On this blistering hot day, taking the boat to see Niagara Falls up close and personal was certainly a welcome outing. Very well organized, the seemingly thousands of people are shuffled through air-conditioned pathways, elevators down to the docks, poncho hand-out and on to the boat in military fashion. While I dreaded donning the plastic rain protection in the heat, I couldn’t get it on fast enough once we approached the falls. That’s one heckuva lot of water.
As we sauntered back along the riverfront path, a small girl of about six years went running past us crying her eyes out and calling for her Mama. She finally collapsed on the lawn sobbing, and two young women went over to help her as we came up. A small crowd gathered for a while but dispersed when it seemed the two young women had things under control. Cristal and I stayed to help. The child spoke French but not English. As we discussed how we could help her find her parents, a man came running up, thanked us abruptly as the child acknowledged and recognized him. However, he grabbed the child, speaking to her in some other unidentifiable-to-us language. He started to yank her along—still whimpering—as the four of us stood watching in some dismay. We discussed what had happened: she was talking French but he wasn’t. Was he the parent? A step-father? An uncle? While I wouldn’t say she went off with him happily, she went off willingly. I pointed out that, just because we didn’t like the way he treated her, didn’t mean we could prevent a relative or guardian from taking her. The experience obviously left us all bewildered and uncertain, a bitter taste in our mouths and the thought, had we done the right thing?
So, like the man in the program says, what would you do?
I had looked forward to our visit to Fort York, imagining an 18th Century fortification in an area of green on the outskirts of Toronto. Maybe it was the broiling 90 degree temperatures or the fact our taxi had to drop us in an underpass that took the glow from my mood, but sadly Fort York was nothing like I had imagined. A modern visitor center a long walk from the barracks and other remaining buildings put a pall on our mood as we sweltered in the heat. But worse was the lack of information on each of the buildings, the fact that we’d never been told we could take an audio tour, and the high rise condos and two major highways which encircle the site like Godzilla snaring the unwary. It was a short visit.
After a stopover at the studio of photographer Janusz Wrobel, whose photographs of water are internationally acclaimed, we stopped for lunch at a little ‘English Tea Room’ in the village of Dundas. The Olde Worlde charm soon paled into insignificance as we waited fifty minutes for a simple salad and quiche lunch, and the meter ticked away by our parked car. Tea was plunked down in front of us to steep while we waited for the ice to be bought and brought, causing the tea to be so tannin-heavy it proved virtually undrinkable. There were no apologies for the wait as the hostess sashayed around us, only 2 other tables occupied. This is the first time I’ve ever left a restaurant without leaving a tip.
We are in Niagara Falls at the moment, on the Canadian side. I read once that it was the commercialization of Niagara that partially encouraged President Grant to make Yellowstone a National Park. If it was commercialized in 1872, with people going over the falls in barrels, you can only imagine what it’s like now. No longer the place where runaway couples hoped to elope, it’s a gambling mecca, and as neon as Vegas. I’m hoping the view and the walks will recompense.