Niagara Falls is a world –famous landmark. Visitors from all over the world flock here in the summer to photograph, observe, and feel the power of the tons of water that cascade over the American, Bridal Veil, and Horseshoe Falls. There are walking paths, boat rides, and a behind-the-falls experience that allow visitors to experience the falls on different levels. But this summer a new and exciting way to view the falls opened! Wild Play Mistrider zipline gives the adventurous at heart a unique view of the falls. Although I am in no way an adrenaline junkie, a zipline is something I have always wanted to do.  How awesome that my first zipline experience includes a spectacular view of one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Canada!

Unfortunately, I could not convince Heather to give it a try since her squeamishness with heights prevailed to keep her on the ground. She even refused to wear the required closed toe shoes so I could not change her mind. We headed down Clifton Hill early in the morning to beat the crowds at the zipline. This time of day, Clifton Hill is deserted! So it was a rather peaceful compared to the nightly throngs of people.

Once at the river edge, we started out on a 220 foot high observation tower. Lindsey, who works for Wild Play and Niagara native, explained how these harnesses are specially designed just for this zipline, allowing adventurers to experience flight without feathers at speeds of up to 45mph! This line runs 2.2oo feet along the Canadian side of the Niagara Gorge, and anyone 50-300 lbs can ride. So far the youngest rider was 7 years old, and the oldest was 93! This still did not convince Heather, so Assistant Gail volunteered to take her place, “taking one for the team!!  But hey – as Heather said,  someone HAD to stay on the ground and film, so she saw her role as also “taking one for the team.” Yeah. That’s it. So noble!

Lindsey warned that I might experience 10 seconds of panic after being harnessed in, hanging on the edge of the platform as the door slid open. Yep – she was right! When I was staring at the 2200 foot long line 220 feet in the air, I thought I might have made a serious error in judgment. As soon as the guide released me and gravity took over, I felt completely at ease and exhilarated! It is a feast for the senses…seeing the falls, smelling and feeling the mist and the wind on your face. It is literally over in one minute and leaves you longing to do it again!

Back at the Sterling Inn, we packed up and said our good byes to Rhonda and headed out to Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit the Chateau des Charmes.  But as we pulled out…. Gail wanted to get a picture of a sign near the hotel that had a funny double meaning – Famous Portuguese Tarts. We had not seen it open in three days, but lo and behold – it was open! So we had to stop, because evidently they are famous, so…  We went in and the pastry chef Vasco was so happy to see us and told us about the custard tarts, which are the most Portuguese, and we bought three. Having your own car is so worth it for these little unexpected experiences!! Be flexible!

There are dozens of vineyards in the area, but we chose Chateau des Charmes because of its French background, and with Heather and the whole French bit,  it seemed the thing to do. Later as we read about it, we learned that it was THE perfect one to choose for other reasons as well! Paul Bosc, Sr. was educated as a vintner in Burgundy,  France and came to Canada after a time of wine-making in Algeria. He brought his extensive knowledge and scientific background to the Niagara-on-the-Lake area.  He was a pioneer in the tourism aspect to the vineyards,  and the other dozens of vineyards in the area owe a lot to this visionary, who introduced the estate winery system to the area. Michele Bosc is married to Paul Bosc, Jr. and she met us to tell us about the various variety of grapes, the equipment that keeps pests away in summer, and frost away in winter. She also emphasized the importance of enjoyment of the wine you like, without a lot of the “rules” you so often hear.  As far as parings, she said to pair wine and food based on weight, not color.

Another wonderful perk that makes the Chateau des Charmes so special is their picnic lawn and event area. They host weddings, receptions, and picnics on the grounds overlooking the vineyards behind the chateau. Today, we decided to enjoy the scenery, and had a relaxing picnic lunch on the lawn. The chateau offers a variety of sandwiched, salads and desserts, all bundled and delivered to your table outside. And of course, picnics come with a glass of wine of your choice! They also served a lovely cheese plate to start. We had pulled pork, grilled steak, and jerk chicken sandwiches with mixed greens. Peaceful….relaxing…lovely…all words to describe our vineyard lunch.

Every guest can also take part in a tour and tasting. The tour takes you through the vineyard, the production facility, and ends in the tasting area outside. Liam, one of the chateau’s knowledgeable guides, took us on the production part of the tour, and we learned about the different processes for the various wine, from the length of aging, to the containers used to age, and even how to remove yeast sediment from sparkling wines. We thought the production of the Icewine was particularly amazing.

Finally we were able to taste some! Rebecca is a young hostess at the chateau who really knows her wine! She guided us through the process of a proper tasting – from eyes, to nose, to mouth. We tasted the Aligote, the Rose and the Gamay Noir Droit. Interestingly, the Aligote vines were mostly destroyed in France years ago, but a very few remained, and the Boscs brought some here, so it is a fairly rare wine. The Gamay Noir Droit is the estate special wine – only available here since this grape is a natural hybrid of sorts discovered in the vineyard by Paul Sr.  After making our selections to take home, we bid Adieu to the chateau. What a beautiful afternoon – altogether it is a 3-4 hour experience, and each minute was lovely.

We took the QEW on into Toronto for our last couple nights. We did not want to stay anywhere modern and chain-ish, so I searched out someplace with a story to tell, and off the beaten path, yet still close to the airport…… and I found all that at the Glenerin Inn and Spa!  Stay tuned for more on this beautiful spot, and the incredible history that lies within its walls….

Enjoying the journey in Mississauga,

Courtney and Heather