Niagara-on-the-Lake: history, charm & craft beer in Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The year was 1812 and stories claim British officers were dining with their American counterparts at Fort George in what was then Upper Canada. During the meal, word suddenly arrived the two empires were at war. The Americans immediately stood up to leave, but the British insisted the stay and finish their meal before being safely escorted to the river bank and sent on their way. In the end, America won their independence, and the stranglehold of the British Empire was never the same.

I am reminded of this time in history as I drive the 2023 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross through the manicured streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The original launch in 2017 of the Eclipse Cross made it clear Mitsubishi was taking a bold step forward to challenge the hotly contested compact sport utility market. With American, European and Asian competitors holding court with firm resolve, the steady march forwards of this newest design is a clear signal Mitsubishi is taking the high ground and plans to win.

The drive into living antiquity from either Toronto to the north or Buffalo to the south, is filled with glimpses of vineyards and multimillion-dollar homes. Together with roadside plaques celebrating the history of this area, it provides an intoxicating blend of the old and new.

A must-see route to follow is the Niagara Parkway stretching all the way from Fort Erie to Niagara Falls before finally reaching the shores of Lake Ontario. It is recorded that Winston Churchill once stated the Parkway is “the prettiest Sunday drive in the World.”

Cherry trees are typically full to overflowing at the start of summer, lie dormant at this time of year in silent sentinel watch, limbs stretched upwards towards the bright blue winter sky. I do my best to maintain a steady pace on the Parkway and keep to the speed limit of 60 km/h. It is a challenge as the two-lane road is perfectly paved and the traffic is light on this day.

To my right is the mighty Niagara River and just beyond that America. It feels so close you can almost touch it, but in reality, the two countries are separated by a wide, fast-moving waterway. Of course, Niagara Falls in all its splendour, a mere 16 kilometres to the south, may have something to do with this. Powercraft and sailboats ply the shared boundary in a scene unlike any other in the world. Thirty minutes later we arrive at our destination.

The Prince of Wales Hotel is a mainstay in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, or NOTL as it is referred to by the locals. Situated on the main street, it is a short stroll to the many stores and restaurants lined up to greet the daily onslaught of visitors from all parts of the globe. It has been 211 years since the War of 1812, but the town still feels connected to its vibrant past. At the entrance to Fort George, cannons are polished and gleaming as tour buses pull up and eager visitors arrive.

First built in 1864, floors creak and history oozes around every corner of the hotel. Signature roses are placed throughout the most romantic setting. A total of 110 guest rooms range in size from Traditional to Superior, Deluxe, Premium, Suites and the Royal Suite. It highlights a four-poster canopy king bed, a fireplace with separate seating area and oversized bathroom with jetted tub. Views look toward main street and the ever-present clock tower, showcased in several Hallmark Christmas movies in recent years.

Dining takes place in four unique settings; Noble Restaurant, Churchill Lounge, The Drawing Room and Charcuterie & Panini Bar. Additional amenities include the Secret Garden Spa, indoor pool, fitness room and there are also dog-friendly accommodations to include your best friend. A stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel is an unforgettable experience that will stand the test of time.

Niagara is celebrated throughout the world for its fruit growing and wine-producing terroir. But hidden behind the endless number of family produce stands and extravagant wineries in this region is the lesser known, but equally compelling, craft beer market.

Leaving the Eclipse Cross parked at the hotel, it is an easy walk across the street to Exchange Brewery, the first stop on our unofficial Niagara Beer Trail. A contrast given the setting, the taproom is ultra-modern with seating at the bar, or a few small tables spread throughout. On tap are various Belgian-style ales carefully aged in 50 French Oak wine barrels. Plum Berliner Weisse, Amber Ale and the Foreign Exchange Stout are just some of the flavours to explore.

A short Uber ride away, Silversmith Brewing Company is located in what was once the town of Virgil’s central church. Pews have been replaced with tables for four or a larger party ready to enjoy an afternoon or evening beer flight. This award-winning Black Lager is a must, so too the Helles Lager and Oatmeal Stout.

Close by, we also stop at Niagara Oust House Brewers, located in what was once a big red barn. You can’t miss it; it is still bright red and white and a short 3-minute drive from Silversmith on your way back to Niagara-on-the-Lake. This local favourite beer stop is famous for their Farmhouse Ale Collection, as well as the Dark’Ass Ale and the very seasonal Watermelon Gose. Growler in hand, it is time to get a ride back to town.

As impossible as it may seem, this centuries old setting is even more spectacular at night with lights twinkling all down Queen Street. It is also at this time when the town comes alive with tourists out for an evening stroll and locals plying the streets to see and be seen. Of course, it never hurts to book your dinner reservations early as tables fill quickly, especially during the high tourist season from May to September. But you shouldn’t have to worry about being escorted back to the river bank after dinner, as thankfully that eventful night back in 1812 is left to the history books.

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