I don’t really know how to begin to describe the town of Niagara Falls… It is such a strange place. Some of the motels in the town look like the place people run to when they have murdered someone and grotesque amusements with many huge carved polystyrene creatures, flashing lights, and a cacophony of noise slap you in the face like a wet kipper as you walk down the main street. By comparison, the falls are far more tranquil (and quiet). Beautiful flower gardens (funded by some of the tourist activities on and around the falls) separate the natural beauty of the falls from the plastic commercial kaleidoscope of aggressive entertainments. You can stand in the gardens and watch the huge volume of water tumble over the edge of the world and feel the cool mist from the river below while a fibre glass volcano erupts and Frankenstein’s monster groans and roars a short distance away. My first view of the USA (ever) and of the falls was accompanied by the soundtrack of an Elvis impersonator giving his full repertoire in the courtyard by the gift shop behind me.
We wandered through the town and, amongst many other bizarre sights, saw:
* Dinosaur Golf (with erupting volcano) and Wizard’s golf (course entirely in UV light)…as dinosaurs and wizards need crazy golf in their lives
* A talking pharaoh statue selling tickets to see slightly dodgy wax figures of Heath Ledger, Katy Perry and Johnny Depp
* An animatronic Burmese lady playing her metal neck-extending rings as a percussion instrument
As we were in Niagara to see the falls, we did as tourists do and took a ride on the Hornblower boat to the base of the Canadian horseshoe falls. Bethan was issued with her own tiny baby poncho and the rest of us donned our green bin bags in anticipation of a soaking. The low rumble of the falls was strangely relaxing and the ‘rain’ in the misty area at the base of the falls was refreshing as the day was a hot one. Bethan enjoyed licking the water from the outside of her poncho while Catrin watched the rainbows. I think Catrin will remember the boat ride by the big waterfall with the rainbows for the rest of her life.
Later my husband and I popped out for a few hours to take in more of Blackpool Falls. We started with chocolate milkshakes from the only Hershey’s store in Canada…they were of immense proportions and had squirty cream and a Hershey’s kiss on top. It took quite some time to drink/ eat the whole gorgeous thing (and I still feel bloated 12 hours later), but it was the best milkshake I have ever tasted.
Full of sugar, we next visited the Ripley’s 4D cinema. This involved sitting in a moving seat being shaken about while watching a film about rats racing cars around a house and then a film about snowmen tubing down a mountain and having wind and water sprayed in our faces. It was good fun and quite silly.
We then went across the road to the skyscraper on its side with King Kong and helicopter on top of it to visit the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum. This houses many strange objects from around the world and was really interesting. There was one exhibit, though, which is still making me feel sick…a model of a ‘lily foot’ and description of how some little girls in China at the age of 3 used to have their feet intentionally broken and then bound so their toes touched their heels because that shape of foot is ‘erotically desirable’. This means that their feet were incredibly painful and walking was difficult, while standing for long periods of time was impossible. As the mum of a 3-year-old girl, I couldn’t imagine what would have driven another mum to put their daughter through so much pain and maim them so they were effectively disabled on purpose. The thought of Catrin in immense pain and unable to run around ever again makes my heart break. Thankfully foot binding is banned now.
On a lighter note to end the evening, as we stopped for a snack, we listened to two blokes ‘singing’ ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ with great gusto and enthusiasm (but with little musical talent) while their efforts were blasted over speakers on the main street. It made a nice change to all the karaoke divas who clearly take themselves a bit too seriously when handed a microphone. I was quite pleased that our hotel was away from the closed-eyed warbling and the bright lights of plastic souvenir shops as we shuffled off to bed.