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Niagara-on-the-Lake is a serendipitous Victorian village/ town on south side of Lake Ontario which attracts romantics and nature lovers from both across Canada and beyond its borders.
It was a clear day in early March - though still cold - and our friend insisted we take a detour on our way from Toronto to Niagara Falls. A Toronto native he is a frequent weekend visitor to this lakeside vineyard country town (insisting that this was gaining miles, not losing them).
The sun was shining down on the Victorian façades of vintage buildings, on cottages set amidst coiffured gardens peeping through thin layers of snow, on the quaint shops along main street or Queen Street and Simcoe Park, right across from the Apothecary. The turquoise sheen of Lake Ontario was visible from in between cottages and lanes lined with (still bare flower) fruit trees and flower beds (it is of course in summer that this idyllic national heritage town exudes the tangy fragrance of citrus fruits, wines and flowers).
We drive along gardens, art galleries, antique shops, past the vintage Prince of Wales Hotel (constructed in 1872) on King Street and the famous Shaw Theater (1972) the venue of an annual festival of plays (April to October) of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. We stop for a breather at the town’s main attraction, the clock tower, a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives in the World War I.
One can spend a day or weeks exploring the golf courses, wineries and the lake shores or listing the town’s many firsts; - the province's first newspaper; the earliest burial ground of St. Mark's Church (Byron Street), a reconstruction of the original that was burnt down in 1813 by retreating American soldiers; books dating back to the 16th century at the Rectory; the Niagara Historical Society (1895) with over 20,000 artifacts and the first in Ontario to be built solely as museum. Equally impressive is Fort George, the base for British military operations in the area during the War of 1812. The retreating Americans burnt it down in 1813 and every year on Canada Day or other special occasions, the battles of 1812 are re-enacted by the town people in period costume.
The few hours in N-O-T-L were sufficient to feel the mesmerizing quality of the cottage-country locale, and as we drive away I realize why the town is considered the "most haunted town" in Canada. To me it is 40-percent "antiquity-burnish" of historic buildings and personal artifacts and 60-percent nature-induced "my-type-of-town" reverie.