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It's hard to believe. Canada's largest steel-making city has a refreshing, even European touch.  Canoe & kayak outfitter Grand Experiences proves it with a curious mix of hiking through canopied forests past 19 waterfalls that flirt with but never meet the big city, overnights in a lux boutique hotel, excellent picnic lunch on the trail plus gourmet dinners in area restaurants. Scrap the lunch bucket for this one, folks; we're talking about another side of Hamilton, Ontario! 


It all began for our small hiking group at Best Western Premier C Hotel by Carmen's (whew, quite a mouthful) near Mount Albion Conservation Area.






I took this to heart as I stepped off the elevator.

The hotel is modern and eco "green".

Each room is named after a noted Italian.

True to the Italian theme, large photos adorn

the corridors.

Lis enjoyed a pre-dinner coffee
and chocolate bar in our Martini room.

My dinner app by Chef John at Baci Ristorante was La Polpetta (THE meatball).

Master pizza maker Andrea Malito hails from Rome. He uses a huge wood-fired oven.

Would you like pepper with that?  Will Cerdas wields a mill that almost weighs more than me.

Jenna was our amiable server. Meanwhile, a movie was projected in the lobby while guests at a wedding came and went during photo sessions. 

The tour would take us through several conservation areas threaded by the Bruce Trail, a public walking path that traces the Niagara Escarpment from Tobermory to Niagara Falls. Our walk in the woods began with a stop at Albion Waterfalls where the natural beauty was unfortunately marred by unsightly trash — an issue that Grand Experiences owner Jamie Kent intends to address along the trail.

Our guide Dave Lubrick (wearing the brown shirt, centre) unboxed a delicious gourmet lunch prepared by a restaurant in Paris (Ontario!).  The 'al fresco' location was conveniently near Felkers Falls (below, centre).

The most arduous climb of the day was to the Devil's Punch Bowl, a crest of the escarpment that provides a view of Hamilton from a platform beneath a large cross. Dyment's Farmers Market was literally around a bend in the road. Baked goods are their specialty and were easly justified after the climb.

Returning to our hotel, we cleaned up, relaxed, then headed off for dinner at Sarcoa, a trendy new restaurant and bar on Hamilton Harbour.  Tour owner Jamie Kent (above, with beard) joined us as we all chilled while the wine and conversation flowed in the cool evening breeze. Of course, we took pictures of one another. Dan and Evey are on the left, Bill and Mel to the right.  My appetizer was a stick-to-your-ribs haute cuisine poutine (L) and my entrée the pasta of the day (below).

Our hotel breakfast room gave me yet another motto to live by — and an appropriate segue from my pasta dinner the night before.
Morning sunlight provided a fine view of McMaster Hospital, a neglected 
cascade and an open view of the university grounds. We passed through alternating open and forested spaces, from the roar of traffic to birds chirping in the woods.

Group selfie.

After hours spent in the solitude of the woods, Tiffany Falls Conservation Area (L) was a bit of a shock even with just a dozen extra people. How quickly we become used to something. Maybe it was to prepare us for a delightful Sunday brunch at Ancaster old Mill. We arrived  near the end of a sumptuous buffet, as the crowd began to thin and tables were being dismantled. Weddings, however, continued well into the afternoon.

Wedding at Ancaster Old Mill

Sherman Falls

If a tree falls in the forest, is a man still wrong?

Heritage Cascade's delightful gazebo

The Sulphur Springs Station, an imaginary mix of several Ontario railway stations, marked the end of our tour.

A trickle of pungent water is all that remains of a former resort at Sulphur Springs

Dave Lubrick was an indefatiguable and very patient guide.

Our day wasn't over until we returned to Sarcoa Restaurant to retrieve a small backpack I had forgotten. An open air roller skating rink was next door. Dozens of roller bladers were out that evening, grooving to the sounds from a couple of live DJs working the crowd from a small ringside tent.

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