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Simplicity in Celebration

by Mary M. Alward

When our 15th wedding anniversary rolled around, we were on a very tight budget. However, we decided that we should celebrate this momentous occasion if only in a small way. After all, fifteen years is a milestone these days. So, after some thought, we decided to visit the historical town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is just north of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Since we live just west of Toronto, the drive to the Niagara area is only about an hour and a half. We chose to take the scenic route along Highway 20, instead of taking the super highway. We were in no rush and the old route is so much nicer than the view from the new highway. It was early morning and since we hadn’t been to either Niagara Falls or Niagara-on-the-Lake for a number of years, we wanted to see how things had changed.

It seemed like no time when we hit the city limits of Niagara Falls. We made our way down Clifton Hill, which is a tourist trap strip filled with museums, shops and other attractions. We had no desire to stop there, so we continued to the foot of the Hill and turned left toward the Niagara Parkway, which runs along the Niagara Gorge and on to Niagara-on-the Lake.

We stopped at Souvenir City, a mall type structure that houses a variety of shops but has a completely open concept. There’s no need to go out of one store to enter another. You just wander and browse along the way. In one of the shops, we stopped to watch a Venetian glassblower demonstrating his skills. His wares were exquisite and we found the demonstration intriguing. Working with glass at temperatures of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit is no easy feat.

Then, it was back on the road. We stopped and took in the beautiful view of the Whirlpool Rapids, enjoyed each other’s company and the cool breeze that was blowing off the Niagara River, before continuing on toward Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Surprisingly, when we arrived we immediately found a parking spot in the shade under a tree. We got out of the car and strolled hand-in-hand down the street, gazing into the windows of quaint and unique shops and boutiques. We bought a half a pound of homemade fudge and continued down the street to see what other sights were new.

At a corner, we saw a horse and carriage parked, waiting for passengers. My husband knew I had always wanted to tour the town in this fashion so he suggested that we hire the vehicle. What a wonderful time we had, relaxing in the carriage and viewing the sights as the horse’s shoes resounded off the pavement. It was a real treat.

When we disembarked from the carriage, we made our way up the other side of the street and stopped into a Christmas shop that is open year ‘round. We spent about an hour looking at all of the exceptional Christmas décor. There were Santas, snowmen, children and scenic landscapes, as well as village houses, shops, and country buildings. One of my favorites was a Victorian scene of skaters. It was a music box and, as the music played, the figurines moved around the ice. It was magnificent, but out of our price range. Instead, we decided on a clear glass ball with a Nativity scene inside.

Back outside into the sun. While we were inside the shop, the temperature had soared. We stepped into an old-time ice cream parlor and indulged in a delicious cone. The ice cream was the best I’d tasted since childhood when Grandma made ice cream in the old fashioned crank ice cream maker using salt, ice, real cream and whatever fruit happened to be in season at the time.

After the ice cream treat, we decided it was time to head for home. What a wonderful day we’d experienced. We’d held hands, laughed, taken a romantic and scenic carriage ride, and bought a small souvenir of our special day.

Each year at Christmas when we carefully place our clear, glass Nativity ball on the tree, we remember that simplistic but special day that we spent together on our 15th wedding anniversary.

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