Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Niagara Falls- the Falls

Both sides of the Falls are interesting for different reasons.  Most visitors probably prefer the Canadian side.  It is much better developed, and because we can look across at the various sections of the Falls, rather than down at them from above, it is in some ways a better view.
However, I started my looking early one morning, finding a free 2 hour parking spot and an uncrowded park and viewing area.



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I walked back to see the rapids.  There is a bridge to Green Island and I walked across, but did not have time to walk all the way to the point of the island where a viewing platform has been erected for better viewing.



Here is the bridge I crossed


It is one of those sad bridges.  It could be just wonderful, but for some reason the original structure was built over with this iron girders that block the view, and then an ugly wire fence in front of them.  So the view was obscured.  There were small peeks through the girders, but they were disappointing.
and taking a photo was impossible.  Here is my attempt with the camera held up above the girder.
I don't know if this is for structure or to stop people from falling off the bridge.  It does get slippery and they have a fine yellow rope strung as a railing, but perhaps they also wanted just to protect people.  I am against all this protection.  Too many fences; too many signs.

Look at how ugly warning signs have made this delightful little stone structure at the beginning of the bridge.





Here is the walkway along the rapids in the park area.  The guard rails are low and decorative.  Those along the Canadian walkway are nice to look at also and there are not  a hundred signs.
Does anyone coming to the Falls not understand that if they drop off the edge of land, they are most likely going to die?
I remember when the Japanese student recently sat up on a railing and for some reason fell.  Some folks then called for more signs.  I call for fewer people sitting on railings.  Rather than a sign, hire a few people to watch the crowds.









Within the park there is a very small garden that was pleasant and even contained blooming flowers this late in the year.
















In the garden were some remembrance of Native Americans who were at the Falls long before white eye looked and decided to develop.  It must have been quite a wonder in those olden days.




THE CANADIAN SIDE

I had thought of staying on this side as there is a casino there as well, but they only deal no limit poker, so I am happy I did not plan to do that. I'd have had to cross the border every day to play cards.   More development on this side makes it a better vacation destination, but not an easy place to have a quick look at the Falls away from crowds.  
I first drove along the shoreline as long as I was near the water.  Parking is very limited and expensive.  I turned right and wound my way up to Portage Street and was amazed to find some free parking with no limitation except not to park on the grass.  Views along the walkway were limited. Too bad as this would have made a great place to view from up high.  Trees blocked the view. 

 I suspect that no one wanted to clear a view in this area.  Here were hotels that had captured that view, so giving it away would not be profitable.  This is one of the strangest viewing buildings I have ever seen.  I am curious as to what is inside.
 A short distance away I found the for $2.50 each way I could be lowered and brought back up and get an interesting view along the way.  American money was accepted as far and American change given.


 In a sense it seemed a shame to put a building right in the line of sight here.  An underground visitor center might have made more sense. This building looks great from all angles except the incline.
From this angle only this part really reflects the architecture of the fine stone building.
Still it was fine to sit and wait for the incline to start and get an interesting look back behind the Falls while the cool mist coming up from the Falls cooled off the heat of the day.

I made the visitor just in time to practice my  retirement hobby.  In the bathroom I found the most unusual amenity I have ever seen.  Are these common in Canada?  I laughed because it seemed odd to have a place to wash your feet at the Falls.  There is no sandy beach and were you to go swimming, you would not come back to rinse sand off anyway.



 Along the large walkway there were many spectacular views.

 And here are the railings.  I liked these better than the more modern railings on the American side.  I saw one sign warning people not to climb on them.  Some did.  One young fellow was having his photo taken leaning out from the top.  Seemed risky to me.



It was rather cool to see the casino where I played poker across all this water and Falls and all.  




To take this photograph I am standing  in an elevated grassy section on this side of the road designed so that we can see views of the Falls over the heads of the streaming tourists. Here the great inventor Nikola Tesla is celebrated in the Les Drysdal sculpture  He was born in Serbia and some of the reason he is celebrated here is due to the work of Servians throughout Canada,; however Tesla himself was an American, a contemporary and outspoken critic of Thomas Edison. The artist Les Drysdal is Canadian.

He is an interesting character. He is not personable like Edison.  He is much more like the poker players at the no limit table that I wish to avoid.  He speaks critically often of his contemporaries.  Had he and Edison been friends instead of enemies together they might have achieved much more in their lifetimes.

On the other hand, he loved pigeons and so we have that in common.  And he and my favorite author Mark Twain were friends.

I did walk up to the Canadian casino and it was very nice inside.  I'd say it compares to a Vegas strip casino.  But they had not had any limit poker in a long while.

This greets us walking into the casino


And this is quite an interesting fountain that also reflects the development of electricity using water and honors Tesla.


In every way the Canadian side is much more upscale, better attended, much better planned. The American side still suffers from the decay of neighborhoods.   I am certain the reason for this is complicated.  For one thing, in the past the American dollar in comparison to the Canadian dollar had more value.  That has changed.  I think of the American side as similar to the downtown section of Vegas.  That is experiencing renovation in the face of Recession with just a promise of slow recovery in sight.  Perhaps that will happen to the American side of the Falls. 

On my way  back to the Rainbow Bridge I drove down the Falls view road and could see that up in that area parking could be had for $5 day, so I think I'd go up there on a future visit.  
Also I passed through a long street of tourist places where every inch along the street and up two stories was packed with colorful advertisement of decoration. The entire street was a collage of color.  It was really a fun view.
When I come again, I will consider parking on the American side and walking across the bridge, especially in a more busy season.  I have read it is easier to go through customs.  And if I found free all day parking close enough on the American side,  it would be a good bit cheaper and easier to walk it.
If I wanted a long hike, I did see places to park far back  along the rapids on the American side.  It would be a good long hike, but on a nice day it would be a way to make a day along water that is the opposite of serene, seeing first the American rapids and then the Falls from the top, then crossing the bridge for a panoramic view and a walk up tourist avenue.
On the Canadian side there are inexpensive hotels along Lundy's Lane, but I did not drive up there and look because I won't stay on that side when I go.  Now I'll be looking for good deals around Brantford Ontario.  My wife is saying that she and her friend might like to do Toronto and would not need a car to do it, so that would free me up to do a night or two in Brantford.  



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