Susan, Freddy and I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Hamilton, Ontario where we house-sat for a friend, Helena, at her lovely brick home around the corner from Locke Street. Helena and her husband needed house-sitters as they were vacationing in Iceland.
We drove for seven and one-half hours from our home in West Springfield, Massachusetts to Helena’s home in Hamilton. MapQuest said it would take seven hours but we stopped twice to grab a bite to eat and to let Freddy stretch his legs. The time passed fairly quickly and Freddy was a perfect back seat driver–quiet the whole time! Look how happy he is!
This was Friday, the 7th of September, and by the time we arrived in Hamilton and unpacked, we were ready for dinner. We walked around the corner to Bread Bar–Earth To Table.
Well-known for it pizza and bread and “good ingredients,” we both ate hamburgers; me a “Umami Burger” and Susan a “Cheeseburger.” Both excellent. Later in the week we would have pizza two or three times there, and I think I must have bought five loaves of bread. So delicious but boy do I need to start an exercise program!!!! Or you’ll start calling me Dough Boy!
Susan, Freddy and I spent much of Saturday at the Locke Street Festival.
We visited the My Dog’s Café & Bar.
We saw some great signage and assorted advertisements on Locke Street. Later in the week we had lunch at the West Town Bar & Grill.
At the Locke Street Festival we bought our first loaf of Sourdough Bread from Bread Bar and Fresh Raspberry Jam from a local famer. And bracelets for our Granddaughter.
We brought Freddy home and went out for brunch. I had the best Eggs Benedict ever at Mattson & Co. on Locke Street–wild mushrooms, crispy baby kale, bacon. Thank You Georgia for the suggestion. Susan had an omelet with prosciutto and carnalized onions.
Here we are waiting for our food to arrive.
On Sunday we relaxed. I forgot to share with you this—-we had no TV and what a BLESSING!!!! We read and listened to music.
We then gathered ourselves up and went to the Royal Botanical Gardens and hiked through the Hendrie Valley Nature Sanctuary. Not a difficult hike but very beautiful.
On Monday it rained. I bought groceries and wine. I went for a walk to photograph some street art written and placed by poet Simon Frank. Here is one of 20+ images:
I LOVED this!!!
Tuesday brought us to the Bruce Trail and Borer’s Fall.
The Bruce Trail is a hiking trail in southern Ontario from the Niagara River to the tip of Tobermory, Ontario. The main trail is more than 550 miles long and there are over 250 miles of associated trails. The Bruce Trail follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and is the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in Canada. Its name is linked to the Bruce Peninsula and Bruce County which the trail runs through. The trail is named after James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin who was the Governor General of the Province of Canada from 1847 to 1854.
By the time Freddy, Susan and I hiked to Borer’s Falls and further along the Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment, up and down steep and slippery, moss covered steps and rocky paths, huffing and puffing, I imagined we had just hiked all 550 miles of the Bruce Trail and that the trail was really named after me and then I noticed the only one not day-dreaming and breathing heavily was Freddy.
Pictured below is Susan walking down one of the rocky paths of the Bruce Trail. I am looking at her and Google Maps/GPS on my phone, thinking when she meets up with me I am going to have to say “I think we are going in the wrong direction and we are going to have to hike back up those steep and slippery, moss covered steps and rocky paths.”
After all that huffing and puffing, we decided to return to Mattson & Co. for a dinner of wine and appetizers; we were so happy with the brunch we had a few days earlier. The food is excellent. We shared three appetizers. Fried Calamari with citrus gremolata, sweet basil aioli, candied jalapeno. Honey Truffle Toast with an olive tapenade, goat cheese mousse, wild mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, crisp house-made focaccia, wildflower truffle honey, fresh basil. Crab Cakes–Dungeness, snow and lump crab, ravigote hollandaise, sweet corn succotash, arugula. And wine. The happy house-sitters!
If it’s Wednesday it must be The Art Gallery of Hamilton. We saw the work of Vivian Maier.
All I can say is WOW!
We also saw: “James Street North: Vintage Photographs by Cees and Annerie van Gemerden;” “Speaking for Herself;” and the wild “Kim Adams: Bruegel-Bosch Bus.” All great exhibitions in a great museum. A must visit!
And that night I made a spicy chicken and mushroom stir fry.
And we listened to Neil Young, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell.
On Thursday we went for a walk at Bayfront Park and visited Tiffany Falls.
We had lunch at The Burnt Tongue (great soups and hamburgers), window-shopped on Locke Street, and bought a few book at Epic Books, one by Gary Barwin, who lives in Hamilton and is the author of twenty one books of poetry, fiction and books for children. Dinner was pizza from Bread Bar.
On Friday we visited the Fifty Point Conservation Area—and Freddy got to go in the water for the very first time! In Lake Ontario!!!
Afterward the three of us went to the Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, an absolutely beautiful place, where we each (Not Freddy) enjoyed a glass of Riesling, bought a few bottles of wine and four kinds of cheese.
It is interesting to note that there are 100+ wineries dotting the region, a fertile swath of land that separates Lake Ontario from Lake Erie and runs roughly from the Canadian border at the Niagara River and Niagara Falls to Hamilton, Ontario, just south of Toronto.
I am not one to complain, but being semi-retired and on vacation is hard work as you never really get a day off. For example, on Friday I walked Freddy three times before 10. Then I took Susan out to lunch; great beer and fries at Brux House, which is on Locke Street in beautiful Hamilton.
And then we boarded the Hamilton Harbour Queen for a tour of Hamilton Harbour, which was delightful and interesting.
Hamilton Harbour, formerly known as Burlington Bay, lies on the western tip of Lake Ontario, bounded on the northwest by the City of Burlington, on the south by the City of Hamilton, and on the east by Hamilton Beach (south of the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway) and Burlington Beach (north of the channel). It is joined to Cootes Paradise by a narrow channel formerly excavated for the Desjardins Canal. Within Hamilton itself, it is referred to as “Hamilton Harbour”, “The Harbour” and “The Bay”. The bay is naturally separated from Lake Ontario by a sand bar. The opening in the north end was filled in and channel cut in the middle for ships to pass. The Port of Hamilton is on the Hamilton side of the harbor.
Here is a jetty in Hamilton Harbour protecting the marina and the boats from wakes, creating a no-wake zone. I once read “wakes make people angry.”
We saw hundreds of sailboats and in this photo below we see a steel mill in the distance and those breast-like shapes on the right contain grain and soy beans.
On Sunday, our last full day, we went to Albion Falls.
Albion Falls is a 62 foot classical/cascade waterfall flowing down the Niagara Escarpment in Red Hill Valley in Hamilton. With cascade falls the downpour is staggered into a series of steps causing water to “cascade”.
Albion Falls was once seriously considered as a possible source of water for Hamilton. Rocks from the Albion Falls area were used in the construction of the Royal Botanical Gardens‘ Rock Garden.
The ravine at the Albion Falls has a legend of the Lover’s Leap! The story is that early in the 19th century young Jane Riley, disappointed in love with Joseph Rousseau, stood at the top of a steep cliff not far from thundering Albion Falls and flung herself to the bottom 100 feet below. The steep drop has since been dubbed “Lovers’ Leap” and many tales have grown up about the suicide.
On a happier note, we celebrated the end of our brief but spectacular vacation at Mattson & Co. enjoying some calamari and wine. Our third visit there, but who is counting! Great food and service!
One last thing, no trip to Hamilton is complete without purchasing donuts from the Donut Monster on Locke Street. And I did on Monday morning before we headed home. Pictured here Mexican Chocolate and Orange Hibiscus. YUM!!!
Wait! There’s more. I would be remiss if I didn’t say how beautiful the city of Hamilton is: the stores and restaurants along Locke Street; the nearby hiking trails and waterfalls; the kind and friendly people; the dogs—so many dogs in this very dog-friendly city; the beautiful brick homes. Oh! I think I saw a house for sale on Helena’s street!
Note: Helena is a friend from fourteen years ago when I had an art gallery. She is a gifted writer and fine art photographer. She is also the first person whose art I exhibited in my gallery. She loves photography, dogs, cats and ponies. Here is a photo from her recent trip to Iceland:
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” ~Seneca
One last thing happened when we were in Hamilton. Diane Ensey of Beyond Paper redesigned my website. I couldn’t be happier. I have worked with Diane before and I must say she’s the best: creative and attentive to detail–and fun to work with!