Kishore & Smita Iyengar
Blessed with ample sunshine, the cheery summers and long snowy winters, bountiful farmlands, orchards and lush vineyards make this part of Ontario, not far from bustling urban population of Toronto, a niche lifestyle destination with unforgettable offerings. Driving through lush, sunshine-bathed orchards and quaint villages, we chanced upon a heartwarming sight. A tiny and cheerful wayside Walker’s Farmer’s Market caught our eye as we alighted to immerse ourselves amidst giant pumpkins, luscious gourds, ripe apples, peaches, plums and sumptuous berries!
Next to the market, we soaked in the unforgettable moments, kneeling and praying inside the tiniest (almost miniature) chapel in the world. The venerable wooden edifice in brilliant white, with a tall spire, was quite a hit with passersby.
We drove past the stately tree and foliage-lined avenues of the pretty Niagara-On-The-Lake town with its tall church steeple, Victorian homes, stately mansions and bright floral blooms all along. We pulled over for a hearty lunch at the Noble restaurant, overlooking the busy Simcoe Square. The town has a laid back feel with folks cycling, strolling and enjoying ice cream.
Famed for its scenic Niagara Wine Region, Niagara-On-The-Lake boasts of premium, award-winning wineries producing world class VQA varietals and vintages. Our first stop was the legendary Peller Estate Winery that makes outstanding cold climate wines like Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gamay Noir and Riesling Icewine. We tasted the icewine in their underground -5 degrees Celsius all-ice tasting cellar. A privileged treat it was!
At the historic Monastery Cellars near the Niagara Falls, the endearing tradition of wine making with spirituality is the credo; they produce fine wines like Vidal and Merlot Cabernet. Chateau des Charmes was another exceptional winery we visited. Their Chardonnays and Estate Grown Pinot Noir were remarkably good. Our concluding winery visit was to the uber-chic Wayne Gretzky Estates, where the maverick owner stirs up creative wines, beers and whiskies. Those were unforgettable wine experiences that crowned our visit to this salubrious region.
Our most unique and exotic gourmet experience was at the iconic The Maple Leaf Place, where we were caught between yummy trays of inviting goodies that were the top specialties of Ontario. Mouth-watering, melt-in-a-flash fudges in all combos, the very finest of world chocolates that covered every conceivable ingredient wowed us completely. The highlight of our tastings was an array of quality products of The Maple Leaf Trail — Ontario maple leaf syrups ranging from light to medium to strong, signature liqueurs, fresh jams and many more that enticed us to tickle our sweet innards endlessly!
This friendly lake-nourished region is home to some unforgettable fine wining and dining landmarks. We had one such experience at the panoramic Table Rock House restaurant, fringing the edge of the magnificent Horseshoe Falls right under our wide windows. As we relished fine fare, we sat riveted at the sight of the ceaseless crash of the rapids below us. The surge of cascading waters beyond made a mesmerising sensory impact.
Taking off to grand heights
That night, we trudged up the inclines of the nearby Clifton Hill’s colorful Street of Fun to get heads-up on the nocturnal sights and sounds. Brightly lit cafes, eateries, ice cream outlets and blazing giant neon dazzled our eyes with glitzy cheer. Canada’s largest giant wheel, the Skywheel, sparkled above; in the distance stood the imposing Skylon Tower.
Across the expansive greens, a thrilling sojourn awaited us. We boarded a short but absolutely exciting chopper flight over the sprawling Niagara-On-The-Lake countryside, lush glens, meadows, vineyards and the river course. The amazing, mindboggling vistas we captured over both the Niagara Falls and the Horseshoe Falls are permanently etched in our senses. The experience was truly captivating!
The steeply-inclined funicular rail car descended dramatically to the base of the Niagara Gorge as we then hopped onto the Hornblower Niagara Cruise. The thundering roar, the awesome raw power and the overwhelming mist add to the fantastic aquatic experience. This 20-minute voyage to the Falls Boat Tour on the 700-passenger state-of-the-art catamaran brought us face-to-face with the majestic Horseshoe Falls, sailing past the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls.
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