- Life Style
Fall foliage paints upstate New York and Canada's Niagara region
by Beverly Mann
My journey began with a flight from San Francisco to Buffalo, where I picked up a car and drove over the Peace Bridge near Fort Erie, along Canada's breathtaking Niagara Parkway. Here stood an endless array of manicured mansions and a cacophony of colors shouting amid the fertile farmlands and vineyards. Not too far along was the Butterfly Conservatory, housing a plenitude of nature's most exquisite creatures.
Beyond Niagara Falls on the Canadian side is where I stopped for the unforgettable 10-minute helicopter ride that gave me an overview of the Niagara region from an aerial perspective. My destination was Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming, storybook enclave brimming with flower beds, horse-drawn carriages, shops and restaurants lining the main avenue. After less than an hour's drive, I arrived in town and couldn't wait to stretch my legs and take a stroll along Queen Street, the main thoroughfare.
Inhaling the crisp fall air was immediately energizing, and the crackling of the leaves and fallen chestnuts beneath my feet created a soothing sound. My trek through the main park toward the marina and sailboats was finished in time to enjoy the sunlight illuminating the blue water and brilliant red maples. Overlooking the vista was the stately Queen's Landing Hotel, where an enjoyable brunch and dinner are served daily.
On my return to town, I passed the Polish Cemetery commemorating the soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. The evening's entertainment consisted of a production of "Major Barbara," one of the notable plays presented as part of the world-class Shaw Festival, which runs 12 productions from April to November. At the comfy Prince of Wales Hotel, I luxuriated for two nights under a canopy bed and tapestry-laden walls suited for a queen.
The next day, my drive continued along the Niagara Parkway to visit some of the wineries gloriously set in an autumnal backdrop. The first stop was the award-winning Inniskillin Winery, which specializes in ice wine, one of my favorite libations. I was able to savor an ice wine flight, a sampling of an array of tastes from sweet to dry. Showcased in the cellar was the 1989 Inniskillin Vidal, the 1991 Vin Expo Competition winner in Bordeaux, France.
Only moments away stood the Strewn Winery and its adjacent La Cachette restaurant, which serves a savory lunch. The walls were painted in bold colors and enhanced with whimsical artwork. The presentation of the entrees was even more artful.
Afterward, I continued on Lakeshore Road (Niagara Parkway feeds into this) with a turn on Seventh Street to Henry of Pelham Vineyard, surrounded by fields of fall colors. This family-run establishment has been in operation since the 1800s. The new generation, the Pelham brothers, have added Shakespeare performances in the vineyard as well as an intimate outdoor cafe.
The next morning, I headed over the Canadian border via the Peace Bridge toward Buffalo to visit some colorful terrain and several charming towns along the way. Included was the scenic Heritage Trail, from Route 190 and 5 south to Old Lakeshore Road and New York State Thruway 90.
Thirty minutes into the journey from Buffalo, past old steel mills to the hamlet of Derby, I noticed the crisp colors of the maple trees surrounding the roadway change from amber to a golden yellow and orange. Just a moment away was Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff, a 1928 summer retreat for Darwin and Isabelle Martin.
Situated on a 70-foot cliff overlooking Lake Erie in Derby, this Prairie-style estate had a rustic simplicity that blended in with the natural beauty of the towering trees and water. The house is undergoing a $3.2 million renovation.
After meandering along the property for a leg stretch, I proceeded down Old Lake Shore Drive to Route 5 and 90 passing crimson vineyards, fruit orchards and fertile farmlands. The squeaky-clean town of Silver Creek exhibited a cluster of 1800-style homes with ample backyards. I felt like I was in a time warp back to the '50s. Further on was the historic village of Westfield, home of Welch's grapes, touting rows of mansions and even a McDonald's.
Continuing east on Route 394, I approached the landmark Chautauqua Institution, one of the most exceptional communities in the United States. During the summer months, Chautauqua comes alive with lectures and the performing and visual arts, offering opportunities for self-expression and spiritual renewal. Through the gated community of gingerbread-style cottages, the visitor encounters a 3,000-seat theater where such luminaries as Crystal Gayle and Arlo Guthrie have performed. Another marvel was the old Southern-style Athenaeum Hotel, the town's grand dame. Built in 1887 opposite Chautauqua Lake, the hotel has accommodated nine U.S. presidents and was the first hotel in America to have electric lights.
Upon my return back to Buffalo through the fall tapestry, I thought of what beckoned me to upstate New York and Canada during this time of year. Fall is a time of renewal, change and transition - a reflection of life. As the trees shed their leaves and transform their colors, there is a sense of hope and a new beginning, enlivening the soul and spirit.
IF YOU GO
PLACES TO STAY
CentreHouse B&B: Offers queen and twin accommodations on a quiet street, off the main thoroughfare, with a full English breakfast. 125 Centre St., 905-468-0726.
The Mansion on Delaware Avenue: Built in 1869, this upscale B&B has hosted many a celebrity and politician, from Julie Andrews to Hilary Clinton. An artfully prepared breakfast buffet is offered to guests, along with 24-hour butler service. 414 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, 716-886-3300.
Hampton Inn & Suites: Provides Internet access in your room, large suites with kitchenette. 220 Delaware Ave., 716-855-2223.
Rocky Mountaineer Vacations offers packages to accompany their rail tours. Guests stay at the vintage Prince of Wales Hotel and Spa, luxuriate in a massage, have access to free bicycle rental and experience a wine tour. Visit www.rockymountaineer.com.
Niagara Helicopter. A 40-year-old service providing a 10-minute tour of the Niagara Falls region, starting from the Canadian side. Phone 905-357-5672, Web site www.niagarahelicopters.com.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce, 905-468-1950, www.niagaraonthelake.com.
Ontario: 800-ONTARIO, www.ontariotravel.net.
Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-BUFFALO, www.visitbuffaloniagara.com.
Beverly Mann is freelance travel writer.
© Copley News Service