A Good Long Time #24years
Carin Harris, Eclectic Soapbox | Nov 15, 2016
Blogger Carin Harris from Eclectic Soapbox visited Windsor Essex in the Fall to spend a romantic weekend with her husband celebrating 24 years together. Carin tells us all about the fantastic fun to be found in the Fall season, including plenty of fantastic beer they discovered on the region’s new Barrels Bottles and Brews Trail.
I can’t believe it’s been 24 years since I met the man of my dreams. Ironically we grew up within a dozen blocks of each other in Toronto, Ontario but never met until we went out of town to celebrate Oktoberfest in Kitchener that fateful night.
It seems only fitting that this anniversary be celebrated with beer – it being a 2-4 and all.
We were invited by Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island to explore the area and enjoy some of their excellent selection of fall delights including canoeing, beer, great food and culture. This area is rich with culture and has many unique and diverse establishments. It was so nice to be able to explore it fully with all our senses.
On our trip we visited restaurants with their own breweries and breweries with restaurants. We found two things in common with each – their determination to be unique, and their pride in their offerings. (Click on the green or underlined words – they are links – if you want more information.)
Our First Day
We began our #falldrivesYQG by stretching our legs after a 4 ½ hour drive at the Ojibway Nature Centre. While we were walking on one of the trails, we basically walked up to this deer right by the side of the trail. She didn’t seem at all concerned that we were there. I could have reached out and petted her but I didn’t want to ruin the serene moment. The fall colours were just starting to show around us and the birds were singing merrily. It was like a scene out of Sleeping Beauty. It was so calm and natural. Perfect for holding hands as we let the tension ease from our bodies.
Further along we paused by a stream with a natural bridge made of rocks and saw another deer munching happily away on the other side. She looked up at us, wagged her ears and went back to the crunchy leaves. There are multiple trail options with different lengths and one is paved to assist wheeled chairs or strollers.
Next stop was LaSalle for a canoe ride on the River Canard. This town and the outpoust, has been around for a very long time. They have history dating back before the war of 1812 and we were informed the area was right in the middle of many of the battles.
The river was gentle and there were no motorized vehicles when we were out on it. I thoroughly enjoyed our time in what I was told was the ‘Cadillac’ of canoes. I haven’t done much canoeing in my life and certainly not in the last 30 years and the owner Ron and our guide Madeline were very patient.
My husband is a skilled canoe paddler and smoothly maneuvered us into a beautiful spot where we were able to sit and revel in the beauty of the town and fall colours around us. It was very relaxing and I could imagine sleeping out there on the calm water.
As we floated into the sunset I was reminded of how many times we have been through challenges with our relationship from external influences including jobs, family issues and the normal ebb and flow of a relationship. Like paddling out into this beautiful river, it takes work to get there but there are the calm spots that make it all worth while. We are at that point in our relationship now.
Ron and Mary-Anne, owners of the River Canard Canoe Company (I have so much fun saying that name!) are running a guided ‘haunted’ tour in the evenings – in the dark – called Phantoms of the Canard. Check this link for more information on that.
Dinner that night was at Joe Schmoes. The staff was pleasant and they have a good selection of food with a variety of options. As soon as my husband learned the daily special the Burger Royale, a burger consisting of 4oz of fresh roasted beef, 8oz hand made burger patty, crispy onion rings, and the rest of the fixings – he had to have it. I had the roast beef on an onion bun with horse radish and mayo sauce– so delicious. It is worth stopping by on your next trip to LaSalle.
After dinner we dropped our bags off at the hotel and grabbed a taxi to the LaSalle Craft Beer Festival. Featured companies this year were Bayside Brewing Company, Walkerville Brewery, Brew Microbrewery, Mill Street Brewery, Craftheads Brewing Company, Beau’s All Natural, Frank Brewing Company, and Dominion House all offering their unique prime beer selections on draft. Wolfhead Distillery served beer cocktails while Brickworks Ciderhouse was also there with some excellent fresh ciders.
The Festival took place under a HUGE tent with heaters in place, ample tables and chairs and live entertainment. There was also giant checker and Jenga games and three gourmet food trucks rounding things up.
We were able to sample many of the fine establishments that night in our collector’s mugs. Basically you take your mug to each beer vendor and give them a token that you purchase beforehand. You also have the option of giving more tokens for larger sizes depending on what you want.
I’m so glad we decided to take a taxi because while those sample glasses look small, they add up fast! Each taste was unique and offered different flavours, some obvious but many more subtle. I think this would be a great thing to do with a bunch of friends. Bonus that The Holiday Inn and Suites is right up the street if you are from out of town.
Make sure you sign up for this early next year as I hear online sales tripled for 2016.
The next day started with a healthy dose of java for Paul and a delicious decaf mocha latte for me at Anchor Coffee. We enjoyed a potato and feta frittata with a delightful pumpkin scone. Owners Rachel, Kyle and Ryan aim for fresh and tasty food served in a bright open concept dining room.
One of my favourite things about Windsor, as I discovered this summer, is the riverfront walk. Full of beautiful and diverse art work, the Windsor Sculpture Park is considered a museum without walls.
There are 31 pieces plus a huge array of flowers and plants in seasonally maintained and frequently changed gardens. I could fill my pages with images from this walk and still find new things with each visit.
I was so happy to be able to introduce it to Paul this trip and he was equally intrigued. Lots of giggles and fun as we dedicated this time to just seeing what was there. It is so strange to think we are less than a mile across the river from Detroit and just down the road from the Ambassador Bridge in this beautiful oasis.
I never realized how rich with history this area was until we visited the Chimczuk Museum and the François Baby House. Many of the displays chronicle the involvement of the citizens in the war establishing the border.
We learned that this area had the first electric trolley car in Canada, is actually Canada’s only southern town, (south of the US/Canada border,) 75% of the liquor smuggled into the US during prohibition came through Windsor, and that the town developed largely from Hiram Walker needing staff for his Canadian Club Whisky company.
Our guide told us that the fashion industry in Britain, and specifically beaver felt hats, is what encouraged the development of Canada as a colony. I’d never heard that before.
Did you know this is where ‘Windsor Salt’ actually comes from? There are many salt mines under the town created by a giant iceberg that moved in millions of years ago, removing all traces of land based dinosaurs.
Each museum has a large array of programs for children in school or camps. My kids would have loved going to them, especially the newest exhibit we were able to preview – the Ice Age Mammals. Set to launch on the 20th of October, you will see the bones of huge creatures and be able to touch an actual mammoth tusk. We learned about the giant beavers, American Lions and American Elephants that once roamed the area as well. I never knew we had elephants and lions here let alone beavers the size of bears.
We took a break for lunch at Pause Café and found out that in addition to the amazing delicious fresh food they offer, they also offer a fantastic selection of small batch ice creams. You would not believe the flavours they have created including this little nugget I borrowed from their Facebook page:
“French Merlot Ice Cream – The creamy succulent palate doles out juicy ripe plum and blackberry aroma with vibrant red berry and blackcurrant fruit wrapping up the finish.”
We lucked out with salted caramel and blueberry cheesecake flavours. I’ve never had ice cream like this and it was so much better than all the ice cream I’ve ever had in the past! The cafe itself is like a tropical oasis without the humidity. We really enjoyed this experience.
Back to the fall driving trail – our next stop was a very brief visit at The Art Gallery of Windsor. I’d like to go back one day when we have more time since there is so much to see and absorb.
The layout of this gallery is such that you can see how other galleries, in other eras presented their art. Each section is displayed in a different traditional format. Also, we were informed that the school art programs in the area are all linked to the different displays at the gallery.
I was enchanted by the variety of works from artists from all over the world. Old and new it is an impressive collection. On the day we went we could only see one floor as the other housed and exhibition that was being changed. I was so excited to see so many Group of Seven paintings and learn a bit more about the history of that group. I also enjoyed the newer works from artists like Rebecca Belmore, a Blanket for Sarah, 1994 and Iain Baxter with Still Life: Canadian Waters from 1993.
There are many programs you can explore on the website here.
We decided to walk down to see Artcite Inc., a centre dedicated to showcasing artists and art projects from the region. The current artist on display was Scott Waters from Toronto, Ontario “Nothing is more frowned upon than nothing,” and we ran into the next featured artist Gustave Morin of Windsor, Ontario “Chthonic Youth,” who will be showcasing his work from October 14th to November 19th. It sounds like there will be a lot of live work with Gustave interacting with people while he continues to create throughout his exhibit.
On our way back to the car we passed by street art displays on Maiden Lane. We saw gorgeous painted murals all over the once plain alley walls. What a great way to beautify the area and bring people together.
When we were at Artcite, program coordinator Andrea Slavik had told us of their involvement in the project. Local artists and others from all over the world contributed with funding from an Ontario Trillium Grant.
Back to our tour of the Barrels, Bottles and Brews Trail! Our next stop was at Craftheads. Located in a downstairs taproom, the first thing you see when you enter is the wall with 30 taps in a row – all custom beer crafted there in small batches. The place was packed as we went during ‘happy hour’.
Aardvark blonde was our pick from the flight of 4 we tried which included a pumpkin spice version. We just missed out on the Turbulent Peanut Butter Chocolate Porter – and will have to go back one day to try it.
This spot offers gourmet pizza from a local wood burning oven pizzeria but you are also invited to bring your own food.
A short drive across town took us our next stop at Brew Microbrewery. Their 6 house small batch basic flavours range from the Brew Proper Lager to a Canadian Maple Brew. I love the graphics these guys use for their labels – I’d like to collect some art posters from the breweries we visited on our trip.
We had some delicious nachos for dinner and they also had pretzels, pizzas and some funky beer cocktails. I tried the Shandy which was very good although different from what I am used to. Paul ended up with a flight including Maple, Sour and the Proper lager.
As an aside, there were electric outlets to charge up your phones under the counter (customer side) as well as hooks for purses!
Next morning we were up bright and early to finish the last leg of our journey before heading home. We found the Twisted Apron to be a place we’d like to go back to every Sunday. The comfort food they offer is delicious, filling and a good value.
The seating was comfortable, the place well lit and the staff super friendly. Breakfast is offered all day and of course I ordered the Traditional Eggs Bennie. We also shared a dish of their 3 cheese béchamel mac and cheese. Paul tried the Breakfast Poutine – yes it was a delicious as you can imagine.
I like their attitude here – on the website it says “It’s like eating at your mom’s…if your mom was a kicking gourmet chef.”
Our first stop of the final three stages of our beer discoveries was to Walkerville Brewery. The brewery is housed in a building once used to store Hiram Walker’s Canadian Club overstock barrels. The racks were up three stories high at one point in time. Shortened now you can still see the original footings in the floor.
Mr. Walker was not just into whisky but he was also a beer man and started brewing his own for the benefit of his employees in 1890. This brewery today reflects the same ideals in terms of quality and local support.
The bar contains 7 taps to intrigue your taste buds. The steam boat on the logo represents the one Hiram Walker started so he could get back and forth to Detroit faster than going down to the bridge.
We learned so much from Michael Beaudoin, a Brewer there. We saw big shiny silver tanks, bright colourful logos for the beers, and clean glasses with just the right amount of foam on top.
Our next stop brought us to the Canadian Club Brand Centre* right on the riverfront. The well known Hiram Walker founded his whisky company in Windsor, Ontario, because of the quality of the local grains. He bought up much of the land in the area to build homes and facilities to house his employees. Eventually this lead to the area being known as Walkerville.
The tour* of the mansion was full of interesting tidbits of information including the guide mentioning Hiram didn’t like whisky that much he just liked the money it brought him. Prohibition was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.
His insistence on using only the purest and best quality ingredients contributed to his reputation for making a product equal to none setting his brand up as “Canada’s whisky.”
The beautiful mansion and lush gardens are now available to the public to use for weddings, corporate events etc.
* the Canadian Club Brand Centre is not currently offering tours (as of April 1, 2017)
Our last stop on the Barrels, Bottles and Brews Trail was to Motor Burgers and Brewery. I have to say the highlight of this visit was speaking with Jay, one of the co-owners, about the business and it’s history. This place is a very interesting restaurant and ‘nano’ brewery. From what we saw I think Motor has maximum quality, care and ingenuity built into not only their brewing process and brews but also their menu.
We fell in love with the Peanut Butter Porsch-Etta Burgers and the Turkey Car beer. My husband also really enjoyed seeing the engine parts used as decor including the 8 flight piston part stand. Very clever.
We had such a good time visiting businesses and sites around Windsor Essex for our anniversary. Whether you go for a day or a week you will have no shortage of options to fill your schedule. There is something for everyone and a great place to go for a fall drive.
Art was in the air and everywhere we went whether it was sculptures on the river or hamburgers on our plate, from beers to street art this was a fantastic look at this creative and fascinating region.
I look forward to returning to revisit these places and if you are around the weekend of October 14th to 16th, check out the Windsor Craft Beer Festival to sample many more flavours including the ones I have mentioned here.
To get ideas for a Fall Essex County Road Trip, please go towww.visitwindsoressex.com/fall-drives or follow #falldrivesYQG for plenty of reasons to visit.