I love Paris (that's Ontario) in the springtime. Well, actually I love Paris at any time of the year.
This lovely little town of 12,000 is tucked away in a wide valley and only an hour and a half drive from Niagara, the perfect spur-of-the-moment day trip. My wife Ellen and I began our journey on a sparkling early spring day. We started our adventure by visiting their historic downtown, where we parked free. I know from previous visits that this is the kind of place where the locals nod, smile and greet you when you enter their shops, a pleasant laid-back lifestyle.
The town is named for nearby deposits of gypsum used to make Plaster of Paris and also referred to as, "The Cobblestone Capital of Canada" because of the large number of aged cobblestone homes. Like so many other small towns in Canada, it claims also to be the prettiest in Canada. They might be right.
Grand River Street North is the main street, and when I think about Paris, I think about cheese, chocolates, fresh bread and wine, all within walking distance.
The Three Blind Mice Cheese Company features a wide variety of exotic cheeses like Blue Suede Cheesecakes and local Herb and Asparagus cheese.
Next door is Chocolate Sensations with gorgeous smells that dare you to try and leave without some chocolate under your arm.
The Paris Bakery is another friendly place where the smell of freshly baked breads and pastries fill the air. Manager, Denise West, and her staff greet locals and visitors with big smiles. Maureen Rich who made one of her weekly trips from Brantford to visit the bakery, told me, "Everything is delicious but my favourites are the butter flaked rolls. It's like eating desert."
At one end of the street is an LCBO outlet where you can pick up your wine.
If lucky, you will be able to find a pamphlet (they're scarce) outlining a self-guided architectural walking tour of the town. The walk takes you to landmarks built in the mid-19th century. St. James Anglican Church on Burwell Street was built in 1839, and is one of the town's first cobblestone structures. Check out the fine two-story Dr. Snowden House and Dispensary cobblestone house next door.
Another interesting location was Jamie Kent's Grand Experience Canoe and Kayaker Outfitter Store. He offers guided day and overnight canoe trips of the Grand River. You can also try kayaking and rafting.
Next door is Vintage Velo. Former professional motor car racer, Jeff Dimitry, sells refurbished bikes from the 1940's and up. You can also rent vintage bikes for the day.
The Springtime in Paris Festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday June 1-2 from 10 am until 5 pm. There's entertainment in the park, breakfast in the park, a craft show, Soap Box Derby, garden tours, children's art contest, baseball games and even raft rides on the Grand River. The festival takes place in Lions Park and admission is free.
Paris offers a number of nice places to eat. We chose the Cedar House Grill and Martini Bar at 12 Broadway Street West. Co-Owners Samantha Dion and Matthew Lee, who are sister and brother, serve delicious food at reasonable prices. This eclectic and quaint restaurant has zesty home-made soups (we tried the Potato, Leek and Bacon soup and ordered a second one to go).The sandwiches, made with fresh Paris Bakery bread, are large and can be shared. The average lunch price for a sandwich and bowl of soup is around $12.00. On Sundays, prime rib is served at half price ($12.00 and $14.00) from 5pm until they run out. Reservations are recommended (1-519-442-5555). They are closed on Mondays.
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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.