Saturday, August 15, 2009

Niagara Falls

For those who don’t travel regularly, you may not know this, but crossing international borders isn’t as easy as it used to be. Even the Canadian border patrol was surprisingly annoying. You must have a passport now to enter Canada, and when you do they ask you so many questions: where you’re staying, what you do for a living, whether you brought cigarettes into the country, whether you ever drove a pick-up truck, how often you ate asparagus...things like that. Once we were in, we decided we weren’t moving the car again, so SVH and I never saw Niagara Falls from the NY side. We certainly didn’t miss it, however, because the view from the Canadian side is spectacular. We checked into the Radisson, and were we ever shocked to discover our "room with a view" really had a view! The picture you see above was what we saw from the window of our room: Horseshoe Falls in all its glory, with mist shooting into the heavens. It was like having our own neverending movie of the falls playing in our room at all times.

We stayed in what I would consider to be the more chic side of Niagara Falls, Ontario. There is every chain restaurant imaginable in the area, but the hotels are all newer with some dynamic post-modern architectural features. If you’ve ever heard that the Canadian side is kitschy, that’s the area further north called Clifton Hill. There you will find cheaper hotels, arcades, movie plexes, Ripley's Believe It or Not, etc. In other words, it’s geared toward families and children. Needless to say, we immediately left that area and returned to our end of the strip. The park overlooking the falls is well manicured and adorned with flower beds and hanging baskets. At one point I couldn’t help but feel like the entire area was a pavilion at Walt Disney World, “Niagaraland” or something, it’s so pristine, and the falls so miraculous they look almost artificial. (What does that say when a natural wonder looks like it's artificial instead of the other way around?) As for the waterfalls themselves, well they are absolutely breathtaking. I can truly say that they are one of the greatest sites in the natural world that I have ever seen.

One of my favorite moments was when I woke up early and ran outside to watch the sunrise over the falls. The sun was just peeking over the horizon but barely breaking through the mist and clouds. I took pictures (one of which you see below) as it slowly rose and glowed through the ether. I looked out at the river and watched the ferocity of the water rush toward the falls. It makes a rushing noise, a sound that can only be described as the terrifying pushing roar heading toward its destiny. With an energetic burst the water poured over its cliff, and foam and mist spewed upward reaching high into the sky. Through all of this the sun continued to poke its way, creating tongues of pink and purple reaching out to lick the soft blue sky. The gold-red light made an aureole, illuminating the mist like a vortex carved through steam. It was like something J.M.W. Turner would have painted. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I had seen out of the corner of my eye a woman sit on a rock nearby, but I was so intent on watching nature I didn’t pay her much attention. My eyes were tearing, from the rays of the sun, but also from the beauty of the moment. I was struck by the grandeur of the scene, the commingling of sun, sky, water, earth, and ether. It was then that it struck me, that if ever one were to doubt the existence of God, this was all the proof they would need to believe. I heard a sigh of joy beside me, and as I turned my head I realized the woman was a nun in a white dress and black habit. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. I almost said something to her, but she was so intent on the scene that I returned my gaze as well. Finally, the sun burst through the mist, but we remained quiet. Our amazed silence said it all.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Sounds fabulous!