It was friday evening and I was desperately searching for a car-rental in Toronto. The tried & tested methods of internet search and inquiry at the hotel travel desk didnt bring me any closer to either an Avis or Hertz that was still open. It was a late decision and I had to find a vehicle to drive down to Niagara falls over the weekend. Returning from Toronto without viewing the Niagara Falls would have plagued me all my life. Sadly, most offices had closed by 6:30 pm and my search across downtown went in vain (a curious inquiry later revealed Avis & Hertz consider themselves as an office outlet and not a shop).
I woke up early next day and walked the long mile from Marriott on Yonge street to Union station, which houses an Avis Budget under it. It was still cold in April and the wind made it feel like the peak of winter in Delhi. A cheerful salesman charmed me into renting an oversized SUV, the Hyundai Terracan.
Niagara falls is extremely well connected with Toronto, a little over two hours of driving time around the curve of Lake Ontario. Clouds had materialized overnight and threatened to spoil my trip. But I was resolute not to let the gloomy weather dampen my spirits.
The Welcome Centre at Niagara Falls is an architectural building that resembles a castle. Albeit replete with souvenir shops and restaurants. Despite being a Saturday, I was bewildered by the paltry number of tourists. Maybe it was the weather, it had already started drizzling. I stood at the edge of the railing, soaking myself in the spray of the water and also the magnificent sight of billions of gallons of water hurtling down the horse-shoe shape of the Falls. The mist rising from this immense pounding of the water rose high enough to kiss the clouds. I was torn between shielding myself from the rain, protecting my camera and not wanting to move away from this spectacle.
Anticipating a respite from the drizzle, I made my way down to the Maid of the Mist, a journey of a lifetime right to the base of the Niagara Falls. We were provided raincoats to fend ourselves from the fury of the water. The temperature went down a few notches at water level. The palpable excitement on the deck had everyone nervous. The kids were thrilled and couldn’t stop their chattering. Exhilarating, out-of-this-world, awesome, incredible are words that simply cannot do justice to the emotions you go through as the boat takes the curve around the Falls just a few hundred metres from where the staggering mass of water hits down and creates a mist that envelops everything around it. Ofcourse, thats why the boat is named the Maid of the Mist. Everyone screamed in unison as the water hit us, the raincoats unsuccessful in their feeble attempts to safeguard us. Did we really care about getting wet at the moment!
The whole region around Niagara is extremely lush and verdant. The roads are flanked by miles of greenery. My next stop was Niagara-on-the-lake, famous for its vineyards. The narrow road passes through some of the loveliest neighborhoods, picture-postcard houses with wide lawns and acres of vineries. I stopped by at a winery, underwent the wine-tasting ritual and bought a bottle to carry home. The road terminates in a picturesque shopping street. It was late in the evening as I drove back to Toronto, munching on Butter Tarts and Croissants from Willow Cakes & Pastries from NotL.
As much as I wanted to be here with my family, this was a business trip and I had to seek solace in bringing home pictures of this natural wonder.