Monday, July 30, 2007

wineries and waterfalls and canals - oh my!

Remember how last November I went to New York for the weekend to meet up with some North American friends I'd met during my first year in Newcastle? Well, this weekend I had another reunion with Elizabeth (from New York) and Lauren (from London, Ontario), this time in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Ellen (from Washington, DC) was able to join us this time too, which made the weekend even more of a reunion!

Ellen, Lauren, and Elizabeth at Breakfast on Saturday

We rented a little cottage called Alnwick Cottage (so appropriate), and spent the weekend enjoying the sights and tastes of the area - Niagara Falls is just a short drive away from where we were staying, and the whole area is home to Ontario's main wine region. So far be it from us to ignore any part of that kind of culture!

Saturday Morning started with a visit to the Falls - the Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian Part of Niagara Falls:
(that's the 2-level, river boat sized Maid of the Mist in the middle, for size comparison)

And the more curtain-like falls, on the American side:

Can you imagine what the first explorers would have thought when they explored their way up this river, and saw the falls for the first time? Or better yet, if they'd come across this view on their way downstream:
Random facts I learned on the internets: The Horseshoe Falls are 167 feet high, and about 2600 feet around. About 600,000 US gallons of water go over the falls every second - the water has only stopped once, in March of 1848, when an ice jam further up the river stalled the water for a few hours. The American side of the Falls was stopped in 1969 so that the Americans could assess the feasibility of removing all the rocks from the bottom of their falls, to make it look more impressive - the American Falls are about the same height, but the rocks at the base reduce the drop height to only 70 feet.

The mist from the falls is so heavy that it feels like its raining on you as you look at them... which makes taking photos rather difficult!Mike came on the reunion weekend too... He especially loved it when we all started swapping knitting notes on Friday night! :)

closer view of the Maid of the Mist

After seeing the Falls, we sampled a few of the region's many wineries. The plan was to rent bikes and ride from one to the next - thereby not having to limit our tasting experiences, but too many people had the same idea, so there were no bikes left when we got there. (Need a small business idea? go open a bike rental in Niagara on the Lake - there's only one for the whole town!)

Ontario's wines are really quite good, although they're not as internationally known as you'd think. Two of the biggest ones are Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillen, both of whom we went to visit. This was one of the "Tasting experiences" we sampled at Inniskillen, while waiting for our tour to begin:
watermelon bites with cottage cheese, sprouts, and cherry tomatoes, paired with a 2006 Riesling.

One of the wines Ontario is best known for is Icewine, which is made from frozen grapes - they harvest and press the grapes at night, when the temperatures have reached between -8 and -12 degrees Celsius. Most of the water in the grapes is therefore frozen, so the resulting wine is very sweet and thick - so perfect as a dessert wine, by itself, or with a little blue cheese!

After 3 wineries (we also went to Marynissen Estates), we were getting kind of hungry, so we went back to town for dinner, followed by a little relaxing by Lake Ontario.

On Sunday morning (after stopping for fruit):
we visited the locks on Welland Canal, the shipping route that was built to take boats from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie (the Niagara River connects these lakes too, but the Falls kind of get in the way!). Conveniently, a freighter was arriving in the locks just as we got there
Once the boat comes in, the doors closethe water comes in to fill up the lock and raise the boat,
then the front doors open and the boat sails out.
The whole thing only takes about 20 minutes... good thing too, cause by the time this one was out, there were 2 more boats waiting to go through!

After the Canal visit, Mike and I had to be on our way... so one last group photo before we left...
Then it was smooth sailing (k, driving) all the way back to Ottawa, except for one brief traffic slow down in Toronto where we got to stop and smell the cookie factory!

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

What fun it was! Very well documented, I must say!!!