My family had a three-week long North American holiday during the 2016 Christmas season. We decided to spend a week in Vancouver, Canada and two weeks in the US. This post: What to Do on a 14-hour Layover in Toronto, Canada?, was a recap of the first leg of our travel to the North American continent.
I have already heard of the Iceland-based Wow air which has been in operation since 2012 offering cheap flights from Europe to Canada and the US. But I found out about another budget airline also flying across the Atlantic Ocean – Westjet. A Canadian airline, it was founded and had its maiden flight in February 1996.
I found a flight via Westjet to Vancouver with a sixteen-hour layover in Toronto. There was another flight to Vancouver with a nine-hour layover in Calgary.
I booked the former as we want to see Niagara Falls and climb atop CN Tower. We should make the most of a long layover instead of killing time and boring ourselves to death at the airport whilst waiting for our next flight.
From London to Vancouver with a long layover in Toronto and be able to see some sights for £167 per passenger was a good deal, in my opinion. Also, it was peak season for air travels because of the holidays.
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At London Gatwick airport, we were informed that our flight will be delayed for an hour. The heavens opened and poured out snow in our destination. We did not mind the delay but another hour was added to our misery and now we’re starting to get worried. Would the flight be delayed further or cancelled?
I suddenly remembered about a European Union legislation entitling up to £540.00 per passenger in compensation. This is in case a flight was delayed for three hours or more, cancelled or overbooked within the last three years. I wasn’t particularly interested in the compensation. The delay was already ruining our plans. We want to leave as soon as possible. It’s Canada or Bust!
I am sure the airline was aware of the legislation and compensation. After what seemed like an eternity, we were allowed to board and the plane took-off. It was 1:10 pm on a usual cloudy winter day in London, two hours behind our scheduled departure.
On the Way to Toronto
Midway through the flight, the plane went through a series of nerve-wracking, longer than usual bouts of air turbulence. This would be our experience for most of the second half of our flight. The plane escaped unscathed and we were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief as Toronto Pearson International Airport appeared from a distance several hours later.
There were wild cheering and spontaneous applause from the appreciative passengers as soon as the plane touched down. It was almost 4:30 pm local time (Toronto was 5 hours behind London). Westjet was good considering we have to pass through those series of air turbulence and be able to land safely.
By the way, the airport was located in Mississauga. I wonder why it was named after another city. I guess they needed a more popular name to let the travelling public know which city the airport serves. As a result, the public would easily identify the particular country the airport was located. Something like “Oh, I know where Toronto is!” than “Where on earth is Mississauga?”
On the Way to Niagara Falls
A childhood friend and a long-time resident of Ontario whom I have not seen for almost 30 years picked us up at the airport. He first drove us down to his nearby Mississauga home to drop off our luggage. It took him twice the normal driving time of 20 minutes to get home because of the rush hour traffic and the slippery roads that have just been cleared of snow.
Next, we picked up his wife at her workplace and off we go to our destination – the popular and majestic Niagara Falls. It was about an hour drive to the city of Niagara Falls, passing the scenic Lake Ontario along Queen Elizabeth Way.
We had buffet dinner at Fallsview Casino Resort, reputedly the largest gaming resort in Canada. There is a section in its dining area offering a magnificent view of Niagara Falls. However, you have to be extremely lucky to be seated there as it’s always occupied by other diners. We have to settle in an inconspicuous area.
After a short drive and a short walk, we were beaming with excitement as we can hear the thunderous noise the falls make. The air was still, the night cold at 2°C but not chilly. Around us were buildings mostly commercial establishments glimmering in neon lights. Thick, fresh snow could be seen on the ground. It was almost nine in the evening, pitch dark but floodlights in different colours illuminate the three cataracts.
There were a couple and a small group of people who braved the weather like us. We first laid our eyes upon Horseshoe Falls, bathed gloriously in blue light. Thick clouds of mists slowly rising as volumes upon volumes of water cascade and crash in a never-ending process down the river. We were amazed!
Not farther away are the falls on the American side, lesser in size but nonetheless pretty in pink lights.
The world-renowned waterfall is shared by the twin cities of Niagara Falls – in the province of Ontario in Canada and the state of New York in the US. Niagara Falls is made up of American Falls and the smaller Bridal Veil Falls on the American side and the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.
All these falls can be best seen from the Canadian side. Named because of its shape, the Horseshoe Falls is the most stunning and its roaring drop of more than 50 metres can be heard from miles away.
We were aboard the car and I had a final glimpse of the waterfalls. Horseshoe was now covered in green light or so I thought. I could be wrong. I muttered to myself that it won’t be our first and last meeting. I haven’t completely savoured you yet – I have to do the “Maid of the Mist” boat cruise and the “Journey Behind the Falls” adventure.
Meanwhile, we need to have a good night rest as we have an early morning flight to Vancouver the following day.
We were not able to climb CN Tower in Toronto – not even able to get there because of time constraints. Besides Toronto is further to the east of the airport while Niagara Falls is in the southwest direction. One of the many good reasons to come back
Beforehand, I don’t even know the waterfall’s exact location. I’m not also aware that it got its name from the city where it was situated. I am surprised to know that the waterfall was in the centre of a highly urbanised area – commercial establishments, hotels, casinos, restaurants, etc. surrounding it. I thought of it as located somewhere in the middle of nowhere in an idyllic and bucolic setting. Just like those waterfalls we had seen in Iceland.
Also, I didn’t know that Niagara Falls was made up of three waterfalls. All I knew was that it was located along the Canadian-US border. Furthermore, I am amazed to learn that cataracts can also mean waterfalls, not just medical conditions of the eyes. The quote below truly holds water:
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley
Travelling is not only limited to exploring and enjoying the sights, sounds and everything our destinations have to offer. It is also a learning experience – an education outside of the four walls of a classroom. Seeing the falls up close and personal was incredible and made up for the delayed flight and the bad weather we have to go through.
Furthermore, travelling is about meeting friends who we have not seen for ages, catching up and enjoying each other’s company.
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