It’s tough to revisit an area that I so thoroughly enjoyed in the past, but is no longer the same.
Gone are the busloads of tourists. from Asia and everywhere. Gone are the family vacationers making the yearly trek to Canada. Gone are the restaurants still shuttered due to the pandemic. And the few that are open just welcomed diners inside this weekend. Even the Seneca Nation welcomed back their gamblers, but with a ton of restrictions (plexiglass everywhere and hand sanitizers galore.)
Even the Maid of the Mist hasn’t returned – I miss seeing adventure seekers getting soaked to the bones. Meanwhile the smokey mist climbs to the height of the nearby skyscrapers, creating an alluring backdrop. Gulls prance around the falls, soaring to new heights. They roost, rest, feed and for now, they have this cascade all to themselves.
Meanwhile a surfeit of skunks sprinted in front of me. The mother leading her babies, staying close looking cute. I can observe but keep a distance because baby skunks can create a spray by 3 weeks of age.
Everyone knows that the best view of the falls is from the Canadian side, so for now, the international borders that flowed in unison remain a deep chasm in between.
But the one thing that hasn’t changed the magic and mystery of the falls which knows no border or is affected by a world-wide pandemic. The rushing waters still provides peace and serenity and the produces negative ions that improves your health and lower stress levels. Travelers know this, and that’s why many choose to ditch the mask. They need to breathe in the fresh air and feel the mist hydrate their skin.
One thing I like to do when I get here is go for a run. I can’t go for long – I’m no longer the runner that I used to be so running the falls is perfect – from American Falls to the Bridal Veil then to Horseshoe – each leg is no longer than a quarter of a mile, so I get plenty of time to catch my breath and reflect.
Another reason why I enjoy visiting the Falls is the diversity of people. It’s not just mostly Americans or a bus load of mainland Chinese tourists. It’s also people from the Middle East, Africa, India, midtown America, even the Amish. In fact on one visit to the American Falls, there were so many Indian and Pakistani families, that I really felt like I was no longer in America but in South Asia.
It’s a hodgepodge of people and just like the Falls, a huge mixing bowl of different nationalities, languages and cultures.
T.G.I. Friday’s was still closed but thank goodness the Rainforest Cafe was open and I sipped on a rum and coke at the bar enjoying the thundering roar of the lions and the elephants trumpeting under the aura of a tropical thunderstorm.
I was beginning to build an appetite, and I could have easily have dined under the thick shade of the rainforest. But I’m in Niagara which thanks to the large influx of Indians from South Asia is renowned for its Indian cuisine. I crossed the street to the durable Punjabi Hut.
I met Pameer, an affable fellow who has owned the eatery for 20 years. The place offers a buffet and outdoor dining in its expansive patio. From there you can see the mist of the falls rising to the skies and the tour helicopter buzzing overhead.
Pameer recommended the lamb curry so I took his word on it.
The sauce was rich and juicy and the morsels of meat thick and succulent.
And of course, I paired the dish with a mango lassi – the creamy, dreamy yogurt drink that’s filled with spices and fruit. It’s colloquially called an Indian lemonade and it’s both uplifting and refreshing.
So if you’re a day trip away from the Falls (yes, I’m talking to you Washingtonians), you should consider a road trip this summer. It’s natural, it’s uplifting and we need to do our part to boost the local economy.