Entries in CCanada (1)

Thursday
Sep132012

NIAGARA

Through our window, beyond the balcony of the Holiday Inn where we’re staying on the top floor, I can hear the roar of Niagara. Even in the darkness I can see its spray rising between the towers of two casinos, one on the American shore with cascading neon lights, the other here on the Canadian shore, lit up in red and blue, a glowing presence night and day alike, its colours undimmed even by the noonday sun.

Five-thirty in the morning and it’s already warm.  The sky is absolutely clear. Hanging directly over our balcony is a crescent moon that looks so close that we can see not only the whole moon’s outline, but the shadows of its mountain ranges.   Above the moon, perfectly lined up with it, hangs the biggest star I’ve ever seen.

Here in Niagara, everything is big. Meals. Beds. Buildings. Waterfalls. Even the sun is big – and hot - and now the moon and stars are big too.  And Dave, no doubt, will be getting big soon. Yesterday he ate an amount of food that I could only dream about it whilst picking my way round the edge of my meal. We were up in the Skylon Tower - which is pretty big/tall too - rotating slowly with the Horseshoe Falls for our starters, followed by a Canadian skyline of hotels, casinos and neon, twinkling road lights stretching away into the distance while the sun set over them.

Half our evening was spent overlooking Canada, the other half the US.  Slowly the Skylon Restaurant turned until the River Niagara came into view, dividing the two [again, big] countries from each other.  Then, slowly drifting into view, there were the American Falls.  Night had fallen by now, and they were floodlit in blues, greens and magentas. We could see the city of Buffalo in the distance, and the whole of New York State appeared to be spread out before us, rolling away into the night.

Then, slowly but majestically, the Horsehoe Falls drifted into view, just in time for coffee. Then it was back down the long neck of the Skylon Tower in one of its bright yellow ‘capsule’ lifts, and back to our hotel room to charge not just our camera batteries but our weary bodies for tomorrow [now today] and watch a few fireworks go off.

At home in Shrewsbury,  fireworks are a big deal.  But here, dwarfed by neon, blinking skyscrapers - and even more so by the Falls themselves - they seemed small and undramatic.   We were also supposed to see a tightrope walker set off from the Skylon Tower and walk across the void to the Hilton Hotel, but he never showed up.  He’s supposed to do it every night.  What a life.

Yesterday we went behind the Falls - an experience Dave found less than exciting because he’d done it as a boy and, back then, what are now tunnels with viewing points was an open walkway with nothing but a rail between oneself and the curtain of water.  We also took a cable car ride over the whirlpool which lies downriver from the Falls, close to the pretty town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, with its clap-board houses, rocking-chaired verandas, tree-lined streets and parkland sloping graciously down to the sparkling blue waters of Lake Ontario.

Today, once we’ve figured out how to make our stupid coffee machine work, watched the blazing orange sun rising in place of the moon, watched a bit of indescribable American TV and had a Great Canadian Breakfast, we’ll be off to book a ride on the ‘Maid of the Mist’.   This, I’ve no doubt, will be the highlight of our stay.

I began this piece with Niagara itself, and I’ll end it with Niagara too. Yesterday afternoon, crossed with rainbows, it was some sight. I was amazed to see birds in the water, right where it was at its wildest, whitest, foamiest and most powerful, calmly diving for fish.  I was standing next to an Amish couple [Amish or Mennonite – I think I’ve I got that right; the man had the distinctive beard, braces and hat, the lady wore a white lace cap and her dress was old fashioned but it did, I noticed, have a zip].

We were standing right on the edge, where the massive curtain of translucent, green water simply falls away.  On one side of us was a spangled, vast expanse of river beneath the afternoon sun, on the other a foaming white abyss.  We stood and watched without words. Then the Amish couple walked away and were replaced, and eventually I walked away too.