I must have been a bit of a curmudgeon even then because they didn’t impress me much. I knew nothing about them, you see. I was working on a photographic job in Toronto, and one night somebody said ‘Do you fancy a trip to Niagara Falls tomorrow?’ Well, yeah, why not? I didn’t even know then that they were some sort of honeymoon destination for Americans. I expected them to be stuck out in a wild, bear-infested landscape, and be at least three times as high as they are.
And what I didn’t realise (just in case there’s anybody out there who is as naïve as I was at the time) was that Niagara Falls isn’t just a load of water; it’s also a resort that’s amusingly called a city. In fact, there are two resorts amusingly called cities – one on either side – both called Niagara Falls. Well, blow me…
I was on the Canadian side, of course, and I remarked to the guide that I thought the resort a little tacky and somewhat detractive of the area’s anticipated charm. I’d been expecting mules and mountain tracks at least, if not pack elephants and mahouts. He agreed, but with a rider:
‘If you think this is bad, you should see the American side.’
I had an immediate vision of neon-bright streets awash with burgers, candyfloss, brainless rednecks and casinos. Mmm… no thanks.
But then I learned that if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s allow your image of America to be influenced by a Canadian, any more than you should allow your image of England to be influenced by a Scotsman.
I’ve since wondered whether anybody actually lives in Niagara Falls (either of them.) I couldn’t imagine it, somehow. I mean, I know that people live in Blackpool, but Blackpool wasn’t built for visitors. Rather, the visitors gravitated to Blackpool from the industrial hell holes of Lancashire because it was somewhere to breathe clean air and paddle in salty water for a week. The attractions came later.
So maybe nobody does, apart from the summer migrants who fly up there to service the needs of the visitors for a few months. I suppose they just take the money and then fly back to somewhere proper when the days shorten again.