Great Lakes Road Trip day 9: Niagara

Well. You know what today is all about: there’s only one reason that people come to Niagara, surely? Yes – we’re going to be attempting a tightrope walk across the Niagara river, like Blondin did in 1859, and Nik Wallenda did as recently as 2012. Mind you, Dominic’s a bit afraid of heights, so scrap that. Instead: let’s seal ourselves in a barrel and throw ourselves over the falls like Annie Taylor did in 1901, followed by a queue of other loons. Still a bit crazy? How about a sedate canoe ride down the Niagara river and over the falls? That’s what Jessie Sharp tried in 1990. 1990! Where’s the health and safety officer? Sadly, he died. Anyway – after lots of deaths, some near misses and the odd success story, we decided to stick to the safe option: sailing in a pleasure cruiser into the heart of the falls. Our biggest decision? Which side to launch our intrepid escapade. The Americans dress in natty blue waterproof ponchos and sail in the Maid of the Mist, while the Canadians don a stylish shade of red, to ride the Hornblower. That was our preferred choice. So into the falls we went. Karen was so brave she decided not to wear a poncho at all. Or a barrel. In searing temperatures, the spray of the mist was a refreshing relief from the humidity on the shore.

Joking aside, these falls are pretty impressive – and the boat ride is a lot of fun, if you’re happy getting entirely drenched. Back up top the sheer scale of the falls and the force of the water is quite mind-boggling. Apparently, the erosion caused by the water has meant that the falls have receded 11km down the coast over the last 1000 years.

But if you thought that a phenomenally impressive wonder of the natural world was the only reason to visit this neck of the woods, think again. Just a hop and a skip down the river lies the picturesque town of Niagara on the Lake. And when we say picturesque, we mean chocolate box pretty.  Not surprisingly, there’s your fair share of boutique chocolate shops, so we had to purchase some delectable delights.

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Perhaps more significantly, Niagara on the Lake is home to the Shaw Festival, celebrating the work of GBS. Nowadays, the repertoire has expanded a bit – so had the theatres not been dark on the day of our visit, we could have enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, Joan Littlewood, or Chekhov in one of three delightful venues in the town.

As if that were not enough, Niagara on the Lake is also the epicentre of a thriving wine culture, with vineyards galore and a fair smattering of wobbly middle-class tourists cycling from one winery to the next. Sounds like a future trip for us and the Jaggers.

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However, the real reason we are here, of course, is to take in the lakes. And it’s at Niagara on the Lake that we meet Great Lake number three – Lake Ontario. Against the idyllic backdrop of a tree, we find a plaque celebrating the escapades of another load of crazies, who have taken to the water to swim 51km across the lake. We reckon the bloke on the right has just finished his crossing.

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Tomorrow, we’ll be making the same journey. But by car. And like the buffalo girls we are, we’ll be going round the outside. See you then.

 

Great Lakes Road Trip Day 8: Cleveland to Niagara

Last night we dined in a bank. Today, we robbed one.

Everything started as we had planned it. We left Cleveland by about 10am, en route to Niagara. We’d always anticipated stopping for lunch at the Chautaugua Institution in up-state New York. And so we did.

This had been recommended to us by our friend Liz. It’s an amazing place: established around 150 years ago, it was set up to encourage self-improvement through artistic pursuits, intellectual debate, and educational lectures. Chautaugua is now a gated community for residents and visitors, which boasts an impressive series of concerts, plays, operas, and classes, all intended to nurture creativity and community. This is something that is very relevant for us, since we are just about to publish our book, “Economies of Collaboration in Performance“. We enjoyed the peaceful vibe of the Chautaugua grounds and the idyllic views of the Chautaugua Lakeshore.

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There are events for everyone here – we even noticed that the Sports Club was hosting a Fortnite Tournament alongside its Shuffleboard contests. This is something that would appeal to our son Max!

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Sadly, we couldn’t stay long: we were soon back on the Interstate headed for the Canadian border and Niagara Falls. Having been advised by many people, we chose to stay on the Canadian side of the border, so we crossed over to Niagara (Canada) via the Rainbow Bridge and found our lovely guesthouse, Villa Gardenia.

It was only a short stroll into town, though we had to get some Canadian dollars out of the bank, so we stopped off on Queen Street, and that was where our trouble began.

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How were we to know that there was already a cash card in the machine? How were we to know that it would spit cash out at us from somebody else’s bank account? And how were we to know that the guy who left just as we were coming in would step straight into a car with the engine running outside the bank, leaving us holding the cash and not knowing exactly what to do with it?

So we went and had a burger and a beer. It’s always best to think on a full stomach. Now we’ve got to go back to the bank tomorrow, with our fingerprints all over the contraband and our guilt etched starkly on our faces. Good job we brought a handy holdall and some balaclavas. Karen already had a grilling on our way over at the border, and now in less than an hour we’ve committed petty larceny and grand theft cash machine. Gulp.

Notwithstanding this minor setback, we’ve found Niagara Falls (Canada) to be quite a pleasant town – even if it is very quiet. Looks exactly like the sort of Main Street on which you’d find a bank heist occurring. And they’ve obviously already identified Karen as a major wanted figure in Niagara Falls.

We strolled back to our guest house, taking a moment out to look at the meandering Niagara River.

You can’t even see the guilt, can you? Practically Bonnie and Clyde, this pair. Tomorrow, we’ll take in the Falls. (After we’ve returned the money to the bank).