Not many Londoners turn their vehicles immediately south when they go on day trips or holidays, or seek out tourist destinations. Like the horse hitched to the old milk wagon their cars just naturally go north. On occasion a few brave souls might head directly south to Port Stanley, eat their dinners while peering at the boats gliding past two halves of the lift bridge tilted like hands in prayer to lake navigation history. But then Londoners head quickly back to familiar landmarks. Some are finding that Sparta, which is a little east of there is quite interesting too. Sparta has ‘Winter Wheat’ and other stores where you can get hand-made wall ornaments for your gardens and patios. It also has the winery Quai Du Vin. If you travelled a little east of there you’d also find fruit wineries. Then there’s the Green Frog Tea Room, a place unto itself, where local musicians gather to play their down-home music on Sunday afternoons. Taking the John Wise line east you’d eventually come to Florence Estate Winery in Norfolk County where they are restoring the Carolinian forest.
To actually go and explore Elgin County seems to some Londoners like crazy talk even though it’s no farther away than Stratford.Ancient cartographers used to put strange creatures half human and half animal around the edge of their maps where they thought the world came to an end. Aylmer, Ontario has their version of these creatures too planted like statues in the park. It also has Bella Boutique where my daughter from Hamilton bought white Hollywood sun glasses. Stratford has a store where they make the finest chocolate in Ontario, but Sparta, St. Thomas and Tillsonburg have their chocolate stores too. Some people not only do wine tours, they also go for a chocolate run to Elgin. Then there are the theatres like the Festival Theatre in Port Stanley and The Old Town Hall Theatre in Aylmer. Port Burwell has interesting restaurants that some bikers would like to keep secret. Visit the fish market where you can buy perch, go swimming and do some excellent songbird and vulturewatching. If you’re ecologically minded don’t’ just stop at the Wind Farm Orientation Centre, go and ask Mat Redsell for a tour of his own mini-windmill. Elgin is getting more attractive every year. So brave those scary monsters you explorers, you’ll only find them in our parks. Come discover a brave new world just south of the 401, and test the limits of your maps.