Canada

Across North America, Day 8: Niagara Falls

We couldn’t leave Toronto without having one more delicious meal. In honour of Sam’s 30th birthday, we set down the block to dine at Emma’s Country Kitchen.

Now this breakfast, was a fantastic breakfast.

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Liz is Quebecois and a food pro – she knew exactly what to order. We started off with house-made peanut butter chocolate pretzel doughnuts, maple bacon doughnuts, and oven-warm beignettes bursting with hot caramel and dusted in icing sugar. This might actually still my beating heart.

On top of that, I had huge slices of french toast with sour cherry compote and whipped cream cheese, made with bread baked in-house and a side of peameal bacon cured right there.

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Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

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I washed it down with Uncle Grey tea by Tea Squared – a charming take on Earl Grey.

Somehow, on the way home we started talking about more food – taiyaki. Now, I haven’t had a good taiyaki since we were in South Korea last year.

It was resolved we’d get some before Rob and I set off for Niagara. Back at the apartment, we waited for a keg from Duggans Brewery full of Sorachi Lager  to arrive for the birthday shenanigans, and then headed over to the market in Koreatown near Christie Pits where Kevin’s Taiyaki can be found inside the Central Market.

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This market had everything you need to quell your asian food fix. Mostly Japanese and Korean, I also spotted a few Chinese and Vietnamese items.

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Snacks acquired, and the van cleaned out and prepared for the next leg, we jumped in and headed towards…

Niagara Falls

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Now,  there’s a whole lot about Niagara Falls that’s really interesting but that doesn’t fit into my short, one-day-tourist experience here. I recommend is that you check out the documentary The Falls, by Kevin McMahon. I heard this guy speak at The Walrus Talks Water in Halifax, and his work shows a side of the falls overlooked in the tourist kitsch narrative most of us see.

First of all, the falls are a massive curtain of water that cascade so heavily that they kick up a mist so heavy that at times you’re not sure whether its raining or not, and Niagara Falls is the name for the collection of three waterfalls that pour into the Niagara Gorge, which lies on the border between Canada and The United States. Their names are the Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls, and the iconic Horseshoe Falls which forms a semi-circle on the Canadian side.

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Niagara Falls has operated without tax dollars since 1885. It’s able to function on tourist revenue alone and feels like Disney World, or a similar large-scale theme park.

In its vicinity are numerous other theme parks and attractions which fall into the same category of family fun parks, and there’s the popular Maid of the Mist tours that take you on a boat into the base of the falls for a closer view (as seen in the top image).

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We had a good time taking in the impressive scene, but I felt like I would have enjoyed it more if I had to hike for an hour or so into the forest to get to it, and there wasn’t a huge tourism machine churning behind my back, but hey, c’est là vie.

One really nice aspect of the expensive $20-for-the-day parking is that the parking lot fringes on a large picnic field. There were a lot of families with barbecues and huge meal setups, sitting on picnic blankets and persian carpets, enjoying family time. There was one group of people with all these great smelling curry dishes we walked by, and I very much wished I was a part of their family.

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Our night after Niagara took a turn for the weird.

We ended up taking too long to get to the campsite we planned to use, and missed the check-in time. We were going to sleep in a Walmart parking lot instead, but the bright parking lot lights came through our opaque curtains and made it akin to trying to sleep with a flashlight in your face.

We decided to drive on and pick a rest spot (a.k.a. little patch of gravel) off the highway to set up camp for the night – there would be no overhead lights, it’s legal, and it would be easier to sleep.

So we found a place, set up, and drifted off.

About an hour or so later, we woke up to headlights coming in through our rear window.

We thought it might just be a police officer coming to check on us, or someone else parking for the night, but they stayed there for ten minutes. Doing nothing, just keeping the lights on. Then drove away.

It was kind of weird, but I went back to my pillow to try and get back to sleep. Five minutes later, two cars pulled up along the corn field on the opposite side of the highway and turned off all their lights, but left their engines running. We heard people getting out, some muffled voices, and then the crunch of gravel as they started to walk towards us.

Suspicious, Rob jumped into the driver’s seat and drove us out of there. He saw the group of people was four middle-aged guys.

It’s impossible to say what exactly the intentions of those guys were, or if they were connected to the first car that pulled up behind us, or if we just happen to be parked next to their midnight smoking hideaway, but it seemed a better idea to get out of there than to stay.

We drove a bit, found a shitty motel room, and spent the night there.  To give you a hint of the flavour of motel it was: we were checking in around 1am, and there was a guy there just checking out. The Stag Shop and The Naughty Shop were located just across the street.

Oh, and we may have ran over a skunk carcass on the way?

It was a weird night.  At least in the morning we didn’t have to check out until 11am so we had lots of time to charge our electronics and answer some email on their super-slow wifi.

Living large, Ontario.

Time to head for the border.

Day 8 Costs:

  • Green P Parking on Bloor: .75c
  • Snacks at Korean Market (Matcha Kit Kat, Coconut Pocky, Ito en Green Tea x2): $15.10
  • Taiyaki at Korean Market (Kevin’s Taiyaki): $28.10 (for friends as gifts, as a few for us too!)
  • Tuna Wrap and Latte at Starbucks in St. Catherine’s, ON: $10.96
  • Niagara Falls Day Parking: $20.00
  • Gas in London, ON: $50.00
  • Motel: $85.00

Total: $209.91

 

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