Rain. Again. But intrepid, hardy and soon to become soggy travellers that we are didn’t let that deter us and we set off for Letchwoth State Park, bought and built by a wealthy man, by the name of Letchworth and a good job he did too.
Beautiful parkland, surrounded by trees with numerous views over the Genesee river and the Mount Morris dam.
Surprise, we had it practically to ourselves, and as Americans don’t walk anywhere (we’ve been told) all we had to do was get out of the car, take the photo, and get back in the car again.
We stopped for coffee at the Glen Iris Inn, overlooking the middle falls. They were preparing for a wedding that day, and what a wonderful location. The ceremony would take place on the lawn in front of the house with a backdrop of trees on the other side of the river.
The weather, whilst not conducive for long views, was excellent for atmospheric cloudy ones.
Buffalo was our next stop, home of the Buffalo Bisons and the best hot wings according to Pete Lattimer. We parked near the art deco city hall, not the prettiest building you will have ever seen and reminded me of one that was used in Ghostbusters.
There was a bike race in progress, through the city centre, so we had to scoot if we wanted to cross a road. It was very quiet, no-one around, but a warm sunny day for following a short walking tour.
Lunch was in Starbucks, having just missed the chocolate cafe we were hoping to eat at. Getting back in the car we tried to find the only glipmse of Lake Erie we were going to get, and managed it, just.
Turning the car in the direction of Canada, we headed for Niagara Falls. We were staying on the Canadian side and used the Rainbow bridge to cross the border. It took an hour of queuing.
Then we hit a bit of a problem. The Garmin satnav we’d bought with American maps didn’t have Canadian ones. We managed to find the hotel using a tourist map and the tiny map printed on the booking sheet.
Lovely hotel. Just a bead and breakfast, family run by a young couple, Dan from Croatia and Alexandra from Serbia. We got a guided tour of the hotel and a lot of information about the best places to see the falls, to eat and where to avoid. The room was lovely, the bathroom was lovely, and both full of touches like robes and slippers to use, moisturiser, sweets, a fully-fitted kitchen to use and a fridge full of soft drinks and water, all complimentary. Wi-fi was free, as it has been all holiday.
We walked to the falls, about 15 minutes, and WOW. The falls are just WOW. There are two. The American falls are pretty much regular falls but huge with enormous rocks at the bottom, and the ones we saw first. Further along the river is the Canadian, horseshoe, falls. A breathtaking arc of thundering, spray producing water. The roar of them both together is tremendous.
We headed straight for the Maid of the Mist figuring that if we got soaked we had the rest of the day to dry off. The cost was $19.25 each and for that you get a bright blue poncho and a ride on a boat past the American falls up to the horseshoe falls, turning around at the base of those falls and a ride back again. We didn’t get soaked but we begain to get wet far sooner than we anticipated near the horseshoe falls. The spray extends further than you think! It’s a bit crowded on board, and of course everyone wants to be on the top deck next to a railing, and not everyone gets there. The ones that don’t get something to hold onto are thrown about a bit. The running commentary is next to useless as you can’t hear a thing, even less the closer you get. But then we aren’t there to listen, but to see and experience this wonderful natural phenomenon as closely as we could. I loved it.
Once back on dry land we could buy the photo of us, dry, before we got on board. They cost $30 for two photos.
The other ‘up close and personal’ experience is Journey behind the Falls’. For another $16 each you get to go into tunnels behind the water, and that’s exactly what you do – look through a hole in the wall (twice) at falling water, from a distance of about six feet. You could be anywhere. You can’t see through the water, but you do get an idea of the force of the water. For those that are interested, there are information boards all along the tunnel with lots of facts from how far the falls have receded to how the hydro-electric power is generated. I wouldn’t like to try and read it when it was busy.
But the best bit was going out alongside the base of the falls. Wettest experience of the lot. They do give you a fetching bright yellow poncho to keep you drier and you get a real sense of just how much water there is and how strongly it flows.
Outside again you can see the entire river basin, it is extensive and the water looks impressive, deep and powerful. The photos we took will not do it justice. They wanted another $25 for a pair of photos …
We struck lucky for dinner. Opposite the American falls was a building with several food outlets, one of them being a fairly non-descript buffet. It was great. In effect all you could eat: soup, salad, main course and sweet for the price of $15 each. In a town like Niagara Falls it was a bargain.
As darkness fell a live band played and at 10pm there were fireworks over the falls. Spectacular. The town was heaving with people by now. More people than we’d seen in total since we’d left Boston. Even the light rain didn’t deter anyone just before the fireworks started. We were pleased we hadn’t taken the recycling option with our ponchos. We sat on one and wore the other!
Niagara Falls is akin to Vegas in parts but the real attraction, the water, is definitely worth a visit. The souvenir shops are plentiful but inside large shops and quite imaginative in what’s on offer. I would go back, not to go on the water again but maybe to try out the skywheel or the sky tower.