I’m English, so I’m used to grim disappointment. It’s encoded into our DNA, like shoe size or eye colour or witty irony, so let’s get the disappointing part of Niagara Falls out of the way – somewhere in the area’s history, someone felt that the best way to complement an awe-inspiring wonder of the natural world would be to slap Blackpool on top of it. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t work – on one side of a street you’ve got the majesty of creation, on the other you’ve got random waxworks. I remain unconvinced.
However, I’ve been to Niagara before, so this time I knew not to bother with the town, just spend as much time as possible checking out the Falls. And seriously, they’re worth checking out. I have a habit of overusing the word ‘awesome’, but Niagara Falls actually deserve that description – they’re awe inspiring. Vast amounts of water just tumbling into a huge valley, a roar that shakes your bones, a bizarre urge just to jump in and be swept along – the Falls tap into something primal, you just look at them and respond on some gut level that’s hard to describe. But you find yourself staring into them all the same. I have photographs, but you could almost forget them, they don’t really do they job they’re meant to do. A large part of how we react to Niagara Falls isn’t the actual sight, it’s the sounds and sensations.
An example – the Maid of the Mist boat tour is something that has to be done. If you go to the Falls and miss it out, and you don’t have a good reason, then sorry, but you’re insane. And it’s a straightforward trip, doesn’t last long, and yet… And yet you sail as close as it’s possible to get to the Falls – literally, you’re only a few feet away from being crushed by a torrent of water than could easily smash you apart and hardly be disturbed. At the start of the trip you look faintly ridiculous, dressed in a standard issue blue poncho that makes you look like a cross between a Peruvian folk band and a shopping bag, but when you get up close to the Falls, when the spray just hits you and it’s like standing in torrential rain in the middle of an earthquake… It’s one of the most amazing things you’ll ever do. And you can’t explain it, the words just aren’t there, but yes, it’s amazing.
So if you every get the chance, go to Niagara Falls. Don’t bother with the town itself – I know their tourist board won’t like that, but I don’t care – just experience the Falls. It’ll be the highlight of your trip. And for once, the word ‘awesome’ is the very word to use.