September 2-3: Lots of falling water and color and history

September 2nd was a more or less catching up with life day, thank you so much, Christine and family. In the morning we went to one of the best needlework stores I’ve been in for a very long time, and I bought more patterns than I probably should have. I would give my eyeteeth to have a needlework store like that near me. In the afternoon I went and got my hair cut (third time on the trip, and the lady who cut it, bless her heart, fixed the disaster the lady in Quakertown, Pennsylvania created a month ago), and went to a quilt shop Christine had told me about, where I bought some completely unnecessary but adorable quintessentially Canadian fabric. And then they took me out to dinner at a very tasty Italian restaurant (well, the food was delicious, and the service was good – I didn’t try to eat the restaurant [g]).

Yesterday we got up at the crack of dawn to deliver Christine’s oldest son, Colin, to a boathouse down near Niagara for a regatta, then she and I went down to Niagara Falls. One wonderful side effect is that we arrived at the falls at about eight in the morning, before all of the crowds arrived. The first thing we did was do a tour called Journey Behind the Falls, which was exactly what’s on the label. We donned those funky plastic raincoaty/poncho things that keep everything dry except your head (yes, there’s a hood, no, it doesn’t stay up), your arms, and below your knees, and took an elevator down to tunnels that lead to the underside of the Horseshoe (Canadian side) of the falls. Thunderous is the word I’m looking for, I think. A solid wall of water pounding down just feet in front of your face, vibrating up through your feet and in through your skin and everywhere else. I had done the Hurricane Deck on the American side on my last Long Trip 17 years ago, but this was something else entirely.

A view from the balcony at the Journey Behind the Falls. A continual roar.
A view from the balcony at the Journey Behind the Falls. A continual roar.  And trying my best to keep my camera dry.
Looking across the farthest point of the Horseshoe Falls, which looks like the water is falling into a hole to the center of the earth.
Looking across the farthest point of the Horseshoe Falls, which looks like the water is falling into a hole to the center of the earth.
Another view from the rim of the falls.
Another view from the rim of the falls looking upstream.
See the people walking around at the bottom?  That's the Hurricane Deck I walked on 17 years ago.
See the people walking around at the bottom? That’s the Hurricane Deck I walked on 17 years ago.

The Maid of the Mist (American) or the Hornblower Adventure (Canadian) looking as if it's about to commit suicide [g].
The Maid of the Mist (American) or the Hornblower Adventure (Canadian) looking as if it’s about to commit suicide [g].
After that we walked along the promenade (I think it’s got another name, but anyway) for a ways up above the falls to the rapids, and down below the falls to where we could see the American Falls, which apparently only account for 10% of the water (according to at least two sources). The rest of it goes over the Canadian Falls, which explains why the view is so much more impressive on the Canadian side!

By the time we finished at the falls, the crowds were getting thick, and we had other places we wanted to go. We drove downstream towards Lake Ontario (the Niagara River flows north, which confused me no end), and stopped at the southern terminus of the Bruce Trail, which runs along the entire length of the Niagara escarpment (I’ll be passing by the northern terminus in a couple of days). Then we went to the Printery, which is all about the history of newspapers in Canada, among other things, and I got to operate a printing press, which was fun.

Further down the gorge, there's this bend in the river that causes a big whirlpool.  I want (close your eyes, Loralee) some quilt fabric that looks like this.  Isn't the color gorgeous?
Further down the gorge, there’s this bend in the river that causes a big whirlpool. I want (close your eyes, Loralee) some quilt fabric that looks like this. Isn’t the color gorgeous?
This is what the river looks like after it's had a chance to calm down.
This is what the river looks like after it’s had a chance to calm down.
The cast iron printing press that I got to actually print something on.
The cast iron printing press that I got to actually print something on, and the young woman who told us all about it.

Then there was Fort George. Fort George was all about the War of 1812, and played havoc with my so-called knowledge of North American history again. Plus we got to talk with some fascinating docents, see a scene from a play associated with the fort, and learn about the lot of a British soldier’s wife. Only 6% of them were allowed to travel with their husbands (chosen by lottery), and since the soldiers were conscripted for either 7 or 21 years all over the world, with no contact during that time, the wives left behind were considered to be divorced once the men were gone. Legally, from what I gathered. Talk about a hard choice.

A prisoner being hauled back to jail at Fort George.
A prisoner being hauled back to jail at Fort George.
The young woman who discussed the lot of British soldiers' wives with us.
The young woman who discussed the lot of British soldiers’ wives with us.

We were about walked out at that point, and Christine’s parents live nearby, so she called and asked if we could come over for a cup of tea. That turned into a really pleasant couple of hours’ chat plus dinner [g].  Thank you so much, Christine’s parents!

And then we went back to the falls to see the lights. That’s a spectacle and a half. Crowded as all heck, but what they do, once it gets dark, is play spotlights all over the falls in rainbow (and patriotic) colors. Staying that late to see them is not something I’d have done on my own (I don’t like driving in strange places late at night, and we didn’t get back to the house until almost midnight), but I am so glad I got to see that. It was beautiful.

Red falls.
Red falls.
Blue falls.
Blue falls.
Yellow falls.
Yellow falls.
Canadian falls.
Canadian falls.