“Toronto’s a bit limited for stuff to do,” says the bar tender at. The Town Crier pub on John Street. And while that may be true in terms of the number of options, there are some big ticket items you have to do while you’re here. And one of them involves a heck of a lot of water, about two hours’ drive from the city.
I’ve never been that good at history. What I do know is that the Canadian side is the best way to see this natural wonder. It’s cold and wet along the Rock Table – a walkway running alon the length of the famous falls. The spray is so intense there’s a permanent shower to deal with. During the summer months, the more adventurous take a boat trip or even a zip wire above the canyon.
Getting here is easy enough, with several tour companies running trips at about the same price. Though the fierce competition between companies spills over onto the streets. I had casually asked the man in the bus marked “Niagra Falls Tour” if he was the representative from King Tours.
“No,” he snapped back. “Why would I be King Tours? Where did they say they were picking you up?”
“Erm, just here on Front Street.”
“BIG mistake! This is my territory.”
Clearly as a tourist from out of town, I’m expected to know exactly which company I should be choosing. In the event, our tour guide is helpful enough, describing some of the sights along the way, though lacking somewhat in detailed knowledge and repeating each fun fact three times.
Niagra Falls itself is spectacular, but the rest of the town is a man made amusement park of fairground rides and casinos – which is replicated on the American side too. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but others on today’s guide tell me it reminds me of that place, but with more water. To me, it looks like the set from Scooby Doo.
All of that water generates a lot of power, and further up the river are two giant hydro electric dams, operated in partnership by the Canadian and American power industry. The area is also home to around a dozen vineyards, and the tour helpfully includes a wine tasting. The day finishes with a visit to the historic town of Niagra on the Lake – a world away from the tackiness of the buildings around the Falls.
Back in the city, and a visit to Cabbagetown, a district founded by Irish settlers. And Dora Keogh’s pub in Broadview is exactly what you wouldn’t do if you were creating an Irish theme pub anywhere else. Its stripped back bar room and small hatch in an enclosed snug, coupled with just a handful of taps serving the likes of Guinness, Kilkenny and Harp is reminiscent of the kind of place my dad would bring me to in Dublin the 1970s. And it’s wonderful.
Not a plastic Shamrock in sight.