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Niagara Falls - September 2004
Part two of my USA adventure this year took me from NYC to Buffalo. I opted to fly to save time and sat in the departure lounge watching a lady knitting. Considering the extra security measures since 9/11 regarding unacceptable items in hand luggage, I was bewildered as to how she was allowed to carry knitting needles but perhaps different rules applied for citizens rather than visitors? I doubt it, but that was the best I could come up with. Anyway, the flight was around an hour, we landed at Buffalo and I made my way outside to look for a taxi to take me to Niagara. As it turned out it was just as well I was staying on the US side of the Falls as the taxi drivers only operated as far as the border.
My hotel room faced the front of the property and I could just see part of the rapids leading towards the Falls if I leaned out of the window and craned my neck to the right. No time to unpack as I needed to get outside and explore! There was a small park area between the hotel and the rapids which I wandered through and tried to find some trees in their Fall colours - no luck, they were still all green. As I walked, I could hear the roaring of the falls getting ever louder until suddenly I found myself looking at a massive volume of water cascading over the drop. Totally awesome and worthy of many photographs! Down below were tourist boats taking visitors decked out in blue waterproof ponchos on a trip behind the falls - rather bumpy and very wet....I decided then and there not to add that experience to my adventure, reasoning that my new camera did not need to get soaked! Instead, I spent a couple of hours walking around seeing the water from different angles and filling up space on my memory card.
Tuesday morning dawned and I made my way to the bridge that divides the USA from Canada.
After passing through the border control and getting my passport stamped I headed for the viewing tower. Unfortunately the morning was overcast (it was only 09:30) so the falls were shrouded in more mist than normal and the view was obscured. Never mind, these things are sent to try us and I had the rest of the day to fill in. I had seen a leaflet detailing Marineland in the area so decided to travel there on foot. After an hour I finally arrived and headed in to explore. The place was virtually deserted which suited me quite well and I wandered around chatting to the animals. Favourites of the day were the killer whales, brown bears and beluga whales. In the UK we are forbidden to feed animals at the zoo (for good reason), but here it was customary for people to bring Cheerios breakfast cereal to throw to the bears! They loved it and bounded towards the people as they arrived. After a quick stop for something to eat I managed to locate the bus heading back to the Falls area as by now it was too warm to comfortably walk back and I had plans for the afternoon........shopping!!
The large outlet center was in the middle of the Fall sales and bargains aplenty had my name on them. Two pairs of Timberland boots, two pairs of Reebok trainers, various items of clothing and all sorts of odds and ends resulted in a large amount of carrier bags and a growing realisation that I needed to somehow get all these back to the UK in my one suitcase. Cue a handy visit to the Samsonite outlet shop! I walked in with bags hanging from each hand and asked for something that would fit all my purchases in. I left with a smart bright blue holdall which proved to be a Mary Poppins bag as the amount of stuff I managed to fit inside was incredible.
Back over to 'the other side' in the evening for the light display. I had to jostle with a crowd of Japanese men for a decent position to photograph from but used my charm to get a place. Each light is something ridiculous like 50,000 watts of power (hardly eco friendly) but seeing the falls lit up in various colours gave a different perspective and was well worth the late night.
Wednesday was my final day (well half day really) and the visibility was superb. This warranted another visit to the top of the viewing tower and I could see for miles! What an amazing spectacle seeing all that water relentlessly spilling over each of the falls. The afternoon saw me heading to Toronto by train. This should have been an easy trip......see my Toronto review for the story!
In summary...........what is there not to like about Niagara Falls? The area is easy to navigate, safe to walk around alone, the view of the falls is different every time you move a few feet further along. A definite visit must be to the top of the observation tower, although anyone with a fear of heights might be spooked by this. The Canadian side is reminiscent of an English seaside town with various arcades and souvenir shops. However there are plenty of eateries, 'normal' shops, bus links to other areas of interest, tourist information spots and oodles of places to buy Canadian Mounted Police mementos.