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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Disaster in Niagara

You know how on coach trips there's always one dozy couple that comes back late? Well, at Niagara Falls that couple was us - me and J - and not by just a few minutes either. I don't think I have ever been so mortified. More on that shortly.

The day trip to Niagara was what clinched the deal when J was pitching the Toronto Marasthon to me a few months ago. However, on the day it was raining and quite cold and we had Sore Misgivings, to quote Mrs Fussey from Carry on Camping, when we saw the itinerary. Not just the falls but several related "experiences", a shopping town (Niagara on the Lake) and a winery.

Fred, our Toronto Tours guide, said we wouldn't be back until 7pm. Groan, we thought. However, Fred's running commentary from Tronto (as he pronounced it) to the Falls was quite entertaining and I learnt a lot, including a story about the mayor of Mississauga, the doughty Hurricane Hazel aged 80+, slogan "I get things done, don't stand in my way".

It was tipping down when we arrived at Niagara and I was glad I wasn't wearing my sparkly plimsolls with the hole in. Then the sun came out for a while and boosted the photographs no end.

After the "eat all you like international buffet" we set off for the highlight of the day, seeing the Falls close-up on the Maid of the Mist boat (est.1846).

We were issued with blue plastic raincoats and off we went. Now I've never heard the trip described as a comedy but that's what it was like, because the wind was so fierce it was ripping the raincoats from us. Meanwhile those on the top deck quickly scurried downstairs as what seemed like buckets of water were hurled at us. We were all in stitches.

We didn't see too much "up close and personal", just a seething mass of white water.

Afterwards, we lurched somewhat shell-shocked into Starbucks and I hoped that clutching a hot beverage would restore the circulation in my fingers.

We were a bit bored in Starbucks to tell the truth and wished that we could go back to the bus sooner, but Fred had said 3.30.

At 3.30, we headed towards the bus and were pleased to see it moving towards us. In fact, it was leaving without us, but fortunately someone on board spotted my green coat and made Fred stop. "Are we late?" enquired J, to which the reply was a terse "30 minutes and I was just leaving without you".

J was apologising to the other 24 passengers but I was so mortified I shuffled to my seat, sadly at the front, conscious that 24 pairs of eyes were laser focused on the backs of our heads. Me, who is always so punctual!

We then stopped for a 5 minute photo opportunity further down the road and J and I were almost too sheepish to get off.

We couldn't wait to get through the rest of the itinerary after that debacle. Niagara on the Lake was like Stepford, a charming, flower strewn little town with window boxes everywhere and not a piece of litter to be seen. Spooky. Nobody seemed to buy anything in the shops which sold gifts, Christmas baubles, foodie food and, for some reason, Irish jumpers.

J and I scuttled back to the coach very promptly (first back) and heard Fred having an argument with the next location about how two coaches would arrive at the same time and they would have to deal with it.

Next up was the winery, or rather, Niagara's training college. Here a very professional and likeable lady called Vivian gave us some tips about wine tasting and shared some insights into creating ice wines, which the region is renowned for.

We got back to Tronto at 7.20pm which wasn't too bad, although 30 minutes later than planned thanks to two idiots from London.

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