exactly want to be liable for a load of soaking wet people. And you really do get very wet.
The boat itself has two levels, so you can either stay in the sheltered bit underneath or go up top. I really don’t think it would make that much different to how wet you get, since it’s spray so it drifts wherever it wants. I went up top because why the hell not. It’s still hard to get good pictures unless you’re right at the edge, but actually being able to see was fine. And feeling the water of the falls against your face is amazing, albeit very cold and wet. The weather was very warm when I was there, so the spray was quite a welcome cool-off.
The Falls Entertainment
For me the Falls themselves were enough, but for those of you rocking up for a crazy day out there’s a whole district full of shops, restaurants and amusements. As soon as I set foot on the main street I knew this was not my scene, and I wasn’t going to waste my time feeling uncomfortable just to make sure. I don’t want to review it, I know I wouldn’t have liked it. Not my cup of tea, but it obviously is for thousands of other people.
I did, however, have a very tasty and filling lunch at the Hard Rock Café. I was lured onto their patio area by the sounds of an acoustic guitar. It really does not take much. I’m a complete sucker for acoustic music, and it was some of my favourite songs. I walked past at first, but really I knew I’d turn around and come back.
The food was plentiful and the cocktail I had was delicious. An American guy sat next to me guessed I was English because I ordered fish and chips. Really it was one of the only things on the menu that didn’t contain meat so I went for it. As a British person I was baffled that there were no mushy peas, but the heap of fries and three (THREE!) pieces of battered fish were enough. Besides, there was homemade coleslaw for the vegetable element of the meal.
That’s all I sampled and all I wanted as far as entertainment goes. I felt full, and fulfilled.
The Rapids Walk
The rapids walk is just a small walk along a boardwalk beside the rapids. I was tentative about paying for a small walk at first, but I’m glad I did. They take you down in a lift to a tunnel, which reminds me of the blitz in both sight and smell. Not that I was in the blitz, but they taught us about it so many times at school I’ve built up a pretty specific interpretation of it.
At the top I overheard the people working in the shop telling some other tourists that it’s a half an hour walk. It is not. Unless you amble very slowly. Or unless you stop for AGES like I did. I wanted to get my money’s worth, but also the rapids are really cool. Again, seeing nature doing her thing was incredible. You get to witness force 6 rapids – that’s the strongest and most dangerous. The sound fills your ears and your brain, making it hard to think of anything else when you’re down there. I liked that. Nothing but me and nauture (and a bunch of other people meandering around, who were very easy to ignore). I did a short video mostly for the sound:
So do I think you should go there?
Absolutely. There’s something for everyone. The Niagara Falls themselves are amazing, highly recommend the boat ride. If you like all the shops and stuff, you got that there If you’re an adrenaline junkie there’s a zipline thingy you can take to the bottom of the falls. If you like to chill out in parks (another fave of mine) there are some really nice areas you can go sit for a while.
I would say, though, I went for a wander around the coach station and there’s not really anything there. It looks like maybe there once was, or maybe there was an attempt to draw tourists in, but whatever it was it all felt a little bit tragic. A fine residential neighbourhood, but it felt like all the life had been sucked out of it and into the adjoining tourist areas.
Oh, and definitely take that stroll along the path alongside the river instead of getting the bus. You miss so much if you zoom past it all in a hurry to get to the main event.