The Christmas season always bring nostalgia. Suddenly feeling more strongly the coldness of their internet connections, people start yearning for old fashioned family dinners, walks through snow-laden dells and the smell of cider and pine. This condition lasts exactly three weeks and then disappears with a suddenness suggesting mass hypnosis, but for a short time everyone is pleasant, less rushed, and enjoying yet again the story of Rudoph’s triumph over schoolyard bullying.
It was this frame of mind that sent my daughter, Mikaela, and I to Dundas, a small town just shy of 25,000 souls with a popular shopping district showcasing local artists and boutique stores. A 25 minute drive from Oakville, the road signs are easy to follow and take you right to King Street, which is lined with buildings showcasing original 19th century architecture. Parking is sufficient and, wonderfully, free on weekends.
The first thing we saw was a horse-drawn wagon offering rides through town. I love these things, even though they entail nothing but sitting, shivering, on a rock hard bench for fifteen minutes while the horses plod resolutely along their route at a brisk 6 kilometers per hour. But they’re just so Christmassy, the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves beating a magic cadence that never fails to lift my spirits. I was ready to jump on, but for some indescribable reason my otherwise horse-loving pre-teen didn’t want a ride (yet more proof she’s smarter than me).
Our first stop was the chocolatier, delightfully named Beanermunkey Chocolates (the combined childhood nicknames of the owner’s sons). A mouth-watering array of artisanal chocolates made on-site are provocatively displayed on artistically arranged trays and baskets. The kitchen viewing window allows patrons to watch the chocolatiers at work. I purchased some chocolate-dipped peanut butter cups, candy cane bark, peanut brittle and a small bag of chocolate dipped sour keys. I reluctantly left, after partaking of my free sample of their “Madagascar vanilla bean confection, with a white chocolate ganache centre dipped in Belgian white chocolate and finished with a dark chocolate design.” It took less time to eat it than to say it.
We next visited several clothing stores, offering goods of a quality not seen in any of Ontario’s ubiquitous chain stores in years. There are also many gift stores, cafes, shoe stores, a bridal boutique, medical facilities and several banks. Everything you need for day to day living is here.
For lunch we went to The Winchester Arms, a British pub with beautiful decor, red oak beams and deep green upholstery, with a bar trimmed with brass and glass. The place was packed with regulars and cheerfully noisy. The menu was extensive and I longed to try the chicken pot pie, bangers and mash or fish and chips, but I knew if I ate a lunch that heavy I wouldn’t make it back to the car, so I settled for chicken wings and garlic cheese toast. Mikaela had chicken fingers and fries, and a Dad’s root beer which is bottled like real beer, making for an amusing photo-op.
(Read the label, people – it’s root beer)
After lunch we strolled the street, passing some carollers and stopping at the Carnagie Gallery showcasing paintings, photographs, pottery and jewellery of local artists, then turned in at the Body Sense Boutique and Spa where we purchased some natural soap and a “bath tea” for soothing sore muscles, a gift for my mother.
Our last stop was The Keeping Room, a veritable play land for kitchen store junkies. Every single surface is covered with casseroles, muffin pans, wine glasses and serving dishes, and every other imaginable utensil to make cooking fun. They even have food-themed socks. I could easily spend my entire paycheque there, but I responsibly selected some ballerina and Eiffel Tower-shaped cookie cutters and a batter measure, and three pairs of socks.
On our way back to the car we stopped at Village Bakery Dundas and bought half a dozen shortbreads and six intricately decorated sugar cookies, which explains why they cost $27.00. Eating our Santa heads we drove back to Oakville. We will definitely be returning.
From Toronto: take the QEW west to Hwy 6 North. Follow Hwy 6 to York Road; turn left. Follow York Road to Regional Road 8. Turn right on Road 8 and follow to King Street West.