The Bus arrived in the Niagara Bus Station after only an hour and half (Wow)
We'd booked into the HI (Hostelling International) Hostel as it was close to the bus station. This proved to be a bit of a double edged sword in that , although it was only a skip to the hostel from the Bus station... it was a good half hour walk to the falls from here. Steph and I didn't mind anyway as we enjoy walking!
The HI Hostels are a chain of hostel in North America and this was to be our first real HI hostel in Canada.
Since it's a chain and since we are HI members we get 10% off our bill. However, this HI hostel wasn't particularly nice, nor charming.. so we were glad we only had 2 nights booked there (Even though the girl in reception told us our room was the nicest in the place... we were still unconvinced having seen it!)
Either way, we were there and we dropped our bags off and set off down towards the falls to check out what the scene was regarding how, when etc.
As we got closer towards the falls we could hear the rumble in the distance and could then see the spray rising into the sky in the distance.
We'd arrived.... where ????
Well.......... we weren't exactly sure... however............ it looked like a cross between Blackpool and Las Vegas (with a bit of water chucked in for good measure!)
It wasn't that bad... just the place was mobbed (and I mean mobbed) with tourists thronging from one place to the next trying to get the best vista in which to place their ugly mugs to get the perfect photo (Falls in the background but of course!)
The first thing I noticed was that we walked down to the falls and that the river flowed towards us. Maybe it's just me, however, when you see the falls in the movies you see the falls running from right to left from the US side (Left to right from the Canadian)... so for some reason I was surprised to see them running the opposite way.
Fairly obvious really as they run from right to left on the canadian as you look South as the river runs naturally down to the ocean (which was to our left or the East!)
Confused..... I was......... Either way... I was surprised!
Second thing was (I'm beginning to think I was a bit of an idiot regarding my pre-conceived ideas about Niagara! Steph certainly thought I was) there were 2 Water falls! Not just one big one........ but one big one and another one ? Why had I not known this before.... don't they have both falls in the Films etc. ????
Anyway, I've now been educated... well sort of.....
There are the American falls (Or Bridal Veil Falls) So called as they're on the American side of the river (or look like a Brides Veil?) and the Horse Shoe (Or Canadian) falls, so called as they're shaped like a horse shoe (or on the Canadian side of the river)
We reckon there's some kind of conspiracy here with the namings of these things....(Depends who you spoke to as to what they were supposed to be called!)
Anyway... the American (Or Bridals Veil) falls were lovely (if a little small.... you have to remember we've seen Iguazu... and I have to be honest here..... it's a close call but Iguazu gets my call at the moment!)
The Horse Shoe (Or Canadian) Falls (Wo ... this is getting confusing!) were more the typical Water Fall you were expecting to see having seen it in the movies umpteen times. The small Tourist Boats (Maid of the mist... or rather Maids of the Mists.... Many Baots, Many Mists!) bobbed into and out of the Falls every few minutes.
Unfortunately for us... the weather wasn't brilliant so we decided to head for a quick shandy (usual Extortionate prices!) and then managed to find a supermarket / corner Shop to get some Beans and bread (all they seemed to have) for tea
(Backpackings the life eh?)
I set the Alarm for 5am as I was convinced that if the weather was nice in the morning, the Sunrise would be great in terms of lighting for pictures of the Water Falls!
We woke up at 7 (So much for my alarm setting skills... )
We headed out at 8am towards the falls to get onto the First Maid of the Mist Tourist Boat trip into the falls from the Canadian Side. This was a great idea as the first sailing was at 9am and we skipped to the first boat with hardly a queue in sight. The boat was also virtually empty.
We were provided with the Obligatory Poncho (Made in China incidentally!) and headed out to the falls
(The American..sorry Bridal, and the Horse Shoe...sorry Canadian... ARRGGGHHHH !!!)
We got Soaked... however... the sun popped it's head out for a few seconds whilst we were getting drenched under the Horseshoe (or the whatever falls.... Feckin "Niagara" Falls... they're all going to be called "Niagara" falls from now on !)
So... whilst under the "Niagara" falls (It doesn't matter which one!) we did manage to get to see a small rainbow (Although no pictures I'm afraid!)
The Boat ride was excellent and guess what....
It was cheap at only $6 each
Having completed our first obligatory task of the day we went for a coffee... and a dry off in Steph's Case!
During Cofee we'd decided to cross the Border into the US.
We walked up to the Rainbow Bridge (paid our 50c entry fee... which goes towards the upkeep of the bridge) and headed towards the US customs. Would we get in we thought as foot passangers.
The Guy took one look at our passports and declared we had 90 days to come and go into and out of the US from Canada as many times as we wanted.
We stepped Into Niagara (New York County!)
Nothing changed really!
Same touristy things... big balloons, tall towers... casino's... however (and I never thought I'd say this) a little less commercialised than the Canadian side... WHAT ????
Come on America... what's wrong with you letting the Canadians BIg it UP better than you guys... We were both very surprised!
They even had walks through a forest (A real one too!) and briedges across onto Goat Island (over the river to the Island inbetween the American (Sorry) Niagara Falls!
Talk about confusing!
Anyway, we hatched our plan !
We were going to catch the Train across Canada and we were going to do this by purchasing a North American Rail Pass... however..... there was a catch.
Unbeknownst to our friends at Customs (We'd lied !!!!)
We'd really come over the border as the Rail Pass was $999 USD as opposed to $1150 CAD. This way we'd save ourselves $300 (150 Pounds by paying the 50 cents to cross the bridge!)
Backpacker in Charge of Logistics (Steph's new title) came up with that masterplan!
Genius I tell you.... pure Genius!
Anyway, we popped to the Amtrak (USA Rail) office and after some explanation of what we wanted to do, we managed to get our passes for $999 USD !!!!
Yeah !!!! $300 Smackerooneys saved!
Time for a drink! We popped to a 50's diner by the falls and had a beer and a burger! (well... we were back in the USA after all!)
We walked around the falls on the US side and then popped back over the bridge to Canada once again.
Operation Rail Pass Discount had been a success!
That night we popped down (again) to "NIAGARA" falls to see "NIAGARA" Falls by night (They light them up... bit tacky to be honest!) and to see the "NIAGARA" Falls fireworks Show (After July 4th in Boston... don't think any firework display will ever be the same!) and had some tea in a nice restaurant (surrounded by about 10,000 fellow tourists!)
"NIAGARA" Falls are really cool and well worth a visit to get the obligatory photo (Mine being with the Flag... but of course) However, Maybe the one night would be enough to see them and the Canadian side would be the better from a viewing point of view.
WE got a taxi back to the hostel and hit the sack after a few beers on the Town. It's an early start tomorrow and a longer journey as we head back to Toronto and then up to Ottawa for a few days (The Capital of Canada) before we head back to Montreal to see Billy Connelly..... the Big Yin!!!