Travel Diaries – Niagara-on-the-Lake

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Niagara-on-the-Lake is full of charming and quaint buildings such as the Prince of Wales Hotel located in the center of town.

I recently took a weekend trip out to Niagara-on-the-Lake with my good friend Carmy. Niagara-on-the-Lake should not be confused with Niagara Falls – the region is a 20-30 minute drive away from Niagara Falls and the two areas couldn’t be more different. While they both cater to tourists, Niagara-on-the-Lake is more of a quaint residential community and is far more quiet and relaxed than the hustle and bustle found within Niagara Falls. I felt something slower paced and more on the relaxed side was perfect for this weekend.

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The 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa is one of the many boutique hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We arrived Saturday shortly before noon and checked into our hotel. The 124 on Queen is a boutique hotel located on Queen Street which is the main commercial street for Niagara-on-the-Lake. We found the staff friendly and helpful – they were able to accommodate our early check-in and took us to our room. The room itself was on the small side but well-appointed and cozy. The only thing I was disappointed with was that they didn’t have any spa appointments available for the day.

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The interior of one of the rooms at The 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa.

After dropping our things off in the room, we headed out to explore Queen Street. Queen Street is the main thoroughfare in Niagara-on-the-Lake, it contains gift shops, hotels, restaurants, and pubs, as well as a couple of theatres. Below are a couple of pictures I took during our walk – it was a bit of a gloomy day because of the rain.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Tulips
The tulip lined streets in Niagara-on-the-Lake with the clock tower in the background.

Queen Street has hundreds of tulips planted on both sides of the streets. Typically tulips blossom at the beginning of May however, many of them remained closed today because of the cold and rainy weather. Tulips generally open during the day when it’s warm and sunny out and close at night or when it’s cool and rainy out.

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Known as the “Heritage District”, many of the buildings located on Queen Street have a historical look to them, including modern franchises such as the LCBO.

Queen Street is also known as the “Heritage District” and many of the buildings are reflective of that. I found the architecture in Niagara-on-the-Lake to be quite charming with all the different colored buildings. It felt almost as though we had been transported to a different time period.

Gift shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake
One of the many gift shops in Niagara-on-the-Lake that we wandered into.

We found a number of little gift shops selling everything from baked goods, to clothing to Niagara-on-the-Lake souvenirs.

Greaves Lemon Marmalade
Yum! I do love some lemon marmalade on my toast at breakfast time!


Greaves has jam and jellies in almost every flavor imaginable along with all the accessories you might need for breakfast or an afternoon tea service.

Cow's Ice Cream
Apple Pie ice cream? Yes, please! I can’t say no to ice cream even if it’s cold and rainy out.


For those of you who are fans of Cows, there is a location in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was my first visit but hopefully not my last. It was hard deciding amongst the flavours but I selected PEI Apple Pie which had caramel ribbons and pieces of apple pie in the ice cream. The ice cream itself was creamy and rich without being overly sweet. It was delicious! And the staff take ice cream seriously – I noticed all cones were weighed before being given to the customers. I think this was to ensure that everyone had a uniform amount of ice cream.

Rancourt wine glasses

Rancourt winery was one of the wineries we visited while in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We sampled several of their wines while the owners talked about how the wines were produced.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is probably best known for all the wineries in the region. There are more than 30 wineries in the area and not all of the products can be found at the local LCBO stores. You can visit each winery individually but we opted to take a tour with Grape Escape Wine Tours (http://www.tourniagarawineries.com/).

The tour started in the morning when we were picked up by our tour guide and driver Diane at the hotel and then taken to several different wineries. We weren’t given a list or told of the wineries ahead of time so it was kind of an interesting surprise each time we made a stop. A few guests on our tour made a request to stop at one particular winery but were told it was not possible.

Jackson-Triggs winery
Our tour at the Jackson-Triggs winery not only included a wine tasting but also included a tour of their production and storage facilities.


Our first stop was the Jackson-Triggs winery. It
was one of the larger wineries in the region. We had a tour of their production facilities and learned how wine is produced. Our guide also explained to us how to do a structured wine tasting which involves several steps.

  1. Tilt the glass and hold it up to the light. You’re checking for the clarity of the wine, making sure it’s not foggy, bubbly, or containing cork pieces.
  2. Sniff to check for unpleasant aromas.
  3. Swirl the glass to add oxygen which helps to bring out flavours.
  4. Taste! The first sip should be used to cleanse your pallet and the second and third sips are used to taste the wine.
Ice wine from Strewn winery
The ice wine from Strewn winery was one of my favourites from our tour that day.

My favorite was an ice wine from Strewn Winery which was a little different from other ice wines in that it was double pressed. Our guide at Strewn explained that the double pressing helped to reduce the sweetness of the ice wine. I found that because it was less sweet, it was easier to drink than some of the other ice wines we had sampled that day.

The OLiV Tasting Room and Restaurant
We enjoyed a three-course lunch at the OLiV Tasting Room and Restaurant located on the grounds of the Strewn Winery.

Our tour also included a lunch stop at the OLiV Tasting Room and Restaurant located in the Strewn Winery. I thought it was a great way to finish off the tour – it was nice to sit down and enjoy a gourmet lunch after spending the morning at all the wineries.

All of the menu items included different types of OLiV olive oil and balsamic vinegars that were available for sale. I was surprised that balsamic vinegar was even used in the panna cotta dessert.

Tomato salad appetizer
I chose Caprese Insalata as my lunch appetizer. It had bocconcini cheese, basil pesto, red and yellow tomatoes, and Himalayan pink salt. The salad was finished with Italian herb infused EVO oil and black currant balsamic.
Salmon
For my main, I selected the Atlantic salmon which was served on a bed of Israeli couscous containing Turkish apricots, pistachios, shallots, and green onions. The dish was finished with OLiV Lemon EVO oil.
Panna cotta
And finally panna cotta for dessert! It came with a bit of balsamic on the side to drizzle on top.


Overall I enjoyed my weekend away at Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a nice change of scenery and pace compared to life in a big city like Toronto. With the number of different wineries available in the region, I will definitely be back for another weekend.

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Travel Diaries – Hong Kong & Macau

Hong Kong Harbour
Hong Kong as seen from across the harbour in Kowloon.

Hong Kong was the first stop on my three week tour of China. I timed the visit so that I could run the Hong Kong Half Marathon. I had about a week to take in the city and see the sights. It was barely enough time in my opinion but those are the risks when you combine a race together with a vacation.  Continue reading “Travel Diaries – Hong Kong & Macau”

Travel Diaries – Lisbon, Portugal Part II

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Boarding the train at Rossio station – next stop Sintra!

Even though our trip to Lisbon was short, we had the opportunity to do a few quick day trips. We visited the towns of Sintra and Cascais, which are both located just 45 minutes outside of Lisbon. Trains to both destinations depart regularly from the Rossio and Cais do Sodre stations respectively.  Continue reading “Travel Diaries – Lisbon, Portugal Part II”

Travel Diaries – Lisbon, Portugal

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A rooftop view of the Alfama district complete with a view of mouth of the Tagus River.

Sometimes I travel and not just to run races but to explore and to experience new cultures. I recently travelled to Lisbon, Portugal with friends for a much needed break. Even though it was a short trip, we still managed to take in quite a few of the sights. A few quick facts about Lisbon:

• Lisbon is the capital and the largest city in Portugal and one of the oldest cities in Europe.

• Alfama is the oldest district in Lisbon and the only to survive the earthquake of 1775 which destroyed most of the city.

• Lisbon is nicknamed “The City of Seven Hills”; the city streets often traverse steep inclines and many are paved with cobblestones.

• Many in Lisbon speak both English and Portugese, tourists who don’t speak Portugese should be able to get by. Continue reading “Travel Diaries – Lisbon, Portugal”

An already August update

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So it’s August already and it always surprises me how quickly this time of the year comes by. When I was younger, I hated it because it meant back to school. Nowadays, I find myself looking forward to the cooler weather, I guess that’s just runner in me. And speaking of running, all of this training has kept me occupied and not around to post blog updates. You’ll laugh but I somehow thought it was a good idea to register for a race nearly every weekend this month. Yup. Big eyes and not well thought out. It’s okay as some of those races will be for fun including my first attempt at a duathlon. Woo-hoo! I think…

Continue reading “An already August update”