Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario - October 31, 2009

Myself and my wife made a short visit to Toronto ( October 28-31, 2009) from Cincinnati (OH), our base city for the next three months or so. The morning Delta flight left on time and it took about 1 hour 20 minutes to reach Pearson International Airport, Toronto. After completion of custom and immigration formalities, we were out of the airport in about 20 minutes. The sky was cloudy with outside temperature of around 14C with the forecast of showers in the afternoon. We got into a Limousine (more or less akin to our Meru taxis) called by the police at the taxi gate. Fares for Limousines are fixed depending upon the distance. The 40 km drive from the airport to Toronto Downtown was smooth until we reached the outskirt of the downtown when the morning peak hour traffic hampered our smooth drive. It took about 45 minutes to reach our hotel Delta Chelsea in the downtown. As I paid the driver the pre-determined fixed rate of C$50/- (plus some tip as is the convention), he spoke to me in Hindi to say that if we call his taxi on our return journey to the airport at least one day in advance, the fixed fare would be C$43/-. At around 12.30 in the afternoon, my son who was already in Toronto on a short business visit, came to our hotel and chalked out our sight-seeing schedules for day and the next three days. He had already told us that since he was free only on Saturday, he would take us on a day's trip to Niagara Falls. Rest of the days, we would have to manage the trip ourselves. We comfortably managed our sight-seeing trips around Toronto without any problem as the major tourist places were located in the radius of 2-3 km from the downtown which I will cover separately. This report covers our day trip to Niagara Falls (Canadian side).

The weather forecast for our journey date, of rains with gusty winds up to 30 kms in Toronto and 40 kms around Niagara Falls with morning temperature around 6C, was a bit of concern. Although we got up to an overcast sky, there was no rain and the wind speed looked moderate as indicated by a flag fluttering atop opposite building. After a heavy breakfast at Richtree, a multi-cuisine restaurant in Eaton Centre, my son picked up a rental car which he had already booked and commenced our 130 kms trip to Niagara at around 9.30 a.m. The heavily overcast sky gave us a feeling of an early morning drive through QEW. After Burlington, we were to cross about 3km long bridge over the Lake Ontario to reach Hamilton on the other side. The electronic board at the entrance of the bridge was flashing the warning : Strong wind over sky way. Drive with caution. The warning was timely as we drove over the bridge, our car started dragging to the left due to strong wind force. My son had to hold the steering wheel strongly to drove on the lane.

It started raining when we reached the outskirt of Niagara. After parking our car in a parking lot, we walked the about one km to reach a spot from where we had the first glimpse of American Niagara Falls. A further 5 minutes of walk and we were in front of the American falls. There was not much of the tourist crowd, being the off season. My son told me that when he was here about a month back, the entire area around the Niagara Falls was jammed with tourists and with great difficulties, he could find the place to stand and get his pictures taken against the background of Niagara Falls.

American Falls with Bridal Veil Falls on the extreme right

View from Observation Deck of the Rainbow Bridge connecting Canada with USA

Me, my son and my wife against the background of the American Falls

Me and my wife with the background of American Falls (left) and Canadian Falls (Right)

About 500m walk on the promenade from the American Falls' Observation Deck, leading to the Canadian horseshoe falls was an experience of a life time. With Niagara river with fall colours trees on its shore on the left, the park with green carpet and fall colours trees on the right and the water sprinkling from the falls all the way to Canadian falls was the most appropriate setting for a romantic outing.

View of Canadian Horseshoe Falls from the Observation Deck of American Falls

The park on the right of the promenade leading to Canadian horseshoe falls

As we were walking towards the Canadian Falls, the intensity of the water sprinkling from the falls with strong wind blowing across the Niagara river under cold morning made us difficult to walk. At last, we reached the Visitors' Centre very close to Canadian Falls. We went on the first floor Observation View Point with glass windows from where we could get an bird's eye view of Lake Erie and its fall in to Niagara river from a rock in the shape of a horseshoe.

Canadian Niagara Falls (horse-shoe shape). The great force of waterfalls with strong wind creates mist in front of falls

A zoom shot of Canadian Falls with barren trees in the foreground close to the Visitors Centre

The overcast sky gives a different colour to the Canadian Falls

The Canadian Horseshoe Falls is about 2600 feet wide while the American Falls is 1060' wide. Though these falls are not so great in terms of their heights, the sheer volume of water which they throw into Niagara river make them the greatest waterfalls in the world. Niagara river is formed from these waterfalls which flows all along the Niagara Parkway about 50 kms north when it merges with Lake Ontario near Niagara-on-the-Lake village. Later in the afternoon, we had planned to travel on this route to explore the areas.

Lake Erie turns into the Canadian Falls with fall colours and the old power house in the background

View of Canadian Falls through the window of the Visitors Centre

A zoom shot of Canadian Falls as mist gets clear over the fall colour trees on the American side

The Maid of the Mist Tour in which tourists are taken very near to both the American Falls and the Canadian Falls to enjoy the mist created by the massive waterfalls was closed a few days back on the eve of winter slack season. However, Journey Behind the Falls tours were in operation which we took. There were very few tourists for this journey as we were taken down on an elevator for a walk through the tunnel. The left side of the tunnel took us to an open Observation Desk just below the Canadian Falls. The force of the water sprinkling from the falls coupled with strong wind prevented us from standing in the deck for even a minute. The right side longer tunnel led us to barricaded place beyond which was the back side of the Canadian Falls. We had been to the Niagara Falls on the American side in October 2003 in which we had taken both the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds tours which were more thrilling and enjoyable than the Journey Behind the Falls.

My wife in the tunnel behind the falls. The white background is the falls

The long tunnel for the Journey Behind the Falls

A close-up shot of the Canadian Falls after sun came out from the opposite direction

Tourist walking towards Canadian Falls. Visitors Centre is in the background

It was a pleasant surprised to see a rainbow formed over the mist created by the Canadian Falls. The sun was coming out as the clouds were getting cleared. We ran out from the Visitors Centre to click the pictures of the rainbow as well as the Canadian Falls in the sun. Now we could see a lot of tourists thronging towards the Canadian Falls, probably coming out of the nearby hotels once more to enjoy the Falls in the sun.

A rainbow formed over the mist as sun came out. Rainbow Bridge and American Falls in the background.

Sky getting cleared over the Skylone Tower

Skylone Tower looks grand in the background of blue sky and fall colour trees in the foreground

American Falls in the sunny afternoon from promenade

The boat (in the foreground) is on the roost as the Maid of the Mist Tours have been closed

After a quick brunch at one of the fast food joints inside the Visitors Centre, we commenced our second leg of the Niagara trip which was all along the Niagara Parkway, a road which goes all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake heritage village. On the way, we came across a Buddhist Centre with a large stupa. We went inside the centre where a prayer was in the offing in front of a big statue of Lord Buddha. This prevented us from taking a round of the Centre. A lama gestured us to have a look at the books kept on rakes. all these books were on Buddhism which the visitors were free to take with them. We took a book What the Buddha Taught which I found interesting one. A large stupa which was almost complete is scheduled to be open to public some time next year.

A Buddhist Stupa on our way to Niagara Botanical Garden

Next, we visited a observation deck located on the right side of the Niagara Parkway to view a Niagara river gorge. The slopes on the opposite side of the gorge was full of fall colour trees some of which had started shedding leaves. Nonetheless, the view was beautiful. In season, tourists can take an Aero Car - an antique cable car - over the whirlpool formed in Niagara river to cross over the other side of the river. Although aero car was visible, we did not see it operating probably due to strong wind blowing across the river.

Whithering fall colours at the slope of the Niagara gorge on way to Niagara-on-the-Lake village

Our next stop was the Niagara Botanical Garden located on the left side of the Niagara Parkway. The entrance to the garden was full of trees with peak fall colours which looked awesome. There was a Butterfly Conservatory Centre very close to the parking lots. Here more than 2000 butterflies are reared in the pyramid shaped glass house in their natural tropical habitat with rain forest trees and the plants which these butterflies are fond of. In addition, butter flies have access to designated feeding places where they can also taste a few varieties of fruits. One can gauge the population of butterflies inside the pyramid by the the fact that some of the butterflies did not mind sitting on tourists' heads and hands. There was a small auditorium in which the Centre showed us a 10 minutes documentary on the world of butterflies which was very informative. In summer, the Butterfly Conservatory Centre attracts a load of tourists requiring the authorities to regulate the entry in to the Conservatory.

Fall foliage at the entrance of the Niagara Botanical Garden

A butterfly on one of its favourite leaves inside Butterfly Conservatory Centre in Botanical Garden

Butterflies feed on a platter in Butterfly Conservatory Centre

The Botanical Garden was a large one (nearly 100 acres). But autumn was not a good season to visit the garden. The rose garden was nearly barren of the roses except some red and pink varieties. Some of the exotic varieties of flowers can be seen only in spring and summer. But it was a good place to stroll around with many varieties of tress with fall colours, green carpet of grass with flower-designed decorations. During summer, horse and carriage tours are available for those who are not able to take a long walk. It was interesting to know that the entire Botanical Garden was maintained by the students of the School of Horticulture located inside the Garden.

Almost barren rose garden inside the Botanical Garden

The green carpet and fall colours make a beautiful contrast in the Botanical Garden

Flower clock on the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake village

Our journey continued on the Niagara Parkway with our next destination of Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), an heritage village. The village (or town ) is located on the banks of Niagara river which meets Lake Ontario near NOTL. In fact, the entire stretch of road journey on the Niagara Parkway from Queenston to NOTL is very scenic with Niagara river on the one side and the old type county homes with wineries in the back yard. One gets an impression of the European country side as we traveled towards the village. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to take a winery trip around the village. So we spend some time at the shore of Lake Ontario which looked like a sea. From here, we could clearly see the C.N. Tower and Toronto downtown across the Lake Ontario.

Niagara river meets Lake Ontario at the far end

C N Tower and a part of Toronto downtown are visible from Niagara-on-the-lake village across Lake Ontario

We at the shore of Lake Ontario near Niagara-on-the-Lake village before return journey to Toronto

It was getting dark as we commenced our return journey to Toronto. The improved weather since afternoon made the drive from Niagara to Toronto smooth. At the end of the trip, I felt that if I had an extra day, I would have spent the evening at Niagara Falls to see the lightings over the falls and made the overnight stay in one of the many medieval B&B homes in around Niagara-on-the-Lakes to enjoy the village atmosphere and visit one of the wineries the next day to taste the famous ice wine.

Photos by the author


KS said...

SK: Nice writeup! And wonderful pictures too. I think large pictures make a better visual impact, particularly, the panoramic pictures like Niagara falls!

I noticed you even added a Google Map .... you are becoming Tech savvy in company of your Gen-Next family! :-). Once you get your laptop, you are going to love tech even more.

Sadanand Kamath said...

Thanks KS for quick comments.

I got the idea of adding a Google map when I was viewing the site Mapquest for the road direction from Toronto to Niagara Falls. There was a provision for embedding the map on other website which I succeeded after struggling for over an hour. There was no help from NextGen as they are busy in their own right.

Vee said...

ah, dad, but you didn't ask for help from the nextGen, did you?? The pics look great! Even that tunnel looks great. So How was the ice wine? or is that for the enxt post?

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