Toronto or Niagara Falls?
That was the question.
After winning a friendly competition between store locations, my fellow restaurant workers and I were awarded something rather special for our efforts – a ride over either Toronto or Niagara Falls in a private, four-seater plane.
During the competition period, I had enough time to think about what my decision would be. Although both are great locations and equal distances apart, to me, the choice was simple. Anyone whose flown from Pearson Airport has marvelled at Toronto from above, but Niagara was something new altogether.
It was a beautiful, clear, Friday afternoon when we took to the skies.
Gliding just below the cloud line, our view was unobstructed. We could see everything – from the subtle hues of Lake Ontario to the patchwork pastures of the greenbelt. The coastline was particularly striking, as were the isolated boats, barely visible on the great blue beyond.
Hugging the Skyway Bridge, we crossed boundaries into unfamiliar airspace. Following procedure, our pilot identified the aircraft and our intentions repeatedly over the radio (let’s hope that Golf Oscar Poppa Hotel doesn’t start trending as a popular name anytime soon).
Meanwhile, down below, I recognised some landmarks.
Hello, Welland Canal!
Hello giant outdoor mall I always visit when on route to Niagara!
We must be getting close.
‘Do you see the steam rising, over there to your right?’
My thoughts were interrupted by the voice in my headphones. Sitting in the backseat, I turned my body as instructed and sure enough, the infamous steam cloud was visible. Following the Niagara river upstream, we flew over the rapids and emerald green waters towards our destination.
It’s funny. I’ve been to Niagara Falls many times as both a tourist and a local but an aerial perspective of the natural wonder grants an entirely unique sense of its place in the human world.
For example: international borders. What’s all that about? If it wasn’t for the symbolic Peace Bridge, there would be little or no obvious evidence that the United States was on one side of the river and Canada the other.
It also reminded me of the picture series where famous landmarks are photographed in context with there surroundings, as opposed to the traditional, candid postcard shot.
Several loops and many photographs later, we said our farewells to the Falls and began our journey back to the airstrip.
What’s lost in comfort when flying in a small private plane is gained in convenience, intimacy and adventure. To even have the opportunity to fly to Niagara Falls – only 30 minutes away – would have once been unimaginable to this old English rose. I’m a very lucky girl.
I’d like to thank my coworkers and boss, Sarah for contributing towards our great victory in the strawberry competition; and to our pilot and restaurant owner, Mike for allowing us passage in his plane.