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That’s Paris, Ontario. This lovely town of about 12,000 is an easy hour and a half hour drive from Niagara. It was amalgamated in 1999 to the County of Brant but the locals don’t like to admit to it. It’s named for the nearby deposits of gypsum used to make plaster of Paris. It is referred to as, “the cobblestone capital of Canada” because of the towns large number of aged cobblestone homes.
When I arrived a few weeks ago to do Christmas shopping, I found a vibrant downtown tucked away in a wide valley. It was sheltered from big-box retailing and I soon learned chronic 21st century hurry-up ism wasn’t here either. The place reminded me of earlier times when I would walk the downtown of my own hometown. The pace was slow. It reinforced in my mind, how nice the world can be.
Parking is free along Grand River Street, the Main Street, and there’s lots of interesting stores to explore.
Always looking for a “sweet deal” I stumbled upon Chocolate Sensations Silo Direct Link to Chocoloate Sensations Website Like so many other shops in town, this delightful aromatic place is family owned by John and Sarah Chalmers. John said, “This business began as a humble home-based hobby in a family kitchen over 20 years ago. Today we do a thriving on site business and a large volume of catalogue sales”. Once inside chocolate enthusiasts will think they have died and went to chocolate heaven. I recommend before you leave take home some Christmas, Candy Cane Bark. Come on, you can afford to take out the belt a notch, after all it’s Christmas.
Next door is a “cheesy place”. The Three Blind Mice Cheese Company Silo Direct Link to Three Blind Mice Cheese Company WebsiteOkay, I promise no more cheesy stuff. The owner, Lindsay Dawdy with an ear to ear smile said, “We only opened in June of this year and so far it’s been a runaway success. So much so, we’ve opened another store in Elora”. Believe it or not, this is a fun place. Step inside and see what I mean. Ask Lindsay to push the reset button on her 1951 Juke Box and you can hear one of your golden-oldies. Sticky Toffee and Wensleydale with Cranberry are the featured cheeses for the holidays.
Down the road is the John N Hall House of Quality Linens. This is an old-fashioned dry goods store. Their heavy front doors are the same ones customer’s have been pushing since the 1860’s. If you’re looking for a ladies embroided white cotton nightgown or fleece or flannelette blankets you’ve arrived.
The Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe Silo Direct Link to The Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe Website at 63 Grand River St. N. was so popular with the locals there must have been something to it. And there was.
For starters, everything is made from scratch and from what I observed servers worked at spoiling their customers. They roast their own coffee and they specialize in nostalgic hard to find sandwiches like the classic Monte Cristo. The Apple Waldorf Salad platter is a crowd pleaser. I loved their Deep Dish Corn Meal Crust Quiche and hand crafted Hot Apple Fritters. The apples were prepared in front of me using an 1800’s hand operated peeler. I washed the meal down with chocolate milk delivered to my table in an old-fashioned dairy bottle. In the warmer months you can eat on the second floor outdoor patio that overlooks the Grand River that flows through town.
Before you leave Paris walk to the end of the town to the Williams Street Bridge and take a photograph of the back of these historic buildings that house these shops. It will be a keeper.
As I headed home I came across a group of people who were unloading Balsam Firs to be sold at their annual Christmas tree sale for St. James Anglican Church. It was a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. One of the parishioners Steve Howes, who had lived in the town for 45 years told me, “This is a small town with a lot of heart. People still treat each other with respect. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else”. That sums this town up nicely.
How to get There
From Niagara take the QEW to Highway 403 towards Brantford. Cut off onto Highway 2 to Paris. GPS users can punch in 89 Grand River Street. North, Paris.
Written and Photographed by George Bailey. George is a writer who has a unique way of finding ‘hidden gems’ and sharing his experience in words and pictures.