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The Falls

On my third day in Toronto, I took a day trip to Niagara falls.

It seems that there’s a bus you can take from Toronto main station (Union), but I opted to do a tour, because I was travelling alone and didn’t want to feel lost throughout.

So I woke up bright and early to get myself all the way from Scarborough (where my conference would be that week) to Toronto city centre, and then hoped back on a bus to head to the falls.

The days before had been absolutely pouring with rain, to the point where I even considered cancelling the tour. But on this fine day the skies were blue, the birds were chirping (I think I even saw one of those red crested cardinal on the tree outside my room!), and the iconic Toronto CN tower was actually visible:

We hopped on the bus- about 25 people in all, and began both the drive and the running commentary on the history of Toronto and passing landmarks.

Including these two plant-related beauties.

On the right, a greenhouse for growing weed; you could actually smell it in the air as we drove past. Weed became legal for adults in Canada at the end of 2018, a point that the tour guide didn’t seem super ok with.

On the right, vineyards. The Canadians make a ‘special’ wine called icewine, which made from grapes that froze to the vine. It’s a specialty that I haven’t yet tasted, but apparently has a stronger (better) flavour.

At some point our whirlwind tour of Canadian history blurred into a history of the falls themselves, mostly discussing the 15 people who went over the falls in barrels or other contraptions (5 died). The best and first of these is Annie Taylor, a 63 year old widowed school teacher, who took her cat with her.

Both survived.

Overall, the guide was interesting and kind of funny, although he did also have this bizarre way of talking that sounded like it was read by AI. For example, when talking about the UK, he listed the countries that were colonies in order without really pausing or having any specific cadence on any word.

It wasn’t problematic (although there was an extra strange bit at the very end where he mentioned that his wife had cancer and then soon after mentioned that their family had found a thing that helps make life better but costs nothing- Jesus- all in the same tone), but it definitely was a bit odd.

But I guess oddness is what you need more of in the world

At some point we started hitting the ‘Key Sights’ on the journey.

First up, the smallest chapel in the world:

….and not too long after, the Flower Clock:

…. which sadly hadn’t been replanted yet with spring blossoms.

There were also some closer looks at the dam, and some kind of plinth-y statue thing.

And then we arrived at the ‘Maple Leaf Palace’, where we started with a maple syrup taste test to try the different flavours: early, middle and late harvest gives different colours and flavours.

… and then we were mostly left to our own devices in an overpriced shop, where I aggressively did not buy anything, but instead spent my time meeting mooses and taking selfies:


To The Whirlpool:

Mostly just fine. We stopped for about two minutes here, which I think was the right amount of time.

When I booked the tour, I booked for the boat ride into the Mists of the Falls, but not for the added optional Skylon Tower.

I tend to think towers are a bit stupid; someone builds a tall tower and then charges ridiculous amounts of money for people to go up it. It’s the kind of thing I could never afford when travelling during my student days, and I think I’m still a bit bitter.

But by the time we arrived, the guide had convinced me (and everyone else on the bus), to hand over an extra 20 CAD to go up Skylon Tower.

And to be honest, I’m glad he did.

It was pretty cold and windy up there, but it was really cool to be able to see the overall structure of the three falls that make up Niagara.

To the left, the American falls, with the smaller Bridal Veil falls on the right side of that:

And even further right, Canada’s very impressive Horseshoe falls:

From Skylon Tower, we headed to the falls themselves, for a shot boatride into the mist.

Of course, you’re gonna get wet, so before you board you need to put on one of these sexy things:

As you can maybe read from my classy poncho, the boat company we took was Hornblower, who outbid the well known “Maid of the Mist” company for control of the Canadian side a few years back.

In any case, it’s a boat, and it gets you to the water.

Most of the photos I took were approaching the Horseshoe falls, or once we were out again, rather than while we were in amongst the spray; a balancing act of missed moments vs camera protection.

Being at the fall itself was some kind of sensory overload that felt a lot like how I imagine it is in purgatory. Some roaring noise yes, but also the flapping of ponchos.

And most of all, light and spray hitting you in the eyes so that it’s almost impossible to look at all.

^ Note the wet lens!

Once we were back on land, we had a bit of time to walk around, and dry off a bit.

The rest of the town is a kind of horrible arcade, so I definitely don’t recommend that, unless you need a loo break.

Instead, it’s best to just spend as much time as you can taking in the falls.

Monday May 1st, 2023

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