Drinking Niagara dry on a bicycle.

Is it a cycling helmet or a drinking helmet? asks my friend on seeing me during our Niagara wineries bike ride. Certainly there is a risk that your ability to stay in a straight line after tasting 14 wines is reduced on this Grape Escape tour. We did hear that some cyclists ended up in a ditch on a previous visit but perhaps this is what organisers had in mind when our final stretch is on the relative safety of a bike path. We roll up at Kurtz Orchards Marketplace to meet our guides from Grape Escape Wine Tours. I notice all our bikes have a bottle of water for ahem......rehydration presumably. Our first winery is a 5km journey in a strong headwind. The quiet roads bordered by vineyards are a delight and we wave at other cycling drinkers coming in the opposite direction. On such a beautiful sunny day it feels good to be away from the crowds.

Drinking helmet?

We spend over three hours cycling between four wineries. Our favourite was Pondview Winery  where we were shown the tiny grapes on the vine and given a nice quiet private tasting among the barrels of wine. We could try different local cheeses with each wine here and we could take our time.  If you wanted to buy what you just tasted Grape Escape had them boxed up and delivered to you and your bicycle at the end of the trip. I reckon we tasted around 16 wines all in all and I ended up buying a lovely ice wine at the Reif Estate Winery. Grape Escape bicycling afternoon tour with cheese pairings starts at $59 plus tax while the picnic lunch tour starts at $89 plus tax. For me the best bit was the cycling - such gorgeous countryside and my favourite kind of riding terrain - flat as a pancake. I would recommend eating lunch first if you're going on the afternoon tour. (no reason)

Cycling among the grapes
We made it to the end without incident and I enjoyed chatting with other cyclists en route - including an Australian couple who were touring with their son and his Manitoban girlfriend. You don't need to be terribly fit to do this tour though you do need a good sense of balance after all that wine.

Pondview Winery our favourite
We were now in the perfect mood for our last show at the Shaw Festival and a complimentary shuttle will take you back to Niagara-on-the-Lake in time for dinner. (no wine) The Philanderer was the second of our Shaw productions actually written by Shaw (we saw seven shows in all).  You can trust this festival to bring a fresh interpretation of the classics.

Where did we leave the bikes again?
Artistic director Jackie Maxwell works with composer Mark Bennett to create original music for the shows. We loved the clever song performed by Ibsen about the joys of smoking. We loved the costumes and I would like to live in the set (below) that was created for the Ibsen club - just gorgeous. I studied Shaw at school and it was never this entertaining.

The festival has done it again - we saw seven productions this year and loved them all. My favourites would have to be the very classy Cabaret,  the hilarious When we are Married and the adorable The Charity that Began at Home but A Lovely Sunday for Creve Couer also stole my heart. If you go to one Canadian Festival this summer make it the Shaw. You won't find anything better.
Tomorrow: Marilyn Monroe and Niagara Falls.

The Philanderer by GBS at the Shaw

The Shaw Festival with its 10 productions runs until October at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara Falls are a short drive away. 
More things to do in Ontario.
Read my next post on a festival in New Brunswick where you can hear sopranos, eat lobsters and kitesurf.


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