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Port Colborne's Historic West Street
© by George Bailey
Port Colborne's Historic West Street
Where does it say you have to travel a long distance to have a day of adventure? I headed out to one of my favourite places, Port Colborne (pop 18,500) at the southern end of the Welland Canal along the north shore of Lake Erie.

I have to admit I'm a big fan of West Street that runs parallel to the canal. This historic street houses many red brick buildings from the 1800's. These buildings present a cluster of diverse shops, most open seven days a week. I parked my car for free along the street and started to browse.

My first interesting find was the Port Thrift Shop. This store is operated by the Mennonite Central Community with all proceeds going to charity. There slogan is, "Every purchase is a gift to the world." They also believe green is good and if you don't take a plastic bag with your purchase you'll have your name entered into a draw for a $5.00 coupon.

Antique lovers will enjoy several shops featuring items from the past. Grants Gifts, The Picket Fence, and Something Else Gallery-Boutique are places to pop into. Grants Gifts offers items inspired by major holidays. A Valentine's Day Flag hung outside the store. Guys, don't forget February 14th. Also on the 14th the Showboat Festival Theatre in Port has a show, "Country Love Songs." Tickets are $30.00 each and can be purchase by calling 905-834-0833.

The Picket Fence features Country and Victorian paraphernalia and a selection of special greeting cards. Something Else Gallery and Boutique is at the corner of West Street and Clarence Street. Owner Gail Todd will likely greet you at the door. She's a ball of energy with lots of stories about Port Colborne. When she speaks you can feel the enthusiasm in her voice about her town and her store. Gail told me, "this store has many recycled and up-cycled handmade fashion accessories and art d├ęcor. A lot of our items are made by local artists."

Don't miss dropping into Jack's Toy Store right next door. When I entered, I was greeted by the stores namesake, six-year-old Jack Elder, who was trying out one of the toys. His Mom Liz Elder was close by.

Six year old Jack Elder

Right across the street on Clarence Street was Ten Thousand Villages, a store operated by one part-time employee and volunteers. This unique store features fair trade coffee and fair trade hand-made products from 120 artisan groups from more than 35 developing countries. My daughter Jennifer, who was with me on this trip, after sampling a small cup of coffee, purchased a bag of coffee from the Congo.

This town has plenty of nice eateries.

Minor's Fisheries Restaurant on West Street nails it when it comes to fish and chips. Walter's and Neptune's Restaurant and the Canalside Restaurant both on West Street are known for great food and friendly service. This time, I made my way to the north end of West Street to the Smokin Buddha Restaurant in the old Railway Station. The open kitchen restaurant prides itself on preparing fresh dishes from Thailand, India, and Japan and Canada. It was featured a few years ago on the Food Network show, "You Gotta Eat Here." Our Server Ashlee delivered with a smile an appetizer of Bangkok Fish Cakes and our dinner of spicy Pad Thai (the most ordered dish on the menu) and Beef Rendang. They were good choices.

We held off ordering desert because many locals told us we have to try Bremfield's Bakeshop, Café and Floral Shop at 91 W. Main Street. Rob and Bonnie Byleveld opened their shop with their children two years ago in a renovated building built in 1887. The building also served as a general store, Post Office and Antique shop. They feature one lunch a day and pastries that are out of this world. Bet you can't eat the oversize two-dollar cinnamon buns yourself. When we were there people were scooping up their $10 freshly-made-pies-to-go. They are closed on Sunday and Monday.

Fair trade Coffee is available at Ten Thousand Villages gift store   Gail Todd of Something Else Gallery   Lift Bridge at Lock 8, Port Colborne   One of the lakers moored along the canal at Port Colborne for the winter    Server Ashee brings our Smokin Buddha meals to our table

Be sure to have your camera ready to take photos of the Canal Lift Bridge and the many large ships that are moored for the winter along the canal bank. If you arrive on a Friday morning check out the outdoor Farmers' Market across from City Hall.

Bonnie and Rob Byleveld,owners of Bampfield's Bakeshop,cafe and Floral Shop

Bonnie and Rob Byleveld

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.

Photo Credits
George Bailey

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Originally called Gravelly Bay, after the shallow, bedrock-floored bay upon which it sits, the modern City of Port Colborne traces its roots back to the United Empire Loyalist settlements that grew up in the area following the American Revolution.
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