Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Niagara Falls: Wine, Science & People

It was 1:30 (Eastern Daylight Time) on the 16th when I entered Ontario. This was my first foray into Canada and with a target like Niagara, you could perhaps call me jazzed.

Over the next two days, I would see so much and do so much that summarizing it here could get downright tiresome.

But I'll try anyway. It's gonna be a long one.

With a lot of pictures.

You've been warned.


Objective 1: See the Falls.
Because of course it was the first objective.

Objective 2: Find a Brewery in Niagara.
I had one in mind and as luck would have it, it also came recommended by the front desk agent at my hotel (Remember -- Lesson 2: Always talk to strangers). Taps on Queen: tasty beer, good pub food, amusing regulars. I ended up sitting near PhilandMike (I don't know which was who), two guys who razzed the bartenders and another guy just passing through. It also happened to be (more or less) walking distance from my hotel, a fantastic perk after a couple long days in the car.

This was where I was first introduced to Canadian etiquette, which could be summarized as, "You're just fine right here." At no point did I ever feel unsafe or like I'd offended someone. It was like England without the stiffness.

Objective 3: Wander Clifton Hill.
I don't know if I can fully express the ridiculousness and amusement of Clifton Hill. There's so much neon in four blocks -- it's a little insane. And also a lot of random tourist traps. I just ... wow.

It also happened to sit between my hotel and the Falls, so I walked through it repeatedly.

Objective 4: Ride the SkyWheel.
Another feature in Clifton Hill, the SkyWheel is that massive Ferris wheel above (and below) that gives you a fantastic vantage point on the Falls. Highly recommend a nighttime outing on this one.

With an inexplicable dinosaur-themed minigolf park next door.

Objective 5: Find a Winery.
This time, my previous research was confirmed by a patron at Taps (seriously, always talk to strangers!). My first full day in Ontario, I found myself at Chateau des Charmes a couple hours before the next English tour. The gentleman that greeted me-- Awesome Paul -- gave me a few suggestions to fill the intervening time, leading me to a last-minute tour at a chocolate factory and lunch at The Old Firehall, a local establishment. He also led my tour when I returned. Aside from becoming known as the corn girl (the others on my tour were comparatively local), it was excellent and a lot of fun.

Awesome Paul also marked out a drive that took me right up the Niagara River to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Lake Ontario itself. This was possibly the prettiest day I had the entirety of the trip.

Objective 6: Find Tesla.
I have a tendency toward crushes on dead scientists. Nikola Tesla is one of those [If for some reason you are unfamiliar, go here. Otherwise maybe we can't be friends anymore.] There are monuments on both sides of the Falls for Tesla, commemorating his work on the hydroelectric plant there, and it was my goal to see both. The Ontario side was first.

Objective 7: See the Falls Up Close.

Objective 8: The Skylon Tower.
Because one elevated view wasn't enough. Even better, I happened to be at the top of the Skylon when the sun set. (Genuinely unintentional. I was more or less running late after Lake Ontario tried to kill me ... but I'll tell you that story later.)


Objective 9: The Maid of the Mist.
If you go to Niagara Falls, please make time for this. Especially if you somehow find yourself unimpressed with the Falls so far.

Objective 10: Find Tesla Again.
This involved a fair bit of exploration on the US side, leading to a long conversation with a pair of French tourists and a couple from Minneapolis.

Also, I giggled uncontrollably when I realized they were charging the electric carts right next to the statue.

Bonus Objective: Find Love Canal.
I don't think I can explain why I went looking for a toxic waste containment site. I suppose it's because that kind of thing interests me.

In any case, I found it. I also nearly hit a deer right there (the only near run-in I had in 3500 miles).

There were other bonus items -- easy border crossings, Queen Victoria Garden, a path through the woods that proved to be an excellent shortcut, a conversation with an Irishman who tried to maim himself right next to me -- but the short ["Too late!"] version is to say it was an absolutely action-packed couple of days.


Somehow, I wasn't totally exhausted as I crossed the Erie Canal and headed generally west. This was a good thing -- the exhausting part was still to come. 

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