February 2, 2016

By: George Bailey, Special to Postmedia Network
Ellen and I headed out on a midweek morning to this lovely community on the shores of Lake Ontario, an easy one-hour drive from St. Catharines.
Once I crossed over the Burlington Skyway, I took the first cutoff at Burlington to Lakeshore Road (Hwy 2) and hugged the shoreline to Oakville’s historic downtown. Along this route you’ll pass many million-dollar homes that will have you wondering, who buys these homes?

I spoke earlier with Sharlene Plewman, executive director of the Downtown Oakville BIA, who offered to give us a tour of the downtown.

One of the first things she told us was, “Even though we have a population of 182,000, we still consider ourselves a town that feels like a village.”

As the day went on, we found she was right. When we entered their shops, merchants greeted us with a friendly smile and a warm hello.

We concentrated our visit to the historic Main Street-Lakeshore Road between Navy Street and Trafalgar Road. It’s an area steeped in history and culture.

There’s an array of architecturally preserved buildings dating back to the 1830s. They’ve been reborn as boutique shops, art galleries, gourmet food purveyors, bakeries, flower shops, wellness centres and of course, restaurants.

Here are just a few of the shops we popped into.

Emily Quinn is a high-end furniture shop located inside a building that once was a TD bank. The bank vault is still here, but it’s now filled with gorgeous towels from Turkey and hand-blown Turkish glass. You can see a historical 1860 Northern European antique canoe made out of one piece of wood — it’s yours, for $5,265.

Burrows has been around for many years. It’s a men’s clothier shop that provides distinctive clothing. L’Occitane En Provence has a collection of luxurious shampoos, creams and lotions made in France.

The Black Forest Pastry Shop has been in business for 29 years. The husband-and-wife team of John and Marzena Ziemba were hard at work making some of the best pastry we’ve ever eaten when we arrived. We took home a bag of butter tarts and a Black Forest cake.

If you’ve just started your New Year’s diet, don’t dare not go into this place.

A Taste of Oakville

We didn’t realize it when we visited that it was the first day of this annual event. Twenty-six restaurants are offering special prices for lunch and dinner from their menus until Feb. 11.

We sampled one of these lunches at the Piazza Bistro. It was a great choice. For $25 each, we had our choice of three starters, four main courses and two desserts. The spicy charred pineapple and butternut squash soup, kale and quinoa salad with grilled salmon followed by bourbon raison bread pudding was a hit with us.

After the meal, we needed to walk. We left the main street and headed to the nearby Oakville Museum. In this neighbourhood locals call Olde Oakville are 30 to 40 homes dating back to the 1850s.Many have plaques at their front door indicating who first occupied the home and their occupations.

The museum is found in a historic home once occupied by Col. William Chisholm and his family. Chisholm, an enterprising merchant and shipbuilder was the founder of Oakville.

With February being Black History Month, we enjoyed the permanent exhibition, Underground Railroad: Next Stop Freedom.

This display tells the story of slave’s heroic flight from slavery in nearby United States. One interesting artifact is a copy of a Certificate of Freedom issued to former slave Branson Johnson, 23, who had been given his freedom by a Maryland court. There’s a 30-minute movie available on request.

The museum is closed Mondays but open Tuesday through Sunday 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is by donation.



www.oakvilledowntown.com or 905-844-4520.

www.oakville.ca/museum. Or 905-845-6601.

www.visitoakville.com or 1-877-625-8455