Friday, 15 March 2013

The Niagara Circle Route: Connecting Niagara

If you like to bike, hike, run or walk I have the perfect activity for you! Check out the unique Greater Niagara Circle RouteGreater Niagara Circle Route and experience Niagara in a new, exciting way.
The Circle Trail, Robin Hood Mill Port Colborne
The Greater Circle Route Trails System connects all of Niagara and is over 140 km of mostly off-road, paved trails suitable for walking, cycling or rollerblading. The paved trail is mostly three meters wide and passes through urban centres, downtowns, the Niagara Escarpment, waterfronts and agricultural areas.

The Circle Route consists of the following trails:
- Welland Canal Parkway Trail
- Fort Erie Friendship Trail
- Niagara River Recreation Trail 
- Waterfront Trail
- Trans Canada Trail

My favourite part of the trail (which I rediscovered when I moved home) is in Port Colborne near the old Robin Hood Mill. This part of the trail opens up into a beautiful wooded area with an old metal bridge that crosses the weir in the little town. This spot also offers a great view of the old Mill (which is a fantastic photo opportunity too!)

The Circle Route is one of the many aspects of Niagara that makes it so unique. It is rare to see a region that makes such an effort to join its communities together like this and because Niagara is so large I think it is an amazing feat. So if you want to explore a little more of Niagara, grab your friends and your camera and spend a day discovering the Niagara Circle Trail.


Friday, 8 March 2013

Get Ready for Tea Time.

Is there anything better than afternoon tea? How about afternoon tea with homemade biscuits and jam? If you answered no to both of these questions then you need to visit Arabella’s tea room. 
Arabella's Tea Room 280 King St. Port Colborne
Arabella’s tea room is located in a 1915 Edwardian cottage which is part of the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum Heritage Village. The Village includes the original 1869 Georgian-revival style Home and Carriage House of Arabella Williams which houses the main exhibit galleries, Humberstone's first log schoolhouse, the 1850 log home of John and Sally Sherk, the F.W. Woods and Sons 1880 Marine Blacksmith Shop, a Marine Exhibit Lighthouse and Arabella’s tearoom.

From June to September visitors can stop by the tea room between the hours of 2-4p.m. to enjoy some team and homemade biscuits and during the Christmas season the tea room offers its special holiday pudding. Arabella’s volunteers dress in period costume which helps create an authentic Edwardian atmosphere.

Arabella’s tea room is one of my favourite places to visit in Niagara. Whether I go with friends or I bring a book as my companion, nothing quite beats sitting in the summer sun with fine china, a good cup of tea and an outstanding view.

In preparation for your visit to a tea room here are some tips for proper tea room etiquette. Happy tea time!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Morningstar Mill - A Visit Back in Time

With the worst of the winter weather behind us it's time to start thinking about spring and everything the Niagara region has to offer during this season. One of my favourite places to visit during the nice weather is the Morningstar Mill in St. Catharines.

The Morninstar Mill, St. Catharines
The Morningstar Mill Park, Interpretive Centre and Museum is located at 2714 Decew Rd. beside Decew Falls, a popular hiking trail in Niagara. The site is made up of a number of buildings: the gristmill (more commonly known as the Morningstar Mill) the turbine shed, the millers house, the icehouse, sawmill and the barn.

Visiting the Morningstar Mill and homstead is like stepping back in time to the ninteenth century. Originally named Mountain Mills, the mill was built of local stone in 1872 on the site of a former blacksmith and carpentry shop. Water was diverted from Beaverdams Creek to power the mill. In 1883 the mill was purchased by Wilson Morningstar and in 1895 it was destroyed by a fire however, it was rebuilt and operated until 1993.

Seeing a piece of history so well preserved in Niagara is truly something special. History and nature lovers alike will love the Morningstar Mill as it promised to fill your day with adventure and excitement.

The Morningstar Mill is something that Niagara natives, like myself, can easily take for granted. Until recently I didn't appreciate or realize how unique it is for a region to have so many preserved historical sites like this. So take a trip through time at the Morningstar Mill and finish off your day with a hike through Decew Falls or the famouse Bruce Trail!

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Dollhouse - A Haunting Experience

The Niagara Region is rich with history that is centuries old. Every municipality in Niagara boasts Victorian mansions, monuments and historical buildings. With so much history in one area is it any wonder that some of these buildings are said to be haunted?

The Mildred Mahoney Dollhouse Gallery or "The Dollhouse" as it is called by locals is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Niagara.

The Dollhouse, 657 Niagara Boulevard, Fort Erie
Located at 657 Niagara Boulevard along the Niagra River in Fort Erie, The Dollhouse was originally built in 1835. During the 19th century the building was a main entry point of the Underground Railway. A large tunnel was located in the basement of the builidng until it was sealed as a result of the owner's son drowning in the tunnel. Today visitors can view recreated quarters that would have served as a safe haven for escaped slaves.It is said that the building is haunted by the spirit of the former owner's drowned son. Current owners describe incidences of objects moving by themselves, creaks on staircases, voices of children and that of an old man.

In addition to being known as a "haunted house," The Mildred Mahoney Dollhouse Gallery was once home to the largest dolls' house collection in the world.

The building is now owned by the Niagara Parks Commission but due to lack of funding it no longer houses it's impressive dollhouse collection. While "The Dollhouse" is no longer operating as a gallery, believers in spirts and paranormal activity and sceptics alike can still stop by to decide for themselves if it truly is haunted.

Interested in haunted houses? Check out Glenn White's experience at The Dollhouse

Monday, 18 February 2013

Sugar's Too - An Intimate Experience

When you were growing up did you ever have a favourite restaurant that your family went to for special occasions? A place that you knew you would receive excellent service and tasty food? Well I did, and that place was (and still is) Sugar’s Too.

Sugar's Too 10416 Lakshore Rd, Port Colborne

Located along the Port Colborne/Wainfleet Lakeshore, Sugar's Too is a cozy little resturant that caters specifically to the needs and wants of its customers. The resurants decor consists of authentic wood beams that hang from the ceiling and tall ship replicas that line the walls, creating a rustic, nautical atmosphere.

Sugar’s Too is operated by a husband and wife team. Stan and Judy have run the small restaurant for roughly sixteen years. Together they have built a unique and memorable business that leaves people eager for their next visit.
Stan and Judy are the only employees at Sugar’s Too which adds to the restaurants intimate atmosphere. Stan acts as the chef while Judy doubles as waitress and bartender.

“Sugars” (as it is often called) can fit about fifty people at one time so make sure you make reservations because this place fills up quick!
While Judy and Stan do very little advertising, their beloved little restaurant is well known on both sides of the border through word of mouth. Their famous fish fry (perch) and steak options continue to attract people’s attention.

So if you’re looking for a new favourite restaurant and head to Sugar’s Too, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

If you're interested in local eating  and agriculture in the Niagara region check out Eating Niagara a website dedicated to the food Niagara has to offer.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Experiencing the Comfort Maple

This past summer my sister Lauren and I decided we wanted to get outside and "do something." We had hiked the well-known trails around our home and were looking for something new.

Lauren at the base of the Comfort Maple
At the insistence of one of our co-workers we decided to check out the oldest sugar maple tree in Canada, the Comfort Maple. Located in Pelham, the 530 year old tree towers about 80 feet in the air and has a circumference of 6 meters. In short, it's massive.

Finding the Comfort Maple Conservation Area proved to be a challenge for Lauren and me. We drove up and down the country roads of Pelham, desperately looking for some kind of sign to direct us. Finally we found the dirt road (I was convinced it was somebody's driveway) that led us to the tree.

At first I had the enthusiastic reaction of "oh great, we're going to see a tree," but once I was standing at the base of it I realized how cool it really was.

I have never felt as small as I did when I was standing at the base of the Comfort Maple. Visiting this spot helped me realize that Niagara has some amazing natural sights that help make it the special place that it is.

If you enjoy visiting the Comfort Maple tree and want to experience other great nature spots in Niagara check out this blog Leaving Footprints  about Niagara hiking trails.

Directions to the Comfort Maple

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Little Taste of Italy

Last week it was my mom’s birthday.  In celebration, my sister and I decided to treat her to a girl’s night out. The festivities began with dinner at Lucy’s Café and Catering, a little Italian restaurant tucked away on Port Colborne’s east side.

Located in an older part of town, Lucy’s Café is owned and operated by Lucy Maresca Overholt, who transformed the front of her house into this unique little restaurant.
As soon as we entered Lucy’s Café we felt as if we were (as my sister said) visiting Italy. Traditional Italian music was playing softly in the background, candles were lit on every table and traditional Italian décor lined the walls.
On this particular night we had the place all to ourselves however, her small, six table café is usually filled to capacity. Although Lucy’s is usually busy, don’t let that stop you from experiencing this unique eatery.  Lucy has been known to seat people in her personal dining room or in her garden during the summer.
After our delicious dinner of veal parmesan, my mom was in for a special birthday surprise.  Before I could warn her (she hates surprises) a bell sounded throughout the restaurant and Lucy herself headed over to our table singing happy birthday. Luckily only my sister and I were there to witness my mom’s embarrassment.
After a birthday hug from the chef, my mom was presented with a birthday shot of Frangelico (not your traditional slice of cake from other restaurants!).
Lucy’s Café and Catering is one of Niagara’s best kept secrets. In fact it’s such a good secret that some of Port Colborne residents don’t even know about this diamond in the rough.
But now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, head to 90 Nickel Street in Port Colborne if you want to try a restaurant with a unique feel because I can guarantee that every visit to Lucy’s will be memorable.

Check out Lucy's Menu!