"This place will slow you down, turn you around and mellow you out."Jenny Reynaert, CAO
This rural town of 7,500 isn't a tourist town. It's more like a town with visitors as when I visited on a Tuesday this month, and Mother Nature smiled upon me. I've been to Aylmer (locals pronounce it "L"mer) before, and knew it had an historic downtown, one of the many impressive buildings, the gorgeous late-1800's red brick Town Hall (check out the clock tower) that anchors one end of the street with parking free and walking easy. You discover heritage buildings with a new lease on life, unique boutiques, antique stores, bakeries and restaurants.
Town Administrator, Jenny Reynaert, proudly told me, "Aylmer embraces its heritage, and we're dedicated to preserving it." Another local I met said I should visit the Aylmer Sales Arena on the edge of town because, "Everybody knows Tuesday is Market Day at the arena." The market is a combination flea market and traditional farmers market. High on the list of sought-after items are the delicious Mennonite and Amish baked goods and farm fresh produce. One of the most popular in Southwestern Ontario, the market operates 8:30-4:30 p.m.
After the market. I travelled the rural roads outside town. They give me the greatest adventures, and I wasn't disappointed.
Both Mennonites and Amish are located here. Aylmer has a large population of German-speaking Mennonites who emigrated from Mexico to this area in the 1950's. They represent one-third of the town's population. I spotted a number of these Mennonites in their traditional dress, the men wearing baseball caps, checkered cotton shirts with plain pants; women in colourful dresses walking along side of the road. They waved before I had a chance to do the same.
When I travelled to the east side of Aylmer near the Ontario Police College, (established in 1963) I passed a number of the "horse and buggy people." The Old Order Amish practice a less hurried pace. In front of and behind me, I heard the sound of horses' hooves and buggys.
I stopped at the roadside stand of an Amish farmer on Glencolin Line East Road where I purchased one of his wife's homemade pies, a few cucumbers and radishes the size of small tomatoes.
There are about 75 Amish farms in this area representing one of the largest Amish communities in Canada. Old Order Amish use no electricity or running water, and they dress in plain grays and blues. They never work on Sundays and rotate church meetings at various homes. They pay school and property taxes. They are permitted to use a public phone; they call it a, "community phone." They rise early and work hard without complaint.
I travelled to the west end of town to the Pinecroft Tea Room on Rogers Road. This place consists of a lovely rustic restaurant set in a forest, à la Muskoka. Paul and Breana Smith, along with their children, Chad and Sarah, and a dedicated staff lay out a mean meal. The Tea Room only serves lunch, so arrive early for one of the ninety seats. I ordered the popular chicken and broccoli crepe, Paul's oversized pull-a-part rolls and homemade tomato soup.
Outside the Tea Room I walked off my meal along a wooded trail that borders a 2.5 acre lake. I spent a peaceful evening in Selma's Cabin located on the edge of the lake. Overnight accommodations for two costs $90.00 which includes breakfast. Worth every penny.
A ten minute drive away is Winter Wheat in nearby Sparta, described as a country folk art store. If you love gardens and appreciate eccentricity, you'll be happy that you came here. Admission to this five acre attraction located in a forest of towering pines is free.
Hope Co-Operative - Aylmer, Ontario
Cultural Economy - Aylmer, Ontario
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George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.