Niagara Fails

Trip Start Jan 16, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed

Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Sunday, December 18, 2011

We all know those days where you know it's going to bad from the get go, and leaving Toronto for Niagara Falls, we definitely had one of them.

As we checked out of the hostel, the guy on reception set the tone by being about as friendly as a hungry bear at the start of salmon season. Arriving at Union Station for the train it seemed as if they were preparing for the first train ever to leave from the station. The usually faultless VIA Rail staff were all over the place and their confusion made it's way through to the other passengers which gave off that awful feeling that you can only get when waiting for a Ryanair flight. I put it down to the fact that it was early morning and people hadn't woken up yet and tried to get on with it.

The train was scheduled to arrive in Niagara Falls just under two hours later which was a tiny trip compared to some of the other ones we'd made, but for some reason it seemed to be the worst of all of them. The train was freezing cold, the seats were like rocks and the scenery along the way seemed far from inspiring. At this point it, it had crossed my mind that I just might have gotten out of bed on the wrong side.

When we finally arrived I checked the Google Maps directions which sent us off in completely the wrong direction. What should've been a very simple six or seven minute walk turned into a half hour trek in near freezing conditions with all the extra weight of our luggage. I ran into a liquor store to ask for directions but was met with a very unfriendly stare and then told that no one knew where the street was we were looking for.  Usually the Irish accent travels well, however this was to be one of the very few exceptions to the rule so I took the hint and left quite quickly. 

Despite this and a few teething problems in the hostel, we decided on a rest day and to attack the famed Niagara Falls the next day.

For me Niagara Falls first came onto my radar as wide eyed child watching the famous scene in Superman II when the child falls in only for Clark Kent's alter ego to comes to the rescue just seconds before he falls in. While there was no such drama for our visit, the falls themselves are still an amazing sight and sound.

As we were visiting in the winter season, it meant two things;
1: On the down side, all the good trips and tours into and under the falls were closed.
2: On the plus side, there were a lot less tourists around so we got a better view.

The winter schedule also gave us the opportunity to see what happens when the mist rises up from the falls and freezes wherever it lands which made for some for some winter wonderful looking photos.

Knowing that Niagara was to be our last stop in Canada, we had one special thing we needed to do before we took off, so, we set off in search for a Tim Hortons (or Timmy's). Timmy's is a Canadian institution offering cheap coffee, delicious donuts and mouthwatering muffins in pretty much every corner of the country. In fact most Canadians will say that if a town doesn't have a Timmy's, it's not worth visiting. 

After heating up inside we set off for something to eat and like most of the tourist attractions, the majority of the eateries were also closed so we took a stroll up Newman Hill, known as being the "touristy" end of town.

I don't think we were really expecting what we encountered when we got there though. If you can imagine one of those tacky and cheap resort spots in the Mediterranean and then drop a few more notches you won't be too far off. 

Everywhere we looked we were surrounded by cheap fast food joints, terrible looking hole in wall style pizza places that would make Italians shout Mama Mia and run to the airport for the first flight home. We decided to go for the best of a bad bunch and headed for TGI Fridays before returning to the falls one more time to see them illuminated under the night sky, which didn't disappoint.

As I said earlier, the sight and sound of thousand of tonnes of water falling falling over a cliff side is always a pretty spectacular image. However, the beauty of the falls was completely contrasted by the tackiness of the Casino's and cheap looking Christmas lights that surround it. At times it appeared that nothing had changed around there since the 1970's, and not in a good way, which was quite sad to see to be honest.

Whilst Niagara Falls is one of those sights that has to be seen if you're in the area, don't expect much in terms of what else there is offer in the area. I know that we visited in off season and a lot of things were closed so it doesn't have the same effect as the height of summer, but a lot of the buildings looked like they had not been occupied since summer 1972 so it certainly took the shine off what I was expecting.

The following morning we caught the 8.10am train to New York and said farewell to Canada after eleven months of calling it home. Thanks for the memories it's been quite the adventure. 
    
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