Tasty wines, fun winery tours and awesome food in Niagara ... Deal of the day:
NIAGARA FALLS - I sometimes forget the treasures that lie on our doorstep; the natural wonders and the fabulous wine and food offerings in this part of the world.
Tuesday morning began with a drive from the Sheraton Hotel on the Falls to the Horseshoe Falls. We could've just walked but opted to drive, then had to pay $18 to park near Table Rock, at the edge of the Canadian side of the falls. Oh, well.
I opted to brave the heavy mist (more like a medium rain on this day) and skipped the umbrella and jacket for our 15-minute walk along the edge of the river and the falls.
The power of Niagara Falls never ceases to amaze me. The river runs quickly but even 15 feet from the edge of the precipice you can find fairly quiet edges that look like good spots for a trout to lie in wait and give no indication of the incredible drop that sits a few metres away.
But then the water quickly gathers steam, so to speak, and hurtles over the edge in a grey-green fury, sending plumes of mist high into the sky and pounding a heavy rhythm of falling water and rock. Gulls swoop in the air currents, tourists from all over the world lean over the rails and gawk, and everyone seems to go quiet, at least for a minute.
Every time I go to the falls I shake my head at the wonder of it all and try to imagine how it must have felt for the first natives or Europeans to see the spectacle. I also wonder how on earth anyone managed to build a walkway so close to the edge. I'd be terrified.
I didn't have time on this day but on previous trips I've taken the Maid of the Mist tour boat, which allows you to see the falls up close and from a different perspective. I highly recommend it. (I also see today that the Maid of the Mist has been given a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence as a top attraction, so good for them.)
I also didn't have time to take the whirlpool aerial tram, which isn't terribly scary if truth be told but is a fun way to see the gorge a couple kilometres downstream from the falls. Even better to my way of thinking is the hike you can make down to the river from the parking lot across from the Whirlpool Golf Course. It's a glorious walk through thick groves of trees, and you get a real sense of the river's power from up close when you reach the bottom of the gorge.
After driving up to Queenston Heights and checking the fab views from the cafe that's next to the Brock monument, we bought some luscious, local strawberries from a roadside vendor in the village of St. Davids and popped into Ravine Vineyard, a personal favourite that I wrote about a couple years ago. They've opened a small grocery store since the last time I was there, with lots of tasty looking baguettes and meats and jars of pickled onions and other goodies.
The restaurant is bigger than I remembered it, with lovely views out over the vineyards that roll down a gentle hill to the north, not to mention ping pong tables you can rent by the hour for some outdoor fun.
It's a gorgeous setting. And the food is exquisite. We had leek and potato soup, served with a small, tasty herb and parmesan muffin. We also shared a wonderful charcuterie tray with everything from homemade capicolla to pickled veal tongue, duck breast, kimchi (not my thing but a nice, out of the box choice for a charcuterie platter, I'd say) and pickled fennel, which I'd never had but absolutely devoured. Lots of other tasty bits, too, and some very good Cabernet Franc from the winery.
The tasting room is very pretty and rustic; located in an old home with a brick fireplace that predates the War of 1812. All in all, one of the great travel spots in southern Ontario for my money.
We also took in a tour at Chateau des Charmes, just down the road. It's a huge winery but the tour was personal and fun and they have a pretty patio out back that's perfect on a warm spring day.
You can learn a lot in 45 minutes by listening to your tour guide and asking a few questions. For one, I found out that you only get a single drop of juice from every frozen grape that's pressed during ice wine making season. One drop! No wonder ice wine is so expensive.
Chateau des Charmes makes a pretty decent cabernet-merlot blend and some wonderful rieslings. They also make fabulous ice wines, including a tasty, rich Vidal ice wine that smells of honey and apricot and spice. Yum.
STARWOOD HOTELS CANADA DAY SALE
In honour of Canada Day, Starwood Hotels & Resorts is offering savings
of up to 30 percent at 50 participating Westin, Sheraton, Four Points,
W, Le Méridien and Aloft hotels across Canada. This is a limited time
offer on summer stays taken by August 5, 2013.
The Canada Day sale begins June 17, 2013 and must be booked by 11:59 P.M. EST daylight savings time on July 1. Rates vary by property, with rates starting at $79 per room, per night, based on single/double occupancy and availability. A limited number of rooms are available at each property and blackout dates may apply.
Rates require full advance pre-payment, rates are non-refundable and are plus taxe. Children 17 years of age and under stay free in parental room using existing bedding. These rates are not applicable to groups.
For more informatio visit www.starwoodoffers.com/canada-day
Speaking of Canada Day, the people at Hotwire have issued their list of most popular destinations Canadians are looking at for a July 1 weekend holiday. The most booked destinations are as follows, with average hotwire hotel room prices listed as well:
1. Toronto ($101)
2. Vancouver ($114)
3. Ottawa ($105)
4. Montreal ($114)
5. New York ($170)
6. Boston ($144)
7. Chicago ($113)
8. Niagara Falls ($110)
9. Calgary ($99)
10. Halifax ($96)
For the fourth year in a row, Air Canada says it has been named best airline in North America by AC was rated 20th in the world overall. The top world spot went to Emirates airline ... Vermont is putting up more signs in French in order to lure more Canadians, especially Quebecers, south for their holidays. A wise move, I think.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, is offering a deal for a Caribbean cruise for $1,379, including $180 in taxes.
- EXCLUSIVE SAVINGS: Save up to $285 per couple, compared to the cost of booking your air, transfers and cruise separately!
- 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise sailing aboard the Carnival Valor
- Accommodations in a Oceanview (Category 6B) stateroom
- St. Maarten and St. Thomas have some of the most diverse duty free shopping in all of the Caribbean
- Carnival is known for having great on board activities as well as exciting off shore excursions
- Valid for travel on January 19, 2014
- Departs from and returns to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ports of Call include: St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Maarten
- All meals on board are included
- Pricing (Rates are per person, plus tax):
Oceanview (Category 6B) stateroom:
We also offer Other DATES and GATEWAYS.
Call us at 1-855-687-5925.
- Valid passport required for travel from Canada
- To book dining times please fill out the 'Requests' form specifying preference for first or second seating at time of booking
- This offer is 100% non-refundable at time of booking