Monday, May 21, 2007

Niagara Falls, 16 May- 18 May

It was half-past two in the afternoon when we arrived at Niagara Falls, NY. After an eight-hour drive (and never missing any exits), we were finally there. It was cold- only high 40s, and the sun was never out! After checking in to our hotel, we ventured out to the Niagara Falls Park, and found out that the whole town was practically deserted. Very few shops were open, and even fewer people (tourists) were there. At only in the 40s temperature, who would want to vacation in that condition? We learned, much later, that visitors start coming in after the Memorial holiday. We were a tad early for Niagara Falls.

We saw the American rapids first, then crossed the pedestrian bridge to the Goat Island, where several lookout points to the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls are located. At the tiny Luna Island, people can see the thundering rapids before it jumps onto the American Falls, and the much smaller Bridal Veil Falls. It was pretty amazing. My favorite was the Terrapin Point, where you get a magnificent quarter-view of the mighty Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. The rising mist, the rushing water from the Niagara River, and the falls itself was a true beauty beyond words. Going down the steps to Terrapin Point, on a gloomy early evening, with the view of Canada and the soaring mist from the falls- it was a surreal experience. I have always wanted to see the Niagara Falls, and there I was, and it was all that I have expected. And much more.

I guess the perk of visiting Niagara on a cold, gloomy day is that you have the whole park to yourself and you don’t have to clamor for a spot to get the best view. At Prospect Point, and at Luna Island, you get the best view of the American Falls without anybody cutting you off.

We found dinner at the only restaurant which seemed to be open- an Indian restaurant called Punjabi which served an all-you-can-eat, cold, stale, baaaad, poorly-spiced Indian food. Ugggh. The waiters even looked as bored and as stale as their food. But what can one do? I think eating our baon granola bars would fare better. The Hard Rock Café, although it had blaring music outside, doesn’t seem to be open.

The next day, it was even colder- only in the 30s! We started the day with an oversized, overrated breakfast at the local Denny’s (no other choice, nowhere else to go). And then we headed out for the Maid of the Mist. It was surprisingly inexpensive at $12.50, and the experience was superb. We had the ubiquitous blue raincoats and we were on our way to a 30-45 minute sail at the foot of the American Falls and then at the sublime, stupefying Horseshoe Falls. The spray of cold water from the falls on our faces was unbelievably exhilarating!

The most overwhelming part of the Maid of the Mist trip was when the boat was actually at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, and there you can see and hear nothing but the thundering waterfalls, the mist, the roar of the falling water and you can all but feel, drink, taste, smell and hear water! Actually, in the midst of it all, I spied a lone goose (a goose, the hubby insisted because I kept on saying a duck) right smack at foot of the falls, having a ball swaying in the waves and acting like it was not a big deal. I’ve seen nothing like it! A goose with a been-there-done-that attitude!

We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting a godforsaken shopping mall, a lonely Polish Catholic Church in an equally deserted neighborhood. The whole town seemed to be side-tracked, and there was nothing else to see but the beautiful falls. It was kind of sad. We talked to the Polish lady who cleaned the church, and she told us that the town is being abandoned by the young people and old people remained and they kept on dying. She said that the Catholic Church may have to be closed soon. We also drove up north-east to a village called Youngstown. It was an idyllic place, and further up on Lane Road, we can catch a glimpse of the blue Lake Ontario. Early evening we were headed to the Seneca-Niagara Casino, and this time I was let in by the bored young man at the entrance. We hit the slots, but we never won anything. Not even a dime. As expected.

At ten o’clock on our last night at Niagara, we returned to the Prospect Point to see the illuminated falls. Beams of colored floodlights light up the falls and it was incredibly beautiful. Mists rose up in a medley of colors and it had a spectacular, enchanting effect. Aaaamazing. Not bad to cap our last night.

On the day of our departure, the sky was suddenly bright and sunny, and it was warm. Luck wasn’t on our side, I guess. The trip back home was pretty uneventful except for one thing- we almost ran out of gas! In the middle of Pennsylvania back country! I feared that we may have to flag down trucks and ask for spare gas, or hitch a ride home, haha! What happened was really absurd. We didn’t fill the tanks while in Niagara, thinking it was a bit expensive there and we will find something cheaper on our way. When it was time to head for the next gas exit, the hubby got an unexpected call from his boss, and we missed the exit. The tank was almost empty, and so we thought, oh, in the next gas exit. And the next gas exit turned out to be at least 40-50 miles away! And the low fuel light was flashing, and we were panicking. We don’t wanna be stuck in the middle of Pennsylvania boonies!

So after an eternity of roads without gas signs, and every minute passing feeling like puking and passing out, we finally found four gas stations. The hubby said he was never ever been happier to see a gas station in his life, haha! Moral lesson? Always fill the tanks full, and never ever assume there’ll be a gas station at the next exit.

Thoughts on the Niagara trip? Beauty. Nature. Calm. Solitude. Abandon. Simplicity. Power.

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