north america · travel

Niagara-on-the-Lake = Smiles-on-our-Hearts

[ Forgive the cheesy title — old towns make me mushy. Can’t be helped. ]

Gorging on trick-or-treat leftover loot, my sisters and I set off for a drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL). This quaint spot of Ontario oozes of old-town charm, its laid-back pace a stark difference to the raging waters of its better-known neighbor.

More than a few wineries will bid you hello along the way to NOTL, each tempting you with offers of tours and free tastes. A friend recommended Pilleteri Estates, a winery with a tradition of award-winning icewines. We plot our way and pull over, excited to take a peek behind the scenes. Aside from roaming the vineyard, raiding their cellar and sampling their spirits, it was also a real treat that our guide was more than happy to be bombarded with questions. He patiently indulged my pitiful noob queries (what’s dry wine? what do you drink with white/red/dessert/ice wine? what do you do with all the barrels? yada-yada-yada…).

To honor their roots, Pilleteri proudly showcases the family heirloom -- a delicately-painted Silician cart called a carretto.

After the quick educational stop, we finally found ourselves in NOTL’s town proper. Imagine picturesque old Americana — I was half-expecting to catch sight of little Alfalfa, hopelessly sighing as he steals a glance at little Darla, clad in her dainty dress, partly hidden behind her pretty lace umbrella. You can hail a horse-drawn carriage to go around town, as you decide whether to raid the ice-cream shop first or to visit your favorite artisan craft store.

Sugar high!

Always the foodie, my sister made sure we dropped by the Maple Leaf Fudge for treats (as if we haven’t gobbled up enough Halloween stash!). Their vanilla swirl fudge will be the death of me, I swear.

Another fun shop was Cow’s, with their clever spoofs and full resolve to honor cow-cuteness. They have great ice cream, too — we had the Toffee Coffee, which added to the already-hyper sugar rush!

Yey for witty, witty shirts!

Tucked in one corner was The Silver Screen, a vintage movie shop decked with memorabilia to thrill film enthusiasts (like moi!) everywhere.

A sign for a closing-out sale caught my eye, and this was pretty much the shop wherein we got stuck. Shelves of crystal-adorned jewelry was at 50% off! Soon, my sister and I were squabbling about who would take home the gorgeous textured necklace which caught both our hearts.

Found at the closing-out sale. The universe is talking to me!

We managed to pry ourselves away from the shops and drive home before dark. It’s been ages since my sisters and I have been on a road trip — close to 15 years, I believe? And thus, it’s proven — no matter how long the lull, it’s never too late to catch up on the I-Spy chitchats, long-haul sing-alongs and shared memories on the road.

Niagara-on-the-Lake -- a place to be trigger-happy everywhere.
And I mean, everywhere. (This quote was engraved upon the sidewalk. =P)

For more pics, click here — 2011-11 Niagara-on-the-Lake Picasa album

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