The Irish Harp.

The Irish Harp is a wonderful Irish pub in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. 

 

The atmosphere is warm and friendly, and right from the start, the service is outstanding. 

  
 

The food is good: there is an extensive menu of traditional Irish pub fare and more standard pub-style food with a slightly Irish twist.  

The Magner’s cider is cold and delicious, and the house beer is pretty good, according to Sean.  It’s fair to say that he knows and appreciates beer a great deal more than I do, so I’m happy to go with his opinion.
 

We really enjoyed our visit to the Itish Harp. I’d definitely make this my regular pub if I lived nearby.  

 

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Fort George.

Fort George is an historic fort at Niagara-On-The-Lake in Ontario. It dates back to the early 1800s, when the border between America and Canada was ‘settled’ and the Canadians had to hand over Fort Niagara because it was on the opposite bank of the River. 

Fort George has been carefully restored, using photographs and drawings from the time to make sure everything was accurate and authentic. The only building that is original is the gunpowder magazine. That building has stone walls four feet thick, so it’s no wonder that it’s still standing. 

  

The buildings all reflect what military life was like in the early 19th century.

   


    

 

There are guided tours, or you can wander around and see everything at your own pace. You can also see a demonstration of the use of the Brown Bess musket, the weapon of choice in 1812. 

 
You can see a video of the actual demonstration here.

War of 1812.

I’ve had a few posts lately related to the War of 1812, so I thought I’d explain what it was all about for the benefit of anyone who is wondering. 

The War of 1812 happened because the Americans decided they wanted to remove the British from the entirety of the North American continent.  As a bonus, Canada would become part of the USA, and nobody there would ever spell correctly again. 

 
Neither Britain not Canada liked that idea, so they fought back and they won. 

This means that Canada remained as part of the British commonwealth, and continued on America’s cooler, friendlier younger brother. 

You’re welcome. 

Isaac Brock’s Monument, and why he has it.

Major-General Sir Isaac Brock was a British military commander who was appointed as president of the executive council of Upper Canada. He probably was “the very model of a modern Major-General” in 1812 when war broke out between the British and the Americans, and Canada turned into a very conveniently placed battleground. 

Brock had achieved an excellent outcome at Detroit, which involved getting the Americans under the command of Major-General Hull to surrender and hand over a bunch of really cool stuff, such as their fort, their soldiers, their weapons and ammunition, their supplies, and the territory of Michigan. Not a bad day’s work, when you stop to think about it. 

In the Battle of Queenston Heights, the prize was control of the highly strategic Niagara River. If the Americans could win that, they would have a stranglehold on the Canadian supply lines. 

The Americans attacked while Brock was asleep in bed at Fort George, but as soon as he was woken with the news, he bolted right over to Queenston Heights and led his forces with great bravery and determination. 

Brock was shot in the chest and died without saying any of the brave words that have since been attributed to him. I suppose it’s hard to come up with something as poetic as “Push on, brave York volunteers” when you’re busy dying almost instantly from a great ripping wound in your chest. 

He may have lost that particular battle, but thankfully the British and Canada won the war. 

Brock was buried at Fort George, but in 1824 his remains were moved to a site at the top of Queenston Heights where stands a monument to his bravery, achievements and general derring-do. 

   

 
 
At the base of this grand monument is a First Nations monument to the native people who fought in the battle. Tecumseh was a very strong ally of Isaac Brock and many people of the Original Nations fought alongside the British as loyal Canadians. Many of these Warriors were buried on this same hill at Queenston Heights.

  

It’s not as grand as Brock’s memorial, but it is every bit as moving. 

Laura Secord.

Laura Secord was an incredibly gutsy woman. 

When she overheard plans by the Americans to attack the British soldiers defending Canada in the War of 1812, she walked almost 20 miles from her home in Queenston to warn them. She was determined to get the message to the British soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant FitzGibbon, at Beaver Dams, where the Americans planned to attack. 

This was no walk in the park. It was over varied terrain in 19th century ladies’ shoes and clothing which, it may safely be assumed, were not designed  for much other than drinking tea in parlours and visiting a shop or two on the odd occasion. She didn’t go by the main road, because she didn’t want to be stopped by more American soldiers.  Even though she was afraid when she came upon a camp of Iroquois, she asked for directions and was pleased to find that they supported the British. She was even more pleased that a guide accompanied her to Decew House, where FitzGibbon and his men were in a meeting.

The message borne by Laura Secord made a huge difference in the outcome of the Battle of Beaver Dams. The British ambushed and defeated the Americans, and gladly took all the credit in their official reports. Laura Secord didn’t even get a mention. 

Nice. 

It is rather good, though, that her homestead has been preserved, and that there is a lovely monument to Laura Secord and her bravery in Queenston Heights Park. 

I visited her homestead today, and was thrilled to find her monument when I went to see the monument to Isaac Brock, a key figure in the War of 1812 and the Battle of Queenston Heights.

   
   
There is also a wonderful chain of chocolate stores named in her honour. The founder of Laura Secord Chocolates wanted her memory to be preserved and the story of her bravery to be told. 

It’s a big ask, but I am willing to do my part in perpetuating the memory of this Canadian heroine. 

   
 
I’m calling it a patriotic duty. 

Stop… in the name of Ontario…

It’s not unusual in Ontario to see a cross intersection with four-way stop signs. 

That’s right.

Everyone has to stop, look at each other, smile, and say, “After you…” before proceeding on their way.

The first car to arrive gets to drive off first. In the rare event that you arrive in a dead heat, the driver to the left gets to go first.  This makes me wonder, though… if the drivers are across the intersection from one another, are they not technically on each other’s left?  I can just picture an “Ontario Stand Off”.

Driver A: “After you…”

Driver B: “No, after you…”

Driver A: “No, really, after you…” and so on. 

In theory, this could continue for some time, given how nice and polite Canadians generally are. 
On reflection, I can see why this has not been attempted in Australia. 

Carousel.

Yesterday Sean and I returned to Port Dalhousie to see the carousel. It was built in 1903 and was restored painstakingly in the 1980s.

The carousel has over 60 hand carved animals and some benches that look like sleighs. A calliope organ plays songs from the early 1900s that make a ride on the carousel a trip into history. 

   
   
A ride still costs only 5 cents. 

 
Whaaaaat? In Australia, someone would be charging $5 and blaming it on the price of insurance.

We had a lovely ride that lasted over 5 minutes.  It was simply delightful. 

  

Shopping list…

Sean was making a shopping list for groceries. Then this conversation happened: 

Me: “You wanted yoghurt. Is that on your list?”

Sean: “Yes.”

Jenn: “Do you have enough granola for your yoghurt?”

Sean: “We have that coming out of our wazoo…”

Me: “Is that what that was?”

Jenn: “Wazoo flavoured granola…”

Me: “What other flavour could you want?”

Niagara Falls at night.

In continuation of my love affair with Niagara Falls, I returned last night to see them lit up. What an incredible experience!  

Since 1925, the Falls have been lit at night in order to add another dimension to the Niagara Falls experience, and to further highlight the beauty and majesty of the falls. It’s safe to say that both objectives are fully achieved. 

  
Throughout the evening the colours changed from time to time.  For two hours, I watched, mesmerised, as the enormous falls changed colour and continued to pour relentlessly into the Niagara River below. The plume of mist changed colour accordingly, from fiery red to deep purple, teal, green and yellow. In the fully white illumination, the mist created its own rainbow that was almost as entrancing as the rainbow-coloured falls themselves. 

  
Around us, city lights of hotels and towers shone down from above the trees and gardens that line the Niagara Parkway. The casino and the Skylon Tower also changed colours in a neon-like harmony with the lighting of the  falls.  In the near distance, the Skywheel at Clifton Hill illuminated the skyline, vivid white.  Horse-drawn carriages decorated with strings of lights bore people along the parkway.  The Hornblower cruise boat was lit with colours too, as it sailed on the river below the falls.  None of this detracted from the lighting of the waterfalls, though. It was as though all these other lights, and even the illuminated American falls, were merely the chorus in a show where the star was definitely Canada’s Horseshoe Falls dressed in Joseph’s technicolor dreamcoat.   

 
The experience left me without adequate words to describe how I felt. To say that I was awe-struck does not suffice. To say that it was almost a spiritual experience is not an exaggeration.  

All I know is that I will never, ever forget the overwhelming joy that I have experienced at Niagara Falls, both in daylight and with illumination on a beautiful, starry September night. I will always be in love with this place. I truly have left a part of my heart there. 

 

Port Dalhousie

Port Dalhousie sits on Lake Ontario near St Catherine’s, Ontario. It’s a gorgeous place with a beautiful beach, marina and waterfront area that boasts not one, but two, lighthouses. It also has a carousel with a calliope!

  

We visited fairly late in the afternoon, so the carousel was closed, but we walked along the pier in golden autumn sunshine and watched the sailboats, fishermen in small boats, and windsurfers enjoying the beautiful weather. 

   
 
My first impression walking along the pier was that the waterway and marina reminded me a lot of Port Fairy in Victoria, Australia, not far from Warrnambool, where I work. It’s another very pretty spot with a marina on the moth of the Moyne River that I have blogged about before

After walking along the pier, we sat on the beach and had the most Canadian of sandwiches: crusty white bread, old cheddar and Montreal smoked beef with mustard. Those sandwiches were incredibly good.

 
Our picnic was also attended by a lone seagull and a very attentive wasp. Thankfully, we did not provide any food for either one of them. 

Having just finished winter in south-eastern Australia, this was my first opportunity to enjoy time on a beach. It felt so good to get my bare feet in the warm sand and squidge it between my toes.  That’s one of the things I love about summer afternoons, even though I don’t really like hot weather. Yesterday’s 23C was just perfect for a beach picnic. 

Driving out, we passed some lovely pubs and shops that I would love to go and visit sometime. A very old brick building serves as a coffee house that looked incredibly inviting. 

I am already thinking that I’m going to have to make another trip to Canada. 

Damn. That’s just heartbreaking.