Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last Stop, Buffa.... I mean, Niagara Falls

We left Columbus and headed back to Cleveland so we could get one last look before moving on to our final stop before heading home, Buffalo, NY.

We chose Buffalo for two reasons:   Although having driven by Buffalo many times, neither of us had ever visited the city before, and it would give us a comfortable 6 hour drive home instead of trying to go straight through from Columbus.  We passed Cleveland and drove along Lake Erie, catching a glimpse of it occasionally.  We drove through a bit of Pennsylvania, and into upstate New York.  It's a peaceful and pretty drive, the scenery getting a bit more hilly, and apple orchards and vineyards dotting the landscape.

We made our way to Buffalo, and at first we were kind of excited.  It reminded me in many ways of Worcester, kind of a diamond in the rough as far as cities go.  We spotted some decent architecture - Steve nearly jumped out of the car when he saw a Louis Sullivan (his favorite architect) building, and we were there pretty early in the day - about 3:30 PM, plenty of time to go sightseeing.

Then things started to go wrong.  First, we got to our hotel and couldn't figure out where to park to unload the luggage.  Couldn't even find the entrance at first.  So we pulled over and Steve went walking around what we thought was the front of the building to get a luggage cart.  His first clue that this was not such a good idea was when he noticed the front of the hotel, housing a well-known chain restaurant, was locked up tighter than Fort Knox, big signs plastered all around "Restaurant Only Accessible From Inside Hotel".  Several homeless people approached him, looking for money.  Well, yeah, that can happen anywhere.  But every step he took into the hotel just felt wrong - then they tell him "parking available" meant three blocks away.  When we finally made our way into the hotel, the carpet was stained and dirty.  Our room was actually pretty decent, except for the Zenith television.  ("They don't even make Zenith tv's anymore!" I was told by one who knows his televisions).  Steve wasn't so sure about this place, so before I could tell him MY opinion, he headed down to the car to get the AAA books to see about going elsewhere.  His final straw was when the elevator got stuck.  My final straw had already been broken, when some woman waddled up to our car as I sat inside with my daughter, squatted and urinated on the sidewalk in front of us.

I'm pretty sympathetic.  I felt bad for her - your dignity has got to have flown the coop if you do something like that.   And even for Buffalo - like I said, we're from the Worcester area, and we see a side of Worcester that people passing through don't.  Your first impression of Worcester probably won't be a good one - it looks a bit unkempt, dirty, there is a homeless problem, a lot of urban youth pretending to be something they're not, and there are quite a few vacant businesses.  But there's also great architecture, history, museums, some truly beautiful neighborhoods, parks, friendly people, art, culture, ethnic diversity and some interesting businesses, including some of the best restaurants I've ever eaten at.  I didn't want to write off Buffalo based on a first impression, because I hate when people look down their noses at Worcester.

But apparently, a Zenith tv was too much to handle.

So we hit the road, and decided to head up to Niagara Falls in the hopes of finding a decent place to say.  And there, on the horizon, was a multi-colored beacon of hope.

The Seneca Casino.  We would have crossed over into Canada, but alas we don't have passports yet and you need 'em now.  So we called, booked a room (for $20 less than the one in Buffalo) and went inside.

We're not gamblers by any stretch, even if we had not had a four year old with us.  We just wanted a safe place to sleep, where we could grab a bite to eat.  The hotel portion turned out to be beautiful, really.  Nice woodwork, beautiful marble bath with a walk-in shower, nice furniture.  And a pretty decent view form the 22nd floor...
We decided to stretch our legs and walk down to the falls.  The actual city of Niagara Falls is all but dead - boarded up and empty.  But ten minutes from the hotel we arrived at a park that leads to the falls themselves.
It was clean and well-maintained, for the most part.
Lots of walking trails, and just past this statue....
You can start to hear the thunder of falling water nearby.  We walked a bit further, over a bridge and onto an island, and you start to see water, just starting to pick up speed.
If it weren't for the noise, getting louder and louder, you'd think you were at some little river.
But no....
And behind you is this...
It's amazing how close you can get.  In fact, Steve grabbed our girl's hand and wouldn't let go until we were far away from the edge.
And here's why!

Sheesh, I needed someone to hold my hand!  I get goosebumps thinking about standing there, that close to the falls.

Across the way (say hello to Canada!) was a cool sight - the old Niagara Power Station, below.
And we watched one of the Maid of The Mist tours at the base of the falls, and, in the upper right of this photo, shrouded in mist, the Cave of The Winds tourists also watching the Maid of The Mist tour below.

Either one could have been cool, but we were nervous about doing it with a little kid.

We headed back to the hotel, ate dinner where I had a wonderful piece of salmon and "ranch" mashed potatoes (had ranch dressing seasoning in them - they were good!).  We headed up to our room, and soon were all tucked into our beds.

Then at 10:00, we heard strange noises outside.  Car backfiring? Gunshots?  Nah! Sounded more like fireworks.

And it was!  We were treated to a nice fireworks display above the falls!  A perfect end to a (nearly) perfect vacation!


Lissaloo said...

I would love to see to Falls, wow :) The ranch potatoes sound good, I might have to try making something like that. yum :)

ChristineM said...

They were really good, Lissaloo! I'm not even a big ranch fan, but I'm even thinking about recreating them at home!

The falls were great - we've been to the Canadian side a few years ago - spectacular view. But our side ain't to shabby either! ;)

5thsister said...

I've always wanted to visit the falls. Thanks for taking me there with your blog!

Willoughby said...

You have found your calling as a travel writer! I love your vacation posts!

We spent a weekend in Niagara Falls, Ontario about 10 years ago. Everything was spotless. The streets, the parks, the tourist attractions. It was amazingly clean, safe and friendly. When we crossed over to the American side, I was shocked! It was dirty and seedy. The difference was truly night and day.

Chicago Mom said...

We stopped at Niagara Falls on a trip to Toronto when I was in high school, but I didn't appreciate it back then. I want to go back!