The good news: Soon after our painful decision to decline -- Damn you pathetic freelance income! Damn you to hell! -- we were invited to another, less financially-challenging destination wedding.
The weird-seeming news: It was in Owen Sound.
I could be wrong, but I doubt there will be an Owen Sound booth at the upcoming Toronto’s Bridal Show. But now I know there should be. Despite being the site of the Great Coffee Cup Collapse of 2015, the Saturday evening (and Sunday morning!) affair at the upscale Cobble Beach Golf Resort was a blast. That came as no surprise.
What was a surprise to this Owen Sound neophyte was just how much the aptly-nicknamed Scenic City has to offer. And it all cost not a single dime.
Our Friday night stay at the nicely appointed and extensively hot-tubbed Best Western Inn On The Bay allowed us to get a relatively early start on exploring the Sound's downtown: The indoor-outdoor Farmer's Market, where we picked up a handmade gift card for the happy couple; the sprawling, 40-member Artists' Co-op boutique (pictured below), where we picked up a handmade ceramic serving tray for the happy couple; and the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, where we picked up the iconic local painter's "The Pine Country” for slightly less than its $2-million appraised value.
OK, I lied about the wee canvas. But we did pick up a new appreciation for one of Canada's most fascinatingly enigmatic artists (if not people). Thomson’s paintings of the Canadian wilderness (pictured variously below) are notable not just for their beauty, but also for the choices their creator made. An overhanging branch colours a lake-filled landscape. A modest, easily-overlooked island displays its fall colours. Subtlety and drama all at once.
I also appreciated how director and chief curator Virginia Eichhorn seemed to embrace the suspicions of foul play that surround Thomson’s untimely death in Algonquin Park’s Canoe Lake during the summer of 1917.
If nothing else, admiring Thomson’s work inspired us to get outdoors. Luckily, Owen Sound is home to one of Canada’s finest urban green spaces: Harrison Park. Opened in 1912, the 40-plus-hectare haven spreads out from the Sydenham River and provides an appealing conclusion to one of the region’s most popular snowshoe trails. Starting at Inglis Falls Conservation Area’s namesake cascade, the 3-kilometre trail skirts the frozen 18-metre drop (pictured below) and meanders through the rocky, densely forested Niagara Escarpment before reconnecting with the icy river and proceeding to the park.
We tromped happily along the trail with Owen Sound Tourism’s Paulette Peirol (pictured above), who detailed the near-ridiculous assortment of winter activities in the area: ice fishing, snowmobiling, festival-going, skating, moonwalking, midnight-buffet speed-eating…
No, wait…those last two apply to the wedding only. I hope.