Sunday, August 17, 2003

Stratford Festival of Canada: General Information--2003

The Stratford Festival of Canada: A Fall Wrap-up

The Stratford Festival of Canada takes place in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. The ride to Stratford from Cleveland is about six hours through Buffalo. Go on-line to the festival to get directions. (I found the directions offered by both the AAA and Yahoo maps to be confusing and miles longer.)

Productions run through November 9. Fall offerings include: ‘THE TAMING OF THE SHREW,’ ‘THE KING AND I,’ ‘PERICLES,’ ‘LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST,’ ‘GIGI,’ ‘THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME,’ ‘PRESENT LAUGHTER.’ The headlines of my previous reviews were: ‘KING AND I’ SUMPTUOUS; ‘GIGI’ IS AUDIENCE PLEASING BUT MISDIRECTED; ‘PERICLES’ TRIUMPHS!; ‘THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME’ RINGS WRONG BELLS. Shows carrying over only in September are: ‘ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA,’ ‘THE BIRDS,’ ‘’TROILUS AND CRESSIDA,’ ‘QUIET IN THE LAND,’ and ‘AGAMEMNON.’ Of these, on my late June visit I only saw ‘ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA’ which I found boring.

What’s the lodging like? I stayed at The Victorian Inn, which bills itself as “a place to rejuvenate your family and revel in the richness desired.” I found it little more than an older Holiday Inn. By the way, don’t spend the extra money to get a room with a view. Our additional investment garnered a view of the parking lot. I’d opt for one of the many bed and breakfasts. Sorry, I can’t recommend a specific choice as it’s been years since we stayed at one.

As for shopping, I strongly recommend Davis Canadian Arts (106 Ontario Street). This is a wonderful art gallery that offers Canadian traditional and contemporary sculptures, ceramics and paintings. For women’s quality clothing make sure to stop at The Touchmark Shop (137 Ontario Street). The establishment offers unique and one-of-a kind products at excellent prices.

Hungry? For moderate cost, high quality, try The Annex Room (38 Albert Street). For a slightly higher priced meal Bentley’s, a sister to The Annex, is good. I had a very negative dining experience at Carters on Downie. My expensive halibut main course consisted of a fish stick-sized piece of fish and four asparagus spears. It’s lunch portions at upscale dinner prices. And, unlike most Canadian restaurants, the service was poor. For a relaxed and fairly inexpensive breakfast treat try Demetre’s Family Eatery (1100 Ontario Street)..

Stratford Escapes, a division of Niagara Falls Tours, is an efficient way to make reservations. For information call 877-356-6385 or go on line to For individual tickets call 800-567-1600 or go on-line to


The Shaw Festival is conducted in three lovely theatres in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada, an easy four-hour trip from Cleveland. You travel through the wine countries of Ohio, New York and Canada enroute.

Productions run through November 30. September through the end of season productions include: ‘THE ROYAL FAMILY,’ ‘THE CORONATION VOYAGE’, THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS,’ ‘BLOOD RELATIONS,’ ‘AFTERPLAY,’ ‘MISALLIANCE,’ ‘DIANA OF DOBSON’S,’ ‘HAPPY END,’ ‘WIDOWERS’ HOUSES,’ and ‘ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.’ Of those that I saw, I’d strongly recommend ‘THE CORONATION VOYAGE,’ ‘AFTERPLAY,’ ‘DIANA OF DOBSON’S,’ and ‘WIDOWERS’ HOUSE.’

The Niagara area is dotted with wineries, many of which, besides offering wine tastings and sales, have restaurants . I have, in general, been disappointed in the winery restaurants with the exception of Inn on the Twenty, located in historic Jordan Village (, about forty minutes from Niagara-on-the-Lake.. This ranks as one of my favorite restaurants in the world. The service is always wonderful, the facility is beautiful, the gardens behind the facility lovely, and the food is outstanding! This is a “must go-to.”

Also on the must do list is eating at The Queenston Heights Restaurant. Located in a park just over the Canadian line, the facility has a breathtaking view of the Niagara River gorge. I’ve been there a dozen times and never had a meal that was anything less than outstanding. Try and get seated at one of Christine’s tables. She’s a total delight and a wonderful server.

Disappointing for dinner was Epicurean, which is excellent for lunch. Service was poor and the dollar for value quotient weak. Fans Court Chinese Restaurant (135 Queen Street) is a much better buy. It has a very pleasant outdoor patio and the food is nice. Try the fruit chicken dish for a different taste treat.

Greaves Jams and Marmalades is famous for its products since 1927. A Niagara tradition is the Maple Leaf Fudge store. Also, don’t miss out on the several stores that sell yogurt which is blended before your eyes with Niagara fresh fruits.

The area has many excellent hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. We have found Abbotsford House Bed and Breakfast to be our home-away-from-home. Owner Margaret Currie is a total delight. Her breakfasts are scrumptious, she gives a new meaning to the word “clean,” and the antiques and decorations are impeccable. Return guests are the rule here. For reservations and/or information call 905-468-4646 or e mail

For theatre information, lodging suggestions or tickets call 800-511-7429 or go on-line to Ask about packages that include lodging, meal and tickets. Also be aware that the festival offers Sunday night specials, rush tickets and senior matinee prices.

For those so-inclined, Niagara Falls has an excellent gambling casino and there is a very large outlet store complex besides being able to take in the attractions connected to the magnificent falls.

This is a wonderful time of year to travel to our neighbor to the north. Friendly people, good value and wonderful theatre awaits you.