Friday Two Cents: A New Experience In Niagara


Christmas week for many people is a busy week.  Meeting with family and friends, preparing special meals and of course eating too much.  As a supply teacher this week is a welcome respite from the daily grind of working with students.  Not only teachers enjoy the time off, but also I have observed that students as young as kindergarten age needing this break in their routines. 

On that note I decided to get out of Toronto for a couple of days to help centre myself.  One of my favourite places to go to simply “get away from it all” is the Niagara region. They have many different diversions yet my favourite of them is visiting the local wineries.  I have been to a great many and this year I discovered a new winery that recently opened last year.  

At Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery

Opened in June 2017, Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery is in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region.  When you arrive you can see a modern building based on the design of a regional barn.  Inside though is a modern layout wonderfully decorated with photos of Wayne Gretzky’s hockey career.  Yet what impressed me was the skating rink just outside and behind the building. Beside the rink is a patio with a bar and a place to rent skates for both adults and children.  It was amazing to see parents and children skating around the rink while others sat at the outdoor patio bar with a hot chocolate. 
This is where the tour began and we were treated to home-made hot chocolate but with a special shot of cream whiskey that they make on the premises. It was delicious and a wonderful way to start the tour.  Nothing screams Canada more than hot chocolate outside in winter, beside a skating rink.  I know a lot about the wine making process, yet the tour was informative about how they make whisky and I learned a great deal. 
I asked the question, “Why do we spell whisky with a ‘y’ and others spell it with an ‘ey’?”  His answer was countries without and ‘e’ in their name use ‘y’ and those with use ‘ey’. Examples include Canada & Scotland ‘whisky’; United States & Ireland ‘whiskey’.  Yet another also mentioned that it might have something to do with immigration. This by the way is my theory when I asked the question.  Many Scottish people migrated to Canada and thereby we use whisky like them. Alternately a lot of Irish migrated to the USA who uses whiskey. 
Whatever the reason you cannot deny the results.  I am more of a wine and scotch drinker but I do enjoy a good Canadian whisky, which Wayne Gretzky’s whisky is up there with the best of them. If you are ever in the Niagara region I recommend a visit and of course, ‘a wee dram’, you know for the vitamins.  Enjoy!!

 

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Friday Two Cents: If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade


 

This past week in Ontario many elementary and high schools were out for the annual March/spring break. In previous years I have always worked during this week at various afterschool programs, yet this year I had the need to take the week off. I didn’t want to go somewhere far-flung or exotic, I just wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the students. Don’t get me wrong I adore the children but I was feeling a bit rundown and I needed sometime to be alone with my thoughts. To chill out, ironically speaking.

I decided to take a mini vacation to Niagara Falls and more importantly the Niagara Wine country. I live in the Toronto area and Niagara Falls is only a 1½-hour drive but I have never seen the falls in the winter. Besides I love visiting the wineries in the area for some wine tasting. It would also be a great opportunity to do some drawing and hopefully get inspired.
However Mother Nature had other plans this past week. I left for my vacation on Monday and of course that is the day when a winter storm just happens to blow into southern Ontario.   I am only few kilometers into the trip when the storm really picks up. With high winds and lake-effect snow traffic literally comes to a halt. I continue but the traffic is moving about 5 – 10 km/hr. The slowdown is mind numbing and it is all due to the weather. The truly amazing thing was that after I traveled past the city of Hamilton the weather clears up. It was eerie. On the east side of the highway, the lakeside, you can see the blowing snow and dark clouds yet on the west side of the highway the sun was setting and it was clear. It felt like I was driving through the eye of the storm or at least the edge of it. I arrived at the hotel safely yet the normally 1½-hour drive took 4½hrs!
I was stressed worst then before I left. So much for my relaxing vacation. However I was able to have a great meal at the casino and then soak in the hot tub after. I could feel the stress just melting away in the Jacuzzi. Especially since I could see that the storm had reached Niagara Falls and I was safe inside.
The next day the storm was in full force but that did not stop me. I was prepared with winter gear and I went for a walk to the Falls in the middle of the storm. I was able to get a few nice photos and I was able to talk to a few people who I met there. Yes just call me Mr. Sociable.  

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls during the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls after the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara-on-the-lake after the Winter Storm.

I for one do not like the winter season. I do not like the cold or the lack of sunlight. Yet I made it a point to not let this winter storm ruin my vacation. The storm lasted about a day and a half but in that time I was able to do all that I wanted.   I was able to draw, read, write, explore and of course enjoy a couple of wine tastings. Call me Mr. Optimist but I simply adapted to the situation I still had a wonderful time. I would imagine that old saying is true…

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  

Friday Two Cents: Vacationing In Ontario With George Part 6 Niagara Region


 

twoCentsOldNew_George

  Just about every year I make a trek to the Niagara region for some sites, sounds and some fun. This region has an abundance of things to see and do that every time I go, I do something new. This year I was able to visit a historical site that I have not been to, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The trip down to the Niagara region is only about 1 – 1-½ hour drive from Toronto, depending on traffic. Yet I do not take to usual route that many would go to see Niagara Falls. I take to a back road into Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small town at the mouth of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side. This route has the advantage of passing many wineries on what is known as the Wine Route.   This year I was able to stop off at a wonderful winery called Jaskson-Triggs. It is a newer winery, about 10 + years but they make excellent wines. I went on a tour of the winery were I was about to have a wine tasting of several wines including a tasty ice-wine and a sparkling wine. After the tour I was able to sit in the vineyard and indulge my artistic skills as I drew the vines.

Grapes_Vine

Grape on the Vine – By Paul Gauchi

After I went into town and did some exploring but this year I wanted to visit a historical site I have not visited before. I went to Fort George on the outskirts of town. This was the site of several battles during the war of 1812 when the Americans and the British were at war and Canada was the battleground. I won’t go into too much details on the war or the battles around the area, but these battles were some of the most pinnacle battles. Near the fort was the battle of the Queenston Heights, one of the first major battles of the war were Major General Sir Isaac Brock fell in battle on October 13, 1812. Yet the British prevailed.

After the battle the Americans besieged the fort and it fell on May 25, 1813. The Americans held onto the fort until December 1813, but retreated across the river before a British force could arrive. Yet before they left Brigadier-General George McClure of the New York militia ordered the firing of the town. It was destroyed leaving the 400 townspeople, mostly women, children and old men with no shelter from the winter cold. Much of the fort was rebuilt after they left but it fell into disrepair and then reconstructed in the 1930’s. I had the fortune to be present to a musket demonstration and the flag lowering ceremony. All in all it was an enjoyable visit that I hope to make again some day.  

After I made my way to my final destination, Niagara Falls. There I always like parking in the casino, then make my way down to the falls. No matter how many times I have seen the falls they are always awe-inspiring. After the casino and its many restaurants beckoned.  

I find that many people take trips overseas to see the different sites, tastes and wonders other places have to offer. Yet I truly believe that Canada and of course Ontario has many historical places, exotic tastes and its own wonders. You just have to take advantage and be a little adventurous.  

Friday Two Cents: Visiting Local Communities in Ontario Part 5


twoCentsOldNew

  A couple of weeks ago I posted about going to Niagara-on-the-lake. At the time I went with my family and I could not visit any wineries. But the second time I went with friends and this time we visited a couple of wineries on top of Niagara-on-the-lake, Niagara Falls and the casino.  

  We began our excursion into the world of wines at Hillebrand Winery. There we enjoyed a wonderful tour of the winery and we learned a bit about the winery and at that they make sparkling wine in the French style.   We all know it as Champaign but because we are not in the region of Champaign, France you cannot call it that, so they call it sparkling wine. They motioned that they make thousands of bottles of sparkling wine there and we were shown the wine cellar where there must have been tens of thousands of sparkling wine bottles.

Wine Tasting

  After we had a structured wine tasting with a white, red and an ice wine. The tour and wine tasting was very well done but of course I enjoyed the tasting the most. Following the tasting we went into the wine store where they had a vast selection of wines from the winery. These wines are not sold in the LCBO but just at the winery or their specialty wine stores around the province.

  With some wine bought and our stomachs reminding us that lunch was here, we made our way down to Niagara-on-the-lake. There we were able to find a parking spot near the park by the lake and enjoy a wonderful picnic. After the meal we did enjoy the town but did not stay long because we wanted to visit one more winery.

  Peller Estates Winery was our next stop. We had another tour and wine tasting but we also enjoyed a great winery experience. Their wine was amazing as was the ice wine but learning about the history of wine region and tasting different wines that I normally would not drink was worth the trip. Not to mention I got a great bottle of Riesling Ice Wine from there, added to my experience (I did promise to share the wine with my friend though).

  With evening fast approving we got into the car and made our way to Niagara Falls. A trip to the region is incomplete without a trip to the Falls and this was not exception. I have been going the Falls from when I was a young boy and yet they continue to bring joy to my world. I guess knowing that I have this beautiful natural wonder right at my door step makes me feel that all is right in the world.

  In recent years they have added a casino to the Niagara Falls landscape. I am not much of a gambler and neither were my friends but I did mention that they do have a wonderful buffet in the casino. So naturally after we visited the Falls we made our way to the casino and the buffet. While I was sitting in the restaurant finishing my desert (Coconut cream pie, Yum) I had to reflect on the day. We had beautiful weather, two wine tours and tastings, a picnic by the lake, a walk by Niagara Falls, a good dinner at the casino all with the company of friends. All of this only an hour and a half from home. Who needs to go away on vacation when you have all this within driving distance.

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