Niagara Falls, Toronto and Ottawa

 ... Another visit with our friends to the North

by James Tierney

After returning from Nova Scotia recently, we were back here in Canada visiting Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Ottawa. We were reacquainted with the loonies ($1 coin), the toonies ($2 coin), and the metric system (liters and kilometers). Several more visits and we'll have the monetary and metric systems down pat.

Like Kansas and Missouri have Kansas City in both states, separated by the Missouri river, New York and Ontario have the City of Niagara Falls in both COUNTRIES separated by the Niagara River, with the American Falls on one side and the Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls on the other. Niagara Falls (thundering waters), one of the seven wonders of the world, is second to Toronto as the largest tourist attraction in Canada, with 16 million visitors a year. Compare that with Hollywood's 7 million.

The waters of the Great Lakes feed into the Erie Canal through Lake Ontario into the St Lawrence Seaway. Fortune 50 [the travel group to which Mr. Tierney was associated -- Editor] members observed a ship going through one of the seven locks, where the water level reduces a total of 326 feet. It seems strange that the water level goes down so much as we travel up (north).

We boarded the famous Maid of the Mist and got up close and personal with the falls. As we approached the falls the thundering sounds grew louder and louder and the "mist" was more like a driving rain slapping at us. It was both a harrowing and exhilarating experience. A city tour "covered the waterfront", literally, giving us a detailed commentary of the area's development and a visual of all the points of interest, including the site of the hydroelectric plant where a blown $2 fuse resulted in the blackout of the entire east coast many years ago.  

We traveled the scenic Niagara Parkway and stopped at the Floral Clock, which is 40 feet in diameter and made up of 20,000 plants. It also shows the correct time. Niagara Falls offers lots more than the Falls. There is a casino, the famous Skylon Tower, and a strip called Clifton Hill with glittering lights and exciting nightlife activity, featuring many clubs, restaurants, shopping areas, etc. Our dinner show in Niagara Falls featured the popular and long running show "Oh Canada, Eh".

Approaching Toronto was like arriving in Boston with its impressive skyline and busy thoroughfares. The Hancock Tower pales in size to the Canadian National Tower, which is the tallest structure in the world. Yonge, Bloor, and King Streets compare with Tremont, Boylston, and Newbury Streets. The Skydome, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, with its retractable roof and hotel overlooking the field, is similar to Fenway ONLY in the official field measurements.

Some of us took the Hippo tour (another name for Duck tour) while others visited the Hockey Hall of Fame, taking pictures with the Stanley Cup. We visited the impressive "castle-like" Royal York Hotel where the Royal Family stays when in town, and we learned that the Union Station across from the hotel, with its up and down levels for arrivals and departures, was the model for airport design. Toronto, population of 2.5 million, has North America's largest public rapid transit system after New York and is known as Silicon Valley North with seven of the top ten information technology companies.

On our way to Ottawa, we stopped at Kingston, the first capital of Canada. Canada was originally named Kanata, meaning village. Fort Henry is in Kingston and built in 1830 as a first line of defense against "US invasion".

Like some southerners still fighting the Civil War, some Canadians are still fighting the War of 1812. They claim the US started the war, burning down their Parliament building. They, in turn, burned our White House that got its name from the several coats of white paint it took to restore it. If truth be told, America supposedly won its independence from England on July 4, 1776 but the British never really left America and STILL tried to take over the country. They wanted control of Baltimore, New Orleans, and Washington D.C. and much of the fighting was at the borders of Canada because Canada was still part of Great Britain at the time. Although nobody really won the two-year War of 1812, historians say it finally confirmed American independence from England. Lighten up and get over it, my Canadian friends.

Visiting Ottawa was like being in England with its impressive stately government buildings and ambiance. The Parliament building tour gave us a taste of daily government procedures and protocol, with visits to the House of Commons (elected officials) and the Senate (appointed officials). Outside the Parliament building there is a daily ceremonial changing of the guards, reminiscent of Buckingham Palace.

Other buildings on "The Hill" are the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber, and the National Library, and further up along the Rideau Falls are the Prime Minister's residence, the Supreme Court and the embassies. Unfortunately Paul Cellucci wasn't available. Some of us wanted to discuss the Big Dig with him. The ByWard Market, somewhat like Quincy Market, provided plenty to do at our leisure.

We stayed at very nice hotels, Michael's Inn in Niagara Falls, Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto, and Crowne Plaza in Ottawa. Although we traveled the Mass Pike and New York Thruway up to Buffalo to get there, our return trip brought us through Montreal and Vermont, enjoying different scenery along the way. Our trip took us through four states and two provinces.


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