I’m a big fan of historical destinations that leave us different somehow. Towns and villages around the world that whisper as you wander, boast impressive architecture …are home to ghosts…
Although I’d planned many corporate excursions to NOTL, I hadn’t the opportunity to tour the area so when an generous invitation was extended – in the truck went Pup, Prosecco and the Little Red Bag.
Having trekked north for over 20 years on a somewhat redundant stretch of highway, this was a delightful change of scenery. Land, water and sky undulate with peaks and valleys of industry, botany and communities. The closer we got to NOTL, the more enchanting it became. Emerald coloured vineyards with 50′ sprinkler systems line the country roads. The mist was buoyant – seemingly suspended mid-air, dancing in the sun. Quite simply, it took my breath away.
Arriving at what felt like the edge of the world, we were met with horse and carriage, church bells ringing and beautiful properties. The feeling that comes over you as you ride into town is that of entering a separate, secret society.
As we hit the heart of it, thoughts of Cape Breton and the Deep South came to mind. “Hometown-Lux” if you will. And there, in the centre of it all – my hostesses 1930’s fabulous cottage. After a sip and a delightful tour, we set off to explore town.
The 1800’s architecture is hauntingly picturesque. It had been well-respected and maintained over time – and it showed. Literally every house stood enveloped by white picket fence & striking landscapes. Old, absurdly beautiful trees ebbed and flowed, ostensibly fanning us as we strolled. Lovers, friends, families & pets dotted the streets – so many people for so many reasons!
At the tip of town, we found the NOTL Waterside Golf Course where we enjoyed a Cheeseburger in Paradise, (yes, it’s on the menu!) cocktails and the view. The talented Josh Edwards belted out Jimmy Buffett songs as children (and my hostess) danced at his feet.
The first night was blissful. Pup & I came to rest under the pitched roof of the beguiling guest room and drifted off to the sounds of Small Town, Canada.
After a kicker of a country breakfast at the local Red Rooster Restaurant, ( say that fast 3 x) we returned to the homestead to digest & dialogue on the porch. My hostess has an antique biz so her home is always filled with treasures. I meandered through and begain to take pieces I could carry outside. Within the hour, we were hosting an impromptu ‘NiaGarage‘ Sale! While people from as far away as Australia purchased pieces, we were joined by local ladies and gents for ice tea on the porch. So civilized ya’ll! Between local morning walkers, afternoon day-trippers and Shaw Theatre goers, the sale was a success! We properly congratulated ourselves with a stellar dinner at Grill on King and called it a long, lovely day.
The parks, shops and cafes I’d yet to visit were calling my name! First stop was Queens Royal Park where visitors enjoyed picnics, people watching and taking selfies (yep) while children (and my hostess) ran through the enormous splash pad. At the shops – I picked up cheese, oils, baguette, wine, jellies & pie – all local– (Celine Dion chest beat here!)
I stumbled upon a great little dress shop – ‘elle du monde’ who carry fashions by local designers – the service was so friendly, I nearly fell over in the change room laughing. My final stop was the Niagara Apothecary . The cherry on the Sundae. Opening its doors in the late 1860’s, pharmacists offered liquor by the barrel, dyes, leeches (pardon?!), tobacco & snuff. It stands exactly as it did over 100 years ago. (And apparently carries a few “spirits” of its own)
Guided Ghost Tours are available but I like to scare the sh*t out of myself so conducted my own. The lady of the manor retired early so after reading in a cozy corner until midnight I stepped out into the dark, quiet streets. This place exudes history and is home to spirits from its days of combat. In 1812, the area was taken by American forces who bombarded it for two days with cannons followed by fires and a bloody battle. There’s an underlying utterance behind the sounds of rustling trees, crickets and cicadas here. Lighting, both inside and outside the homes illuminate the street like an antiquated movie set. During my mission, I came upon a 1960’s Acadian glowing under a street light. The whole scene tricked me into thinking I was planted in another era. Fond memories of my father behind the wheel & Dean Martin on the radio rushed in. It was magical.
After 5 more minutes traversing the main street, I headed down a back road and came face to face with The Old Angel Inn. Built as “The Harmonious Coach House” in 1789, it was revived after a fire and renamed The Angel Inn. It radiated an unsettled past. Low Ceilings, exposed hand-hewn beams and thick plank flooring were for the most part, still intact. In keeping with the theme, I ordered a draft and toasted Captain Colin Swayze who allegedly roams the Inn at night in search of his love whom he was separated from after an invasion at the Inn. I would have beckoned him over but I currently have a couple of skeletons of my own).
NOTL at night is just as impressive as it is in the light.
So…Northern Ontario and the “Six”, this summer I gave part of my heart away to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Appealing to all the senses, this one of Canada’s most extraordinary destinations. And indeed, left me different somehow.
Tana MacDonald – little red bag productions – 2016
Shops & Restaurants
Corks – Open late night – great crab cakes. Pub/Patio $$
Grill on King – Super service. Wonderful gourmet dishes $$$
Red Rooster Restaurant – Bangin’ Breakfast – Super friendly service
NOTL Waterside Golf Course – Fantastic views – friendly service – upbeat atmosphere $$
The Olde Angel Inn – Haunted – kick ass service – great burgers $$
Two Sisters Winery – Exceptional experience – $$$$
Niagara Home Bakery – Delicious baked goods – wonderful service
Taste – Infused oils, sauces & condiments – lovely service
LCBO – in a charming historical building – housing provisions for the porch!
For more information about NOTL, https://www.niagaraonthelake.com/