It was sunny and a warm 72 degrees out (F), as we set off northward for our brief Canadian Excursion. We were leaving in a few weeks. for an extended Canadian Rail excursion through the Canadian Rockies. To gain entry into Canada, everyone is required to down load an app for Arrive/Canada and submit the information required regarding passports, inoculations and other pertinent data. Like most Americans, we were somewhat apprehensive about using the new system. We thought that we had better try the system out before we needed it.
At 9 A.M. that morning Mary had pulled up the arrive Canada app on the internet and filled in the required information, informing border authorities that we planned to venture into Canada today. Surprisingly, in a brief few minutes, an email arrived with a bar code scan that was our approval for entry into Canada. It can’t be this easy, I thought. Maybe at the actual border we will be grilled, sweated and interrogated further.
We drove North along Rte., # 190, across Grand Island and through Niagara Falls. At Lewiston, lies the entrance to the Lewiston/ Queenstown Bridge and entry into Canada. The line coming into the United States was pretty long. Apparently, it was a “bank holiday” in Canada, one of those mysterious holidays that freed up the local population to picnic, travel and enjoy the summer.
As we approached the customs station, we had our arrive/ Canada scan ready and our U.S. passpports. A pleasant young official asked for our passports. As he scanned them into his data base, he asked us our destination and length of stay. We provided that information and also advised him that we were carrying no fire arms and had no illegal substances with us. He handed our passports back, thanked us for the information and wished us a good day. Curious, I asked him about the arrive/Canada app. He said that when our passports were scanned into his system, the completed arrive/Canada application was attached to our file. It was that easy, no interrogation, no muss or fuss. “Wow, that was easy” we said as we pulled into Canada. We stopped at the currency exchange and received $244 CDN for our $200 American. We then passed through the bridge tolls at $5 per car.
We have made this run, north along the Niagara River, many hundreds of times. It had been some four years since last we had visited these environs. The homes along the Parkway could well have been country estates in rural England. They were both that big and that attractive. The rolling vineyards and attractive parkland runs up through Queenston and finally into the historic remains of Fort George. Its earthen walls had absorbed the shock of many American Cannon balls, fired from across the river at Forth Niagara.
Niagara on the Lake is about as beautiful a small town as you will ever come across. In appearance, it is “more English than the English, with its well-ordered Georgian facades. The many boutiques and small restaurants, that line the main drag, all have multiple displays of flowers in hanging baskets. The small park, across from the very attractive façade of the Prince of Wales hotel is the entry poral into the center of town.
It was nearing 10 A.M. and we were hungry. We sought out a favored small diner, the “Stagecoach” in the center of town. Usually, the interior seats are SRO with diners. That proved to be true this morning as well. But, they had erected a small tented area infront of the Restaurant, where we found seats. The very pleasant staff served us up some pretty tasty omelets and great coffee. As we sat, streams of tourists walked by the facility. Large family groupings wandered, window shopping and looking for ice cream parlors, of which there are several in town.
After breakfast, we too entered the wandering throngs, looking in various shops. In one favored shop, we came upon the most attractive Irish tweeds that I have seen, since Martin Standun’s in Galway. Unfortunately, the heat and humidity of Florida would consign these elegant clothing items to a closet, neve to be worn. I had a pleasant conversation with the clerk, who hailed from Derry, in Northern Ireland. We chatted briefly of the many visual pleasures of that far away misty isle.
Next, we stopped by a coffee and tea shop. The decaf, maple-flavored amber fluid was wonderful, a match even for Tim Horton’s. We sat for a time and listened and watched the peopled throng swirl by us. Arabian, French, Italian and a smattering of tongues that I have no ear for drifted by us.
It was past Noon and the streets were literally filling up. The many small restaurants all had outside dining venues, perhaps a carryover from the Covid area. They were fast filling up with hungry visitors. We made our way back to the chariot and cruised some of the nearby streets, enjoying as always, the well-ordered and florally displayed architecture. It probably costs a bundle to live her, we thought. But, it would be well worth the cost to enjoy such ambiance.
The River parkway South was busy with traffic. Lots of visitors come here every summer. The homes along the scenic Niagara River Parkway here command your attention.
As we approached Niagara Falls, we passed by the wonderful Butterfly Conservatory and by the picturesque Niagara Gorge Golf Course. The B & B’s proliferate along here, until we entered into the peopled maelstrom of Niagara Falls. The Falls area is impressive to even those who have viewed it many times. The coursing white water tumbling over the American and Canadian Falls is magnetic and entrancing. The pedestrians swarming around the area were large in number. I hadn’t seen this many visitors, to the falls, in many years. All of the parking areas were full up.
South of the Falls, the River parkway continues. At Chippewa, we drove through a site where Americans and Canadian/British forces had fought during our War of 1812.
The houses here are not as grand, but attractive still. The shining river and bright blue skies are eye candy. We could see the northern tip of Grand island sitting in the middle of the Niagara River. The boating traffic was increasing as we approached Fort Erie. It has been a favored dining spot for Americans for generations. Chinese food was the major attraction.
Here, we managed the circuitous route onto the Peace Bridge, the main bridge entry into the United States. Although the lines were not long, the customs entry process seemed to take forever. I can remember sitting in these lines for hours, on a busy weekend in summer. Covid has changed all of that.
Finally, we emerged into the United States and headed on home to the castle. It had been a brief but pleasant stay in a much favored and idyllic place in Canada.
Joseph Xavier Martin