Niagara Falls: Playing Tourist

Posted on 20 May 2010

To make a long story short, Helen and I should have been in Port Hope with my parents but instead we went with my sister, Gael to Niagara Falls – one of the seven wonders of Canada. (My sister thought it was a world wonder but alas Victoria Falls is more magnificent.)

I haven’t seen the falls since I was a little girl and I remember them as scary beautiful, set in a green wilderness. On Sunday, driving toward it, I felt as if I were in Las Vegas with its flashy buildings and billboards. Unlike yesteryear, the falls is a money-maker for the town of Niagara Falls. Parking alone costs $18. If you want to take a trip along the water, close to the falls, you’ll pay $30, and on it goes. And still, it is magnificent.

After our walk along the boardwalk, where my sister kept snapping pictures, and where I enjoyed people watching as much as fall viewing, we headed out along Lake Ontario to visit a few wineries and then stopped in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for a very expensive hamburger. What to say? I am grateful for the excursion, especially the nostalgic aspect of it, but I don’t like being a tourist, surrounded by crowds.

On Monday, Helen and I took a Go Train to downtown Toronto, wandered a bit, ate lunch at a fancy little place in Yorkville, and then she caught an Airporter to fly home, and I caught a train to Port Hope.

I am now at my parents home. When my mother came down to breakfast the day after I arrived, she had tears in her eyes. She said that she was happy. She couldn’t believe I was here. This morning she came down again with tears but this time because she didn’t feel well. She is always tired she tells me. After a short time, she went back to bed. A little later in the day my dad said that he wasn’t feeling well.

I worry about them. A lot. I see myself twenty years down the road. “Old age is no place for sissies,” said Bette Davis. My father and his brother say that one must not give in to time, one must not think that the end is near, or one brings it closer. My mother says that she doesn’t have a lot of time. Are the brothers or my mother wiser? I don’t know.

I am thinking of reading Helen Luke’s book Old Age: Journey into Simplicity. One reviewer writes that Luke “puts old age into the context it deserves: a time of spiritual clarity, when the flame of life-meaning burns brightest.” I remember too a passage I read or heard from another of Luke’s books that says something to the effect that if one wants to die a good death, one has to live a good life.

***

Something kind of funny happened yesterday. My first boyfriend – I think I was 15 when I first met him – was driving out to my parent’s house for a visit. He rang from downtown and said he couldn’t find the street. As I’m not that familiar with Port Hope either, I said I’d hop downtown and meet him at “Black Beans”, a fancy new restaurant. I hopped down the street, looking forward to conversation, and waited and waited, walked around the block, and still no M. Oops, I forgot to mention that he said he was driving a red sports car, so every red car with a fellow behind the wheel, that kind of looked like it might be him, I waved at wildly. Eventually my father drove up and said that M had called and he’d gone to Port Perry, not Port Hope.


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