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A Holiday Trip to Canada
Chapter VII

The journey from Montreal to Niagara is nearly 400 miles; we left the former place at seven-thirty in the evening and arrived at Niagara about nine o’clock in the morning, after waiting long enough to have breakfast and a wash at Toronto.

They have an excellent plan for the examination of tickets with a minimum of inconvenience to the passenger, a system which can best be appreciated when travelling during the night. Railway tickets are issued in long strips of perforated coupons; I have seen tickets quite a yard long for passengers going a long journey out West. The attendant looks at your ticket; you then put it carefully away, and he gives you a small duplicate ticket which you put in your hatband or pin to the back of your seat. This saves any further examination, and the attendant can at once see your destination.

The conductor comes to the door and shouts the name of the place at which we are next stopping, and if anybody leaves the train for refreshments he makes it his business to go and see for himself that he is not left behind.

The luggage or freight train cars are huge in every way, compared with ours; most of these cars are thirty-eight feet in length, and after seeing the immense cases landed from steamers at the docks, one realizes that the carrying capacity of the trucks must needs be enormous.

Instead of the shrill whistle we have for use on our trains, they have heavy bells at the back of the funnel of the engine. These bells are, I should judge, about sixteen to eighteen inches in height, and they are constantly clanging, although when travelling at any speed, they cannot be heard from the inside of the train.

We reached Niagara at last, and lost no time in finding the best way of seeing the Falls, and as much as we could of their surroundings in the short space of time at our disposal.

I find that most towns in Ontario have a good service of trams, and one line, called the "Belt Line,” takes you really round the town, and shows you much that, else, you would probably not see. This is a circular route, and it will either set you down at any place you may wish en route, or bring you back, setting you down at the place from which you started; whilst, if you prefer to change before you complete your journey, you are given transfer tickets to cover the unused part of your fare.

To me Niagara itself is just impossible to describe. It frequently happens that when a famous beauty spot is visited, its glory and charm seem to have been very much over praised, and a sense of keen disappointment is experienced, but no brush or pen could paint or describe anything approaching the immensity and glory of the Falls of Niagara , or the beauty of its environs.

The two largest Falls come thundering down, their spray creating clouds of mist, and smaller falls are everywhere; one cannot get away from the refreshing sound of the splash and rush of water, and, wherever you may glance, shady dells and cool greenery meet your eye, creating an atmosphere which is indeed grateful and pleasant in the intense heat of a brilliant summer day.

Lake Erie is 573 feet, and Lake Ontario 247 feet above the level of the sea, and a rushing torrent carries fifteen millions of cubic feet of water per minute over the precipice from Lake Erie, down through a deep ravine, widening slightly at the Whirlpool Rapids, into Lake Ontario, from which flows that mighty volume of water, the great St Lawrence River. This stupendous flow of water is, it is said, perceptibly decreasing, owing to the large quantities taken from it for power purposes.

A steel arch bridge, 1,280 feet long, crosses the ravine, over which one can walk from the Canadian to New York State territory, where the town of Niagara is situated. The span of this bridge is 840 feet, and it is 192 feet above the water. The contour of the American falls (New York side) is 1,060 feet, the height 167 feet, whilst the larger or Horseshoe falls, on the Canadian side have a contour of 3,010 feet, and a height of 158 feet. The river, between the two lakes of Erie and Ontario, averages a depth of 180 feet.

The circular car, or belt line tram, took us down one side of the river, past the Whirlpool Rapids, and back the other side to Niagara Town, where we had luncheon.

After luncheon we took a carriage, driven by a man of remarkable loquacity, who was very anxious to show us the beauties of his famous town and falls. He set us down several times, that we might walk across bridges or rocks to get to different views of the lovely place. One of the surprise's of Niagara is the freedom with which a visitor can roam about without being pestered by the guides and curio-vendors usually associated with such c place as this.

I strongly recommend anyone going to Niagara to arrange to spend at least one or more weeks there; I cannot imagine a more ideal place for a holiday, especially during a hot summer, unless it be spent on one of the Thousand Islands of the river below Kingston; but then one would be away from the refreshing roar of water; away from the most wonderful sight I have ever seen, or can ever expect to see.

I was told that, some years since, visitors suffered from a veritable plague of importunate touts, but that the Ontario and New York State authorities eventually took action, and put a stop to the nuisance; and to them, for the peaceful quiet which obtains everywhere, and for the beautiful public parks which surround these glorious Falls, the thanks of the whole world are due.

After we had taken tea, and had made some purchases, I had, very reluctantly, to bid farewell to my travelling companion, to whose courtesy and kindness I was so much indebted, and make my return journey to Toronto, where I arrived on the eve of a "civic holiday.”

The “civic holiday” is a day corresponding to an English “Bank Holiday." 

The town was very full of visitors, and I had some difficulty in finding hotel accommodation. However, I at last settled in at the “Empress Hotel,” in Younge Street.

It was whilst in Toronto that I first realized the convenience of the town planning system of building streets at right angles to each other, North to South, and East to West. It saves the confusion experienced by strangers in such cities as London and Paris, where, unless one’s bump of locality be abnormally developed, one must at first inevitably be puzzled and vexed by the bewildering arrangement of the streets.

If the topography of the town was easily understood, it is more than can be said of any verbal directions, however courteously given, by the good people of Toronto.

The practice of contraction in regard to proper names, to anyone unused to it, is confusing in the extreme. Inquiring which direction I must take to reach my hotel when I was out one day, I was told very politely, but in a rapid stream of words, “Go on tram King West to Younge, ask for transfer Young South.” This was rather staggering, but I learned that it was necessary for one to know thoroughly the points of the compass in Canadian towns.

The streets of Toronto have much the same untidy look as those of Montreal, but they are better kept, and there are some very fine shops. The larger drapery stores are arranged and run on the same lines as Selfridge’s, in Oxford Street. The hotels are more comfortable, and the general appearance of the town is much better than that of Montreal. The street lighting is particularly good.

In the residential part of the town it seems odd to see the well-kept lawns of the larger houses unenclosed and extending to the side walks of the public roads; and, to the credit of the public be it said, these lawns are no more trespassed upon by passers-by than they would be if fenced in by high walls and railings. The flower beds and the fresh green of the lawns impart an air of refinement to the place, and the effect is so pleasing as to make one wish that such a thing were possible in our English towns.

A feature of town life in the Western Continent is the “shine parlours.” It is unusual to have your boots cleaned in the hotels. No! you must take yourself to a shine parlour, or send your boots there. These shine parlours are narrow shops, with three or four shelf-like arrangements at the sides. The customer sits on a seat on one of the higher shelves, and places his feet or a lower shelf, and has a five cent shine. At first sight these places seemed a little ludicrous, but it must be confessed that they are a great advance on the European shoeblack arrangement.

Toronto is called the "Queen City,” and also the “City of Churches”; it well deserves the latter title, for there are churches and chapels of every denomination in abundance, and on Sunday it was, so far as appearance went, more like a Scottish city, with its air of religious abnegation, rather than a young city with which one would associate irresponsible freedom in regard to such matters; but from what I could glean in so short a space of time, I am of opinion that Canadians, besides being an intensely loyal people, are as religious as they are loyal.

I was sorry to find that, as in many churches in England, only when Services were in progress were the doors open; they were closed immediately afterwards. I was disappointed at finding the English cathedral closed; in outward appearance it somewhat resembles that of St Giles, in Edinburgh.

I like the speech and accent of the Toronto people; the rather drawled out sentences, with the dropping voice at the end, sounded very agreeable to my ear.

Ontario is almost entirely a fruit growing province, and the shops are temptingly stocked with fruit of all kinds, and not only are the shop windows fitted with gauze to keep off the myriads of flies, but you can buy small baskets of mixed fruits entirely wrapped in pink or white gauze, for the same purpose. The fruit farms I passed in the train are much the same as the fruit orchards in England or the South of France, but instead of being apples or orange trees, they contained mainly peach trees.

On the Saturday evening I went to the Alexandra Theatre. It was a very homely affair, just a large hall filled with stalls, and a gallery at the back; for 75 cents I secured a seat in the second row of the stalls. During the interval, the lady who was running the show was called to the front, and made a little farewell speech, in the course of which “she wished she need not leave all her friends who had been so good to her, but in fairy tales we are told that if we wish hard enough, we shall get what we want, so she should wish ‘vurry hard' and she hoped her friends there would wish hard too, and then she would be sure to come back next season." Just a sample of the country—free, kindhearted, simple and genuine.

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