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When you have a child, sometimes you forget what it feels like to just be with your spouse, alone, away, not responsible for feeding, changing, and consoling.  That doesn’t mean you don’t still love your baby to death, that you don’t treasure every moment with her, that you want things to change.  You just don’t realize how different life is without her.

With that in mind, Erin and I decided to take a night away in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  If you’ve never been, it’s one of the oldest towns in Canada, an important site in the War of 1812 (which we won, by the way), and a great place for doing wine tours and tastings.  It is a popular retreat for couples, but unlike nearby Niagara Falls, it isn’t filled with casinos, novelty stores, and hookers.

We took back quite a few memories from our short stay.  These are the best ones:

Google Maps sucks.  Our printed directions sent us into the middle of nowhere.  They weren’t even just a bit wrong, either.  They were profoundly, almost maliciously wrong, like someone had programmed them to send us to the American border against our will.

Niagara cops are very understanding.  In my rush to get us back to the highway, I blew past a cop doing about 30 km/h over the posted 60 km/h speed limit.  Whoops.  I followed the advice I always give my students, which is to be apologetic, respectful, and humble when you get in trouble for doing something stupid.  He let me off with a warning and then gave us clear and simple directions to get to our hotel.

Wine tours are wicked-cool, even in the dead of winter.  I went on a wine tour once when I was about fifteen.  It was exactly as much fun as you can imagine a wine tour would be to someone that is many years away from being legally allowed to drink alcohol.  When you actually get to taste the wine that they keep showing you and talking about, the whole thing really gels.

I like places where they give a crap about food.  One of the many things I love about Paris is the fact that all of the food there is good.  The grocery store food, the street vendor food, the café food, all of it.  Having gone to a few restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake and having eaten some damn fine meals, and noting the fact that they all had their own, craft-brewed beer on tap, I can safely say that this town is a heck of a lot better at being Parisian than Hamilton.

Hot springs are awesome.  They are even more awesome when they are fed into outdoor hot tubs during snow flurries.

Two-hundred-year-old towns are really creepy at night during the slow season.  Erin and I went into town for dinner, and we were the only people outside for about four blocks of the main street.  The town still had all the Christmas decoration up from the week before, the snow was falling lightly on everything, and there was an eerie silence that only exists in places far from major roadways.  It was close enough to a Stephen King-esque setting to make us worry about the undead, portals to hell, or the very real possibility of meeting ourselves from fifteen years in the future.

Little things go a long way.  For what we paid for the room, the rose was a very small thing, but it’s touches like that that you remember.

Strangers talking about sports in public annoys me.  Maybe it’s the feeling of exclusion that I remember from high school.  Maybe it’s my innate distrust of all humanity.  Either way, the World Junior Hockey Championships led to many strangers in the hotel lounge saying things like “taking it to the net,” “playing deep in the pocket,” and “heart.”

Shortcuts that take longer than the suggested route are awesome.  We picked up coffee, tea, and pastries for a walking breakfast out to Fort George.  I thought I had a bead on the Fort and took us through the cemetery at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, where we discovered hundreds of amazing tombstones going back almost two centuries.  It was a still, gray, damp day, perfect for taking pictures of moldering rock and iron.

Time away together rocks.