Niagara Falls. One of Canada’s most famous tourist attractions. And we were there. We visited the weekend after Labour Day and I shudder to think of how busy it is in the peak of summer, since it seemed packed to me. I had been years ago and I didn’t really remember much. I suppose the falls are amazing. Yes, definitely amazing. But how long can one really spend looking at them? Especially when surrounded by other tourists, all jostling for a space at the railing to look over at the water. I was surprised at how little we ended up seeing of the town. For all I know, there is nothing else other than the flashy, consumer driven area right by the falls. As we walked around a bit downtown we realized that once you reached the end of the restaurants and wax museums, everything seemed a bit downtrodden. Like all the polishing and care was taken to keep the touristy area looking good.
We stayed at the Lion’s Head B&B in the Van Gogh room. I picked it because it was rated #1 on Tripadvisor and we were not disappointed. It’s an old, creaky house and I thought it smelled a bit like a museum. We had a lovely room overlooking the front of the house which in turn overlooked the river (not that we could see the river, with all the trees) and had our own bathroom. But the real experience was breakfast. Breakfast was done family style, everyone at one big table, and you had to be there at exactly the appointed time. (On the second morning, there was a couple who apparently said they were coming to breakfast and when they did not materialize, our host marched up to their bedroom to inquire if they were coming). The first morning kicked off with a fresh pineapple, orange, spinach smoothie, and the first course was banana prepared in the most amazing way – it seem like it had been fried in sugar which caramelized it on one side and then had cream poured over top. The second course was an apple tart of some kind. Tea and coffee were served by the host, and we weren’t allowed to get up for our own. Some of the other guests would try to sneak over to the side table to fill their own cups and kept getting caught and sent back to their chairs. It created a certain amount of friendly comradery that made the meal more fun. Day 2 was mango on a bed of lettuce and then eggs Florentine. Our host told the most crazy stories, it sounded like she had led a very interesting and varied life.
We didn’t have a car while we were there and I found it a little bit of a drawback as I am not a particularly robust walker. Although, if we had had to park downtown, I’m sure that would have been a nightmare. Instead we got travel passes and used the “tourist” bus system as much as we could, and which turned out to be fairly good. Riding the bus opened our eyes to the extent of the tourism business. On one bus route we started counting Starbucks, and I believe we got to nine different locations. Some of the restaurant chains had 2 or three locations within just a few blocks of each other. I’ve never seen so many chain restaurants in one place! The bus also conveniently took us to Marineland, the Botanical Gardens with butterfly house, and other restaurants (including our awesome Korean barbeque dinner). Some of the routes, oddly, only went one direction, so if you wanted to go somewhere the other way, you had to ride all the way around.
I had especially wanted to visit the butterfly house and it was amazing. It was at the Botanical Gardens, which seemed extensive – so large you could go around them in a horse drawn carriage. The butterfly house was a bit crowded but so much fun. There were hundreds of butterflies flitting around – even landing on people. We spent an inordinate amount of time standing in front of the special case where the butterflies came out of their cocoons. It was amazing. (I think I’ve said that already, but it really was amazing). We watched several emerge, and saw their wings open up, and looked on with bated breath for their first moments of flight.
Would I visit Niagara Falls again? Maybe. Definitely not in the summer as I think the heat and crowds would be unbearable. The commercialization of the city next to the falls was astounding and I wasn’t a big fan. But it might be fun to be in the area with a car some day and explore.