A September 2005 trip
to Ontario by shaunandtrish
Quote: This was the final leg of our first tour round eastern Canada. We took a couple of days out on the St Lawrence at Prescott mainly to break up the journey back to Toronto airport. But in the end it gave us a lot more ...
The drive from Montreal to Toronto is generally straightforward but uninteresting, so taking a cheap flight for this leg of the journey is a worthwhile consideration.
The property is currently owned by Chris and Cheryl McCorkill. Like virtually all other B&B owners, they have their own "proper" jobs, but Chris works a lot from home, so he tends to be around most of the time. The large old property gives relatively large bedrooms by B&B standards. These are cosy and clean, with a TV. The Blue Heron also offers a range of other free-to-guests facilities not generally found at B&B's, including an outdoor swimming pool, a super four-person hot tub in the large garden, and a downstairs lounge with the largest TV you've ever seen. Tea- and coffeemaking facilities and a fridge are available in the kitchen the whole time.
Breakfast is the typically varied, generous, and freshly prepared fare that seasoned B&B users will have come to expect. Cereal, pastries, yogurt, fruit, and fresh tea and coffee come as standard, with a main dish of waffles or bacon and eggs to keep you going all day. Chris will also be keen at this time to help out with your day's itinerary.
The crowning glory of our stay in the Blue Heron, however, was spectacular and memorable enough to warrant its own journal.
Oh, here's a link to the website homepage.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 5, 2005
Blue Heron Inn, Prescott
1648 County Rd. 2
Nick's diner is on the left of the main thoroughfare through town as you head off the freeway towards the St Lawrence. It's a typical single-storey diner. Inside you find bench-type seating - no tablecloths or candles here, with walls decked out with team photos of international football (you might call them soccer where you come from) teams. Service is fast informal and friendly.
The menu is full of diner standards: lasagna and other pastas, steaks, fish-and-chips, and a few Greek-type dishes (no doubt with a heavy North American accent). Main courses ranged from around C$6 (pastas) to C$12 (steaks), and portion sizes were designed to fill, with a small desert menu with options starting at C$2.50. A glass of beer was around C$3.50. Our second visit to Nick's, when we only had one beer apiece and scored for a "second-plate half-price" offer on pasta, gave us our cheapest evening meal of the whole holiday at C$33.
So, in short, I'd recommend Nick's for good value diner meals and friendly service, ideal for those wanting to stretch their holiday budget a bit further. Don't dress up.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 5, 2005
107 Churchill Road
There are, in fact, several cruise operators offering these cruises along both sides of the St Lawrence starting south of Prescott for 40 miles or so, but we chose the Rockport Boat Line for a couple of reasons. First, Chris in the Blue Heron recommended it. Second, Chris in the Blue Heron gave us a discount coupon for it. The departure point is about a 40-minute drive south from the Blue Heron.
The day of the cruise was yet another lovely day. We'd been to Mesena, NY, on the morning, got back to the Blue Heron for a picnic lunch on the river bank, and set off just in time to catch the 3pm departure. The price was about C$20 each with our discount. There's plenty of room to park right next to the departure point. You get there, park up, buy your ticket, and you're off. At various times of the year there's also the choice of a dinner cruise, where you take a bit longer to go round the islands and get fed on the way, and also an option where you get off on one of the bigger islands - the one with Boldt Castle on it. These obviously cost a bit more, and you need to watch out because the island that Boldt Castle occupies is US territory, so unless you're a US citizen landing on the island from a boat departing from the US side, you'll need your passport.
The basic trip lasts about 50 minutes. It's pretty much what you'd expect, milling around the islands with a running commentary in English and French giving you a potted history about the islands and the structures that have been plonked on them over the years, the most notable of which is the much-photographed Boldt Castle. Recently restored following years of neglect, 'tis a tragic tale of riches, love, loss, and degeneration. Basically, the heir to the Wrigley Chewing Gum empire began developing the island and all its adornments as a token of his love for his wife, who promptly died before the project was finished. That, understandably, put the developments on ice and left the constructions at the mercy of local hooligans and vandals. More recently the project has been taken on by someone or another, and the island is now approaching a stage near to the original vision. Something along those lines anyway.
Halfway through the cruise, the friendly crew mingled and offered passengers the chance to buy an exhorbitantly priced but cold and welcome bottle of Budweiser, and then you're more or less on your way back to the mooring, where you are thoughtfully provided with the opportunity to purchase souvenirs in the adjacent shop and restaurant. All in all, it's a very pleasant and accessible little half-day excursion with unique photo opportunities. Here's the website.
Now before I go mad describing why the memories of this place will stay with us for the rest of our lives, or at least until Alzheimer's takes its toll, I must point out that I like starting fires anyway. Mostly outdoors in controlled conditions. Mostly.
Not only is the Blue Heron a good, solid B&B in a good spot run by nice people, it also sits right on the St Lawrence River. You go out of the door, cross the road in your shorts and slippers, and you're on the riverbank. More than that - that particular bit of riverbank, a stretch of 30 meters or so, is actually owned by the McCorkills and down a bit of a dip out of sight of what road traffic there is, so you can more or less please yourself what you do down there under the shade of the trees, with the owners' permission. What that meant to us was midday and late-night picnics, the latter accompanied by wine and a roaring bonfire. Catch the weather at its kindest, warm and wind-free, and you can while away your evening doing nothing more than watching the evening light wane to be replaced by twinkling stars, the St Lawrence lapping the shore and providing the most wonderful backdrop to your bonfire, while the lights of another country flicker across the water as large freight lumber silently past. Now that might sound like doing nothing much at all, but that experience for most of us is irreplicable, I'll wager. So your stay at the Blue Heron (which is nice enough as it is) throws all this in as an unexpected free treat, well ...
Late summer is a good time to do all this, apparently, as in early summer the mosquitoes effectively render this pleasure off-limits. Down on the riverbank, you'll become aware that this is a private pleasure of the owners, too, as it's all decked out with a makeshift hearth for the fire, comfy chairs, etc., the remains of recent bonfires, and a pile of fuel for the next one.
On a practical note (these things deserve the right preparation), there's a large supermarket to your right just as you enter Prescott off the 401 where you can stock up on all your picnic fayre except your booze. A little further on into town, there's a beer shop to your left, but that sells only beer (good international selection). If wine or anything else is your poison of choice, then you need to seek out the only liquor store in town, which is on the main road through town that runs parallel to the river towards the Blue Heron. It's on your left near the Bank.
It's got a bit of history about it, for one thing. Bits and pieces on the St Lawrence like the Marina and Lighthouse suggest busier times past, when the St Lawrence was more of a major freight route than it is now, and Fort Wellington reminding you of its active role in the Civil War.
It's in a good place, too. Travel 5 miles north and you have access to a not-too-busy road bridge to the USA - Ogdensburg, NY is adjacent to Prescott across the water. There's the St Lawrence itself of course, and there's a very wide variety of day-trips to be had, all within a 1 hour drive. Let's list some of them; Montreal, Ottawa, Upper Canada Village, 1000 Islands. Toronto, our next stop after leaving the town, is 3 hours on a good day, as is Quebec City - but to go there you have to circumnavigate Montreal somehow.
With so much to offer, it therefore contains a reaonable choice of accommodation for a small town like this. There's the Blue Heron, obviously, with other options closer to the centre of town. Dining options are generally low-key, cheap and cheerful, although I'm sure there must be upmarket options should you wish to push the boat out a bit.
There's a well maintained little town website with a good description of all the area attractions.
The first obstacle to overcome is the US immigration - that's after you've paid your C$2.50 to cross the road bridge. You'll need US$6 per person to get your papers processed. If you don't have US funds, there's a small shop next to the immigration office that'll change your canadian funds for you. Our papers were processed in about 20 minutes, but I did notice that some people were kept longer and gived more of a grilling. It seemed that lone travellers were of particular interest to the staff there. Anyway, once out you turn left and you're on the very pleasant drive along the US side of the St Lawrence towrds Massena. The drive will take you through a few small well kept towns, past a few holiday homes and parks, and offers the chance of some nice scenic photos of the lakes and marshes of the upper Adirondacks on each side of the road.
Finally when you do arrive at Massena, the first town of any commercial significance in that direction, you'll need to drive right through town and out the other side to get to the St. Lawrence Center. We got there about 10.30am on a weekday and found it blissfully deserted. By mall standards it's neither big nor spectacular in any way, but you do get the usual mix of sports, books and records shops, Bath & Bodyworks, a couple of department stores and so on. Catch it when it's quiet and you may root out a few bargains. I did well with a few $5 T-shirts from the sports shops. All in all it's a reasonable way to kill a half a day and to make an excuse for a trip to take in another country, but it's certainly not a mall you'd go miles out of your way to visit.
Here's the website for the St Lawrence Center.
Durham, United Kingdom