Before we left Budapest, I had booked our train tickets to Niagara Falls. At the time, I had no idea we would be doing a marathon weekend with Jennifer Norcross, so the Toronto departure time of 8:20 am was not welcome the day after she left.
I need to preface this trip with the fact that I had been to Niagara Falls at least eight times, but as a child. My father’s parents lived in Michigan. We traveled there annually to visit and for some forgotten reason, we would usually go through Niagara Falls, Canada. Because we varied our yearly visits, I had seen the falls in all four seasons. In the deep heart of the winter, the water freezes somewhat and is gorgeous. At night, they illuminated it with colored lights. Of course, today it is much more spectacular thanks to technological advancements.
This trip was significant in that I was sharing it with Ron.
We made our way to Union Station where we had started our walking tour on Saturday; it is huge and parts are under reconstruction, which made finding our way challenging. When we found our track entrance, we were not allowed to reach the track until called like with the airlines. Business class boarded first, but then anyone with a senior ticket was next. Thanks to Via Canada’s relaxed policy, we both qualified for senior status and reduced rates.
This particular train continues on to New York City, so we settled in the Niagara Falls, Canada car. The seats were fabulously plush and the width of a single bed. The adjustment for reclining was admirable, perfect for some z’s; it has a pitch that would make air passengers envious. The trainman was beyond helpful. He came around to announce our progress every 15 minutes. He reminded me of Anthony Edwards.
When we arrived at St. Catherine’s, a delay occurred. A drawbridge there needed to go up to let barges through. Having worked for the railroad decades ago, I knew that sea transportation gets precedence over land. This put us 20 minutes behind schedule, so instead of arriving at 10:16 am, it was closer to 10:40.
For some reason I had it in my mind that once at the train station, the falls would be right there. It never transpired in the planning process to think about transportation beyond getting to the city. Asking the trainman, we had three options: walk 30 minutes, take a taxi or take a bus. Initially, we thought we would walk. It was a gorgeous sunny day, so we would benefit from the air, exercise and sunshine.
However, when we reached the point where he instructed us to cross a bridge, we asked directions once more. Apparently, the trainman is a speed walker. The distance was three miles, which we could never cover that distance in 30 minutes. Opting for the bus, we walked as far as the nearest stop.
Bus signs show the bus only accepts exact change. Between us, we had $7 in coins and hoped this would do. Nearby was a Fairmont Inn, so I went to check with them. It seems there are no single tickets, only day passes. They cost $7 a piece, but the hotel does not sell them. The clerk did not know if the bus driver would sell them at this time of year.
As I was leaving the hotel, the bus was pulling up, so we ran to catch it. Fortunately, the driver was an older woman who must sympathize with other older folk trying to run for a bus. She waited for us; otherwise, we would have had to wait 30 more minutes for the next bus. Tickets are not sold on the bus, but our driver offered to let us ride to the end of the line; there we could buy tickets.
Some things trigger childhood flashbacks. Being a composite of my childhood, The Three Stooges were one of the most popular television shows of the time. They did a sketch, which Abbot and Costello and others performed in various modes. It relates to Niagara Falls. Watch it here.
As soon as we spotted the water, we were mesmerized. How can tons of water stop you in your tracks and make you ponder the infinite wonders of nature? In spots of the viewing area, we were immediately drenched in spray from the ferocity of the falls. It was like Mother Nature saying, “You are baptized in my spirit and are a piece of all that I am.”
We walked from the far end of the falls viewing section down to where we eventually spotted the Hard Rock Café. It was not a rush to get there, but we did not want to miss getting our pin. Besides, it was later than lunch and we had not had breakfast.
Walking up the city streets Ron spotted a Guinness sign. He eagerly wanted to follow it with beer images floating in his head. They faded quickly when he realized it was the Guinness Book of World Records amusement and not the beer.
A great find was the Niagara Brewing Company. We had beer and lunch here. Of course, their primary beer, the Beerdevil was running on empty without replenishment until the next day. We did make do with what they had.
The city itself has transformed into a mini Las Vegas. Giant sized characters that are as representative of the falls as I am to Hinduism extended for blocks in every direction. It was a visual plague.
Feeling a need to exorcise the ridiculousness of the commercial sector, we walked back along the falls lookout.
We had considered taking the Hornblower boat trip to the falls. However, I remember in my youth, the boat actually going under the falls. Watching the boat from above, it went to the falls, sat there for about 10 minutes and then turned around to return to the harbor. The entire ride was short, so did not see worth the addedexpense.
It seemed like the day was quickly circling the drain. When we checked on the bus back near the station, we were lucky to find the last bus run was at 4:30 pm. This was rather early for our 5:45 pm train back to Toronto, but the alternatives were to walk or take a taxi. Having spent $7 on the bus already, we were not going to lose out.
The same vivacious trainman was waiting for us on our return. Scheduled to arrive in Toronto at 7:42 pm, we left late due to Customs for those coming in from the US. Still it was a magical day with a multitude of rainbows.