Today, the kiddo and I hopped into the car with her grandparents (with whom we have been staying with in Rochester over the holidays) and headed for the land of maple leafs, beavers, Mounties and one big mother of a waterfall.
Yes, folks, it was time to head to Canada to see Niagara Falls.
When I was eight, I went with my parents and brother one blistering, sunny summer day to Niagara Falls. I vaguely remember the sound of pounding water, a kabillion people and a visit to a gift shop, where I bought some sort of strange”Indian Squaw Doll” (cringe-worthy name, I agree, but this was about 30 years ago, I was still a pretty ignorant little girl, and, cross-my-heart, that’s what the doll was called on its packaging!). We also visited a restaurant where I was served scrambled eggs that were so terrifyingly undercooked that I wouldn’t eat them that way again for many years.
My girl had also been to the falls — on the New York side — with her grandparents and a cousin a few years back. She has fond memories of taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist (the boat that rides around at the base of the falls) and getting soaked to the skin on a hot summer’s day.
Today was different. First, it wasn’t summer, but grey and chilly. It would’ve seemed downright dismal had the grey skies not made the waterfalls seem even greener. Yes, GREEN. Verdant, in fact. The three falls that make up Niagara, with their enormously powerful rush, erode about 60 tonnes per second of rock and salt, which give the water its faint emerald color. Pretty cool.
We walked along the Niagara River, taking in the falls, and, just as our glasses started to fog from all the mist, we reached Elements on the Falls, a restaurant that I swear hasn’t changed since the dawn of time (or at least hasn’t changed since I was eight years old). Think awesome classic rock music, a rainbow-colored, mosaic-tiled floor and free refills on soda, and you’ll have some idea of the environs. We feasted on burgers (mine was bison, done well, as apparently Canadian restaurants have OUTLAWED meat not cooked all the way through) as we looked out over the falls.
Satiated, we walked back to the car the way we came, along the river.
Looking back over my shoulder, I looked at the largest of the three water falls and thought two things:
#1: Tremendous Power. Holy crap, those falls have inspired people to do tremendous things to create power (and money). Astor, the Vanderbilts and J.P. Morgan helped finance HUGE underground tunnels leading to turbine that generated enough power to send over 20 miles away to Buffalo. If any of you know me well, then you already know that I love me some good turbine. (In fact, in addition to the big project you already know about, I’ve also been working on a middle grade/young adult fiction series called Rainer Taupe and the Great Glass Turbine.
The USA and Canada signed a treaty in the fifties to ensure that power entrapment won’t disrupt the beauty of the falls. In essence, the power companies can do what they need to do as long as a certain amount of water is allowed to flow over the falls.
#2: Tremendous idiots and adventurers. Staring at the lip of the falls, I thought about all the people who have intentionally gone over in barrels. Apparently, making a name for themselves was worth risking their lives? Now, I get wild adventures. Believe me, the idea of them thrill me. But going over the falls IN A BARREL? No, thanks.
That said, there is one adventurous thing a handful of trained people have done at Niagara that I think is pretty cool… Highwire walk. Starting with Blondin in 1859 and ending with Nik Wallenda in 2012 (who had to present his USA passport once he arrived to the Canadian side of the falls!), these crossings were pretty cool and took an enormous amount of planning, years of training and a desire to go beyond what most other highwire walkers even think about doing .
Once in the car, we left the falls and drove about eight miles to the little, nearby town of Niagara on the Lake, where we strolled (yes, strolled, which was a nice experience for us fast-walking Brooklyners) through the old section of town, picked up coffee and treats and entered cute little shops. In a Scottish-themed shop, the kiddo found a half-priced Doctor Who Yahtzee game. Of course, given her love affair with the TV show, we had to pick it up. Finally, with my daughter being satiated- both body and soul- her Canadian experience, we left the Land of Moose and Honey (OK, I have no idea if Canada is really called the “Land of Moose and Honey,” but it sure sounds good, right?), we drove home.
Canada, it was fun. We’ll be back, eh?