Charming Almonte - Bold Past and Vibrant Present

European exploration of Upper Canada that makes most of Ontario today began at around present-day Ottawa and Kingston. Passable rivers an...

European exploration of Upper Canada that makes most of Ontario today began at around present-day Ottawa and Kingston. Passable rivers and adjacent lakes were essential to maintain a reliable connection with other North American towns and cities and, of course, Europe. Being the oldest in the whole province, the area surrounding Ottawa and Kingston corners the prettiest towns built by  the British and Irish settlers. One of those towns, Almonte, sits immediately west of Ottawa and was named by Expedia one of the 10 charming small towns in Canada.

This past weekend, I had a privilege to take a walking tour of the historic heart of Almonte. 
I've been to Almonte a few times before and it always seems inviting no matter the season. But this time around, the calm and sunny autumn weather combined with dramatic foliage colours definitely enhanced my prior experience.
Back in the day, Almonte had a lot going on for such a small town, population-wise. Expensive buildings, a direct railway link to Ottawa, a few dozen stores and other thriving local businesses - all this proved that 100-150 years ago Almonte was a very rich town.
But what exactly provided such an abundance of wealth? The answer is wool. Almonte's gift from Mother Nature is in its numerous waterfalls that allowed building many water mills to process wool. 
Fast-forward to the present day, those old mills have been converted to either hydro-electric generating stations, or restaurants and condominiums. 

Not many people know that Dr. James Naismith, an inventor of the basketball game, was actually born and raised in Almonte. Then, of course, as many famous Canadians, Dr. Naismith moved to the United States.
Today's Almonte has been re-inventing itself as a tourist destination. Locals and visitors alike can stroll along the Almonte Riverwalk and the many roaring waterfalls of the Mississippi River, sample a world-renowned Hummingbird Chocolate, have lunch or dinner at one of the nice restaurants by the water, try low-fat doughnuts, and taste dairy-distilled vodka.
The latter offers free guided tours of their state-of-the-art production facility, no reservations required. The distillery started as an experiment at University of Ottawa, and turned out to be a  quite successful enterprise that is now selling vodka to three provinces in Canada.
By the way, vodka production is highly regulated in Ontario. The province imposes huge taxes to restrain alcohol consumption. The law requires that 1 litre of vodka be sold for at a minimum of $27.
Almonte is very close to Ottawa which makes it a perfect day trip from Canada's capital. It also is never busy, so if you enjoy your personal space and crave solitude, Almonte will do great for you.

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