An overcast summer morning in Toronto. We decided to go even though the weather forecast called for intermittent rain during the day. I assumed we were going to get wet anyway. So we drove along the QEW, Queen Elizabeth Way, which circles Lake Ontario, to Niagara Falls.
I had great expectations for these world-famous falls. And I was curious as well. I had been to Iguazu Falls between Argentina and Brazil and I wanted to compare them with Niagara. I secretly wanted Iguazu to win. Naughty, I know.
We stayed on the Canadian side. We drove into a beautiful public park, with carefully maintained flower beds. We could see the mist rising behind the trees. The Niagara River and the falls are right there! There’s a paved path and railings along the river where visitors can walk without fear of falling into the water.
We walked to the railing to watch nature in all its magnificence. The Horseshoe fall is the biggest and most powerful. The water falls with a deafening roar; I could feel its power reverberating in my chest. The American and Bride Veil falls are on the American side. They are smaller and less powerful but nice to look at.
We walked up and down the path, taking photos and enjoying the view. We decided to forgo the pleasures of sailing on the Maid of the Mist and the trek behind the falls. The fact that this natural wonder is flanked by two cities and surrounded by concrete struck me as incongruent. To me, it is a clear example of man taming nature. I would have liked to see the area in its natural, original state.
I enjoyed the experience but wasn’t awestruck. Sorry.
We moved on, driving through fruit groves and vineyards, to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is a Victorian fairytale town. The streets are strewn with colourful flowers and plants in neat planters and beds, not a blade of grass is out of place. Horse-drawn carriages ferry tourists back and forth. I absolutely loved it at first, but then the hordes of day-trippers swarming about made me feel claustrophobic.
A cenotaph on the main street honours the fallen at both world wars. I like this about Canada, that her heroes are remembered and honoured in every town.
I took this visit as a learning experience. I discovered that it is best to travel without expectations and to allow yourself to be surprised by a new place. And, most importantly, that comparisons can ruin your experience.