June 2009 -- You’ll probably think I’m lying when I say I went to Paris for a weekend, but it’s true. And it took me less than an hour to get there from Hamilton, Ontario. How’s that for high speed travel?
The Canadian version of the "grand Pa-ree" is a little town (pop. 11,000) in Southern Ontario, near Brantford. The connection between it and Brantford is more than geographic; there’s an important historic link between the two. While Brantford is famous as the “telephone city” (the site of Alexander Graham Bell’s home and the first long-distance telephone call), people sometimes forget that Bell made that call to Paris. A bronze plaque on one of the stores we visited on Grand River Street (the main drag) proudly announces this. The call was made on August 10, 1876.
You can learn more about Paris history at the Paris Museum. Their web site is parishistoricalsociety.ca.
The town is known as the Cobblestone Town because of the use of that material on some of the heritage buildings. The neighbourhoods are full of handsome Victorian mansions.
The downtown is pretty, and has maintained many of its 19th century commercial buildings (some complete with tin ceilings!), except for one unsightly gap where a couple of new, brutish buildings have been used as infill (”what were they thinking???!”). The shops along the main drag, Grand River Street, include gift shops, a bookstore, a large linen shop, an office supplies stores and several clothing stores. My favourite is a chocolate shop, Chocolate Sensations. The town’s most famous store, though, isn’t on the main drag; it’s a few kilometres out of town: Mary Maxim, which sells craft supplies and gift items. This is quite a large store and is a "destination" for crafters in Southern Ontario.
The most interesting building on the main street is the stately
old Arlington Hotel built in the 1850s. It’s fun to imagine people dressed in the fashion and finery of
their era — the late 1800s, for example — cracking jokes and striking
deals or cozying up to the fireplace on a brutally
cold winter day.
The Grand River runs through the town, backing right up to the rear ends of the shops along one side of Grand River Street. Many of the buildings sport balconies that hang over the water. Some cafes have patios overlooking the river, making this a scenic spot for a leisurely lunch.