Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rebirth

Well, I didn't make it to the Twist Fibre Festival yesterday, but I did manage to take the kids on a fun tour of eastern Ontario towns. Having grown up in Washington, DC, they hadn't had much previous opportunity to explore this part of the world, so I combined my need to pick up my new spinning wheel with an expedition through the region.
We started off up Highway 10, the Old Perth Road, with our first stop at Westport, where we acquired some cups of tea and coffee at the Church Street Bakery and Teashop. The day was perfect, and the lakes were sparkling and busy with boaters, swimmers, and cottagers enjoying their last relaxing summer weekend.
Then it was off to Perth, where we did a quick drive-by tour of the stately old homes on North Drummond Street, before heading off to Almonte, our lunch destination. Almonte is an old woollen mill town, with waterfalls in the town's centre. The mill is now a textile museum, the same one I visited last month with two friends from Kingston.


Now, at the low point of the Mississippi River, the falls were quietly dramatic. At the height of the spring runoff, they can be positively alarming. There's a nice fenced-in viewing area for posing.


After lunch at the Cafe Postino (in an old post office), we explored the many artisanal boutiques on Mill Street. I was hoping to find a birdbath for my backyard cloistered little garden, but although we saw several, none was THE ONE.
This post is really about the economic revival of old mill towns like Almonte, and the many fascinating shops (one devoted to all things yellow!) in the town are a perfect example of how this community has found its way into the modern world.

The town also hosts festivals (there were highland games on while we were there and an international puppet festival last weekend) and movie shoots. The streets were busy and full of holiday visitors--so much so that finding parking was quite a challenge.
Before we left, we sought out St. Paul's, the Anglican Church were my great-grandfather (a Cambridge University educated younger son who emigrated to the colonies) was rector when he died of a heart attack while at a dance party. I was told by my grandfather that he was a fun-loving person, especially considering that he was a parson, so I suppose one could say that this was an appropriate way to go. The church and rectory are on a quiet street overlooking the river and I found them very beautiful in the late summer afternoon sunshine, with bright yellow doors and yellow flowers.




Then it was on to Merrickville for the spinning wheel pickup from Beckie at Unraveled. Merrickville is on the Rideau Canal system, part of a Unesco World Heritage site that ends with the military fortifications here in Kingston. We parked right in front of the locks and quite enjoyed the sight of the boats waiting to go through. Merrickville seems to specialize in bistros and other quaint eateries. The displays of flowers were extravagant,



with glimpses of hidden gardens through old carriageways. Again, the streets were full of tourists, eating, shopping, and generally holiday making.
Both Almonte and Merrickville benefit from their proximity to the city of Ottawa, which has grown enormously in recent years. In fact, we actually passed through the official outer limits of the city while driving between the two towns. It is wonderful to see these small communities thriving, both as tourist destinations and as bedroom communities for the capital. One only hopes that the federal government's fee hikes and reduced hours for the canal can be successfully fought since it is obvious that at least for Perth and Merrickville, the canal and its boaters are a vital part of the local economy.
The new Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel has just been unpacked, and it looks as though I'm going to be spending some time with a screwdriver and an instruction booklet and, after that, with some fleece I purchased at Kingston's Sheepdog Trials. I purposely bought some that I am not in love with so that my first experiments do not destroy something precious and lovely.

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