Niagara Day Trip - Girlfriend's Great Idea!

I'm now the biggest fan of Niagara-on-the-Lake ... Who Knew?

With July being the high peek of summer, there is no shortage of things to see and do - all within a cheap, close drive from Toronto. Treat yourself and your partner to that summer vacation without spending a fortune in gas money or taking 3 days to travel to your destination. Once in a while you really just need to get away to something more laid back and quaint - take the opportunity to explore something outside of your metropolis and experience things that are different from your normal way of life.

The Girl suggested we hit up the Niagara region, specifically the tiny village of Niagara-On-The-Lake. This is a part of Southern Ontario known famously for its wineries, antiques, and of course the popular Shaw Festival: a theatrical festival celebrating the works of playwright George Bernard Shaw. At first I was hesitant, hearing largely that the area attracted an older crowd. Regardless, The Girl marched on making preparations for the day in spite of my fears of this generation gap. "It won't matter after going wine tasting," I thought to myself.

It was decided that both of us would take Friday off and start on our little journey to the Niagara Region around 11 AM, life moves at a slower pace down there for the better, so why not start the day off with a relaxing little sleep in! Heading down the Q.E.W. we slowly saw the city fade into suburban bliss, developments dotted alongside the highway turned into bungalows with spacious lawns, and finally rows of grape trees neatly lined up one after the other as far as the eye could see.

Our lineup of activities consisted of grabbing a bite to eat, some wine tasting, and then taking in the matinee performance of "Mrs Warren's Profession". The area itself is pleasing to the eye; large trees and lush lawns engulf the area as you head down winding roads into the main strip of town on Queen Street. It is here where most of the action takes place. Unique gift shops, restaurants, old historic buildings, horse drawn carriages, hotels, and two of the Shaw theatres neatly file down the large street as people leisurely stroll up and down.

After taking a short drive down the main strip, parking and paying a mere dollar for an hours worth of time (a dollar!), we headed into the "Stagecoach Family Restaurant", a bustling diner with fast and courteous service. I ordered a BLT and The Girl opted for a very authentic Greek salad in a place that seemed like it wouldn't serve one. Our meals came and went quickly, the staff gets the throngs of people in and out in a timely fashion (with no push to rush) in order to cater to their consistently full house.

The Niagara region is well known for its numerous vineyards, providing the country and the world with award winning wines. After driving around and scoping out the scene, we settled on Pellar Estates Winery, a sprawling vineyard with a beautiful building which houses the wine tasting and event areas for those special occasions. The place literally transports you to the wine tasting centres of the world like the Nappa Valley, especially when that trip to California isn't exactly in your budget at the moment.

Our sommelier Mike greets us with a warm welcome, something that we've grown accustomed to since arriving in the area - everyone is friendly! Over the next hour he educates us on the different methods of wine tasting, all the while making us feel like he is totally not selling anything. We learn about the proper tasting techniques, how to enjoy your wine, and how the glass makes a difference when tasting. We make sure not to take in too much of the tasting; we still have to go see a play! After some recommendations from Mike, we proceed to the exit - with a couple of bottles for later on at home of course!

Finally we arrive at the last destination of our fun little day trip away from the city, a performance of Bernard Shaw's "Mrs Warren's Profession". One of Shaw's raciest plays (the house programme tells me that it was banned practically everywhere when it was first produced) it focuses on Mrs. Kitty Warren, a hard working mother providing for her daughter Vivie. Upon learning of how her mother obtained such wealth, scandal breaks loose and mother and daughter battle each other over love, sex, money, and morality.

The play is housed in the large "Festival Theatre", the Shaw's flagship theatre that can seat up to 856 people and is used for large-scale productions. With a café and outdoor patio, we decide to enjoy another drink before the show starts and also take in a stroll around the surrounding garden. The production is as racy as it was described to be. I will admit that Shaw's "Pygmalion" is one of my all time favourite plays, so I have nothing but glowing things to say about this playwright.

With our day at an end, we lazily made our way back to the car and headed back to the grind and noise of the city. On a whole the trip was a great change of pace, and we're thinking of going back for a weekend to try out some one of the lovely bed and breakfast's or inns around the area. For a fun, interesting, and relatively inexpensive trip, the Shaw Festival [] along with the village of Niagara-On-The-Lake is a great place to head to relax the soul and stimulate the mind!

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