Paris (Ontario!) for the Holidays by George Bailey

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Named after "Plaster of Paris"- Paris' downtown is quaint, warm and fun to explore

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.

An example of one of the historical cobblestone homes found in Paris.

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.

Sarah and John Chalmers inside their Chocolate Sensations shop.

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.

Lindsay Dawdy, owner of Three Blind Mice Cheese Factory shows us one of her unusual cheeses

The Three Blind Mice Cheese Company storefront

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.

I stopped in 'at the dog' for a meal washed down with chocolate milk delivered in a retro glass bottle

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.

Christmas tree sale in support of St. James Anglican Church

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.

Since 1850 Ontario Parisians have been warmly welcoming visitors

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.

8 Comments to Paris (Ontario!) for the Holidays by George Bailey

  1. Hello Harun, you get an “A” for effort, but our feature is about Paris, ONTARIO not Paris, FRANCE. Well, at least we know our SEO optimization is kicking ass! PS please come and visit our Paris sometime soon.

  2. The free walking tour of Paris was absolutely amazing! We had Onno as our guide by privatetoursinistanbul, he was knowledgeable about the history, answered all our questions and had a real passion for his job. We are a couple in our early 20s and this was probably our best day in Paris. We got a great back story on all the monuments and it just made seeing them in depth the next day so much more interesting. Its a free tour, Onno worked very hard and we were very pleased with how great it was. Well worth our time. He even ended it at a great authentic French restaurant, that was a great deal and so tastey. We loved it so much, that we did the Montmartre the next night. We got Onno again! Go at night!! He will show you an amazing view of the Sacre Coeur that tourist never see! So amazing and a nice glass of wine at the end. Onno even made sure everyone knew where they were headed at the end of the night, and gave us great directions to the airport for early flight the next day http://www.privatetoursinistanbul.com Thank you so much that provide this service to us,made our trip really great.

  3. Hi George, thank you for your article on our pretty little town. You captured exactly what I thought about Paris when I first stumbled upon it, and decided to invest in the core. I am very proud to call Paris home, and serve our wonderful community. I couldn’t ask for a better town or clientelle.

  4. What a great comment Debbie- thanks for your feedback and for pointing out those little things (that aren’t really little afterall) that make Paris a great destination. The Silo team.

  5. Wow, George Bailey – Just like It’s a Wonderful Life How appropriate that you would come to Paris I don’t live here but I love here! I often tell people that coming to Paris is just like the movie It’s a Wonderful LIfe! You come around the bend onto our main street and time seems to slow down. People look you in the eye as you pass by on the sidewalk and say hello! Where else do you still find the charm of that but in a small town. Paris is certainly thriving, within 30 minutes from a lot of places, you can drive into Paris and breathe again! So many beautiful shops – each one different from the other – restaurants to enjoy – all within an easy walk and if you lose anyone in your group, just poke your head out the door and it isn’t long until you catch their eye and regroup again.
    I often compare Paris to the ‘old’ Niagara on the Lake, before it got so big and commercialized!
    We have a resident artist (Holly O) and the Grand River rushing by the backs of the buildings – carrying canoes, kayaks and rafters seasonally.
    To me, Paris is Perfect – I can’t imagine setting up shop anywhere else!
    Thank you for showing us off!
    Debbie Coruzzi
    Debbie’s Basic Black
    13 Grand River St. N
    Paris,ON

  6. Shelly Gracey

    George, Thank-you so much for your kind review on our humble little town. We are very proud to call Paris (ontario that is 🙂 ) our home !
    Sincerely
    Shelly Gracey
    Sellers Choice Realty Ltd.

  7. Hi Lisa, i will pass your message along to George. We are thrilled that you enjoyed the feature. We would love to learn more about Paris and share with our online and PRINT readers. You can contact us at contentproducer@thesilo.ca Our paper reaches ‘000’s online and in print each issue.

  8. Dear George. I would like to thank you for the wonderful article on our lovley down town. I am the chairman of the down town Paris B.I.A. and it warmed my heart to read what you wrote about us. We really try hard to stay competative, but remain a “small town shopping experence.” Thanks again for your kind words and come and visit again! Lisa Dalpe
    our website is http://www.parisdowntown.ca

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