The Falls

The next city on our trip was Toronto, but before arriving there we'd planned a night at Niagara Falls. It's about an hour and a half before Toronto, but as the drive from Boston was eight hours we thought we should do this famous sight justice and stay in one of the many hotels nearby so we could properly appreciate it the next morning. After a lot of research we decided to stay on the American side of the Falls (specifically we stayed in the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott) - the view isn't as spectacular on this side but the hotels are cheaper plus most of them include free parking and free breakfast, and also we wouldn't have to worry about potential delays at the border crossing at the end of a long journey. The plan was to get into the hotel, use the indoor pool if the kids were a bit wired having slept lots in the car, have a quick breakfast the next morning then head out to see the Falls first from the American side before crossing over to admire the view from Canada.

As it happened we made pretty good time on the journey so when we arrived at Niagara Falls we decided to go straight to the viewing areas and take a look. Even in the late afternoon light it's a majestic sight:

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American Falls in the foreground; Horseshoe Falls visible towards the back

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The real beauty of the American side is how close you can get to the water. And even back from the Falls themselves, the fury of the river as it battles its way along is quite mesmerising.

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After a good long walk to stretch our legs and take photos we hopped back into the car and drove the short distance to our hotel. We checked in while the kids played in the foyer... and then we heard a scream that could pierce the roar of the Falls themselves. Little Miss H, a month shy of her second birthday, had fallen into a low coffee table and had an almighty gash on her forehead. We dropped our bags, clamped the wound and rushed her off to the nearest emergency department. Thankfully there was no serious damage done, but the cut was deep enough that the doctor sent us home with a massive bandage on her head and asked us to return in the morning when the plastic surgeon would be in to do the stitches as she needed internal stitching too. Once she got over the initial fright our wee patient bounced back fairly well, so after we were dismissed from the hospital that evening we did what any responsible parents would do and went directly to see Niagara Falls again all lit up as the hotel receptionist had said happens at night.

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American Falls at night

Remarkably we all got a reasonable night's sleep, the bandage stayed on and at breakfast Miss H was running around the hotel foyer again like nothing had happened so we promptly scooped her up and took her back to the hospital for her stitches.

At this point I should like to say a thank you to all the wonderful staff at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center - from the nurses and doctors who saw her when we first brought her in, spoke to her kindly and bandaged her up beautifully; to the crazy Paraguayan surgeon who told our travel insurer over the phone that it was ridiculous he was talking to her first because yes of course stitches were necessary (another shout out to Mr H for handling all the insurance!); and finally to the strong (emotionally and physically) student nurse who had perhaps the most difficult task of holding little miss's head still while the procedure took place (her arms were contained in one of those stretcher boards with big Velcro wraps - like the kind they use to bring people down off mountains) - you were all excellent, and a credit to your country. God Bless America indeed.

Bags and brains safely packed, we headed over to Canada. As the internet had promised, parking here cost a fortune so we stopped right at the Falls and paid to stay just long enough to take a nice walk up and down while Miss H slept off all the excitement of the morning in the buggy.

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Horseshoe Falls 

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Looking back towards America (American Falls)

We didn't think we'd get very close to the water on the Canadian side, but you can actually get a pretty good view of the precipice of the Horseshoe Falls.

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Afterwards it was time to get some lunch before our onward journey, so we headed in to try to find somewhere that might offer more than greasy diner food (our lunch the day before at the long-forgotten town of Herkimer along the drive). The actual town of Niagara Falls is entirely terrible, in my opinion. It looks like a worn-out Vegas during the day but without the fun-looking hotels to give you something interesting to look at. It's almost exclusively aimed at children (or tired parents who want to amuse/lose their little darlings). From mazes to waxwork museums to houses of horror - it's full of bold colours that assault the eyes, tons of construction work and plenty of dodgy-looking car parks that are little more than big paved areas on the fringes of all the activity. Still, to our delight we had a tasty and relatively healthy lunch at a place called Kelsey's and then returned to find our car intact so with buoyed spirits, a patched-up daughter and a somewhat oblivious son (to both the scenery and the seriousness of the last 24 hours) we set off for our next destination: Toronto.

And for those of you who are keen to see that she's doing all right, I'll spare you the photos of the wound itself but here is the little lass a few days later merrily running around and nicking my coffee cup as per usual. Apparently there should be very minimal scarring, and as long as we put suncream on the mark whenever she's exposed to the sun over the next year she should grow up with nary a trace of her Niagara Falls souvenir.

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Coming up: Toronto - a chilly city.

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Cheerio, Chicago