Thursday, May 21, 2009

Niagara's Famous "Maid of the Mist"

Going to Niagara Falls and NOT taking the trip on the "Maid of the Most" almost deserves corporal punishment! You will never forget your visit to Niagara Falls once you've experienced this boat ride.

There is more than one vessel and they operate from BOTH the Canadian side of the river and the American side. Access to the American side is via a lift that goes down inside that Green Tower which some people have asked me if that is a bridge under construction or part of a demolished bridge! Huh. That tower provides an observation platform to be able to see the American Falls from the USA side. Otherwise they would have to come to the Canadian side (which many do) after crossing the Rainbow Bridge and passing through Customs and Immigration each way.

Whilst walking along the Canadian walkway between the Horseshoe Falls and "Maid of the Mist" access, we came across a Native American in native dress. His son was following behind, also in native dress, playing as he went. One foot on the curb and one foot off etc. It doesn't matter how a child is dressed, they all play and folly in the same way, as young humans. His father was aware of me videoing and didn't mind. In fact, he kind of, acted for the camera with a smile. The photo quality isn't great as they are frames taken from the video.

On the Canadian side, once you purchase your tickets, you have a walk down a winding ramp for a short distance before entering a lift to take you the rest of the way down. The ramp might give you the initial impression that you have to walk all the way down and what would be worse all the way back up! But NO. There is the lift. (Elevators).

We didn't have to wait more than 25 minutes from being the first in line until the "Maid ...." pulled away from the dock.

Skyline on Canadian side and the Rainbow Bridge crossing the Canadian-USA border.

It is a whole new perspective seeing everything, let alone the falls, from down at river level and I hope my photos will help convey that perspective to you. Especially if your intending to visit this fabulous Tourist Destination.

Getting up close to the Horseshoe Falls down here is Exciting, Exhilarating and Wet! (or using the American vernacular, .... Awesome!! ) ;-)

Passing the American Falls

I have now visited Niagara Falls in Winter (Christmas), then Summer (July) and now Spring (May). Now a "Falls" in Fall is required to balance it out, eh! Wouldn't it be nice if it was to show some Aussies the place!

These have been a couple of the major attractions, but there are others I haven't done yet. I would like to spend near a week here to travel to some of the neighbouring attractions like the Old Forts, The Welland Canal, The Whirlpool on the Niagara river etc. Others are the IMAX Theatre and the World's Largest Bird Aviary. In deciding to place a link here, I found one that I will be bookmarking myself!

Info Niagara.


Come with us behind Niagara Falls!

Ah yes. I've waited a long time to experience the journey behind the falls. The last time I was here, we were driving home when I started reading about it in a brochure that it was possible to go behind the actual water fall of the the Horseshoe Falls.

There is a long tunnel going approximately parallel with the cliff face with off chutes with open portals at the face where you can see the wall of water pouring down in front of your eyes.

There is an opening leading to a multi level landing that gives you a great, but very wet view of the falls from this unique perspective. It was well worth the charge of around $15 per adult and you can stay as long as you like.

If possible, you should take plenty of tissues to wipe the water from your camera lens. I would be very wary of exposing an expensive camera to the saturated atmosphere here. My camera can be replaced for $100, but if it had died on me, I would have been happy enough with the photos I managed to get at that price. :)

Before you enter the tunnel journey, you and your partner / friends / family are automatically positioned for a digital photo taken of you. When you return from the venture, they show you your two 8x10 inch photographs superimposed onto different backgrounds; one daylight and the other at night at the Falls. They are each mounted in a separate Souvenir Folder at a cost of $20 for the pair if you want them. So if you are without a camera, it is a way to record your venture. We were impressed with the package and purchased ours. So be warned; try to make sure you're smiling when they take it!

Flow: 154 mega litres/min (34 million gals/min) at 65kph (40 mph)

Erosion: Used to be 3 metres (10ft) per year. Now 30 cm (1 foot) every 10 years.

Next: "Maid of the Mist" adventure.

Niagara Falls Up Close

The Falls are simply mesmerising when you're there in the flesh! I snapped so many photos with only a few that I could suffer deleting. It becomes so difficult which to show on my blog but I figure each can speak for itself when you click and open them to full size. I apologise that they aren't quite as good as the originals but that's what happens when you need to reduce the file sizes (quality) for loading times.

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

The "Horseshoe Falls" are to the extreme right.
The "American Falls" are the bulk of the falls straigth across.
The "Bridal Falls" are the small falls just to the right of the "American Falls".

Niagara Falls, New York, USA in background.

Next: Join us on a journey behind the Horeshoe Falls!


Surrounding Niagara Falls ..... ?

Our first priority was to check into the Americana Resort a few kilometers from downtown Niagara Falls. Whilst not as palatial as the White Oaks we stayed at previously it was above the level we are accustomed to. Our room had two queen sized beds but one was sufficient.

$14 all day parking. It stretches for a mile.

Niagara Falls has grown even since my last visit. The skyline has changed considerably. It is amazing, but not surprising, that this has to be one of biggest tourist attractions in North America. The parking stretches for a mile and is far more dense than my photo suggests. There are commuter buses that cater for far away parking but that costs $5/head. ouch! We were parked about a 100 metres from the Falls.

There is a nice restaurant in the upper level of this building that is adjacent to the falls. On the lower level there are a number of Take Away food stores but I hesitate to term them as Fast Food outlets as it took us over half an hour in line to purchase just coffees (to everyone else's amazement) from the Tim Horton's store. Within the same building is a Souvenir Store that is always very active.

Rainbow Bridge linking Canada & the USA with customs & immigration checking on either side.

The above photograph shows the entrance to the "Maid of the Mist" attraction. When coming back out via the lift, you are deposited at the back of the Souvenir shop! It is exactly the same at the other location after you have been to the "Behind the Falls" attraction. Marketing at its best!

So next we will look at the Falls themselves. ............

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Looking over Hamilton

After saying another temporary goodbye to Karen, we were heading down the QEW freeway. We will be deviating off it and around the back of the city of Hamilton and up onto the Niagara Escarpment where Megan's brother Ken and his wife Vicki live. In my early posts, I mentioned that it was Vicki that picked me up from the Greyhound Bus on my arrival in Canada.

Hamilton is an old "Steel City" similar Newcastle in NSW although somewhat larger with a population of 500,500 people. Both cities have redundant steel works but still have allied industries and a working harbour.

One thing it has in common with Meaford (where we will settle), is the Niagara Escarpment that passes close by and forms a major part of the landscape of both places. The Niagara Escarpment is a geological feature that runs from Tobermory (further north of Meaford), all the way down to Fort Erie. While that statement is true, the actual escarpment continues well beyond these places in both Canada and the USA. It was formed by glacial action hundreds of millions of years ago.

The pictures taken looking over Hamilton are from on top of the escarpment.

Close to the year 1900, my Grandfather and Grandmother migrated from Glasgow in Scotland to New Zealand. Their children were born in NZ and they moved to Australia in 1921 (by my calculations). In the same period they moved to NZ, I understand that my Grandfather's brother emigrated here to Hamilton in Ontario. He brought his father, (my Great grandfather), with him. Growing up, I used to hear my grandmother talk of the Ontario Clelands and I have a vivid memory of the "par avion" stickers on the envelopes that were sent either way between Sydney and Hamilton.

While my father was in a nursing home and I was visiting one day, I mentioned to him that Megan (then fiance'), was going to visit with her brother for a couple of days in Hamilton. With that he rattled off an address from the top of his head and asked if I could get Megan to look and see what was there these days. I told her the story via email and when she replied she said that the house at that address had been demolished and was now a car park.

Unfortunately, I no longer have that address and my father died soon after. However, I had remembered that my brother-in-law Ken had passed a comment to Megan that if there were Cleland children in the household, then they would probably have attended the school across the road which is the same school that his son attended, George L. Armstrong School, Concession St. Hamilton.

George L. Armstrong School. AD 1930
Concession St. Hamilton , ON.

There are two car parks across from the school. One on each side of Concession St., but one is on the corner of the adjacent street to the school. I'm determined at some stage to track down members of that branch of the family.

After a wonderful chin wag over a couple of cups of coffee with Ken and Vicki and another farewell, Megan and I made our way down off the escarpment and back onto the QEW further south and heading to our accommodation in Niagara Falls. We were late now and Megan had phoned ahead to confirm our booking.

With so much to do this day, it was impossible to make contact with a Facebook friend who lives in St. Catharines not far before Niagara Falls. I've never met him, but he is also a Cleland and a descendant of the James Cleland of Meaford mentioned in earlier posts. (If he is related to me, we would likely be about 4th cousins at best by my calcs). I do hope to see him upon my return.

St. Catharines Skyway and the Lochs on the Welland Canal

At St. Catharines, the QEW elevates to become the St. Catharines Skyway to allow shipping to pass beneath going both to and from the Welland Canal. The Canal is a man made canal to link Lake Ontario with Lake Erie. They are naturally linked via the very large but impossible to navigate, Niagara River. The Canal takes ships up and over the Escarpment by way of Lochs. Some of these can be seen in the photo.

Not too far down the QEW we will soon come to the exit to Niagara Falls. This and other signs indicating Buffalo USA, are an unwelcome reminder that in less than 48 hours from then, I'd be on a flight out of Buffalo Airport. :(

Port Credit & Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens

The Credit River, with all it's tributaries, flows a total of 1500 km down to Lake Ontario at Port Credit. The river was named by French Fur Traders, because trading goods were supplied to the native Mississaugas in advance (on credit) against furs which would be provided the following spring. A trading post was set up at the mouth of the river, now known as Port Credit, early in the 18th century.
Alongside this marina, we had lunch with Karen at "Helen's Fish And Chips".

It was a trying experience getting here, but hey, that's another story! (I've forgotten already Honey!) Let's say, you've probably seen the scenario before on the TV show, The Amazing Race.

After lunch, I was relegated to the back seat and Karen showed us to one of her pride and joys; the Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens.
Karen is one of the many volunteers that maintain and care for the gardens. She also authors a blog in the name of the gardens, to which I have provided a link at the bottom of this post.
Question: Do those two roses look out of place among the Rhododendrons and Azaleas?

click to enlarge and spot the Bumble Bee

For me there is nothing like a small brook and a bridge to feature in a garden.

The foreshore of Lake Ontario can vary dramatically from season to season. (day to day?). Winter sees it with ice and snow and looking bitter but in the other seasons it is a delight. Being spring offers the chance to see new life in the form of Goslings and maybe Sygnets.

A (notorious) Canada Goose and her new Goslings have adjusted to trusting humans in the space of a couple of weeks. Why notorious? I hear that they are not very toilet trained and en masse they can cause more than en mess!

Google Map:

Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens Blog