Bike rides and beers. Two of my favourite summer time things.
At the start of July I headed down to Because Beer (at Pier 4) with a bike gang of awesome women. We were a brigade of five with our rides.
I love the lay of the land of downtown Hamilton; few to no hills, and anywhere across town in no more than 20 minutes max. It’s seriously such a bikeable city (if you don’t count the one-way thoroughfares). We biked through the North End and those we passed on fellow SoBi‘s gave friendly nods or bell rings as we went by or as we convened at the mouth of Bayfront Park to the corral of bikes just outside the venue.
Our go-to beer for the day was from Longslice Brewery. We just kept going back for more of their Loose Lips Lager. Other favourites were Garden Brewer’s Piperales Black Pepper (unfiltered smoked amber ale brewed with crushed pepper corns), and secret orders of Viva Puff (hibiscus/raspberry lager mixed with a raspberry stout) which is not on their beer menu but you can request it with a wink wink from Flying Monkeys Brewery. The sun hit this magic spot and everything went golden. When the last light dipped behind the horizon we sipped our last beers to the sounds of Yukon Blonde before hopping back on our rides to cruise back uptown.
Boasting past musical guests like Polaris Prize and Juno Award winner Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, this year’s line-up features an excellent roster of International artists like Sérgio Pererê (from Brazil), and Zal Sissokho (from Senegal). Hamilton favourites like Mother Tareka (9-piece hip-hop funk band), Neeraj Prem (sitar), the Riddim Riders (reggae band), Bonnie Hamilton, and The Snow Beach Players (featuring #HamOnt mashup of local live hip-hop bands Canadian Winter, Haolin Munk & Kojo ‘Easy’ Damptey Band).
A song by Alysha Brilla, who’s song 2 Shots, I first heard on CBC Radio a while back. The chorus would get stuck in my head for days. She’s performing Saturday 8:30-9:30pm.
Strangewaves is a three-day festival in its second year for music, art, and film lovers alike.
The festival this year is at the Paris Fairgrounds, where you can camp all weekend and check out another amazing line-up of Hamilton musical musical outfits like: Simply Saucer (Proto Punk ), Thoughts on Air (soulscape), Goatfooted (dank ambience back from the grave), Zac Shaw (sax king), plus all sorts of indie acts hailing from LA to NYC, PLUS one of my ultimate faves Julie Doiron (OMG!), and DJ Rasta Princess (Montreal -reggae, reggae, reggae) -eeeep! Sounds like it’s going to be a fun little festival. AND, surprise guest yet to be announced for Saturday night -who could it be!?
Tickets are available here, or at The Brain (199 James Street North, Hamilton).
This year there are more than 48 theatre companies bringing to Hamilton a variety of comedy, drama, magic, dance, and family friendly entertainment in more than 300 performances over 11 days.
The amount of theatre that will be at our finger-tips during the next week is daunting (yet also awesome!).
If I had to pick just a handful of plays to see, these would be them:
El Diablo of the Cards (comedy): Be SURPRISED in the most HILARIOUS way! “El Diablo of the Cards” comes all the way from Brazil to bring you an UNFORGETTABLE night! Take your seat and get ready to laugh! Ewerton Martins will astound with his unbelievable improvised card magic. Really unreal, provocatively absurd, this delightful idiot will introduce you to the madness of card’s magic.
All KIDding Aside (comedy): Time is running out, a life altering decision teeters before you…and you’re on the fence! Sometimes the biggest fears can be the “little ones”
The Bathtub Girls (drama, physical theatre): The Bathtub Girls is an original play based on the first known case of sibling matricide in Canada, occurring in 2003, Mississauga, ON. The work has strong roots in contact improvisation and examines the desire for a sense of community and identity, and the actions taken for their acquisition.
Awoken (drama, sci fi): Meet Todd. Todd can’t sleep. But Todd is dreaming. Neither awake nor asleep, Todd must journey through his own corrupted subconscious – idle fantasies and suppressed memories – and discover his purpose, before choosing to wake up…or sleep forever. Inspired by a true story. All lighting controlled by the sole actor on stage.
Devil in the Details (comedy): Laura, after a freak photocopier accident, finds herself dead and the executive assistant to Satan himself. As she navigates her new boss and the inner workings of the seven circles, she finds that not everything is as it seems. Hell is losing souls, influence and power but no one knows why… Welcome to Hell.
FrancoFest has been around in Hamilton for 35 years but it is still pretty low-key (in a good way). You won’t be pushing a stroller through throngs of dusty festival crowds or staking out seats with your lawn chairs to catch the performances. It’s a festival that you can enjoy at a leisurely pace; pack a blanket and some shade, sample some eats from the food trucks and take a wander through the vendors (all beautifully curated).
There’s something about arts, and culture that the French just do better.
This was a festival that I attended last year that I really enjoyed. The vibe was just right. With little to no expectations of what the festival entailed; we grabbed some food from the food trucks, listened to some gorgeous music, wandered around the kid’s art painting station, and got a feel for just how cool francophone culture really is.
FrancoFest is free and takes places June 24, 25 and 26. Parking on-site is $10.
It’s around this time in spring, where lawns are greening in fluffy tufts of yet-to-be cut grass, starlings start their chirping at ungodly early morning hours and blossoms –oh the blossoms start to appear!
One of my favourite neighbourhoods to have a wander about is the Durand neighbourhood. Especially when I’m into daydreaming about how my life might be like if I was rich and lived in one of those insanely gorgeous old manors.
I consider Durand to be a downtown neighbourhood. It’s tucked behind city hall and pushed up back against the escarpment. The houses are not all castle-like mansions like on Ravenscliffe. Durand has an amazing mix of turn of the century apartments: 1960′s highrises, manors, and stone terrace row houses like Sandyford place on Duke (Hamilton’s limsestone version of Brooklyn Brownstones).
In spring I like to take an intentional trip to walk these streets and soak up all that is spring. The magnolia trees are especially breathtaking. Some of these trees are so old; their branches reaching wide and weighted heavily with blossoming magnolia pinks, white, yellow and purple.
I also love the ornate details on so many of the houses (especially on Bay) conical roofs, rounded windows, and slate or cedar shingles. Fine features that you just don’t see in every neighbourhood. I wonder about the houses that were levelled to build the highrises and city hall. And I think about Whitehern and how it’s just an island of historic refuge in the midst of redevelopment that must’ve hit the Durand neighbourhood all in one fatal swoop in the 60′s. If you’ve never checked out Whitehern’s secret little garden, then you should. It’s got beautiful ferns, and magnolias that would do for the perfect urban spring picnic.
Sometimes I wish that spring in Ontario was a full four months; slow and gradual as opposed to how jarring it can often be. You know, snow storm one week and the next hot enough for shorts and sandals. But I shouldn’t be complaining. Spring is here at last!
If you’re looking for something to do on a weekend to enjoy this fine spring weather (with kids or without) I highly recommend checking out Crawford Lake; a reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian Village.
Whether you want to visit the old Iroquois Longhouses (which are actually super cool) or just got for a hike around the lake itself it is ALL worth checking out.
We went during maple syrup season on an unseasonably warm day in March. The sap was literally dripping out of their tree-taps like a leaky faucet.
Our main mission for the morning was to wander around the lake via the lovely wooden boardwalk that circles around its entire circumference.
We packed a picnic and along with some friends we made a great morning treading along the 1.4km trail taking in the various vantage points and views of the deep deep lake.
The lake is unique in that its depth is deeper than its surface area and it is also ameromictic; meaning it has layers of its water that do not intermix.
Crawford Lake is truly a magical place. Whenever I visit I imagine even if it’s just for a minute or two that these views are how much of Southern Ontario must have looked like a millenia ago.
I want to come back again to spend some more time exploring the Longhouses. And one day maybe we’ll venture for the longer 4-5 hour hike via the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail to Rattle Snake Point and back.
Melissa Lowry is the creative visionary force behind the event. She’s an illustrator, graphic designer, founder of Makeology, and maker of Milo&Ben (adorable hand-crafted felt animals). So it’s no wonder that she’s got a natural keen eye for helping to search out the best of the best makers (and then putting them all under one roof).
Makeology is a one-day craft fair that will feature 80 vendors ranging from clothes and textiles, to jewellery, stationary, kids/baby goods, houseware and my fave –all things Made in Hamilton!
Besides buying gifts for yourself (cause who doesn’t want to treat themselves) or others, you’ll be able to stay fuelled with caffein from Durand coffee shop (Hamilton’s newest hip cafe to hit the scene), Foundry‘s small batch gourmet ice-cream (flavours like roquefort & honey and vegan cherry chocolate coconut), and handmade confections from Sweet & Simple Co. For a little more substance Ramped up Catering will be on-site selling mouth watering bites to eat like their pork-belly sliders.
Makeology is from 11am-6pm on Saturday, April 16th. Admission is $2. Kids under 12 are free. A dollar from all admission fees will go towards 541 Eatery’s button exchange(amazing!) and FYI there is an elevator to get you where you need to go.
The Cotton Factory is located at 270 Sherman, and In case you didn’t know, it’s an old 100,000 square-foot cotton factory and textile mill in centre of Hamilton’s Industrial heartland. The space is now a creative industrial complex dedicated to artistic endeavours and home to over 60 artist studios! The venue alone is worth checking out, especially if you’ve never been before.
I’ve been collecting pictures over the years of Lester Coloma’s work on the streets of Hamilton. I thought I would dig some of these photos up before they got entirely lost in the abyss of my ever-growing Hamilton photo collection.
I can’t remember which one was first anymore –the Super Crawl Elephant or the Tortoise & the Hare?
I’m pretty sure that the elephant was Coloma’s second piece.
The day I took this picture, may have been the day it was completed and installed on Mixed Media‘s wall (Cannon Street side). I even have a shot of “Mural by Lester Coloma” hand written in chalk on the wall (before the artist signed his name on the cross bar of the elephant’s bike).
This one of the Tortoise & the Hare on the old Tivoli Theatre has since been getting graffitied over. Here it is looking as fresh as ever back in 2014.
Out front of Leon Furs (a building which I adore) was the most temporary Coloma mural I saw. It was there for just a short time as Store got set up to open on James Street. Lester Coloma’s Pan is gone but now you can buy your pottery and used books there.
In late summer and fall of last year I noticed the slow evolution of a mural on a dentist’s office on Jackson Street and Walnut starting to emerge. When I saw the bear go up (mid-mural completion) I knew that it was a Coloma. Now it’s nearly complete (I think) and two large sides of the building are entirely covered in a massive mural.
Thinking of switching dentists? I just might; based strictly on the assumption that a dentist that pays Lester Coloma to do a full-building-mural, must be an awesome one.
In the future I think our city will see more Coloma murals and even a new partnership with Lester’s brother Norman. Check out their site here.
Nothing better to mark the arrival of spring than maple syrup season.
It already seemed like spring was well on its way in downtown Hamilton with crocuses budding and snowdrops blooming but up Highway 6 at Mountsberg the ice-storm we had last week winterized their Maple Town to make for the perfectly quintessentially Canadian maple syrup scene.
I hadn’t been to Mountsberg for sugar shacking since I was a kid. I have all these beautiful memories of wagon rides, maple syrup drizzled on snow, pancakes, and the smell of sweet sweet maple syrup evaporating over an open fire.
It’s safe to say that my first revisit (as an adult and parent) to Mountsberg’s Maple Town was just as great as I remember so many years ago. It had the perfect components for great memory making and an experiential adventure for my own kids. And if I’d had someone visiting from out of the country this would have been the most Canadian activity to have taken someone to. After all, tapping maple trees and making syrup has long been a tradition of the First Nations’ people for many hundreds of years. At Mountsberg they’ve been doing it for 150 years.
A wooden fort perfect for this little guy. Just a little out of the way from the packed pancake house.
Over 600 maple trees are tapped at Mountsberg annually for their maple syrup season.
The evaporator was steaming up the whole building melting its icicles and snow covered roof. We enjoyed free maple syrup sugar candy samples and warmed up our hands and toes in the toasty evaporator house.
Before leaving we went on a wagon ride. On this day (because of the icy weather conditions) the wagon ride was tractor pulled but on most fine days the wagons are horse drawn for a classic ride out to the sugar bush.
Syrup season is a short one and runs just until the start of April.
If you’re heading up to Mountsberg for an outing there’s plenty to do for the day. You can check out the Birds of Prey (eagles to owls and raptors) or spend a large chunk of time in the play barn or checking out some of the barn animals. Make sure that you save room to eat some pancakes! You can find the prices and menu for pancakes here.
It’s amazing when I think that we’ve already lived in Hamilton for seven years and that we’ve only checked out a handful of the multitude of waterfalls in and around the city.
Most of my Hamilton waterfall viewing has been during summer months, sometimes planned after a large rainfall to really see the water flowing. Up until recently I had yet to see any of the falls in winter.
We wanted a mini-outdoor activity to get out of the house but with a three year old and baby in tow combined with icy and snowy weather conditions we needed a waterfall that was not too much of hike to get to and one that would be safe to get up close to with the little ones. We decided to check out Tiffany Falls.
I can say that upon approaching Tiffany Falls I was pretty awestruck. There was a gorgeous blue-ish tinge to parts of the ice. The scale of the frozen falls and sound of the soft bits of water trickling off the massive 20 metre tall icicles was breathtaking.
I would definitely recommend doing some winter waterfall viewing if you get the chance.
Excited to check this one out again as spring approaches.
Located just off of Wilson Street East. Parking is available by the access point and it’s only a five minute walk to get to the falls.
Sometimes very well intended blog posts get lost in a line-up of other banked posts and never make it to the on-line published format. Randy’s (Grass-fed) Hamburger joint was one of them. Unfortunately they’ve been closed for over a month.
Randy’s was one of my favourite classic take-out burger places in the city. No gourmet shenanigans just plain and simple back-to-basics. They did it good. They did it great. And I loved them. They had homemade ketchup, and amazing buttermilk battered onion rings.
So if in the few short years that Randy’s was around and you missed them: you’ll never know what you were missing. But for those that went to Randy’s and loved it: we are sorry for the loss of this fine take-out burger establishment.