When in Ontario a trip to Niagara Falls is compulsory, it says so somewhere I'm sure and I'm a sucker for good waterfalls anyway so I wasn't going to rock the boat on this one. I took a day trip by train from Toronto, getting there just after 10am and leaving again at 5:45pm. The train station is about an hours walk from the falls (or a taxi of course) and it was a pleasant walk upstream along the Niagara River. Actually I could almost have walked on the river as it was completely frozen for about the last mile downstream of the falls. The first fall to come into view is the American or Bridal Veil Falls which you first spot through the arches of the bridge to the USA, a bridge I couldn't cross as I didn't have a visa and after the hassle getting into Canada a bridge I wouldn't fancy trying to cross anyway. On their own the American falls are fairly pathetic in world terms but photographically they were enhanced by the fact that the surrounding area and rocks beneath them were all frozen. A short walk further upstream the Canadian or Horseshoe Falls, the instantly recognisable ones are much more impressive. The standard guidebook fact is that 20% of the freshwater in the world passes over Niagara Falls (or is in the Great Lakes or goes down the St Lawrence River or however you want to word it); add this to the 20% in the Amazon, the 20% in Lake Baikal, the 20% in the Antarctic icecap and it doesn't leave a lot for the rest of us, no wonder we've got a drought here.
By midday I'd seen everything of the falls, walked up-river as far as I could and come back to the main falls area which only left another 5 hours to kill. I'd read that Niagara is the Las Vegas of Canada and was expecting Blackpool with a waterfall but I have to concede that they have spaced the tourist town and the natural attractions reasonably tastefully, with the funicular out of operation for the winter it's quite a walk to actually get to the casinos, hotels and eateries so getting some lunch killed another hour. Just when I thought that I would die of boredom before my train back the sun reached the right angles to give some nice rainbows (or mistbows) so I had myself another photographic frenzy. Another "touristic fact"; up until the early part of this century the falls were moving up river by 3 meters per year, now because of river control and industrial usage they have reduced it to only a foot every 10 years - and they manage to put a positive spin on all this industry. If I was the guy who owns the main car-park a mile or so from the falls I would be seriously pissed off, in 500 years or so years he would have had the most valuable real estate in Canada.
I took "The Journey Behind the Falls", $10 to walk down a tunnel and see some ice and mist through a hole in the rock, an attraction that would have about a 10 year life-span if it wasn't for those nice industrial people. Finally I walked a few miles back down river to the whirl-pool, a big bend in the river where the ice and water go in a circle, although I think the use of the word "whirl" is a major exaggeration, the "water-trundling-in-a-slow-circular-motion pool" would be a more apt if slightly less trippy off the toungy description. And then back on the train to Toronto, I would probably been better off getting there mid-afternoon, seeing the falls in daylight, at sunset, lit up at night, spending a night in tack-ville, seeing the sunrise and then getting an early train out the next day.