Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2eq): 2,335 kilos
Sigurðar saga fóts: 172/252
So I was glad to be back on the train! Rather than returning to the mall in Cheektowaga, I decided to get the bus into Buffalo, and then on to Niagara Falls, and pick up the train there. (Did anyone else think that was spelt Niagra? Does anyone actually say all the as?) Everyone (apart, to be fair, from the Dutchman), has been, like, dude, you’ve got to see Niagara Falls! It’s a wonder of the world! And since it was on the way, I thought I would.
Alas, Niagara Falls is a case study in taking a wonder of the world and making it emphatically non-wondrous. Starting by dwarfing it with silly high-rise hotels and casinos. The fact that in the 1960s they stopped the waterfall for a while so that they could improve its tourism potential didn’t add to my awe either. I get that lots of people want to go there and you (a) have to put them somewhere and (b) stop rocks falling on their heads, but let’s face it, my list of places that have inspired greater wonder is very long indeed, and probably starts within three miles of my front door on Burley Road.
But it was an interesting ride. The trip into Buffalo was made of miles of these old clapboard houses: pretty, but weathered at best, derelict at worst, with a boarded-up church in every style of ecclesiastical architecture you can think of scattered among them. Thrupp and Brown scores were low. But people were friendly, and in the middle of Buffalo a helpful, interesting lady set me on the right bus and gave me a running commentary on her way to one of those casinos. I learned a lot, and I enjoyed being reminded that, actually, my variety of English isn’t the only one around here where mall has no –ll at the end, and floor has no –r. They’re not the kinds of US varieties you usually hear in the UK, but it turns out there are some American accents that I respond to as warmly as some Americans seem to respond to mine.
And actually crossing the Niagara river, which the bus did a couple of times, was cool! It’s a very big river… And I was spared the two and a half hours sitting on the train at the border by just ambling over the bridge from the USA to Canada for myself.
To get to the station in Niagara Falls, I had to walk a mile or two downstream to the ‘downtown’. I’m glad I did. Suddenly it’s just you and the river, and the odd passing car, and you get to appreciate the gorge a bit. And the town itself, away from the casinos and Elvis impersonators, was this dusty, quiet, sunny street that reminded me a bit of old towns in Scandinavia. About a third of the shops seemed to be vacant, but outside the ones that were open you’d get the shopkeepers standing outside taking in the sun, waiting to see if anyone was going to walk by I suppose. They were chatty, and the milkshake-shop-keeper told me about how he didn’t mind that so many of the places were closed up because most of them used to be brothels anyway. ‘You won’t need to eat anything else for a while’, he explained as he told me how much cream there was in the milkshake. ‘Damn it, I’ve made too much. Well, I guess I’ll just have to take the hit. Drink some of that and then I’ll pour the rest in.’ And this sort of art-and-other-junk shop had three big boxes of big peaches outside. ‘The best peaches in town! Picked today!’ said the sign. ‘I’d like one of the best peaches in town, please’, I said, and the lady came and helped me choose the best one, and gave me a free one too. And I’m pretty sure it was the best peach in town.
‘I love your accent’, says the old Scottish woman at the station cafe. I’m, like, ‘You’ve been here too long. No-one in Scotland would ever say that’. Turns out she’s been here fifty years; even then I found it a bit hard to credit. Still, she was very nice too. ‘I’d like a big cup of tea please.’ ‘Oh, I’m afraid we don’t have proper tea here, only Lipton’s. I’ll just put the kettle on. Aye, ye’ll need two teabags in that. There you go.’
Man, my heart completely goes out to this reported moment. Such a weird blend of exile and familiarity!