Ice - wine - baby! (do do do dududoodoo...)
Trip Start Jul 31, 2009
36Trip End Jul 31, 2009
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Fabi had told me about Moose (for the whole day they were referred to as MOOOOOOSSSEEE! by myself and another couple of Brits) tours, which do very entry level back-packer style tours around some of the sights. My SWAP card finally came in useful as I received a discount meaning that the day trip to Niagara falls was only $35 Canadian (although it didn't include the Maid-of-the-mist, that was $13 extra - not too shabby). The beauty of the trip, however, was that it wasn't zoom around "I see the falls" and then back to Toronto, we actually had a full day of it. The first thing we went to do was a wine tasting in the Niagara region. We all were a bit bemused that this was happening first, but were assured that in an ideal world it would have happened before any of us had had any coffee
The bus was cramped without functioning AC so we basically just zoomed along the freeway with the windows open unable to hear anything over the roar (that was to prove to be a common theme today). When we got into the region of the vineyards I was heavily reminded of the south of France - there were acres and acres of the things all over the place with road signs up to wineries left, right and centre. Considering all of the TV government-funded warnings about drink driving it would seem Ontario has taken the oath of hypocrisy.
In any case, the weather was fantastic and we got into the place without anyone else being there at around half 10. The tasting itself only lasted 10 minutes, but there were three wines on offer - white (nice), red (still not my thing but better than most) and... ice. Ice wine, as I found out, is wine which is made from grapes picked between -8 and -12 degrees Celsius. The frozen grapes are then pressed, and the frozen water discarded so that what you have is merely a drop of nectar from each grape, which is then fashioned into wine. It's quite an impressive process and the wine you get from it is really sweet and fruity - definitely a desert wine. The place was owned by a German family originally who have now assimilated themselves into Canadian life, and originally couldn't shift the stuff because no-one knew what it was until an American wine-taster umpteen years ago tasted it and it took off
We left the Winery at about 11, and proceeded down the road to the town of Niagara-on-the-lake. It is, as its name suggests, where the Niagara river and lake Ontario meet, and is right on the border between America and Canada - in fact if it wasn't for the current and rocky cliff face you could swim over there, if you really wanted to - and was billed as "English-style" although it was definitely colonial in appearance - not to split hairs or anything, you just would never get a town in England looking like this.
Despite the outward appearance it was a really nice place. A bit too hot for me, and Fabi got on my nerves a bit with her 20 questions about every single building, as if just because it had "King George" in it's name I'd know whose was the architecture and in what 3 cities the first doorman had lived before moving to Canada in 1884. I was greatly interested in the sound of the bakery which I had been informed about, as it had sausage rolls - a treat which I had only just realsied I'd been missing. However, my heart was stolen by another as I walked past a shop which had all things British (at about 200% markup)
All too soon it was time to head back to the van to continue the trip on towards Niagara, but before then we stopped off at a place called Whirlpool basin (at least I seem to remember that's what it's called). This was, as its name suggests, a place where the water from the falls can't decide what to do and heads into a side basin before being spun round by other similarly indecisive water in a way not dissimilar to trying to find your way to the right gate at the Stadium of Light. The water flows at about 50 MPH, and there's a fairly spectacular gorge in which it rests, where we stopped and got some decent views of it. There wasn't much more to say, however. It was just really a lot of swirling water. The pictures/video will explain it much better than I can.
And that was it, until...