One of the prettiest places to visit any time of the year is the lovely village of Elora (Pop. 7,000) on the Grand River. No big box stores, supermarkets, malls or Timmies. The pace is slow. It's almost impossible to be in a hurry here.
The village, founded in 1832, has plenty of 19th century limestone architecture filled with small art shops. When you walk the streets of Mill, Geddes and Metcalfe you'll have the feeling of time travelling. Many of the downtown buildings, built between 1840 and 1850 by Scottish stone masons, were constructed from the area's natural limestone. About 35 shops, eight restaurants and a dozen or so small inns and B and B's have found new homes in these buildings.
Two shops on Mill Street that interested my wife Ellen were Honeychurch Lane and Epiphany.
Honeychurch Lane is one of the newest additions to the shopping district. Located in what at one time was a blacksmiths shop it's not your average antique store. In addition to antiques you'll find giftware made by local artists, all handmade and repurposed with a vintage flare. It's a treasure trove of upcycled painted furniture, velvet upholstery and vintage glassware and more.
Epiphany can be described as an old world boutique with elegant affordable clothing. There's lots of special event dresses, fashion jewelry, accessories like scarfs and hats, cards, books, handmade Christmas Crackers, and I even spotted magnifying glasses. They're now in the glove compartment of my car.
While Ellen continued her shopping I took a walk up Metcalfe Street where the aroma of freshly baked bread drew me into the
Elora Bread Trading Company. Co-owner Sonia Cheng told me, "We're a small scale artisan bakery which specializes in the traditional methods of making bread. All our breads are handcrafted from start to finish". Try a sample one of her sour dough breads and you'll be taking a few loaves home.
Ellen caught up and we decided to have lunch at one of our favourite restaurants,
The Desert Rose Cafe. Carnivores will want to stay clear of this place. Chef Resa Lent (she's also the owner) has been offering up homemade vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals (long before it was in fashion) for 37 years. Everything's delicious.
For our evening dinner we made reservations at one of Elora's hottest new micro-brewery and eatery
The Elora Brewing Company at 107 Geddes Street. When we visited that evening, Matthew Lawson, one of the five owners, told me, "It all came about as a result of our love of craft beer. It took close to a year to renovate this beautiful historic 1880's limestone building, once a former hardware store, into the brewery and gastropub." The night we visited it was packed. One diner originally from Toronto now living in Elora told me, "It's like one of Toronto's great restaurants found right here in tiny Elora." We agreed.
There are lots of places to visit within a few kilometres of the village.
Just down the road is Fergus. This is another small community where the past meets the present. Check out the Elora Gorge that runs through the town and be sure to visit the gorge at night to experience the brilliant display of lights that light up the gorge.
The "Kissing Bridge" in West Montrose about a ten minute drive away was built in 1881 and is the only covered bridge in Ontario. For many years it was lit by gas lanterns. It earned its name from couples who took advantage for a brief moment inside this romantic shelter. When you're here, drop into Lost Acre Variety a short walk from one end of the bridge. The store is operated by a Mennonite family who make the best pies and breads on site. Chances are you'll see horse-drawn buggy's tied up outside while Mennonites do their shopping. Inside the store is an eclectic mix of merchandise. The store is open Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday. They only accept cash.
For this visit we stayed at the Flying Leap B and B. (
www.theflyingleap.com) at 249 Geddes Street in the heart of Elora. This is a place to stay if you want peace and quiet (no TV).Bring along a few pocket books and newspapers to read. The delicious hot breakfast started our day off right.
Sonia Cheng of the Elora Bread Trading Company
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.