Niagara natural wonders

Juneau traveler visits Niagara Falls, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Niagara-On-The-Falls and the Old Fort Niagara area

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2008

After spending six days with our friends in Rochester Mills, Pa., my husband, Don, and I were ready to explore more of New England.

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Courtesy Of Don Harris
Courtesy Of Don Harris

Our friends insisted that we first had to drive north to Niagara Falls. We set off for Niagara Falls, followed Highway 119 to DuBois, Pa., and Highway 219 north all the way to Buffalo, N.Y., and then over the Peace Bridge and through Canadian Customs.

Along the way, we stopped at an antique shop, filled the gas tank, stopped for an oil change when the dashboard said "Oil change soon" and ate hamburgers at Burger King.

We had no trouble finding the Sheridan Fallsview Hotel; it sat on top of a cliff above the Canadian falls.

The Ryens and Tina insisted that we ask for a falls side room. Our falls side room was on the 19th floor and had floor to ceiling windows that at first made me woozy, but I soon adjusted.

The falls were spectacular! The Canadian side is more spectacular than the American side. The Canadian falls rush over a gigantic curved rock outcropping and rainbows constantly highlight the falls. Millions of gallons of water continuously spill over Niagara Falls.

We took the funicular down the cliff to the Canadian falls, admired the falls and the rainbows, took photos and were sprayed with mist at times. Tourists from all over the world travel to see Niagara Falls.

We walked along the promenade in the direction of the American falls and the closer we walked, the better the American falls looked. From the Canadian side, we saw the American Niagara Falls lookout that was featured in the movie Niagara that stared Marilyn Monroe.

We walked through beautiful colorful gardens. The carnival and the midway areas are just a block away from the promenade and the gardens. We were disappointed that the tacky carnival area was so close to the falls and gardens. Niagara has one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world.

We walked back through the extensive hotel, motel and casino area to the Sheraton Hotel. We ate dinner in the Sheraton's Bistro. We returned to our 19th floor view of Niagara Falls. Across the falls on the American side is a wonderful Art Deco building that is lit up at night with red, yellow, blue and green neon. At night, the falls are also lit.

The next morning, one of the hotel's employees told us that the falls are turned down during the night. Forty percent of the falls provide hydroelectric power to the area.

From Niagara Falls, we drove further north to Fort George (British) near Niagara-On-The-Lake. Fort George was active during the War of 1812 when the British and the Americans were fighting over the transportation route between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

A tall, handsome young man dressed in an 18th Century uniform was an excellent guide and we learned quite a bit about the War of 1812. We visited four restored buildings including the officers and common soldiers' quarters. Don was quite pleased that our guide gave us a musket demonstration. We could easily see Old Fort Niagara (U.S.) across the river.

From Fort George, we drove to Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada's Prettiest Village. Niagara-On-The-Lake is a charming small town but rather touristy. The town sponsors George Bernard Shaw's plays and festivals. We enjoyed our lunch and dinner at The New Italian Place Restaurant. We spent the night in a motel.

The next morning, we drove south on Highway 104, crossed the toll bridge to New York and then north to Old Fort Niagara that is across the river from Fort George. We were not surprised that the video's text was similar to the video at Fort George.

A great French seal hung on the main gate. We admired the restored storehouses, the powder magazine, cannons, earth works, batteries, a bake house (bread), a well-stocked trading post and soldiers' quarters.

The fort's castle is the oldest building in the North America's Great Lakes area. The officers lived in great style in the 18th Century castle. Their quarters were quite fine for the times. The rooms were paneled, had fireplaces and upholstered furniture. The officers ate much better than the common soldiers.

Old Fort Niagara is a part of a large city park of many acres that includes bicycle paths, soccer fields and flower gardens. A wonderful white brick lighthouse guards the New York side of the Niagara River.

From Old Fort Niagara, we drove south and east. We were surprised that so much of western New York State was rural. We finally found a good antique shop and I bought a 1930s blue and white china clock. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn on the eastern edge of Syracuse.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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