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This weekend past has been a whirlwind vacation. In March, myself and my S.O. went to the Ice Wine Festival and, in a fit of uncharacteristic naiveté, signed a ballot to win a prize.

Well, we won. So here's what we won:

Equivalent value: $1000.

The venue: Jordan, Niagara Peninsula:

 
 halfway between Hamilton and Niagara Falls - heart of Ontario wine growing country.


 
 
Friday morning: Nature Walk
Niagara Nature Tours (http://www.niagaranaturetours.ca/) - 2 hour walk along Twenty Mile Creek.
OK, so the first half hour was spent dodging Poison Ivy. I kid you not. This is a poison Ivy vine climbing a tree. Its trunk is as thick as my arm, and it climbs 30 feet up.
OK, but after that, it was a great time. We met several dozen flora denizens, most of which we were tickled to find were also in our backyard. Some we don't have are Solomon's Seal, Wild Ginger, Jewelweed (great for mosquito bites), Catnip, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and False Solomon's Seal.
I was a little disappointed at the apparent lack of fauna. This was the biggest and most exotic thing we saw.
We stop for a rest...
before continuing on the second leg of our journey to Balls' Falls.
Carla Carlson, our tour guide was very knowledgeable and attentive, being alert to our preferences as well as our physical ability. She pointed out many interesting sites, including natural and manmade artifacts.
I learned a lot about the natural history of the region - which is worth nothing since a] my father was a geography teacher, and b] I already know the region fairly well. Or at least I thought I did. Many of my longstanding questions about the Niagara Escarpment were answered on this tour (such as: if the escarpment is a depression - a bowl, and we drive up, out of the bowl over the escarpment, why do we descend down the other side of it? Shouldn't we stay on a plateau?). I really, really enjoyed this tour. I think I would like to do more of these. We had to race to be back by 1PM, just in time for our…

Friday Afternoon - Spa Treatment

Spa 20 at Inn on the Twenty (http://www.innonthetwenty.com/)

A quick shower washes off all the grunge from our hike and then we go our separate ways for our treatments. I got a full body massage, which was OK, though I think I could have had the whole session on just my feet. I made her mangle em. I was surprised at how quickly an hour went by.
I change rooms for my gentleman's facial. Goop, goop and more goop. They even had some goop for my back (back?). Yes, some seaweed mush I had to lie in, which got very warm and began to bubble underneath me. It made my back fart. And yes, they even did the cucumber on the eyes thing. Switch to another room for my manicure. I crossed paths with Mrs. Dave'sBrain after two hours, while she was getting her pedicure.
In case it isn't obvious, I didn't mind the spa treatment, but it didn't really blow my skirt up. I can see how it could be very enjoyable. I guess I'm just not a hedonist at heart. I kept thinking what a shame it was to be indoors on such a beautiful day.

Friday Teatime - Check In at the B&B
We checked in at the Walnut Tree B&B (http://www.bbcanada.com/walnuttreecottage) where we stayed in a separate cottage (actually, it was a converted garage) for a quiet evening of relaxation. It was really gorgeous.
With a gorgeous front porch and a gorgeous private back yard.
And those were just for us. The main house has its own backyard.

Saturday Afternoon - self-guided tour around Niagara region
We wandered the back roads of Niagara, visiting Crystal Beach and Port Colbourne in the south and Port Dalhousie in the north. The regatta in Port Dalhousie had the town all in a tizzy - full of tourists.

Saturday Evening - Dinner at Vineland Estates
We are seated on the patio as dusk settles.
  • Compliments of the chef, we start with something to whet the appetite - two little teaspoons with just a drop of foie gras in a honey mousse. This was paired with a Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Followed quickly by the first course - seared scallop over asparagus, paired with a Pinot Gris.
  • next course: pheasant over risotto, paired with a Pinot Noir
  • salmon roulade on couscous with a Cab Franc
  • the main course: sugared striploin, mashed potatoes and smoky bacon with a Merlot
  • and finally, a little bit of chocolate cake, topped with choc mousse, topped with choc gelato and sided with a pistachio brownie, paired with an ice wine (think it was a Vidal, by this time, our memories were getting a little hazy),
    enjoyed as the sun set over the vineyard.
  • Thoroughly wonderful meal. I have to say, I've never before dined in a place where it is standard policy to request cell phones be turned off. What would this fantastic meal have set us back?

    Sunday - Wine Tour
    We toured with Crush on Niagara (http://www.crushtours.com/) of local vineyards. These are all new vineyards (the oldest is 6 years) on the bench (on top of the escarpment, unlike the vineyards in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region) including Peninsula Ridge Estates,
    We joined up with two very nice young men also on our tour who were doing research for a gift coupon business they were starting up. We invited them to lunch with us, and had a wonderful lunch of carrot bisque, lake trout and roast hen (or chicken) all paired with wines again. Afterwards, we visited a couple of other small wineries in the region, including Lakeview Cellars, Angel's Gate and Featherstone.
    We headed home by 5PM, and not a moment too soon. It was a wonderful weekend, full of sights, smells and tastes that carried us away from our troubles and tribulations long enough to rejuvenate.