Tag Archives: Niagara Falls

Cycling the Niagara River Recreation Trail

7 Aug

There are some unforgettable sights in Niagara, Ontario. One vision that sticks in my mind is the convoy of large, leathery women that I came across on my most recent visit to the falls a few weekends ago. Flicking fag ash as they slugged along on mobility scooters, folds of dimpled flesh spilling out of sleeveless crop tops rising above their bellies, the hooligans-on-wheels seemed oblivious – or impervious – to the fact they were hogging a path that expressly stated: “No electric vehicles of any kind.”

Yep, visiting Niagara Falls requires a tolerance for wheezing tourists, high-rise hotels, tawdry casinos, and gigantic winnebagos. None of this, however, detracts from watching six million cubic feet of water thunder down a 165ft vertical drop each minute, especially when combined with a trip to some of Niagara’s more serene spots.

A fun way to experience the region’s highlights, including the mighty falls, is by taking the Niagara River Recreation Trail from Niagara-on-the-Lake, a genteel town lined with regency and classical revival style buildings – the kind of place that the Lonely Planet might describe as “elegant”.

The 58 kilometre trail runs along the Canadian side of the Niagara River all the way from Fort George, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, down to Fort Erie. Both towns played major roles in the bloody war of 1812 between America and Great Britain, which helped to shape Canadian nationalism.

I cycled a section of the trail a couple of weeks ago, completing a 55km route over a very leisurely five hours.

The route

If you’re driving to Fort George, you can park there for around $8 a day.

The most scenic part is the first section to Queenston, on a path that winds past vineyards to the right, and the river separating Canada from the USA on the left.

Niagara Falls Recreation Trail cycling bike

The trail winds along the Niagara River

Punnets of locally grown plums, peaches and cherries are sold from stalls on the side of the road, and hand-painted signs invite you to pick your own.

Cycling Niagara Falls Recreation Trail

Peach picking along the Niagara River Recreation Trail

It takes around an hour to reach Queenston; from there, the path heads up a fairly steep, shaded hill.

The ground soon levels off and, around half an hour later, the trail takes cyclists (rollerblading isn’t encouraged) past the butterfly conservatory and botanical gardens, which could make a nice detour. Zipping past, I spied a turtle lazing in the shady streetside undergrowth.

Immediately before Niagara, the path vanishes and you’re forced onto the busy main road for around 10 minutes.

As you freewheel down the hill, the falls suddenly come into view. Ta-da!

Niagara Falls, Niagara River Recreation Trail, cycle Niagara

The amazing Niagara Falls

On the return journey, I wanted to see more of the countryside so branched left after Queenston and zig-zagged past rows of sleepy vineyards and orchards.

Niagara, orchard, bike, cycling, Niagara River Recreation Trail

An orchard near Niagara-on-the-Lake

It’s hard to imagine a more scenic, relaxing, bike ride – and all within 90 minutes’ drive of Toronto.

The sunset on the way home topped off a pretty perfect day.

DSC_0341

Sun setting over the water at Niagara-on-the-Lake

If you don’t have a car, the bike train runs all summer, taking passengers from Toronto to Niagara Falls station, which is situated a block away from the trail.

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First Five Months

12 Dec

Facebook’s inviting users to: “See your 2012 in review: Look back at your 20 biggest moments from the past year.” According to the site’s handy photo memo, I’ve spent much of the year with a drink in my hand and/or wearing questionable hats or wigs. Usually while pretending to be a pop star.

Personally, I’d have included emigrating to another continent, fulfilling my dream of travelling to Alaska and making the huge decision to leave my magazine job  in a list of 2012’s “biggest moments”, but Facebook’s  clever algorithms don’t seem to have quite captured any of this.

You can’t blame Facebook for trying; at this time of year, everyone’s clamouring to get in on the “Review of 2012” action. This blog’s nothing if not bang on trend (even though the phrase “bang on trend” really isn’t), so I’ve created an interactive Dipity timeline of my experience in Toronto, which starts when my husband and I touched down in mid-July.

Annoyingly, WordPress.com doesn’t like Dipity, but you can see it here:

Highlights

The timeline includes loads of highlights that I didn’t get a chance to blog about, including (not in any particular order):

Toronto Nuit Blanche

Colourful speakers in Nathan Phillips Square blasting out choral music during Nuit Blanche

  • Nuit Blanche – Definitely one of Toronto’s cooler events.  An all-night contemporary art festival, with car parks, public squares, cinemas and municipal buildings converted into installations for the night.
  • Haliburton Highlands – When my parents came to visit in early October, we spent Thanksgiving in cottage country. The Fall colours were at their beautiful, golden, peak and we had a perfect weekend of games, wine, a cottage with a dock down to the lake, some silly canoeing and a day trip to Algonquin Provincial Park.  If my little sis had been there too, it would’ve been perfect. It wasn’t bad though (sorry sis):
Algonquin Fall Colours

Fall colours

  • Niagara Falls by helicopter – Every bit as cool as it sounds. Niagara-on-the-lake is a really pretty town to wander through, too. I’m sure the wineries will call us back.
  • Taste of the Danforth – A meaty cloud wafted over Greektown while crowds lined up at stalls selling grilled quail, souvlaki and fried calimari at the hugely popular (Toronto’s most popular, according to the website) August festival.
Taste of the Danforth Toronto

Grills line the street at Taste of the Danforth

You’ll have to check out the timeline for the rest.

Btw, this isn’t meant to be a “hidden gems of Toronto” guide – these diamonds are all very much on the  map. But it all depends on what map you’re using; I don’t think Nuit Blanche features in any of the guides I bought before arriving here, yet I’ve never seen Toronto’s streets so buzzing (in more ways than one, by the early hours).

Some of them are personal highlights, like passing my sailing practical exam.

And  there are so many great experiences that aren’t on the timeline. It’s just intended as a visual reminder of what a fantastic introduction we’ve had to our new city – and hopefully, a handy set of suggestions or reminders for anyone planning to be in Ontario next year.

I’d love to know what other people’s Toronto/Ontario highlights have been in the latter part of this year – and what a newbie can look forward to in the first half of 2013.

John Howson

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