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Of Souvenirs, Statues, and Stupidity ...

Whirlpool Aero Car crossing over the Niagara RiverFollowing my trip soaring across the Niagara River Whirlpool Rapids via the Whirlpool Aero Car, I decided it was time to turn the car around and head towards Tourist Central - aka the Falls themselves.  Even though there had been very few people at the Aero Car while I was there, I knew that wasn't going to be the case down by the main reason that hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the area every year; however if I wanted to look upon one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world, I was just going to have to suck it up and become one with the other tourists. Before that though, I thought I'd stop by Souvenir City to take a couple of photos.Souvenir City Sign

Located just up the road from the Whirlpool Aero Car on the Niagara Parkway, Souvenir City has over 15,000 square feet of Canadian items and gifts from shops like Rossi Glass where visitors can watch artisans at work during their free tours and First Nation Craft Store which carries thousands of Native made items including dolls, totem poles, and carvings. As you can see, the sign above for Souvenir City is quite large so that tourists won't miss the place but what really made me laugh was the writing below the Canadian Mountie that says "Please Do Not Climb". If you look closely at the photo on the right, you can see the writing on the stand just below the horse. See it there? "Please do not climb." Considering how high up over the roadway that Mountie was perched, one would have to be pretty stupid to try climbing up there but I'm guessing the warning wasn't painted on there unless it was absolutely called for so I'd be willing to bet someone tried climbing right on up there at some point in time. Sometimes people do some pretty stupid things but more on that later in the post.

There were lots of interesting things at Souvenir City for tourists to take photos of including the Inukshuk above and the massive moose below. Just FYI, the moose was indeed an anatomically correct bull moose but I'm pretty sure that no one really wants or needs to see a picture of massive wooden moose balls so we'll leave that part to your imagination!

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
There were also these rather interesting "jigsaw" type Canadian Mounties on display.  Unfortunately, the Mounties at Souvenir City were the only ones I saw during my stay in Canada which is really too bad as I do enjoy looking at a man in a fine pair of boots!  But anyway, I digress ...

Skylon Tower
After driving back towards Queen Victoria Park and weighing my parking options which ran the gamut from $20.00 Canadian at the Falls View Lot which is the closest to the Canadian Falls to $10.00 at the Rapidsview Parking Lot which was the furthest from the Falls but provided a shuttle bus ride to Table Rock at the Falls, I decided to drive back up towards Skylon Tower and park in a private lot for $5.00 and walk back down towards the Falls from there. Even though Niagara Parks offers many good parking options, I opted for the other lot as even though walking up might be a bit more strenuous than going down was, I wanted to visit the Clifton Hill area on my way back to the car and this seemed like my best option.

Once I made my way down the rather steep path from Skylon Tower to Queen Victoria Park, my first stop was to take a picture of the statue of King George VI that was designed by Elizabeth Wyn Wood, a noted Canadian sculptor from Orillia. The ten-foot statue of granite took eight years to complete and was finished in 1963 just three years before Wood's death. The statue was erected in honour of King George and Queen Elizabeth's visit to Canada in June of 1939 when he became the first reigning monarch of Canada to visit North America.
George VI
Even though the statue doesn't bear much resemblance to Colin Firth when he played the part of King George in "The King's Speech" it's still quite the handsome piece of sculpture!

Across the street and down the road a little ways is a plaque dedicated to Louis Hennepin who is believed to be the first person to record a description of Niagara Falls in his 1683 book, Description de la Louisaine.

Louis Hennepin Plaque
Personally I find it rather hard to describe something that looks like this ...
... and this ...
The New York Side of the Canadian Falls
.. or especially this ...
Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Certainly the word "breathtaking" most definitely comes to mind and "awe-inspiring" also jumps to the forefront but until you experience the wonder of both the American and Canadian Falls in person you've really got no idea just how amazing - and yet terrifying - they are.

American Falls and Cave of the Winds

The picture above gives you a slightly closer view of tourists on the American side visiting the Cave of the Winds next to Bridal Veil Falls than I showed you from the top of Skylon Tower.  It helps a little bit in giving you a perspective on exactly how massive these waterfalls are but again, you really have to see them in person to get the full picture.   

Tourists at the Falls
Speaking of seeing the falls in person, as evening began to turn to night it seemed like the number of tourists was multiplying like rabbits and pretty soon it was hard to walk down the sidewalks lining Niagara Parkway.  It is estimated that approximately 13 million people visit the Falls each year and I was smack in the middle of the busiest season which runs from June through August.  Good timing, Linda! 

Table Rock House at Horseshoe Falls

Nikola Tesla Statue
Still, I was a woman with a mission as I made my way towards Table Rock, feeling more and more like a salmon swimming upstream with each step, as it was there that I was going to find the statue of the man for whom Amanda had named our cat - the Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla.

Designed by Ontario sculptor Les Drysdale who won the honour over nineteen other contenders, the monument to Tesla features the inventor perched atop an AC motor. The statue was erected in Queen Victoria Park between Table Rock House and the building which houses the Falls' spotlights on July 9th, of 2006 with the backing of the local Serbian Community and governments in both Ontario and Serbia.

The monument notes and celebrates Tesla's greatest achievement ever - the construction of the first major hydro-electric power plant in the world at Niagara Falls.  In 1839 both he and George Westinghouse started the electrification of the world when the plant that harnessed the power of the Falls was constructed and the rest - as they say - was history. Edward Dean Adams Power Plant began generating power on August 26th, 1895, as the first large-scale, alternating current electric generating plant in the world. The Adams Power Plant Transformer House on the New York side of Niagara Falls is the only building remaining of the original structure; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1983 with the hopes that someday it might be converted to a museum.

According to an article published in the Fall/Autumn 2006 IEEE Canadian Review: "As a boy Tesla saw a picture of the Horseshoe Falls in a travel book and told his uncle that he wanted to put a wheel under the falls to harness the power of the moving water. The statue stands at the same point where the photo was taken.

The 2,000 pound statue shows Tesla in a long overcoat, carrying a top hat in his left hand. In his right hand he's carrying a cane, depicting the moment he conceived of alternating current by drawing diagrams on the ground."  The AC motor that Tesla stands upon was just one of the 700 inventions that he patented throughout his life.

Across the river on the American side of the Falls stands another statue to Nikola Tesla and there is also a 45-foot sculpture in the Fallsview Casino of the Hydro-Teslatron.  I did see the statue on the New York side before I made my way back home but I guess I'll have to go back up to see the Hydro-Teslatron in action one of these days.

After standing in the heavy mists of Horseshoe Falls long enough to get somewhat soggy, I finally managed to shoo away the kids that were climbing all over Tesla so that I could take a few photos. Just as a note - one of my biggest pet peeves is parents who let their kids climb all over statues, war cannons, memorials, etc. like they were put there as giant playthings for their children's personal use. Seriously people? Does it look like a jungle gym? Do you even know who/what is being commemorated by the thing you are letting your kid scale up and swing off of? Could you maybe teach your kids just a little respect? Sigh ... apparently not.

Ah well, all grumbling aside, once I finally had my kids-free snaps of Tesla, I decided to take a few photos from his viewpoint of the Falls - which was actually a pretty good one in spite of all the mist that was covering everything!

Like a lot of other people I was waiting for the Nightly Illumination of the Falls to begin (I will get to that in my next post) and while I waited one of the things that I really noticed was how foolhardy a lot of people were being when it came to the barriers that stand between the sidewalks along the parkway and the drop down to the river below. In retrospect I probably should have taken a picture just to show you how incredibly close Horseshoe Falls is to Table Rock House or what a long drop it is down to the river - which it is. And yet there were people standing on the walls and sitting on the iron railings as they posed for pictures or tried to get a good shot of their own. Parents were even posing their children on the wall so that they could photograph the mighty falls behind them and one Japanese tourist next to me actually climbed up on to the wall and straddled the railing with his tripod as he took pictures.  I debated telling him it wasn't safe but I was pretty sure he didn't speak English so instead I hoped that he didn't fall as I wasn't carrying my cell phone due to those pesky international roaming rates plus even though I was pretty sure that 911 was the emergency number to call in Canada, I really didn't want to try it out if at all possible.

I just don't understand why it is that people never seem to think about the consequences of their actions.  Do they not know how easy it would be to slip just a little bit and end up tumbling down into the gorge or being washed over the Falls?  Do they think that they're exempt to the possibility of an accident? Was I the only one who thought that as beautiful as the scenery was, it was also a little scary?  Think it can't happen to you?  I beg to differ ...

The men in white that the reporter spoke to in that video certainly weren't the only people who were stupid enough to risk life and limb for a good photo. If you'd like to read the full story , you can find it here. Let's just suffice it to say that just because something is beautiful, doesn't mean it can't be dangerous. Visit Niagara Falls but don't take chances with your life or with others and just once, could you maybe give some thought to those people who might have to come out and rescue you? Vacations are supposed to be fun so try to think about your actions and the possible consequences so you or a loved one don't end up the latest YouTube sensation.

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