Two weeks ago I spent an outstanding two days walking and cycling the streets of Niagara-on-the- Lake, Ontario. Eschewing the obligatory ice-cream, and avoiding the siren song of the luxury trinket shops on Queen Street, I explored some of the old residential streets , agog at the sheer number of restored 1800's beauties. I armed myself with Katherine Ashenburg's Going to Town, and a fine local publication aptly titled Niagara-on-the-Lake Guidebook, by local historian John L. Field, to make the most of my short visit by honing in on heritage treasures (and avoiding being 'taken in' by countless fine and accurate Colonial Revival replicas built by the historically astute 20th century gentry).
I did, however, find myself completely absorbed with visits to several War of 1812 sites (shrines, dare I say?) and have spent the past few days engrossed in several volumes of Pierre Berton's descriptions of the battles, sidelining my intent to publish photos and generally enthuse about the older homes of this amazing town, upon my return to this desk. Having read every plaque on Queenston Heights, wandered the shady lawn outside Laura Secord's house, driven Lundy's Lane and Beaver Dams Road, and contemplated Fort Niagara (USA) from Queen's Royal Park I now have context for the sometimes tedious descriptions of tactics and blunders, and appreciate the gravity of this war between neighbours. As a fiercely proud Canadian, I honour the spirit of the British and Canadian soldiers, the first nations warriors and black troops, the local militia and the citizen settlers, who fought so hard for the territory, and the idea, of Canada.