Travel Diaries – Niagara-on-the-Lake

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.

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.

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.

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 (

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.
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.


Race Report – Sporting Life 10K 2016

Photo credit:

The Sporting Life 10K is a race I try to do every year – the money raised goes to a wonderful charity Camp Ooch, which sends kids with cancer to camp. The race itself is a lot of fun as it goes through downtown Toronto making it a fast 10K. Even though the race took place a week after the Toronto Goodlife Half Marathon, I was still looking forward to running it. Continue reading “Race Report – Sporting Life 10K 2016”

Review: Against the Grain Urban Tavern

Against the Grain Urban Tavern - Leaside

“Want to go for brunch on Sunday??” I get or send that text message every week, typically sometime between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning. Usually it’s to and from my friends Matt and Dawn. Brunch is one of those meals where you recap the week and make plans for the next so you have to be in good company either because you need someone to laugh with (hopefully not at) and occasionally a shoulder to cry on. Knowing I was in good company, it was time to send the all-important follow up, “Where do you want to eat?” That’s not a tricky question normally, except when one goes out for brunch every weekend and then where do you go avoid gastro-boredom?

Then I remembered the Against the Grain Urban Tavern, a restaurant in Leaside I had watched being built over the winter months. I suppose being stuck in traffic caused by the road construction on Laird Avenue could be looked at as a bad thing by local businesses, but on the other hand it’s free advertising because what else do people do when they’re stopped in their car, but look around. So why not? Let’s give this place a shot and see what they’ve got for brunch.  Continue reading “Review: Against the Grain Urban Tavern”

Race Report: 2013 DC Nike Women’s Half Marathon

(Photo credit: Run Nike Women's Series)
(Photo credit: Run Nike Women’s Series)

I can’t tell you how excited I was to get into the DC Nike Women’s Half! The Nike Half Marathon was a race that I had wanted to run for a while but it was out in San Francisco and I’m not a fan of hills or the cost of traveling to the west coast. So when Nike announced that it was organizing a race in Washington, DC, I figured it was perfect for me. I loved the idea of being a part of an inaugural race!  Continue reading “Race Report: 2013 DC Nike Women’s Half Marathon”

Race Report: Disney World Half Marathon 2013

Disney World Marathon Weekend 2013
Photo Credit:

The Disney World Marathon in January is one of my favourite Run Disney events to do. This year, I had signed up for the Goofy Race and Half Challenge which involves running the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday.

I arrived at Disney World late Tuesday evening and spent the next few days hanging out with friends and relaxing before the race. Thursday morning, several of us headed over to the Health and Fitness Expo at the Wide World of Sports to pick up our bibs and do a bit of shopping. Continue reading “Race Report: Disney World Half Marathon 2013”

TIFF Review: The Paperboy

Photo credit: Millennium Films

Director: Lee Daniels
Writers: Lee Daniels, Peter Dexter
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray

In his follow up film to ‘Precious’, director Lee Daniels takes on Peter Dexter’s bestselling novel ‘The Paperboy’. I had a chance to attend the red carpet screening at TIFF where actors Zac Efron and David Oyelowo and director Lee Daniels were in attendance and did a Q&A with the audience after the film.  Continue reading “TIFF Review: The Paperboy”

TIFF Review: Passion

Photo credit: SBS Films

Writer & Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Paul Anderson, Karoline Herfurth

After a five-year absence, director Brian De Palma returns with an erotic thriller entitled ‘Passion’, a remake of the 2010 French film ‘Love Crime’. ‘Passion’ tells the story of two advertising execs working on a cell phone marketing campaign. Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) develops and ingenious idea only to have it stolen by her mentor and boss Christine (Rachel McAdams). Christine furthers humiliates Isabelle in front of her colleagues pushing her to seek revenge. Continue reading “TIFF Review: Passion”

Review: Carthay Circle Restaurant

Located in Disney’s California Adventure theme park on Buena Vista Street, Carthay Circle is the newest full service restaurant to open at Disneyland. The restaurant was designed as a replicate the famous Carthay Circle Theatre. The interior is decorated in ornate furniture with rich gold and brown coloring to reflect Hollywood’s Golden Age. Built on two stories, guests can enjoy drinks and snacks in the lounge on the main floor or a meal upstairs in the dining room.  Continue reading “Review: Carthay Circle Restaurant”

Race Report: Disneyland Half Marathon 2012

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On Sunday Sept 3rd, I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon. You’re probably wondering, why all these Disney races? Well, Disney gives out a bonus “Coast to Coast” medal to anyone who’s participated in races at both Disney World and Disneyland in the same year. Since I had done the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge in January, I figured this would be the perfect year to run the Disneyland Half and collect my Coast to Coast medal. Continue reading “Race Report: Disneyland Half Marathon 2012”

TIFF Movie Review: ‘End of Watch’

Photo Credit: Open Road Films

End of Watch
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn, America Ferrera

Written & directed by: David Ayers

Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, ‘End of Watch’ follows two young LAPD officers assigned the streets of South Central LA. Officer Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Officer Zavala (Michael Peña) do the usual routine investigations and street patrols. However, after recovering a cache of weapons and money and later uncovering safe houses belonging to a Mexican drug cartel, they quickly become marked targets. Continue reading “TIFF Movie Review: ‘End of Watch’”