Niagara

Trip Start Nov 01, 2009
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Trip End Nov 30, 2010


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Where I stayed
Wanderfalls Hostel

Flag of United States  , New York
Sunday, May 16, 2010

DAY 1 - We woke up early and left our hostel in Toronto.  We walked with our big back packs to Union Sation which was about a 15 minute walk, but felt much longer with all our luggage. At the station we bought some fruit juice and a muffin to have for breakfast from a small kiosk. I reversed out of the kiosk as I didn't want to to turn around and knock somebody out with my huge bag. As I slowly moved backwards I heard the voice of a little lady behind me say "You need beepers for that thing!" We then joined the queue of people to board our train to Niagara.

The train was the slowest train we had ever been on and we had to sit in a certain carriage depending on what stop you were getting off at - Doog and I were pretty sure we were in the right one but you always have doubts with that kind of announcement.  We both fell asleep for most of the way and were quite relieved to wake up in time to get off at Niagara. We first needed to dump or bags somewhere as we were looking around the Canadian side of the falls first before crossing the border to see them from the USA where we would be staying the night. 

We had hoped that there would be bag lockers at the train station but we were told by the guard there that they had got rid of it after the 9/11 terrorist attack.  We were slightly concerned that we would have to carry our humongous bags around with us all day, but luckily there were lockers at the bus station opposite and with a bit of squeeze and some repacking we managed to get our bags in them, close the doors and turn the key...phew!

We walked to the falls along River Road, a cliff road that ran alongside the Niagara River.  On the opposite side of the river was the USA. As we approached Rainbow Bridge, which was the USA/Canada border crossing we caught our first glimpse of Niagara Falls. At this point we bumped into a couple who were walking in the opposite direction and wanted to know how long it had taken us to walk from the bus station, when we told them 30 minutes they were totally shocked that we had walked for so long and decided it was not for them and turned around.

We continued further down the river so we could get a good view of the Horse Shoe Falls and of course we took lots of photos.  We could see the Maid in Mist boats taking people out to get right up close to the falls and we decided we should do it too...afterall we missed out on the experience at Iguazu Falls in Brazil/Argentina so we thought we should take the opportunity here.

We bought our tickets, $15 each, and over-heard two different couples infront of us buying their tickets. As they got to the kiosk, the first question they asked the ticket seller was 'how do you get down the cliff to board the boat?' Once they heard you could get a lift they then bought the tickets.  We thought it seemed like a strange question for fairly young couples to ask...would they not have bought the tickets if they had needed to go down some stairs?

As we queued to board the boat we were given blue plastic ponchos to wear.  Everyone looked so funny wrapped up in the ponchos, especially Doog who had pulled the strings of his hood so tight that he only had a little hole to look through which just went round both his eyes so he could see.  He also tied the string in an impossibe knot, which wouldn't losen so he resigned himself to the fact he would just have to look silly.

As the boat got nearer the falls we got more and more soaked.  The noise was deafening and you could really see how powerful the waterfalls were.  We were told a story of how a 7 year old had fallen down the falls just in his 'bathers' and a life jacket but had survived which seemed like a miracle. At the end of the boat trip we were given the choice of returning our ponchos or keeping them as souvenirs - obviously we kept them! A small addition to a bag that is already big enough to require beepers..

We then walked up Clifton Hill, which is one of the main roads in Niagara, with lots of restaurants, shops and amusements tapping into the Niagara tourism trade such as the Haunted House, King Kong buildings, wax works with Johny Depp, Harrison Ford and Heath Ledger as the Joker, museums and bowling alleys. We went to 'Tim Horton's' for lunch, which seemed to be the Candian equivalent of Pret a Manger but which also sold donuts - we had sandwiches and a Canadian maple donut, which was delicious. As we ate, we watched a man dressed as Elvis and painted in gold outside. He was fairly old and looked like he may have started his carreer as one of those statues who moved when you pay them money, but now he had resorter to sitting on an office chair, under an umberalla, throwing plastic gold beaded necklaces at people as they walked past, with the hope they would pay him for them.

After lunch we walked to the end view point of the Horse Shoe Falls and watched how insignificant the Maid in the Mist boats looked as they ventured towards the huge walls of water. The mist that the falls generated made rainbows appeare and also got us very wet! With all the sights on the Canadian side done, we walked back to the bus station along River Road which was lined with lots of guest houses with Scotish themed with names such as'Glen Eagles' and 'Cairn Gorms'. It was on this walk back that Gem saw the first West Brom fan of our trip, identified by a tattoo on the back of his calf.

At the bus station we retrieved our bags and asked if there was a bus to take us back to Rainbow Bridge for the border crossing.  The guy behind the desk was very busy highlighting something and we had needed to ask our question in a brief moment when he looked up. He looked at us as though we had asked the most crazy question ever, despite being in a bus station, and just said 'you're too early,' before continuing his highlighting. We still are not sure exactly what he meant, maybe too early in the season, but we worked out that if we didn't want to walk with our bags we had to take a taxi, so at the cost of $10 that's what we did.

We then crossed Rainbow Bridge on foot from Canad to the USA. From the bridge there is a spectacular view of Niagara Falls - by far the most impressive border crossing we've had! Annoyingly, we had to pay $6 each to re-enter the States by foot (apparantly this does not apply if you fly).  It all seemed very strange to me as we had already entered the States when we visited Miami about 7 days ago and the stamp in our passport was still valid. 

After a lengthy conversation with the immigrations officer about why we had to pay, and after he had looked at our British passports, when he handed us the immigration form to fill in he still asked if a form in English would be okay. Although it was only $12, when travelling on a budget it all mounts up so we decided to walk through Niagara on the USA side to our hostel. To our surprise, Niagara on the USA side doesn't seem to have realised it is located right next a beautiful waterfall and although there is a nice park to walk through to get a good view of the falls and an office tower block which you go up to get a better view, there really isn't much else.  No tacky shops and attractions like on the Canadian side. The Americans clearly realise that the Canadaians have the better view of the falls, and so there isn't much point in competing for tourists.

Ater a 15 minute walk we reached out hostel, which was more like a guest house with a big porch with the familar American wooden rocking chair on it looking over a residential street. The owner of the hostel lived there and it felt like a proper home with a big kitchen which we had full use of. Although there were 4 beds in our room, as the hostel wasn't full and we had the room to ourselves.

After having dinner at the hostel we walked back to falls to see thmn from the US side by night.  The falls had lights shining on them that slowly changed colour, which looked incredible.
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