Travel: A Grand Canadian Sojourn- Niagara & Hamilton

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The much-anticipated day had finally arrived. We were set to depart on July 1st, and thanks to the generous arrangements of my uncle and aunt-in-law, we would be staying at their place in Hamilton, Ontario. On the day of departure, we caught an 8 p.m. Air India flight from Kolkata to Delhi. We proceeded to International Terminal 3 for our 3 a.m. IST flight to Toronto. We finally touched down at 8:15 a.m. (Canadian time). After efficiently completing the immigration process at a self-help counter and collecting our luggage, we headed towards the exit, where my aunt and uncle-in-law warmly welcomed us. The car ride from Lester B. Pearson International Airport to Hamilton felt like a scene from a movie, with me sitting in an unfamiliar right-hand side seat, quite different from the driver’s seat in India. Apart from this being my first visit to Canada, another unique aspect of this trip was that my only travel mate was my mother-in-law.

Turkey Point
At Turkey Point

We took a brief rest before embarking on our explorations near Hamilton, starting with a trip to Port Dover on Lake Erie and Turkey Point. Our road trip offered captivating landscapes, taking us through counties. The countryside featured picturesque cottages, towering windmills, and lush meadows, resembling a fairytale. Near Lake Erie, Canadians displayed their love for the outdoors, with boats, caravans, and outdoor gear in front yards, a common sight in many places. After about an hour, we reached Port Dover, a family-friendly weekend getaway. Children built sandcastles on the beach, while others enjoyed Lake Erie’s refreshing waters. Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes, is so vast that it resembles a sea, receiving water from Lake Huron and contributing to the Niagara Falls.

Also read: All Set for Sète in the South of France

We also made a stop at Turkey Point, where we spotted a memorial to lost fishermen. The area around the lighthouse offered panoramic views of Lake Erie, especially during sunrise and sunset. Turkey Point provided a quieter alternative to the bustling Port Dover, and tourists often brought their pets along. Seagulls hunting for food added to the serene lakeside beauty, making it a perfect place to find solitude.

Niagara on the lake
Niagara on the lake

My long-held anticipation of seeing Niagara Falls in person was finally fulfilled. We left early to ensure we made it in time for the boat ride and the “Behind the Falls” experience. Finding parking proved challenging, but we managed despite the distance from the falls.
As we approached the falls, we could see the source of the dark blue and emerald green waters rushing toward the escarpment before plunging off the cliff edge, creating the world-renowned waterfall. While taller waterfalls exist, Niagara Falls stands out for its sheer volume and force. The rising mist, as tall as the falls itself, is visible from a distance. As we got closer, the sound of rushing water transformed into a thunderous roar, as if Niagara was unveiling herself to her admirers.
We visited Niagara Falls on the 4th of July, with tourists from the United States crossing to the Canadian side for a comprehensive experience. The US-Canada border allowed tourists to gather on the bridge, providing a view of the American Niagara Falls. The Canadian side offered a 360-degree view of the American Falls and the Horseshoe-shaped Falls, along with the waterfall’s source, from the high promenade, a perfect spot for photographers.

The rising mist, as tall as the falls itself
The rising mist, as tall as the falls itself

For an aerial view, one can climb Seyton Towers, and the Niagara SkyWheel that provided an elevated view, ideal for photographers. However, one can’t claim to have visited Niagara without getting drenched in the mist. With tickets in hand (purchased online), we patiently waited for the boat ride, which took us incredibly close to the falls. As we approached Niagara Falls, I was moved to tears, feeling fortunate to witness this natural wonder.
Visitors can enjoy more than one boat ride within their allotted ticket time, but we opted for one ride as our ‘Journey Behind the Falls’ experience was approaching. During lunch, we enjoyed live music with the Horseshoe Shaped Falls as a stunning backdrop. Another highlight was the glass elevator ride back to the promenade, which was complimentary. The view and informative commentary by the attendant made it a memorable experience. Having your Niagara City Cruise tickets handy when boarding the glass elevator is essential.

The Niagara boat ride
The Niagara boat ride

Niagara Falls is not just a captivating natural wonder but also serves a practical purpose through hydroelectric power stations that harness electricity from the flowing waters. A regulatory body manages water volume and speed for safe tourist activities. As we headed to the Niagara Escarpment, we noticed a lock gate facilitating ships’ passage between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, much like my experience at the Aswan Dam.
Our Niagara adventure continued at the Table Rocks Centre for the ‘Journey Behind the Falls.’ The entrance featured a shopping complex with coffee shops and eateries. Below, a tunnel led to viewing portals and observation decks, offering a close look at the Horseshoe Shaped Falls from behind. The elevator queue tested our patience, but blue walls displayed engaging trivia about the waterfalls, indigenous tribes, and the evolution of tourism. Photo booths provided souvenir pictures for a fee, with tourists flashing quick smiles for the camera. After a long wait, we finally descended 125 feet into ‘The Tunnel.’

Source of the falls
Source of the falls

Inside, two viewing portals provided a behind-the-scenes view of the falls, and railings protected visitors from gusts of wind. The wind’s force created a pool of water behind the railings, resembling a Roman fountain where visitors tossed coins for wishes. Most visitors gravitated to the ‘selfie spot,’ leading to some polite photography cooperation among tourists. This trend was consistent everywhere, with everyone wanting the prized selfie spot. When our turn came, we enjoyed our time at the railings, despite getting wet from the mist. The two open observation decks provided a side view of the falls and brought us close to the basin below, making the wet clothes a small price to pay for the experience.
As the day waned, we relished the mesmerising views of the horseshoe-shaped falls from various angles. A rainbow over Niagara Falls served as Mother Nature’s farewell gift. I silently wished to return to Niagara, and that wish came true.

sunset in Toronto
Sunset in Toronto

Later, I drove through Niagara Falls at sunset, witnessing the falls’ beauty bathed in purple-pink hues. The sight of joyous zipliners mirrored my mood. A visit to the Ripley’s Museum at Clifton Hill is a must for curious minds and fans of ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not.’ In the evening, Clifton Hill transformed into a miniature carnival, and buying tickets online for most attractions in the area can save time.
Niagara Falls takes on a different character at night, appearing gentler, with illuminated falls changing colours. Fireworks lit up the night sky above the falls at 10 p.m. However, to truly appreciate Niagara Falls’ grandeur, a morning visit is a must.

Another beautiful place to appreciate natural beauty is Niagara-on-the-Lake, where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. The evening breeze and the view of the lake offer tranquillity, and vintage houses transformed into boutiques and restaurants exude old world European charm.

Toronto skyline
Toronto skyline from CN Towers

We stopped at the floral clock, a perfect backdrop for photos, and enjoyed nature across the road. For nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts, Devil’s Punch Bowl in Surrey is a tranquil place, best visited during the day. The quiet dusk cast an enigmatic aura.
A visit to Canada wouldn’t be complete without ascending the CN Tower in downtown Toronto. The tower stands at 1,815 feet (553 meters) and offers an uninterrupted view of the skyline through large glass windows. The Sky Pod offers a better view but has challenging photo angles. For adventure seekers, there’s the option of an edge walk. Food enthusiasts can dine at the Three Sixty Degree restaurant or the café on the observation deck while enjoying the sunset. A shopping centre inside the CN Tower offers unique gift options. Toronto boasts numerous museums and art galleries, with popular ones being the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, and Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, among others. A day’s visit won’t suffice to explore all of them.

Toronto city viewed from CN Towers
Toronto city viewed from CN Towers

Walking back from the CN Tower to the parking lot, we enjoyed watching the green capsule-shaped Go trains frequently traversing the tracks of Union Station. Toronto’s robust public transportation system adds to the city’s appeal. As the capital of the largest province, Ontario, the city is always bustling, and experiencing it at night is a treat. During our day tour in Toronto, we visited the Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, which was surrounded by religious structures of other denominations. We concluded the day with a quintessential Punjabi thali dinner.
My uncle-in-law often took us on evening drives, and during one of these excursions, we reached a viewpoint from which we could see the Hamilton skyline. In the distance, we observed smoke rising from factory chimneys, creating a striking contrast with the vibrant downtown buildings. This is the Hamilton map etched into my memories.

Many places in and around Hamilton make for perfect weekend getaways. However, our explorations were not limited to Ontario alone; we soon packed our bags to appreciate the beauty of British Columbia, where more adventures awaited us. But what made me look forward to our trip to Vancouver was the chance to meet my sister-in-law Katelynn for the first time and my brother-in-law Ankur after a decade. It was their wedding that brought us to Canada, and for us, they are still newlyweds!”

More details on Travel to Canada can be found on their official website https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories

All images in this article are by the author.

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