Southern Ontario and What I Found There
A few pics and thoughts from my September 2008 trip to the distinct society of Southern Ontario.
We arrived at Hamilton International Airport. It's basically a tarmac and some outbuildings. The good news is you don't have far to get to your rental car, just step over the hay bales and you're there.
This is The Bookshelf in Guelph, which used to have a cafe/theatre, but now just has the theatre with a little bar upstairs. (Their restaurant, while still next door, has been sold and re-branded.)
The Bookshelf was one of the inspirations fifteen years ago for what has become 274 Garry Street. I wanted to do something just like that.
After nine months of renovation, triumph and tragedy, The Bookshelf in Guelph doesn't seem so big anymore. (It is smaller than 274 Garry, I think.)
We also visited Picard's Peanuts, which many Southern Ontarians told me is World-Famous. As no one outside of Southern Ontario knows this, you do the math.
We took a jaunt to Niagara Falls, which is the most breathtaking and horrifying site in Canada. Breathtaking because the falls are truly a wonder of nature. We went on one of the Maid of the Mist boats that takes you into the heart of the Horseshoe Falls. I can't even describe it. It has to be experienced.
And back on land, Niagara Falls is horrifying because it panders to the worst kind of American-style tackiness you can imagine. (Not that there's anything wrong with being a Tacky American,
but if I wanted to get me some of that, I'd go to Tacky America.)
I would like to say the main strip in the town is like Las Vegas, but it makes Vegas look like a Virgin Eden.
I would describe it as the Red River Ex, plus all the worst stuff from Disneyland, Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall.
There are four haunted houses...
and this one, you'll see in this close-up, has a Burger King. Some B. Comm. grad decided that billing a Burger King as
"Niagara's Most Terrifying Experience" was a good idea. Finally, some truth in advertising.
At least our motel was nice.
Actually, once you wade past the crap, there are a few redeeming qualities other than the Falls.
Clearly, we were still wading through the
After soaking tourists all day (yes, you saw what I did there), they do free fireworks in the evening. Niagara Parks boasts that they have operated without public money since 1885. No surprise there. I estimated that
the Maid of the Mist boats alone pull in about $25,000 an hour.
And the Niagara Parks department is more than just a portal to the falls. Off the strip, you'll find some real natural beauty.
Niagara Parks also operates an incredible butterfly conservatory.
They have an aggressive breeding program as well.
There's been talk of doing something like this with the Assiniboine Park Conservatory. They see it as the way to get
a new building to replace the current one, which is falling down. Would Winnipeggers pay to go to the Conservatory if it had
butterflies? They should. It's a great way to teach kids about the fragility of ecosystems. Butterflies are so delicate and so important.
And they look neat.
Niagara Falls also boasts the world's largest indoor aviary.
The Bird Kingdom is housed in the last home of the World-Famous (in Southern Ontario) Niagara Falls Museum. The museum
was opened in 1827, and closed in 1999 due to lack of interest in old stuff.
Apparently not getting the memo on old stuff, the new owners of the building purchased a centuries-old building from Indonesia that now sits
inside the aviary. (The Indonesians did, however, get that memo.)
Finally, with my permit in hand, I headed back down the rabbit-hole to Guelph...
for a very nice wedding at a site very much like the St. Norbert ruins...
and danced the night away.
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