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Niagara Falls

A few random observations about our recent visit to Niagara Falls, Canada.

I will say that the only thing I hate more that tourists is being one myself…..so I’m not the best traveler by any means. But I make up for any self-consciousness with my ability to ignore what others might consider to be indignities. In short, I just keep my mouth closed and pay without complaining. If I was worried about how much shit costs, I wouldn’t have visited one of the most touristy places on the planet in the first place. So when the total cost of an 18 oz Molson at the hotel bar came to $13, I was so non-plussed I ordered another.

Our hotel room view

That being said, the Falls are quite a staggering sight. From the US side you get an awkward view, like attending a concert and getting seated behind the band. But from the Canadian side the view is unobstructed and mesmerizing, and at night, all lit up, it becomes even more so. On our last day we hung out by the rim of Horseshoe Falls and just grinned like idiots for about 2 hours, snapping pictures by the score and trying not to get pushed over the edge by wild-eyed grown-ups wielding selfie-sticks like swords.

Ah, selfie-sticks. I thought they were dead and gone, like grunge or Coke Classic. Ha! Americans may have moved on, but the rest of the world adores them. I saw literally hundreds, and not only near the falls. I saw them being used at dinner tables, or being walked down the street, their owners apparently terrified of being alone with their thoughts. These people look like fools to me, but you can bet your ass their scrapbook is better than my scrapbook. So who am I to judge?

Canadians might be the nicest people on earth. They just seem less uptight….so much less willing to act dickish just for the sake of being dickish. They handle the daily invasion of the entire world with a patience and a guile that seems…well…unworldly. One of the reasons that Niagara Falls is so beloved is because the best parts of it are IN Canada. Anyplace else and the world might care a lot less and just look at the pictures.

Canadians are also smart. Very smart. Everywhere you go…..when you find the door to get out, it leads you to a gift shop. It’s uncanny. You can find a random bathroom, and when you’re done and walk out, somehow you walk directly into an aisle of T-shirts and snow-globes. It’s impossible not to spend money here, but they make it all so easy that you hardly even notice you’re going broke one door at a time. And if I’m going to spend what I don’t really have, I’d rather give it to a smiling Canadian than to some surly European with a superiority complex.

Some things you just have to do, like the boat ride to the rim of the falls…the one where they give you the rain gear. It’s kinda cheesy, and they know it’s kinda cheesy and you know it’s kinda cheesy but you do it anyway and you love it and you have to talk yourself out of doing it again (standing on top the second time!).

We visited the museum where they keep all the assorted contraptions assorted lunatics created to ride over the falls in…..some of which worked and some of which…well…not so much. We were told a 7 year old kid survived an accidental trip over the falls back in the 1960s, and that about 20 people a year travel near and far to off themselves with all sorts of style points in mind. There ain’t much more than a chest high barrier to stop anybody from taking a header if they so desire, and just last year somebody fell in while taking pictures standing on the stone wall above the falls (what a last pic that would be eh?) something I thought might happen about every 15 seconds from my vantage point.  There’s no security or patrols, so….you’re pretty much on your own. I like that about Canada too. They are totally cool if you want to risk your life to take a selfie.

We walked and bused and walked some more. We visited a botanical garden, and wandered among a beautiful array of butterflies. It was charming.

It’s about a 5 hour drive for me. Basically drive to Syracuse and turn left and go straight until you are stopped by a border agent. It just seems longer. A lot longer. I don’t know why. The GPS has some fun with you on the way home, cutting off mileage by re-routing you through assorted single lane roads until you are convinced you’re completely lost….until you finally see a sign for Binghamton. Once you hit 81 again, the pothole dodging begins, and you know home is approaching.

So thank you Ontario. You were a splendid host. I’m rooting like hell for the Raptors tonight. And I’ve become a huge Tragically Hip fan.

In a bit..


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