Our feet hurt, and our coats are still a bit damp from the surprise rain shower, as we walk the last few steps along Paris, Ontario’s main street towards our destination. The Brown Dog, Coffee Shoppe and Apple Frittery.
I’d set off 2. 5 hours earlier with my sister and her friend, who was staying with our family over the Thanksgiving long weekend, on a fall foliage walk. Our plan was to hike from Brantford, my hometown, along the 10 km SC Johnson Rail Trail to Paris.
Decades ago you could travel throughout Southern Ontario by train, but not any longer; most of the tracks were taken up in the 1980s. Now these paths are for walking, forming the 16,800 km of the current Trans Canada Trail. It had been a goal of mine for quite sometime to walk this particular portion.
I had walked the trail in sections, but never the full distance, and today I was going to complete it. We had set off from behind the Brantford Golf and Country Club, one of the oldest in the country, walking through a cornfield heading towards the Grand River.
The Brantford to Paris trail winds through a unique assortment of environments and landscapes not normally found in Ontario; there is an unusually northern Savannah, a large expanse of prairie grass lands, and a wetland fen – which contain plant and wildlife not found elsewhere in the province. There is even a footbridge over the provincial highway after the trail turns a corner and takes you through a lovely industrial park.
Hundreds of years ago this land saw settlements of longhouses along the river with fields of the Three Sisters, corn, squash and beans; then battles were fought between the Americans and the soon to be Canadians. However, today this area is a quaint, but vibrant town built along the Grand River. We can see the back of the businesses lining the main street, their balconies overhanging the water, as we leave the trail and head over the bridge toward the downtown. This is our destination, downtown Paris; the town named, not directly for he French capital, but for the gypsum mined in the area, also known as plaster-of-Paris.
We trudge into the café, and settle in with our hot chocolates and our deliciously cinnamon coated apple fritter rewards. There is a chill in the early autumn air as we warm our hands on our mugs and my sister and I both proclaim, ‘everything is better in Paris!’
Then we sit back and wait to be picked up and driven back to where we started three hours earlier. It’s a trip that will take a mere 10 minutes by car, but the slow road is always the best, you see more and you can truly appreciate the trip through your own backyard.