Falling for Niagara Falls

Day 1 was finally upon us. We pulled into Niagara Falls (Ontario) around noon. Parking was a bit of a trick. We didn’t do our homework and just figured we could park somewhere close to the Falls, but many of the closer parking lots are not open to RVs. We did eventually get redirected to Rapidsview Parking Lot. There we paid $10 and we made lunch in the parking lot before heading out. There is a free shuttle (the We-Go) from this lot to Table Rock. From there you could pay for the bus/shuttle but we chose to walk. A lot. We walked to Niagara Falls and took about a thousand photos with our children in the forefront and the Falls behind them.

We had purchased tickets for the Hornblower Cruise (Canada’s version of the Maid of the Mist) online before we arrived, but when we walked up to get in line, the ticket-holder line was wrapped so far back it would take over an hour to get through, so we opted to walk around a bit and come back to it later.

My husband had the genius idea to walk across the bridge to the U.S. and then walk back so we could finally get stamps for the children’s passports. My kids were excited and so was I. Ha-ha! We’d figured out a way to make it happen. We went through to the U.S. side. The Customs Officer was all smiles and welcomes and my children explained their earnest desire for stamps. She dug out her nearly dry ink pad and accommodated. We had stamps! Albeit, stamps to mark our arrival to the U.S.

We walked around a bit on the U.S. side but it was hot and we were feeling a bit foot-sore on our first real outing in this year of travel, and after an hour or so, we trekked back to Canada. This time the bridge was full of tourists, including the gentleman in front of us who comes down from Toronto to purchase can’t-finds (in Canada) cheaply. He was headed back to catch the bus that would take him back to Toronto.

We made it up to the Canadian Customs Officer and with eager grins explained how it was our children’s first time in Canada and how kind the U.S. agent had been. We were waved away. “We don’t do that. Next!” Alack, alas. We learned that even in Europe, the days of stamps in passports are coming to an end. It’s all electronically monitored and that our best bet is in more economically-deprived corners of the world where things are operating a bit more “old school”. Wah-wah.

On the way to our Hornblower Cruise, we stopped at the Secret Garden Restaurant and had our first real Canadian specialty, Poutine. If you’re unfamiliar, Poutine is a pile of French Fries covered in gravy and cheese. The type of cheese varies from place-to-place but it’s always cheese. This time it was shredded Cheddar but we saw it with cheese curds in some places.

At long last, we boarded the Hornblower with our complimentary ponchos (if you go, feel free to recycle these at the end, or, like we did, dry and stash them in your vehicle in case you need them later). From the bridge when you looked down at the tourists in line, you’d see scads of people in their own clothes going into a building and all coming out in red ponchos. It looked like a little factory.

I will admit I didn’t expect very much from the cruise. The Falls are breathtaking but I figured my kids would be more impressed than I was. When we got out there though, I was gobsmacked. You get as close as you safely can and there is no way to really grasp how massive Niagara Falls is without being at the bottom of them. I can’t fathom what the Indigenous groups must have thought of them when they first encountered them, or the colonists when they arrived. I can’t imagine being where I was in a smaller vessel. It was impressive and worth the cost ($26 adult/ $16 child).

After that we headed for our overnight spot. It’s worth checking with friends and family along the way if you’re RVing to see if there are spots you can park or park and plug-in overnight. It saves a bit of cash if you’re just heading from point-to-point and not staying more than a day.

Niagara Falls 1

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D~ “What surprised me the most was the diversity of cultures.”

Djr~ “What surprised me the most was the amount of mist!”

A~ “The thing that surprised me the most was the food at the Secret Garden. It was awesome. AWESOME!!” [she had a grilled cheese sandwich]

Without Further Ado, Canada, Here We Come!

The mail and paper service was on-hold, our RV was packed, and we were on our way. Later than expected, which tends to be our family norm, but we were on our way. In the early evening of July 7, 2017, we set out on our first family expedition in this year of travel that lies ahead.

Ambassador Bridge

Around midnight we were nearing the U.S. border into Canada (Ambassador Bridge) and were greeted by a fireworks finale and the traffic that follows. Gratefully, we were just slipping through a portion of that traffic and soon were at pace before the border checkpoint. I made a mental note to check for events along our points of travel in the future. (This becomes a theme.)

The border crossing was rather straightforward. First time in Canada? Where are you headed? Are you bringing any fireworks or weapons? The only slight inconvenience was having to wake the children so customs/border patrol could verify the children in our vehicle were the children presented on the passports. Pretty standard stuff. The only disappointment was a lack of a stamp in my children’s passports to mark their first trip to another country. (This becomes a theme too, thanks to the electronic tracking of movements and the redundancy created by the stamps.)

When asked where we were headed, we mentioned several things including going to Prince Edward Island to pay homage to the literary sites made famous by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The customs officer stared at us blankly. My husband shrugged his shoulders in that manly “I know, right?” way. The officer queried further, “you’re going to PEI because of a book?” I nodded enthusiastically. He shrugged like my middle schooler. I think at this point he decided we were both a non-threat and maybe a bit dim.

Moments later, I was trying to snap a photo of the bridge as we drove over it.

We settled for the night around Chatham-Kent. First new thing for me? The exits were all marked “On Route” and I liked that better than “exit”. It felt a bit more like enjoying the journey instead of just wishing you were at the end.

The only trouble this night was a bit of excessive snoring and a pesky mosquito. Small stuff.