Canada Trip #8 – Montmorency Falls

Montmorency Falls are just a short drive from Quebec’s city centre.  This is a large waterfall at the mouth of the Montmorency River where it dramatically joins the St Lawrence.  The falls have a 272 feet drop which, the publicity enjoys informing visitors, makes them taller than those at Niagara.  A little like Niagara Falls (which we visited last year), it has been transformed from a natural feature into a tourist attraction.  It was possible to do all sorts of activities there – such as ziplining – but we decided to just take the cable car up and then walk all the way back down.  Frankly travelling in a cable car is as adrenalin-filled as I can manage.

In order to reduce queuing time, they really pack a lot of people into each car.  Have I mentioned several hundred times that I do not like crowds?  Hello, claustrophobia!  Our particular ride was made worse because some ridiculous bloke insisted on not folding down his double buggy (stroller) so – having been counted as one person – he was taking up the space of about four people.  Then there was the unstable movement and the heights to contend with.  Along with clowns, heights is my major phobia.  The views of the Falls from the cable car were pleasing enough but man was I relieved when the doors opened and we got out.

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The next phase of the visit involved walking across a suspension bridge directly above the Falls.  We could see all the way across to Quebec city and could even make out the Chateau Frontenac at its apex.  It was not as terrifying as I had braced myself for and it definitely gave us spectacular views of the crest of the Falls.  We could hear the roar of the water and feel the spray of the water.  They are pretty impressive Falls and being above them offered a pretty unique perspective on a waterfall.

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The third phase of the waterfall experience was to walk down many, many, many wooden stairs (over 480 steps) to see the “face” of the falls from different elevations and angles.  To be fair, the staircase was completely stable and solid and was perfectly capable of handling the load of a hundred tourists but in my acrophobic brain the whole thing was as rickety and unstable as if I had cobbled it together out of toothpicks.  The views were fantastic, however, so I sucked it up and soldiered on.  We especially loved seeing the rainbows.

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The final phase was entirely optional and avoidable but involved standing at the base of the falls.  We could really appreciate the power of the water as vertical met horizontal with a sound like distant thunder.  Even though we were not standing directly beneath the water, we still got soaked from the spray.  My two middle sons ended up completely saturated.  They loved it.

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While the hundreds of tourists and all the man-made structures certainly detract from the natural beauty of Montmorency Falls, we were really glad we had taken the trip because the experience really provided us with a new way of engaging with waterfalls given all of the different perspectives.

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Niagara Falls

We couldn’t possibly be in the Buffalo area and not visit Niagara Falls.  I am told that the Canadian side is prettier but, for various complicated reasons, I am unable to cross an international border right now so we had to plan our trip around staying on the American side.  I have seen so many images and so much footage of Niagara Falls and it is so very commercial and touristy that I felt there was a risk I would be underwhelmed by seeing the Falls for myself.  However, I was neither disappointed or deflated.

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Niagara Falls is in fact a gathering of three waterfalls, a fact which I had not really appreciated before my visit.  In order of viewing them from the American side, there was the American Falls, the Bridal Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls.  The latter straddles the international border and is the most powerful waterfall in North America.  Wanting to see the Falls from as many perspectives as we could, we decided to get tickets for the Maid of the Mist.  We were given blue ponchos and headed aboard the boat.  It was actually really cool to see the Falls from water level, to experience the roar and strength of the spray, in order to really appreciate the power of the Falls.  The Horseshoe Falls in particular was so powerful that we had to turn our faces away from the water at times.  It was also kicking up so much spray that our view, once we were as close as possible, was like peering into dense fog.   It might be a super-touristy thing to do but it was actually pretty awesome.

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Having disembarked from the Maid of the Mist, we took in two further perspectives of the Falls.  One of these was a flight of steps that took us up the crags alongside the Falls and the other was a viewpoint high above the Falls.  While I cannot say I was overwhelmed by my visit to Niagara Falls, I definitely was not underwhelmed.  It was very impressive and I was really glad we had made the trip.  Let us just say that I was sufficiently whelmed.

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