With hindsight, we should have walked a bit further to have a proper look at Lake Erie. At the time, it seemed like we would inevitably be back and see it properly, but somehow we never got around to it. Too busy swimming in the back-garden pool. And shopping; apparently an essential element of any holiday.
Later that same day, we were back in Buffalo, very near Canalside, to watch the Buffalo Bisons play the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Somewhat to my surprise, I enjoyed the whole affair immensely: the music, the game, the beers and the beef and horseradish sandwich which is apparently a Buffalo speciality. It probably helped that the Bisons won 10-1.
The people sat around us were incredibly friendly and the chap in the cap on the right of this picture was very patient with our many questions and explained what was happening really well. I played baseball quite a bit at school, basketball too come to that. I don’t remember baseball being especially complicated, but it turned out there were almost constantly points we needed clarifying.
The Bisons are a Minor League team, whatever that means, but they clearly have a large and passionate following. I think some of the local ice-hockey team were present too, signing autographs, and there was a terrific atmosphere. I’m not sure when the opportunity is likely to present itself, but I would love to watch another baseball game. The DBs also had a go at batting, during our stay, at a place where the ball was fired out of a machine. I gather they enjoyed that too. (TBH and I were shopping at the time in a sort of ‘Ghost Mall’ where many of the shops were empty, or closed, or full of second-hand tat, a very odd place. We managed to come away with a half-a-dozen pairs of shoes between us, mostly from UK brands I’d never previously heard of.)
As ever, I’m miles behind with the blog. It’s slightly odd to be recalling our summer sojourn in Buffalo whilst the city is suffering the aftermath of one of the worst winter storms on record. The BBC reports that slightly warmer weather is on the way, so hopefully life can soon return to something resembling normality in the affected areas.
So, inevitably, if you’re in the area, you really have to go and see Niagara Falls. We’d seen the great plume of spray which rises high above the falls the day before – it’s unmissable even from quite a distance away.
We’d had some good advice, from our local guides, about free parking by the river. This meant that we had an opportunity to walk by the river, and the rapids, which were pretty awe inspiring in their own right.
I can’t remember, unfortunately, where I got this map from. I took a screenshot, so still have it on my phone. We parked in the lay-by on the bottom right of the map, followed the riverside paths to the pedestrian bridge then circled the island, anti-clockwise, visiting the Three Sisters Islands, eventually returning to the car for a picnic lunch. After lunch we walked back towards the falls and the Observation Tower in the top right-hand corner of the map, for our final treat of the day.
The tall buildings are on the Canadian side of the river, which I’m told is ‘tacky’. The US side was, at one time, heavily industrialised, due to all of the free power available, but after a public campaign and subscription, was purchased and turned into a park.
The boats here are Maids of the Mist which offer an excursion right into the cauldron of Horseshoe Falls. On the American boats everybody wears a blue coat – I say coat, but really polythene bag is closer to the truth – whereas the Canadian boats offer their customers red bags. I’m not sure why the colour-coding is deemed necessary.
Because we were relatively early, TBH was convinced that we could avoid having to queue for the Cave of the Winds and she was absolutely right. A lift takes you down to the bottom of the Falls…
For this experience, the ponchos are yellow. Here we are before we got thoroughly drenched…
The noise and the wind are phenomenal.
In places the platforms were awash. The Hurricane Deck was particularly wet. As the name suggests, a powerful blast of wind was driving across the deck, carrying a great deal of water with it. I was happy to watch the others take a cold shower.
Here they are afterwards. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but they were drenched. B was having a wail of a time and almost broke into a smirk.
The penny-pinching side of my nature asserted itself and I declared myself satisfied with what I’d seen. Somewhat to my surprise, the DBs agreed. Thankfully, TBH told us we’d wouldn’t be coming back this way any time soon, and that she was going on the Maid of the Mist, with us or without us. We rapidly changed our minds and were soon queueing for a trip. Thank goodness we did.
We weren’t very close to the front of the group going on to the boat. Lots of people were rushing to try to get a spot near to the front on the top deck, but hardly anyone was stopping on the lower deck, so I suggested we try that. It was a great choice, there were hardly any people there, we were able to stand right at the front, but also had space to wander about and to find other vantage points.
As we approached the maelstrom of Horseshoe Falls, the the falls themselves disappeared into the drenching mist. The roar of the falls was deafening, the boat swayed on the surging waters. It was chaotic, and my attempts to take photos were doomed to failure, but the immense power of the falls has left a lasting impression.
I was amazed to see gulls and diving ducks swimming on the surface of the river – it seemed incredible that anything could survive on or in the river – or that there could be any food there for the birds to find.
When you get off the Maid of the Mist, you have the option to climb a set of stairs at the side of American Falls – you can see them in the photo below. On a fine sunny day, full of very wet and windy experiences, this may well have been the wettest and windiest. Near the top, there was a bit of a queue to climb the last few steps – we decided that we really had now had enough and beat a hasty retreat back down the waiting lift.