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  • Des & Sandie Nichols

NIAGARA FALLS


With all great waterfalls on the globe, the first glimpse of the enormity of what awaits the traveller is the billowing pillow of mist, rising above the horizon. It seductively intrigues and beckons you like the Lorelei, luring you towards its imposing magnificence. Niagara is in this elite set of evolution's most dramatic creations. A triumph in nature's oeuvre. Driving towards the ugly, run-down town of Niagara on the American side, the cloud of white 'smoke' increases the anticipation as you get closer. We arrived at sunset and went onto Goat Island, the dividing land in the middle of the wide Niagara River which separates the prima donna Horseshoe Falls from its rather plainer chorus-line sister, the American Falls. It is as if the graceful, sleepy river is abruptly shocked and shaken as it suddenly, unannounced, plunges off the edge of the cliff, thundering into a chaotic, swirling pool before regaining its composure, gathering itself before drifting off once again down a new, graceful, calmer path.

The Horseshoe Falls

You can get right to the edge of the top of the falls and feel the raw power as almost three-quarters of a million gallons of water per second plunges over the precipice. We then headed for the 'Caves of the Winds', a short walk away, and took an eight storey elevator down through the solid rock to emerge through a long tunnel at the foot of the American Falls. It was by now dark but the crashing cascades were lit up as we climbed the redwood steps to be within touching distance of the base of the Bridal Veil Falls. The American Falls are actually two falls divided by a tiny island. The main body, to the left in picture, is the American Falls proper and the more lady-like flow to the right is the Bridal Veil Falls.

The American Falls and Bridal Veil to the right

But to get the best view, the most impressive impact, you have to cross over the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side. Personally, we would advise not to bother with the American side unless you have time. (One tip - probably the best view of all is from the bridge itself, which only requires your passport, a $1 fee and a gentle stroll). To walk along the promenade from the bridge to the very top of the Horseshoe Falls is just stunning, passing the very best view of the straight-line American Falls before reaching an unbelievable vantage point feet away from the tipping point of the river at the Horseshoe Falls. The whole area is superbly surrounded with manicured lawns and colorful planting befitting any summer garden. Spectacular.

The Falls, of course, have an interesting history. Some of the best images though are of its attraction to the Victorian loonies and freak show daredevils. Those Monty Python characters thought it would be just a great idea to go over the falls in a barrel or walk a tightrope across the wide wide river. Some made it. Some didn't. Among those that perished in the vain effort to make themselves a legend was one Captain Matthew Webb, who in 1875 had become the first man to swim the English Channel (from Dover to Calais in 22 hours). Eight years later, our hero's Trump-like indefatigable ego persuaded him he could swim across the Whirlpool Rapids just a bit down river. Sadly, the whirlpool mercilessly devoured him and that was the end of another fatally brave British loony.

Captain Matthew Webb

Early over-excited visitors to the Viagra Falls

If you get to the Canadian side of the Niagara River, which links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, you must take the Scenic Route (266) which gently hugs the river to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a pretty town at the mouth of the river with a view of Fort Niagara on the American side. The center is the quaint flower-filled, tree-lined Queen Street, which has retained a proud 19th century elegance and is well worth a visit.

Queen Street, Niagara-on-the Lake

Looking across Lake Ontario towards Fort Niagara

But the highlight for us was a chance reunion with my lovely, amazing former PA Liz and her charming, urbane beau Brian. Liz and I were an inseparable team for 20 incredible years at the Daily Mail in London where we had conjured up ridiculous (and fortunately ridiculously successful) ways of selling newspapers. She was my guiding light and the best 'gate-keeper' in the building If we had known what we were doing we would have been really scary. Liz saw the last blog after they had crossed to New York on the Queen Mary (an entirely suitable conveyance for Lizzie) and emailed me to say she was in Niagara the next day. We had not seen each other for years. You see, life does have a delightful way of delivering wonderful coincidences when you least expect them.

As we move off towards Boston on our way to Maine, we leave you with a few videos, the only way to appreciate the grandeur of the Falls

On the American side

The American Falls and Bridal Veil at night

On the Canadian side

The Whirlpool where the intrepid Captain Webb met his end


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