Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where's the Romance? Niagara Falls, Then and Now

By Robin Kaye

Last week I went to Niagara Falls with my family--my husband, his mother, sister, aunt, niece, and my three teenagers. Okay, two teenagers and one very moody preteen. The nine of us climbed into two cars and headed up to the Falls from my husband’s family home outside of Buffalo, NY in search of the honeymoon capital of the world and one of the world’s seven natural wonders.

The natural wonder worked for me. The sheer size of the Falls just on the American side was spectacular, and if you take into account the Canadian Falls as well, it was truly awe inspiring. The force of the water threw up mist that covered everything for what seemed like miles. The raw power is tangible as it swirls through the air and stings the skin when it hits you.

Growing up, I always imagined Niagara Falls to be the most romantic place on earth; probably because my grandparents honeymooned there in the 1930’s.

I remember this picture in an elaborate frame setting on my grandmother’s dresser until she died. Now I stare at it every day just beyond my computer in my office. I’ve gazed upon it all my life and the three things I always thought were how romantic it seemed, what a beautiful couple they made, and how handsome my Grandfather always looked. I can still hear my grandfather telling me in his broken English, “I’m’a so beautiful, I shoulda been a movie star.” He was right. After smiling through over 90 years of life, the man still didn’t have one wrinkle.

When I went to Niagara Falls, I expected to find the romance I had always seen in that picture. My imagination usually doesn’t let a little thing like my mother-in-law and kids stop me from picturing a swoon-worthy scene; but that day any and all romance was elusive.

Niagara Falls was beautiful, but where was the romance? Had it become such a tourist attraction all the little romantic spots I imagined honeymooners canoodling in had disappeared? I went looking for a little romance and all I found were crowds of people. Granted, most of them I brought with me, but I thought my husband and I could have stolen away for a moment. Unfortunately, even my romantic eye came up empty. I saw nothing the least bit romantic and I have to say, I was crushed. I thought I’d find a little of the same romance my grandparents found and that I’d somehow connect with them again. I did neither.

Do you think romance is getting harder to find? Do you think it’s something we can look for or do we carry it with us?


  1. Loved your post, Robin. I visited Niagara Falls years ago as a kid - with my parents visiting my Dad's relatives in Buffalo. It was definitely awesome, but romantic? Don't quite get that one either. The beach is where I find romance, or rather a dreamy, reflective, rejuvenated feeling.

  2. The romance isn't in the location. It's in the body language.

  3. Hi Libby and Cheryl~

    Thanks for getting up early to comment. I apologize for the typos. I just fixed them and hope I found them all. It's amazing what one misses in the wee hours of the morning after a long, long trip.

    Yes, Libby, the beach can be very romantic but then I'm a real sucker for the mountains too. I lived close to the Boise Front in Idaho and could spend hours in my husbands arms just watching the mountains change color.


    I believe you're right. I can look at those two all day, and I probably have when I can't think of a thing to write.

  4. Love, love, love the photo. And I knew they had to be Italian--the photo reminded me of one of my own grandparents on the boardwalk in Coney Island. They're dressed to the nines, too!

    As far as your question, I think you needed to be transported in time to the moment of the photograph to capture the feeling you describe. (Which makes me think that your grandparents' story might make the basis for a great historical.)

    Or maybe next time you and the huz go it alone. . .

  5. Robin, next time you have a chance visit the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake - just over the Canadian boarder. It is a quaint little town with a nice park where you can picnic, stroll the streets of boutique shops and have a lick of your favorite ice cream. My husband and I enjoyed strolling along hand-on-hand. There are a few wineries, with beautiful landscapes and prize winning wines. It is not the family tourist trap that Niagara has become. At least not yet.

  6. Thanks, Rosemary~

    I probably have photos of my grandparents in Coney Island too. They lived in the Kensington area of Brooklyn for years and years until they retired.

    As for being transported back in time, I have to agree. Everything seemed so much more romantic, the way my grandfather wore his beret, their dress, their touch.

    And yes, Rosemary, they were definitely Italian. They both came over as young adults.

    As for going it alone with my DH, I don't think I will. We took a day trip to Toronto with the kids and that's the place I'd drag him back to if we could do it alone. The restaurants, the lake, the beautiful hotels mot to mention the market. I had a great time.

  7. Thanks Elizabeth!

    I wanted to go to the Canadian side, but no one but the five of us had our passports on us. Next time we go up to Buffalo again, I'll be sure to stop--maybe without the kids.

  8. Never been to the falls myself, but I'm sure if anyone could bring the romance back, you and Stephen were able to do it! How is my second husband? Does he miss me? :-)

  9. I would love to go the falls, but if I ever get there the romance will be out of it. My wife spent several years in Toronto when she was growing up. Every time her family had visitors they always went to see the falls. My wife got sick of them. She has no interest in going back.

  10. We went to the Canadian side two years ago. The power of the falls is breathtaking. The sheer rawness of nature at her most powerful... Being there was a magical feeling - toss that in with being on your honeymoon (or without kids) and maybe that's where the romance comes in. I couldn't tell you - we were there with our kids, too. I think the romance gets kinda lost when they're around ;}

  11. You know he does, Marie! I can't tell you how disappointed he was when he came to pick me up from Nationals and you weren't waiting for him. I did show him all the pictures of you and he enjoyed seeing the pics of Emily, his future step-daughter. ;)

    When Stephen read my post in the wee hours of this morning, I think he felt bad for missing the whole romance thing. Ah, maybe next trip he'll make it up to me.

  12. Another missed opportunity, Robin! Stephen is going to get over me if we don't get some time together soon. Are you guys going to NJ? I'm thinking about bring Dan b/c it's our anniversary that weekend (as it was last year) and I got away with one year of neglect, but two in a row??? That might be pushing it... He'd have more fun if there was another guy to hang with!

  13. Hi Walt~

    I totally understand your wife's feeling. After living in Florida for years I never want to see Bush Gardens again--not even for the free beer and that's saying something.


    The falls were really amazing, but you're right about the kids and the in-laws.

  14. Marie~

    I wasn't planning on bringing Stephen because my girlfriend Laura already asked me to room with her and someone has got to watch the kids.

    Are you coming to Baltimore any time soon? Maybe we can get another book signing or better yet, maybe Stephen and I could go up to visit you! I love Rhode Island, not to mention sailing!

  15. We'd love to have you come visit! Rhode Island is fabo this time of year--when it's not raining like it has almost every day this summer! My dad's boat is in the water until October, so let's talk about it!

  16. Robin, I think your grandmother is absolutely beautiful. I love the hair. I think Cheryl is correct, romance is in the body. Try finding romance in a thousand square foot workshop filled with furniture in desperate need of being recovered. Now imagine this shop all by it's lonesome on an old air base. One of its closest neighbors is an old Air Force hospital with supposed haunted underground tunnels.

    It's all in the body.

  17. Thanks, Renee~

    She really was stunning. I have a portrait of just her-it's breathtaking. I have a beautiful collection that takes up an entire wall across from my desk -- my husband calls it the Orlando shrine. Old pictures of my family--my great grandparents, my grandmother when she was eight wearing high boots and one when she was a flapper showing some leg. Pictures of my grandfather in the Tunisian Army leaning against a tank and one with his friend in dress uniform. I also have several pictures of the whole family around a very long table eating and looking like something out of The Godfather! I adore every one of them.

  18. I love canoodling! Great word.

    The romance of Niagra Falls didn't exist just because of the place. Yes, the raw power, the majestic violence that only nature can conjure, and the chance to "protect" a loved on from the elements can elicit a kind of arousal, but back in the day, public displays of affection were a big no-no. At the falls, a man could put his arm around his love in public without censure, exhibiting his masculine strength protecting her feminine weakness. (Yeah, yeah, I know, but the women played it up too!)

    It is rather like a Regency male getting turned on by the turn of a woman's ankle. In a world of short shorts and bikinis, we find that hard to believe, but it was the time frame that made Niagra the Honeymoon Capital. All kinds of "canoodling" foreplay under public scrutiny added to the atmosphere.

    So, in a nutshell, it's the people, aided by nature on several fronts, that made Niagra the place to go in the days before modesty and constraint flew out the window.

  19. Robin,
    Your grandparents were so handsone! I've been to NF and Floyd and I wore shorts and sneekers and had two kids with us! Look at your grandparents shoes and clothing. How could you not be romantic dressed like that with the beautiful falls in the background. I fear "we" are the ones who have taken the romance out of the falls. I might have felt a little more romantic when I was there too if I'd been dressed like your grandmother. She's so classy looking and your grandfather is simply divinely! Thank you for sharing that picture with us. You must smile every time you look at it. What a fablous gift that you have it!

  20. GREAT photo of your grandparents, Robin! Definitely a romantic couple!

    We went to the Canadian side of the falls about 15 years ago. Didn't realize the first Monday in Oct. was Thanksgiving in Canada and so we got a full-blown turkey dinner in the restaurant overlooking the falls. It was GREAT!

    Then we went on the Maid of the Mist boat that goes right up to the edge of the falls. They gave you these bright blue rain panchos so you don't get too wet. Anyway, we were there with a bunch of Japanese tourists and...well, you know how tall my DH is. He whispered to me, "I feel like I'm at a Smurf convention!"

    Ah, romance.....


  21. Hi Pat,

    Thanks for dropping by! I so agree with you! I think it's the times and the mores that have changed the amount of romance. It's a shame.


    Thanks, my grandparents were pretty amazing, I was so lucky to have grown up with them being such a huge part of my life. And your right about the dress. When you dress beautifully you feel beautiful and romantic. Food for thought. There's not much sexy about shorts and a tee-shirt.


    LOL - Smurf convention! I wanted to go on The Maid of the Mist but alas I was the only one. They still give you blue raincoats and now they even give you sandals!

  22. Great post, Robin! Crowds make it difficult to be romantic, I think. :) Families do too, unless you're newly in love... and then, no matter where you are, or how crowded it is or who is with you, no one else exists. :) So then romance is anywhere the couple is. :)

  23. Gosh, Robin, it sounds as if you have a rich family heritage that you are and should be very proud of.