Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) is one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, and one of my favourite places to spend an afternoon, a day, or a weekend. With orchards, wineries and restaurants in abundance, the area is paradise for food and wine lovers. For me, the attraction is also the Shaw Festival, billed in promotional material as “one of the world’s great theatre companies”. From April to November each year, the Festival showcases plays by Bernard Shaw and other great playwrights.
After finishing up a work obligation at the Niagara Culinary Institute in NOTL last Saturday morning, Murray and I went into historic NOTL for the afternoon.
We lunched on the outdoor patio at The Epicurean Bistro where I had no trouble polishing off a grilled vegetable (eggplant, onion and sweet pepper) panini and Murray noshed on a turkey sandwich. The desserts were enticing – they included a mile-high pecan pie that looked like each slice weighed more than my miniature poodle and contained enough calories to fuel me for at least two days – but we were going for tea later in the afternoon so I refrained from indulging. I had to keep the tea in mind a few minutes later when we strolled past the large windows of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Everything is covered in chocolate in that place, including huge apples that, after their chocolate coating, get rolled in nuts, sprinkles, smarties, marshmallows……
It was a beautiful day and the sidewalks and shops were busy with tourists. We had tickets to a matinee performance of The Little Foxes, a play by Lillian Hellman. We were happy not to have to fight the crowds for sidewalk space, or a place in the line-ups for ice cream.
The Shaw Festival has a great roster of plays again this year. The Little Foxes, which we quite enjoyed, was the third production I’ve seen of this season’s offerings. Getting Married by Bernard Shaw was also good (lots of talk, little action) as was An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly (a great mystery and thought-provoking ending).
Following the play, we headed to the Prince of Wales Hotel to enjoy Afternoon Tea in the drawing room. We had made reservations for 5 p.m. but they would not have been necessary as there weren’t many guests at that time. (Tea is served daily from noon to 6 p.m.)
I ordered the Traditional Afternoon Tea and a pot of China Green Jasmine tea and Murray had the Prince of Wales Afternoon Tea and the Golden Tippy Assam tea. Tea for one includes sandwiches, scones, dainties, preserves and cream, and a full pot of tea. Murray’s tea included a basket of assorted crackers and a plate of cheeses and fruit. It will set you back about $35.
We had stayed at the Prince of Wales for a weekend in early April as a surprise birthday destination for Murray. It’s a charming hotel, well appointed and very victorian in its decor. Not cheap, and definitely not the type of lodging we typically choose, but nevertheless, a nice change and definitely a treat.
During that visit, we dined in the Churchill Lounge (great steak and frites) and ate breakfast in the Escabeche Restaurant (the poached egg breakfast was very nice). We also ate at the Tiara Restaurant, located in one of the Prince of Wales’ sister hotels, the Queen’s Landing. The Tiara offers a tasting menu which we didn’t have time to enjoy that evening (our server suggested three hours were necessary). We put this on our list of things to do in NOTL on another visit.
As part of that weekend’s itinerary, I had booked a couples massage at the Secret Garden Spa at the Prince of Wales. Murray was not keen about having a guy as his massage therapist so I promised that if one of our therapists was male, I’d ask him to work on my sore muscles so Murray would have a female as his therapist. Unfortunately for Murray, we never discussed what to do if both therapists were guys!! You can guess how this story ends!
There’s lots to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake whether you enjoy shopping, golfing, visiting historical sights, wining, dining, or reading a book in the pretty park across from the Prince of Wales Hotel. Fun foodie stores in the historic town include Greaves Jams and Marmalades, Cheese Secrets, Pairings Specialty Food Market and Kurtz Culinary Creations.
Sadly, the Dansk Factory Outlet, a great place to pick up interesting dishes and kitchenware (and where I bought foodie signs for my kitchen last fall), was having a 50% off closing out sale. Well, nice if you were looking for a deal, but too bad the store is closing. On future trips to NOTL, I’ll be watching to see what appears in that space.
See you in NOTL some time!