The Girl suggested we see the Niagara region, specifically the tiny village of Niagara-On-The-Lake. This is a part of southern Ontario known famously for its wineries, antiques, and of course the popular Shaw Festival: a theatrical festival celebrating the works of playwright George Bernard Shaw. At first I was hesitant, hearing largely that the area attracted an older crowd. Regardless, The Girl marched on making preparations for the day in spite of my fears of this generation gap. “It won’t matter after going wine tasting,” I thought to myself.
It was decided that both of us would take Friday off and start on our little journey to the Niagara Region around 11:00 A.M.. Life moves at a slower pace there for the better, so why not start the day off with a relaxing little sleep in! Heading down the Q.E.W., we slowly saw the city fade into suburban bliss, developments dotted alongside the highway turned into bungalows with spacious lawns, and finally, rows of grape trees neatly lined up one after the other as far as the eye could see.
Our lineup of activities consisted of grabbing a bite to eat, some wine tasting, and then taking in the matinee performance of Mrs. Warren's Profession. The area is pleasing to the eye; large trees and lush lawns engulf the landscape as you head down winding roads into the main strip of town on Queen Street. It is here where most of the action takes place. Unique gift shops, restaurants, old historic buildings, horse drawn carriages, accommodations, and two of the Shaw theatres neatly file down the large street as people leisurely stroll up and down.
After taking a short drive down the main strip, parking and paying a mere dollar for an hour's worth of time, we headed into the Stagecoach Family Restaurant, a bustling diner with fast and courteous service. I ordered a BLT and The Girl opted for an authentic Greek salad in a place that seemed like it wouldn’t serve one. Our meals came and went quickly, the staff gets the throngs of people in and out in a timely fashion (with no push to rush) in order to cater to their consistently full house.
The Niagara region is well known for its numerous vineyards, providing the country and the world with award winning wines. After driving around and scoping out the scene, we settled on Pellar Estates Winery, a sprawling vineyard with a beautiful building which houses the wine tasting and event areas for those special occasions. The place literally transports you to the wine tasting centres of the world like the Napa Valley, especially when that trip to California isn’t exactly in your budget at the moment.
Our sommelier, Mike, greeted us with a warm welcome, something that we’d grown accustomed to since arriving – everyone is friendly! Over the next hour he educated us on the different methods of wine tasting, all the while making us feel like he was totally not selling anything. We learned about the proper tasting techniques, how to enjoy your wine, and how the glass makes a difference when tasting. We made sure not to take in too much of the tasting; we still had a play to see! After some recommendations from Mike, we proceeded to the exit – with a couple of bottles for later on at home, of course!
Finally we arrived at the last destination of our fun little day trip away from the city, a performance of Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren's Profession. One of Shaw’s raciest plays, it was banned practically everywhere when it was first produced. It focuses on Mrs. Kitty Warren, a hard working mother providing for her daughter, Vivie. Upon learning of how her mother obtained such wealth, scandal breaks loose and mother and daughter battle each other over love, sex, money and morality.
The play is housed in the large Festival Theatre, Shaw's flagship one that can seat up to 856 people and is used for large-scale productions. With a café and outdoor patio, we enjoyed another drink before the show started and a stroll around the surrounding garden. The production was as racy as it was described to be. I admit that Shaw’s, Pygmalion, is one of my all time favourite plays, so I have nothing but glowing things to say about him.
With our day at an end, we lazily made our way back to the car, to the grind and noise of the city. The trip was a great change of pace; we’re thinking of returning for a weekend to try out one of the lovely bed and breakfasts or inns. For a fun, interesting and relatively inexpensive trip, the Shaw Festival along with the village of Niagara-On-The-Lake is a great place to relax the soul and stimulate the mind!