Manjul Pande Parvez
The state of Ontario in Canada is a whole world in itself - we not only have a Lucknow here but also Scotland, Cambridge, Copenhagen, London, Stratford, Brussels, Waterloo, Vienna and also a Paris. Seems Ontario wants to be a little Europe! But, contrary to popular belief, Paris, Ontario was not named after Paris, France. It got its name from the gypsum deposits that lay along the Grand River which runs through the town. The gypsum was used to create Plaster of Paris and hence the town became known as Paris.
Known as the Cobblestone Capital of Canada, Paris is home to a dozen pristine cobblestone buildings and even a few garden walls. These Paris cobblestone buildings were all built around the mid-1800’s. And nowhere else in Canada are there these many cobblestone structures in one place. We had heard that Paris in Brant County was also called the prettiest town in Canada, so a visit there was a must on our list.
So, one fine Sunday morning we started for Paris – at a distance of about 150 kilometres. The drive was uneventful but really scenic since we took the non-highway route. It took us a little over an hour-and-a-half to reach our destination via Brampton, Mississauga and Hamilton. We drove straight to downtown and parked near the Wincey Mills. Surprisingly, parking was totally free here unlike Toronto where you have to pay hefty parking charges everywhere. It was a spot downtown, next to the river, and not very crowded. The Wincey Mills date back to 1889 and they have kept the historic structure that had been in operation for more than a century now. So, we decided to pop in there and have a look. The Wincey Mills turned out to be a lovely weekend market filled with local food stalls and boutique shopping. We picked up some local cheese, jams, and olive oil there and decided to return for a quick lunch. From there, we walked down to the main street where we went to view the Grand River from a lovely lookout located there. There were plaques dedicated to generous donors and a bench to sit and enjoy the view which was stunningly beautiful.
We had planned to visit the Paris Museum too but, strangely, it was closed on Sundays. On the main street, we also did one of our favourite things - we took a stroll with coffee in our hands! The Paris Bakery had excellent coffee and cappuccino. We got donuts, cookies, and pastries as well, but what we loved was holding our coffee in our hands and doing window-shopping. We hopped along the main street to ogle at fares displayed in windows of various stores and bakeries. While going down the street, we came across an interesting commemorative plaque! On August 10, 1876, Bell’s first long-distance phone call was received at what was then Robert White Shoe Store in Paris, Ontario. And that’s where we stood in front of that plaque commemorating the historical event !
There was more history to come! From right near the plaque where we stood, we could see the majestic Arlington Hotel. In early 1850’s, it was constructed in a chateau-style and is now an Ontario Heritage Site. The 170 odd-year-old hotel features 23 guest rooms, each dedicated to a different historical figure, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Jane Austen, and Sigmund Freud.
Paris, Ontario is a foodie’s paradise. There is everything from fine dining to pub fare. There are a score of restaurants and cafés along the main street with their patios (closed due to winters) overlooking the Grand River. But we made our way back to Wincey Mills for our quick lunch . I was glad to get a vegetarian option - a very healthy and tasty toasted vegetable (I mean the greens) sandwich along with a steaming bowl of broccoli soup and inevitable fries. It was one of my best meals as I was ravenously hungry and cold.
Therein the food court were a number of tables with chess boards on them. My granddaughter and I had a few games while my daughter did some shopping there. We had planned a short hike too after lunch on the Cambridge to Paris trail. It was one of the many incredible trails that had various overlooks to stop and soak in the amazing scenery. But we had to give up on those plans as it had begun to get dark and the weather threatened to get inclement and we had to cover a long way back. We called it a day on our Paris trip after a cup of coffee at the Wincey Mill
It was a memorable trip. Paris has been rightly named one of the prettiest little towns in Canada. It is home to waterfalls, delectable desserts, and historic buildings. One can easily be swept away by its charm, lovely people, and stunning natural beauty.