The day I went to Niagara Falls was one of those strange days where you wake up not really knowing what you are going to do and you end up having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Days like these are rare - once-in-a-lifetime experiences are, these days, planned in minute detail months or years in advance. Where's the fun in that? Scrap your plans, just wander around and let things happen spontaneously. Take a wrong turn. Jump on a random bus. Talk to a stranger.
I wandered into downtown Toronto armed with a basic map and a travel card. What to do? I asked a man in a booth at Central Station about trips to Niagara Falls. They did a six hour bus trip including all the sights, dinner atop a hotel in Niagara with evening view of the illuminated falls and so on. It was something of the order of a hundred Canadian dollars and was leaving in an hour or so. I could come back tomorrow and get an earlier one, but that might get in the way of my departing flight. I gave up on Niagara, and walked out of the station to march back to the CN Tower to get some more photographs in a different light.
As I backed off from the Tower, shooting away merrily, I remembered the Rogers Centre did tours of the facility. Now I don't have much interest in baseball, but the building has some interesting architecture including one of the first sliding stadium roofs which retracts using a tiny amount of electricity. Apparently the designer was inspired by the sliding plates on a lobster while eating in a restaurant one day. There was nobody at the ticket booth for stadium tours and a sign "next tour 11am", which was in about 30 minutes time. I decided to come back nearer the hour and enjoy the thrill of sitting in a luxury executive box at a baseball stadium amongst the other delights.
I trod down the steps to the main street, and there was a tourist information shop. I still needed some trinkets as gifts for friends so I popped in. And they were selling tickets for Niagara Falls tours. I enquired. There was one going just about now, it was a three hour trip, the basic Falls and Maid Of The Mist trip. There was a space on the bus, but it had already left the first pickup hotel. The shop guy phoned the driver to tell him there was one more to get. Two minutes later the bus came past and I jumped on.
Price Waterhouse Coopers. She was here for work, but had a spare day before her flight left back for London that evening. The bus was also occupied by other English, Irish, American and Canadian. The bus ride isn't the greatest of scenery as it hits the Queen Elizabeth Highway around Lake Ontario. Hamilton, which I didn't see on arrival as my bus out of the airport was delayed until near-nightfall, turned out to be a steeltown of steaming chimneys and towers. Further industry dotted the landscape. There were however islands of countryside including some of Canada's wineries - I hadn't considered Canada as a wine-producing nation, and I don't think I've ever seen a Canadian wine in the UK.
We get to Niagara after a short rest-stop and a total journey of about 40 minutes. The town by the falls is like a miniature Las Vegas, bright lights, hotels, casinos, and so on. Our first view of the falls is just the smaller of the two main falls, the American Falls, and even that looks impressive. As we walk on the view opens to include the larger, horseshoe-shaped Canadian falls. The falls are named because the USA-Canadian border runs right down the river and through the land between the two falls. Its obvious really.
The boat proceeds upstream until it is right in the heart of the falls, with water streaming down all around. Cameras need serious protection, and have to be whipped out between splashes for photographs. Spray is all around, and rainbows appear and disappear behind the boat. The noise of the water drowns out the commentary from the speakers on the boat, and people take snapshots all around.
So then Gord drove us back to Toronto. We said our goodbyes and headed off. I had woken up that morning with no great plans, and finished up experiencing one of the world's greatest waterfalls. The next day I went to the proper Toronto (Pearson) Airport celebrated by the Rush song 'YYZ' and flew to Victoria over the other side of the country...