I was born, raised and live in Southwestern Ontario. You would think, with that much time spent in one area (over 40 years but under 42 years), I would be able to explain everything about it, right?. And being Canadian, I could define the Canadian experience – right? I’ll tell you, one can certainly have a Canadian foundation but really not know, nor understand, anything about what it is to a be a Canadian. It wasn’t until I spent 4 months of my life living and travelling abroad, that I began to realize I needed to explore my roots and embrace my nationality.
View from the Glass Ceiling atop the CN Tower
During university, I spent 4 months living, studying and travelling abroad. I was based in London, England, but being in such close proximity to so many other countries, I used my weekends, school breaks and summer, to travel the UK and…
Whether you live in Southwestern Ontario or are just visiting, a great place to hang out is Port Dover. Many come for fish at the popular Erie Beach Hotel or for a swim at the beach but I like to go for a footlong hot dog at The Arbor. It’s been close to 100 years (since 1919) serving its famous Schneiders footlongs. They are able to serve many people quickly because of their unique serving set-up. Hotdogs and burgers are ordered at one station, fresh-cut fries at another and ice cream cones at yet another. I usually go with my family and parents and we split up so that one group gets the hot dogs and the other, the fries. We get our food fast and we are eating before you know it even though the serving booths are packed with people. It’s great. And of course, we don’t leave until we’ve had our amazing soft serve or hard ice cream cone to round out the meal.
They are also unique in the toppings available for hotdogs (or hamburgers if you’re not a “dog” person). There are hot peppers, cole slaw, pickles, radishes and I think, even pickled beets. I always joke with my mom: “Did you get a hot dog to go with your salad?” I’m a bit boring, only “ketchup” for me.
I almost forgot to mention their Golden Glo. These are special fruit beverages that are only available at The Arbor. Even if you are just in the mood for something to quench your thirst, The Arbor is a place to be sought.
Hands-down, my favourite restaurant is “The Barrel” in Simcoe, Ontario. First and foremost because since I can remember, my favourite food has been spaghetti and it is an Italian restaurant. Secondly, I have been going there since I was a teenager and the service has always been great.
For Valentine’s Day, my husband made reservations for there and it was the best choice he could have made. They had a special Valentine’s menu but I never like to stray from my spaghetti. And so, I ordered my 1/2 order of Spaghetti Bolognese. That’s right, a 1/2 order. I don’t know of too many places that offer that option. I’m not a big eater and I find that I eat more than I’m comfortable at most restaurants. The added bonus with The Barrel, is that even though it’s a “half” order, you still get the soup or salad course. I always opt for the salad because the house “Balsamic” dressing is fantastic.
And I have to say that I have always had amazing service at The Barrel. Whether it is their hiring of great people or incredible training, or both, I have never been disappointed with the impeccable service. They were running a little behind on Valentine’s Day as they had a full complement of patrons. I had no complaints, however, the staff was so courteous and pleasant that I couldn’t possibly be upset. Besides, we’re only human and sometimes you just have to accept that good things come to those who wait.
By the way, they don’t just have spaghetti, they do a mean pizza and many other excellent Italian dishes. I’m often stealing bites off my husband’s or kids’ plates.
I want to tell you about a new craft beer brewing up in Kitchener-Waterloo and I haven’t even tried it yet. That’s right, haven’t tasted it, haven’t been to the brewery, haven’t even seen it in a glass. It’s what is behind this up-and-coming brew that has me excited. It’s called Together We’re Bitter and it’s not just a beer, it’s an experience. Together We’re Bitter is set to be the first co-operative brewery in the K-W region. What does that mean?
I went to a colleague of mine to answer this question, Rob Shorney. His is one of the pictures on the “Who We Are” page of the Together We’re Bitter web site. His explanation of what he and his TWB teammates were working on, inspired me. He explained that everyone on the team had an investment into the co-operative but it wasn’t about making money. It was about creating something beyond just a good-tasting beer. “Half the reason a beer tastes good is the atmosphere in which it is shared and we want to bring music, food, friends and beer together to create that”. They are working towards a “brewpub” that will serve its own beer made on the premises, along with local musicians, great pub fare and of course lots of friendly and fun, beer enthusiasts. He made it very clear that the brew vision was NOT about Lamborghinis and corporate “fat-cat” attitudes, it’s about the community and building something from the grass-roots. Everyone who is a part of TWB is a “worker/owner” with most money earned going back into the brewpub.
The excitement about what he was embarking on was evident as he shared this collaborative endeavor. I told him that it seemed more like it was about brewing passion than beer. It’s a perfect vision for Kitchener, a city that has been revitalizing its downtown and celebrates diversity and creativity. TWB is all about those ideals. I love this quote that I took right from a promotional video:”Kitchener has a unique and vibrant history. We’re growing and we’re diversifying. Our beer should reflect that”.
TWB has a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for a fermenter, equipment and gear to help them with their launch. If you’d like to learn more about the co-operative and even better, be a part of the campaign, check it out. They can also be found at TWB, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t wait to experience the whole package when it comes. It is set to arrive in Kitchener summer 2015. You can bet I will reserve my place in line.
With my day job, I travel a lot around Southwestern Ontario. The past few days, I have been around Lambton-Kent County which has included Chatham, Blenheim, Ridgetown, Forest and Petrolia. I look forward to venturing into these oases every year because they are places I don’t get to very often in my everyday life. They are truly treasures to visit especially in the fall with the background of the vibrant fall leaves.
These are also places that are rich with rural culture. Farms, history, welcoming villagers and quaint little shops or attractions await guests, each with their own energy and allure. In Petrolia, I love the conservation area. There is a lot of space and trees. During the week, when school is back in, it is serene. I have down time in between appointments when I am travelling and I love to sit at the conservation area with my laptop and hear the peacefulness of the fall leaves sauntering to the ground. This is just one of 12 parks situated throughout the town.
Petrolia is also full of beautiful architecture. I took this picture of the Victoria Hall. It is one of my favourite buildings. I followed up with some research and learned that the building’s architect was George Durand of London. His name is attached to many buildings in Southwestern, Ontario including churches, schools and residences. Victoria Hall was built in 1889 during an oil boom. Petrolia was one of the first oil “boom towns” in North America. With the oil came money and with the money, came fantastic buildings like this one and many others that are still in existence today.
Although oil here is no longer considered “booming”, there are still active oil pumps . I grabbed a shot of that too. I’ve read about the “Petrolia Discovery” which is a historical site that takes visitors back to a 19th century oil experience. Having learned that, I think I just found an activity to take my family to next summer since it is a seasonal experience. Can’t wait. You might want to check it out too.
If you have ideas about other places to visit in Southwestern Ontario, please let me know. I’m always up for a local adventure!
I live right in the centre of Southwestern Ontario (or close to it). It is the most heavily populated area of Canada and contains the 401 which is one of the busiest highways in the world. What I love about living in this part of Canada (or Ontario) is that within 2 hours, I can reach many of Ontario’s big cities including Toronto. I can also find myself plenty of road trip destinations because this area is littered with dozens of quaint little towns and villages rich with culture, history and attractions. Or I can find tranquil quiet spots amongst the forests, pastures or rural settings throughout. It is wildly diverse.
One of these tranquil spots by most people’s definition would (what started out to) be a small hobby-farm outside of Woodstock. I know the owners quite well and have visited the farm a couple of times in the past but recently it has taken on a more pronounced identity that I have come to follow on Facebook. I find I look forward to the daily posts about the life of the animals on the farm. They each have a distinct name and personality that I love to see evolve through the post series. I am going to use the words right from its the Facebook page because those words, I think, capture the essence of this enchanting premise best.
FrogHollow – Rescue/Retirement Farm: We are a small family-run hobby farm in Southwestern Ontario, giving our many animals a safe place to live and love. They are all family, not food.
County Living – May 5, 2003: When we moved to the country we didn’t really come with a plan. We just decided we wanted to move our then, small family to greener pastures. We weren’t here very long before the barn looked mighty empty and we added some goats and a few chickens. Since then we’ve added a few more critters in need of a good safe place to call home…including a few more human residents too.
Heidi – 2003: Heidi is a sweet girl born to a feral Mother outside of our local corner store. We were asked to take her home to keep her out of harms way…who could say no to that cute face?
Bushy (aka Butch) – 2003: Butch, or as we would come to call him, Bushy (there was really nothing rough about this boy) was the cat with the big price tag as we liked to say. He was the ‘barn’ cat that we were asked to keep when we bought the farm. He didn’t stay a barn cat very long and soon traded his horseback naps to the comforts of the indoors and sleeping on beds. This is a boy who would be seen wandering far and wide (until he was promptly neutered), showed up home with a dislocated hip once, and then just disappeared one a rainy night. We called and searched for him but were just left missing him. ♥
Goats – 2004: Having no experience beyond dogs and cats we decided first to venture into goats. We started with three females and had one male on loan to us. As we would later come to realize, almost any animals that come here, stay here. Well Billy came and when we found out his fate upon return was not good he was here to stay too. The next spring we were blessed with the adventure of four beautiful baby goats. All of which enjoy the comfort of Mom and Dad by their side for life.
Cornelius Moves to the Country – June 2014: When I saw that poor Cornelius was living in a shelter surrounded by dogs I knew I needed to do something. When I called I found out he had actually been there for several months and many phone calls had still led to no takers. With his neuter scheduled, we made a plan to take the two hour drive to go pick him up the next week. My little one and I set out on our adventure to spring that pig from his jail and set him free in the green pastures at FrogHollow. We were sent off with a giant bag of produce, and his bag of pig pellets so off we went for the trip home to freedom. It didn’t take him long to start meeting the furry neighbours in the pasture over the fence or the ducks roaming free. Corny is the most talkative pig I’ve ever met and is more than willing to express how he feels daily (translation is still in progress!). He has made friends with long time resident and lone pig, Daisy and has even accepted his new Tamworth siblings, as long as he can be the boss. Not sure how that will go over as they begin to tower over him but we will love him all the same!!! Welcome home Cornelius! ♥
Charlotte and Wilbur – August 3, 2014: two new wonderful Tamworth pigs for us to become the proud new family of! Wilbur is a calm, cuddly boy who loves tummy rubs and stays close to his sister. Charlotte (aka Charlie) is a little more brave, adventurous, and ever so slightly more independent. Together they are the best of friends. We have all loved watching them meet new friends, play, fight, squeal, run, root, eat, and grow and grow and grow! They are a wonderfully fun addition to our barnyard and who have quickly gotten us wrapped around their trotters!! We owe their being here to the great family and volunteers at Cedar Row whom without we wouldn’t have our special red-haired beauties to love and spoil!!
This gives you a glimpse into life at FrogHollow. I encourage you to visit and “Like” the page on Facebook. There are more animals and stories for you to see. Awwww… life in Southwestern Ontario.