Friday, 24 June 2016

My Love Affair with Merrickville

Pretty, Peaceful, Irresistible

by Nancy Snipper

1840: a beautiful B&B steeped in warmth and village history 

My infatuation with charming Merrickville began at the 1840 Guest House B&B. Its historical foundation – not to mention its allure – is as impressive as the splendid view it offers: Ontario’s Rideau River Canal Waterway. 202 kilometres long with 47 locks, this 19th-century aquatic wonder is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The place to stay – a prime location with hosts in the know

Breezy and impeccably styled, the 1840 Guest House B&B is owned and operated by Mike and Dawn Zaversenuke – genuinely friendly folk who – just like the villagers – are eager to make your Merrickville stay more than just a jaunt or a peek into the extraordinary craft shops in the village. This couple is both knowledgeable and passionate about the village’s history. Mike’s dedication to everything Merrickville is as mesmerizing to the visitor as is the astounding artisan acumen exploding at every corner.

Stone buildings meet the eye and fuel your imagination

Mike took me on a personal tour of landmarks, where he vividly turned Merrickville’s history into a timeless place of wonder with facts full of intriguing human stories. Merrickville is a time warp of sorts. Just look at those crazy old houses – those cedar log facades, stone exteriors, and wooden ornate carvings that seem to be falling off the front. 

They're calling for you to remember and love the Loyalists of yore – the “Merrickville men” – hard-working, sternly stoic settlers who built and settled with their families into these very often freezing houses – many of which are known to be haunted. Then again, I’ve always liked a good ghost story! 

Once an Ontario strategically important site, Merrickville was abuzz with some 58 industries of all kinds. It became a hub between Bytown (Ottawa) and Kingston and the construction of the canal (1826-1832) surely contributed to this. 

By 1860, Merrickville had reached the apex of its industrial development, but about 30 years later, it all came to a halt. Just a stone’s throw from 1840, the setting wistfully evokes its past. He took me to the site where the remnants of a towering stone wall boldly stand. This ruin once housed Merrickville’s mighty wool mill. Is it any wonder that as far back as 1800, the village used to be called Merrick Mills! 

1840 B&B’s claims its own unique piece of history!

Mike and Dawn have their own Merrickville tale to share about their darling 1840 B&B. Know that you’ll be standing on ground that once echoed the voices of children attending a one-room schoolhouse dating back to 1829. So why is it called 1840? Mike will tell you about three walls and what treasured inscription he discovered on one while tearing down the interior walls of the structure. In 2012, the couple bought the old Royal Canadian Legion, part of which had been a one-room school house. But its foundation was so badly deteriorated, it needed a serious overhaul. The school house was gutted, but the original ceiling beams are still there; its back wall is still attached to the B&B. It took nine months of rebuilding to create this “home away from home”. 

Resurrected as bright, sun-filled accommodations, this perfectly located B&B attracts place visitors as far away as Australia and beyond, as well as Montreal and Ottawa folks looking to relax on weekends. Many come to research their own family heritage in the village’s library archives. They are often able to find the home once occupied by their very own great grandparents.

A nook of paradise with tasteful appeal

Proud of its 9.7-star rating from, 1840 Guest House B&B’s walls are laden with lovely quilts and visual prints pertaining to village history and the Rideau locks with old maps and documents resonating bygone days. 

1840 B&B’s interior gallery of vintage furniture also amplifies the century-old village flavour. 

A sublime view is offered from a lovely balcony along and two of the four bedrooms
These front rooms boast huge windows that look out onto a, scenic nature-lush canal vista. The scene is relaxing.

Each warm bedroom has a queen bed and ensuite bathroom. Underfoot is a spanking new oak floor; above hang stunning miniature chandeliers. TV, fireplace and WIFI are all there too. 

Take a look at the colourful, meticulously crafted hand-stitched wall quilts, and the extraordinary simplicity of scenic stained glass window art hanging on the wall – all made by Dawn herself!

A mecca of exciting shops with gorgeous goods

It’s true: you can spend hours in the village, browsing and buying to your heart’s content. Tourists and locals never tire of the whimsical, the wildly wonderful, the fantastically appealing and the unique high-end array of one-of-a-kind boutique shops. Each has its distinct “personality”; you won’t find its duplicate anywhere else in the world; and they’re just a step away from 1840 Guest House B&B. Your first stop right beside the B&B should be the Whistle Post – a place that would gain approval from all hoarders. Thousands of nostalgia pieces, antique rarities and vintage everything to catch your eye. These rare old objects go for unbelievably low prices, thanks to collector and owner, Bill Kenny who opened up the store in the early 1980s. Amazing as it is, Bill can tell you the provenance of every item he sells – whether it’s a tiny thimble or a heavy piece of furniture, like the old beautiful ice storage chest he has there.

You may want to head to Cherry Picked. Run by Lesley and Mitch Roquette, all of the items are made in Canada – the quirkiest mixes with  beautiful, quality products. 

No one dare miss this Merrickville winner: Mrs. Mcgarrigle’s. It’s run by the champion of mustard-making herself – Janet Campbell. 


She exudes an energy that matches the awesome bastion of beautiful food garnishing goods – most notably the amazing assortment of award-winning mustards – five of which garnered top- honour ranking in a world-wide competition: Canadian maple, hot whiskey, red wine and cranberry port and chipote lime. 

Janet even grinds her own seeds which she gets from Saskatchewan.This palette pleasing store sells over a hundred different goodies, including olive oils, chocolates and an enormous potpourri of everything connected to food. Janet also teaches cooking in the store’s huge back kitchen, runs an annual trip to Umbria for aficionados of Italian cuisine, and invites chefs specializing in ethnic dishes to give cooking classes right at Mrs. McGarrigle’s.

Two iconic places that Merrickville is famous for: are Gray Art Glass and Alloy Foundry. Beautiful glass-blown objects both functional and decorative are on display and for sale here. Made by Michael Gray who apprentied under his father Kevin Robert. Gray started at the age of 14, learning glass blowing techniques from his dad at the gallery. 

Michael runs and owns the gallery, and gives classes in glassblowing there, as well. His witch balls with strands of glass inside the colourful orbs are stunning. Oh, and by the way, his fiancée, Liz Wardhaugh, happens to be a super nice real estate agent, so you know who to call when you’re ready to make Merrickville your home.

Alloy Foundry, owned by Carl and Linda Fage since 1990, is practically an “iron-clad” institution here. This fascinating landmark – the oldest in Canada – has been forging functional objects for Merrickville and beyond since 1840.

The Canadian government is one of their clients. An in-house electric inductor is used in making wonderful address signs, plaques, stoves, farm implements and custom-designed commissions.

Do check out Sole Obsession for original style shoes, including pairs made from jeans, and some exotic Indonesian wood sculptures that Bali-loving owners Carl and Lisa Card bring back from their travels. 

The Merrickville haunting theme is absorbed in a fun store, called Wick Witch. Owned by Lianne Kulp-Aultman, this mystic unique store specializes in soy-based candles of several scents, soaps and creams (love her Bad Witch and Big Witch creams – though both are smelly delicious). Lianne can create customize scented candles right in your own teacups and mugs. Just bring them in. She also sells sage rubs. Her sage acts like a small torch of smoke when lit; the smoke eradicates all negative energy in the room. She also has a mosquito repellent that works much the same way. 

The colourful Christmas store that's open year-round adds even more sparkle to the village. Maybe, Merrickville ought to change its name to Merryville!

Restaurants that fill you up and feed your heart 

1840 B&B’s Continental buffet serving table has yogurt, cereal, fresh fruits, orange juice, coffee and muffins; it’s a help-yourself style and at any time. If you yearn for a warm breakfast, head to Main Street Family Restaurant and Patio. It’s across from the B&B. This restaurant has heaping servings for all meals, and their service is so friendly and warm. Their new smoked dishes are super. I had a smoked salmon wrap: very tasty sauce in that one. Order a dish that uses their home-made cheese bread.

Next door is Mythos – a Greek restaurant with an outdoor terrace that opened last December, and they’re packing in people because of the quality of their great dishes; tongues wag about their popular pasta and pizzas. Toppings on pizzas are piled so high, the Leaning Tower of Pisa comes to mind. Mythos is mythic as far as Greek specialties goes, Mythos’s chicken souvlaki in a fried pita, is so fresh and flavourful. The spanokapita is sensational – no grease. The chef and owner is Nondas – uncle to Manos who cooks up the Mythos menu in the kitchen with fiancée Nicoleta. Manos – once the owner of Cina Restaurant in Athens undoubtedly pumps up Mythos‘s palette-pleasing success.

The Yellow Canoe Café is known for its veggie fresh soup – I loved their potato soup; and their cold mango, coconut and pineapple soup is unbeatable. This busy popular place is a food favourite, and one of the few places in the region to serve a vegan soup on a daily basis. Everything here is healthy and very tasty.

There are more meal-time places to choose from – from the exotic to the mainstream. Meander along St. Lawrence Street and turn some corners for more cuisine finds. 

Finally, you can’t come to Merrickville without enjoying the rapturous home-made ice cream and Gelato at Downtown Ice Cream & Candy Shoppe. Over 100 different kinds – all concocted by Shelly Innes, the owner. Many of the fruit-flavoured ones contain fresh fruit, because Shelley has a garden full of fruit; the strawberry and rhubarb flavour has rhubarb right from her own garden. She even makes her own peanut butter, fudge and toffee. I had a deliciously yummy combo of peanut butter/chocolate and the terrific tasting toffee scoop called, “Hokey Pockey”. 

I could go on and on about more Merrickville magic, but what is falling in love without allowing for some surprises! I don’t’ think my romance with this village is ever going to end. After all, I still have walking trails, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, cruises on the canal, miles and miles of more cycling (using 1840 Guest House B&B’s bicycle), and another unexpected miracle to experience just a heartbeat away.

The website is
Phone: 1840 Guesthouse B&B, contact: 1 (613) 269-3025

Wandering in a woodland garden wonder 

The Rideau Woodland Ramble comprises an amazing woodland series of connecting gardens and trails. In 2015, it garnered the illustrious Canadian Garden Tourism Award – Canadian Garden Centre of the Year. There really is no other garden oasis like this one – so organic – so sweet, so dreamy, and its gardens keep expanding with new creations every year.

Located on 7 lush acres of woodland, this verdant magical place also sells rare hostas (ranging from the world’s biggest and smallest) grasses, conifers, magnolias and a range of shrubs, trees and perennials.

As you weave amidst the circular contours you’ll spy all kinds of ornaments, totem poles and figurative fairies – many made of stone, crystal, clay and other interesting materials. They peek out from the water lily pond, trees, shrubs and branches. Rare and majestic, the six different garden areas are reliant on the particular soil and positioning – two major determinants for the type of growth that will flourish.

Started more than 35 years ago, by geniuses David Dunn and Rob Caron, the gardens reveal rapturous yet subtle natural splendor. They are located at 7210 Burritt’s Rapids Road 23 – only a ten-minute drive from Merrickville. 

There's no charge to enjoy the remarkable setting. 
It's another place that will capture your heart. 
Go ahead; fall in love all over again! 

photo credits: Nancy  Snipper and Mike Zaversenuke