I’m pretty certain that I’m done with my 1980 vacation now, though, really? Who knows? I reserve the right to go back to 1980 if I remember anything else.
Regardless, on to 1981. This trip* was my very first time outside the United States. It was also the most elaborate vacation my family of origin took, possibly ever (the award for most elaborate vacation since my marriage is definitely our trip to England in 2002). My folks and I drove from Chicago through Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and then into New York, where we went to Niagara Falls. I had always wanted to go to New York City and I asked hopefully if we could stop there on our way through. My parents had attended the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens and my mom had not enjoyed the experience, so the answer was a resounding no.
After Niagara Falls, we drove across the rest of New York State into Massachusetts, where we visited Boston and its environs. We then went north along the coast of New Hampshire into Maine, where we visited Portland before heading north to Quebec City, Quebec. From there, we went south to Montreal, then into Ontario where we sat in our hotel room in Toronto the next day, too tired from the rest of the vacation to do much in Toronto. From there, we crossed back into the United States and went home to Chicago.
I would, in time, get my chance to go to New York City, of course, in 1988 and then again in 2015. I also would explore Toronto with Alex and my as-yet-unpseudonymed now-ex-husband, in 2003.
But first, Niagara Falls.
I was actually kind of weirded out by my parents’ suggestion that we go to Niagara Falls. The only thing I really knew about Niagara Falls was that it was a honeymoon destination. I didn’t think it would be particularly family-friendly. Fortunately, while there is a lot to recommend the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area as a vacation spot — nature, history, boat tours, proximity to Canada — it was far less sexy than I was expecting.
Generally, this is where I go into the history of the location in question, but, well, it’s not like Niagara Falls was founded or anything. I seem to recall reading an article about how it was a bustling industrial area early in American history. There were mills and things on the Niagara River beginning in the 1700s. Nowadays, the focus of industry on the river is in hydroelectric power, and the river is so fast that they don’t need to dam the river up to do this, but can produce the power with water diverted from the river without significantly affecting the flow of the river. Now that’s a powerful river.
We spent one or two days in Niagara Falls, and did a few things there. We went on the Maid of the Mist tour. These are the boats that take you right up to the falls. Back in 1981, they had reusable things that had a terrible mildew smell. Apparently they now give out disposable ponchos that provide less coverage than the reusable ones did, but presumably smell less like an uncleaned locker room shower. Remembering the Maid of the Mist is one of the things that makes me wish we’d taken some pictures on that trip. The Maid of the Mist boats are wheelchair accessible.
We also walked across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada one night. My dad and I argued about when we went to Niagara Falls. He insisted that I had to have been older than I was, but I distinctly remembered that crossing as my first time out of the country, which would put it before we went to Quebec and Montreal. Later we would figure out that it was the same trip. I remember having dreams about crossing a bridge into Canada that had a side tunnel to France. I think that my subconscious was remembering that Niagara Falls and Quebec were the same trip. Or maybe my subconscious is just weird. I don’t think we stayed in Niagara Falls, Ontario very long though. I have a memory of a lot of neon. I think my parents were underwhelmed and so we pretty much turned around and went right back.
One thing to be aware of when planning a trip to Niagara Falls is the humidity. If you have any physical ailments that can be exacerbated by humidity, you might want to take any necessary precautions when visiting Niagara Falls. For example, as I write this (January 23, 2016), the prediction for the daytime hours tomorrow is a 0% chance of precipitation, but 82% (on average) humidity. So the air is basically water that close to the falls. On the plus side, if your hair responds well to humidity (as mine does), you will look fantastic.
*This stop, as a matter of fact.