USA

Every time you go to a place you have been to before, new things happen, new experiences occur and therefore a new opinion about a place forms in your mind.   I first visited the USA on a family holiday to my grandparents place in Hilton head island in South Carolina. I was a baby, […]

Border Towns

Driving from Niagara Falls and across Ontario Canada to sarnia we passed so many small towns and cities with names clearly originating from Europe and more specifically England. It was quite bizarre to see a mileage sign to Windsor, Cambridge and London. Had it not been for the fact that the miles in between these places would have made absolutely no sense in England, I would have felt like I had been blasted back to the UK without my consent. The constant downpour of rain for the first hour or so didn’t help either!

 

Fortunately the further west we went the weather appeared to brighten up. So much so that by the time we reached sarnia, our border town stop off for the night, it had turned out to be a pretty nice looking evening.

 

 

 

I am trying to think whether I have stayed on a border town before. I’m not sure I have, and yet I was able to recognise and feel in the air that this town was a border town straight away. Across the water you could see America, probably about half a mile away, if that. We were staying in a motel type place I’d found online called ‘the harbourside inn’. Very simple but pleasant building located around the docking area. It’s hard to describe what this town felt like. Mainly it was very quiet, no particular hustle or bustle. It had this overriding feeling about it that oozed confusion. It doesn’t quite know where it belongs. To be fair, I think we didn’t really arrive on a hot summers day or anything which apparently is when the town comes to life. Lots of water sports etc goes on in the summer. I couldn’t help thinking that where we were staying couldn’t possibly be the centre of town. As we had arrived into sarnia we were told that the population was 84,000 people. I was wondering where on earth they all were! Admittedly it was a Thursday night. But in England that doesn’t usually mean a lot. In fact in some places Thursdays are the new weekend.

 

We took a walk down the harbourside path, hoping to find a nice restaurant on the harbourfront. There was not one to be found! Seems there isn’t a particular drive for the Canadians to sit and have dinner staring over at a view of America. Maybe it’s the same over the other side of the water. Or maybe its just my imagination.

 

We walked in about a block and meandered our way through the streets looking for somewhere to eat. We were astounded by the quality of the shops. Beautiful boutiques, designer clothes stores and no chains in sight. Perhaps this is the more posh area of sarnia. Who knows. Eventually mum stumbled upon a pretty funky looking restaurant called ‘ravenous bistro’. Seemingly recently opened, we walked into this low lit, boudois style restaurant and sat for dinner. The interior design was very well done. There was a hatch that allowed you to see into the kitchen where the chef was, and the place was pretty full. (That’s where they all are – eating) we munched through an amazing blueberry salad (sounds more like dessert but was quite savoury too!) and mum sampled some local ale, which got her decidedly merry after merely 2 sips, and then we wondered back to the harbourside inn.

 

A bizarre place is sarnia. Although I could completely picture the town coming to life in the summer months, and water sports taking place on the lakes, it was hard to imagine 84k people lived there.

 

The lakes of the USA and Canada are all linked, and ultimately linked up with the Atlantic Ocean. This then means that there is a large amount of commerce bought into the lakes from potentially anywhere in the world. It was bizarre to see relatively big ships making their way in the channel at sarnia when you feel like you are so far away from the sea! Mind you, the lakes are like seas to be honest. If I can call the water expanses in my parents front garden lakes, then these ‘lakes’ are by far most definitely seas.

 

 

Niagara Falls

After having a delightful hot tub bath overlooking the falls I descended down to the ground floor of the Hilton Fallsview hotel for breakfast. Once satisfyingly filled up Richard came to meet us and then the three of us headed down to the water front where we were to catch a ride on the ‘Maid of the mist’ boat that takes you right up to the Niagara Falls.

The falls themselves were of course phenomenal. I had to try and imagine that none of the surrounding buildings were there though. As with many natural wonders of the world; being turned into a huge tourist attraction makes it lose a lot of its magic. It’s a shame. I would have liked to have trekked a few miles and then turned a corner and seen these falls appear in the distance completely untarnished by humanity, and in fact with no sign of human influence over them whatsoever. It’s annoying that authorities didn’t ban building around the falls or something. Like in Paris where nothing can be built higher than the Eiffel Tower. 

Most people have told me its a ‘tick in the box’ experience. And it certainly is. I would go there again if all the buildings were knocked down and trees grew in place of lamp posts, and animals were at home in shrubbery instead of gamblers occupying the casinos.

It did remind me of Las Vegas in a way. I mean, if it hadn’t been for the falls, it would have felt like a mini version for sure.

I think as with most situations and experiences, an awful lot of what you feel about it in retrospect has a lot to do with who you are experiencing it with, or who you meet along the way. And in this case, the novelty and sheer coincidence that me and mum had happened to meet up with Richard at Niagara Falls, of all places in the world, was quite remarkable. I guess fortunately for the place itself this gave the experience quite a few more brownie points than it perhaps deserved. 

It did get me thinking about how small the world is. Over dinner last night we were telling each other stories of our ‘it’s a small world’ encounters. Like what’s the weirdest meeting/encounter of another person you’ve had that makes you feel like the world is just a very small place?

Mine was when I was travelling in Australia in 2005 with Catherino. We were at a neighbours party in Melbourne (super cool I know. You all must go) where to be fair the majority of those attending were from the UK and Ireland. Shockingly most the ozzies don’t watch neighbours (I know right!) 

Anyhow after an hour or so we were sat in a corner when a guy about my age came over and sat down and started talking to us. We did the usual ‘where are you from?’ Question. This resulted in England as the answer (duh). Then I asked where abouts and he said from Buckinghamshire. I was like ‘no way! Where abouts in Buckinghamshire? That’s where I am from!’ And he said I wouldn’t have heard of it as its a tiny village, but its in between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes. I said ‘you’re kidding – what’s it called?’ And he said, ‘seriously if you’ve heard of it I’ll be surprised but its a tiny village called cublington’….

Turns out him and his family had just moved out of the village to somewhere else in the country literally just before he went travelling. I knew who he was by name straight away once he told me his full name, but I had never met him. But there we were the other side of the world, meeting each other for the first time after having lived in the same village in England for at least 10 years or so.

Crazy eh! Or at least at the time for me, this was crazy, but its more and more common to bump into someone you know, or bump into someone that knows someone you know whilst you’re out and about travelling now I guess. Six degrees of separation..

After lunch with the daddy Goldson me and mum departed in the rain; destination ‘Sarnia’ a border town situated at the southern most part of Lake Huron on the Canadian/USA border….we had decided to break up the journey before we were to meet up with Sam in Chicago on Friday. As otherwise it was rather a long journey. Plus mum secretly, (or not so secretly as the case maybe) loves Canada over the states anyday so I think the longer we could spend in Canada the better!