Thursday, July 11, 2013

Elora, Cambridge and St. Jacobs:

One of the best things about living in Toronto is that you can have a little 'get away' really quickly. After visiting Prince Edward County earlier in the year, we have decided to see as much of the province as we can this summer... as well as summers to come!
So on a recent hot and muggy Friday afternoon in Toronto, we set off west on the 401 to a tropical oasis called the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory ( traffic and summer construction did not deter our spirits and soon the busy streets gave way to farmland and fruit stands. As soon as you enter the Conservatory, the environment really hits you. It is hot! But once one of the colourful butterflies flying around lands near or on you, you realize it is totally worth it. There were hundreds of butterflies flying through the landscaped garden. As we got closer to many of them, we realized that each one was a work of art.

In the main foyer, there is also a very interesting art installation that again takes some close inspection to truly discover. From February to July 3 of this year, the Conservatory hosted “Pest: Hybrid insect Sculptures by the thousands,” (cambridgebutterfly amy-swartz) a visual art installation by Toronto artist Amy Swartz. There were 12 cases containing carefully crafted scenes that combined insects with other artificial parts. The pieces were stunning and incredibly detailed. Our enjoyment was increased when we learned that all of the insects used in the pieces died of natural causes and some were even donated by the Conservatory.

After enjoying the Conservatory so much, we decided to extend our visit to the entire Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo region and stayed the weekend.
an ingenues pen holder made from toss
 away debit rollpaper insides at Iguana Beads 
Ken and Irene - photo taken from Iguana Beads website
During a sight-seeing drive through the streets of Cambridge, we were lucky enough to discover Iguana Beads, a charming store operated by Ken and Irene Kadonaga. Opened in Cambridge since 2004, Iguana Beads ( carries over 3000 kinds of beads from all over the world, in addition to finished jewelry, books & magazines and kits. They also offer private lessons and host bead parties.

We spent over an hour exploring all the various types of beads and left with a handful. We could have been there all day. Not just for the beads, but also for the great company of Ken and Irene who not only provided great advice and assistance, but were very friendly and warm. The store is a true ‘mom and pop’ shop and has a great atmosphere. Irene informed us that customers come from as far as away as Durham Region and don’t mind the drive at all.
On Saturday (late) morning, we couldn't miss the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market, one of the most popular farmer’s markets in Ontario. We waded through the crowds and loaded the car with local produce and plants. We also couldn't resist the tempting perogies in the market building, which were a great break during the shopping. Another great stop was the Stone Crock Bakery in the village of St. Jacob’s. Run by the Mennonites, there is so much choice of breads and pastries so we complimented our earlier perogies with a satisfying rhubarb pie enjoyed on the outdoor patio. We also took some jams and preserves to bring home.
After so much shopping and navigating through the thickets of farmers market crowds, we needed a return to nature so made the short scenic drive to Elora and its beautiful gorge. Choosing to see the gorge from the hiking trails in the Conservation area was a great choice. While you can see it from the town, we loved being in the woods and overlooking the gorge from a high cliff. The fresh air was rejuvenating and the deep colours and character of the forest trees was breath taking.
like a creepy scene from Game of Thrones these stairs
leading into the deep ground rock are eerie but beautiful
We ended our trip with a quick visit to historical downtown Elora. Our first stop after enjoying local organic ice cream at the Village Olive Grove ( was the Styll Gallery ( This craft gallery and store, owned by Heather and John Zondervan, is filled with tons of hand crafted pieces by over fifty local, Canadian artists. There are hundreds of pieces to choose from in different mediums like clay, glass, metal, wood, jewelry and textile. 

be-still my heart these little creatures spoke to me!
Our favourite part of the store was the outdoor section featuring interesting garden sculptures. We knew we had to have one and spent a lot of time comparing and making our final choice. Heather was very friendly and extremely patient as was we made our choice. You can tell she was very proud of all the pieces and loved to talk about the artists she works with.

We decided to mull over our choice of sculpture by taking a walk through the downtown main street and ended up walking right into the Elora Sculpture Project. Organized by the Elora BIA, every year a jury selects new sculptures to be displayed in the town from May to October. The pieces were all different, had their own personalities and each one was stunning. They inspired us to return to Styll and make our final choice of garden sculpture. Heather greeted us again and carefully wrapped our selection for the car ride home while giving us more information and sharing her enthusiasm for both Elora and the artists featured in her store. 
you know you're in trouble when ...

After two days of discovery, we were tired but satisfied. The car was packed with everything from fruit, produce, plants and pieces of art work.

We headed back down the road to Toronto looking forward to the next time we spin a bottle and head off in a different direction to explore our province.