Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Three Jewels of London, Ontario

The bicycle is a wonderful contraption. Leaving no carbon footprint whatsoever, you are free to meander where your heart and impulses carry you. Here are three gems I discovered while cycling hither and thither in London.

- The Museum of Archaeology, located in the northwestern suburbs, is London’s best-kept secret. I was lured because it is the only active archaeological dig inside a major city in Canada. Wandering through a 500-year old Iroquois village complete with stockade, longhouse, sweatlodge and, of course, some diggings, I had fantasies of Indiana Jones, raiding war parties and mysterious old relics.

- I dismounted next at Fanshawe Pioneer Village, located in Fanshawe Conservation Area, a delightful large parkland surrounding Fanshawe reservoir that offers camping, fishing, hiking and more. But for me, the highlight was the Pioneer Village. I love history and wandering amongst the old hotel, school, sawmills, general store and many other historic buildings carried me back to the early 1800s. I can’t wait to return when they hold the War of 1812 re-enactment.

- Weary and saddle sore I arrived next at Banting House National Historic Site, the humble two-story house where Dr. Frederick Banting practiced family medicine downstairs while living upstairs. I gazed at the bed where he awoke one night with the idea that led to insulin as a means of treating diabetes. Another room displayed the Military Cross that he won in the Second World War. Colourful landscapes, which Banting painted under the mentorship of A.Y. Jackson, adorned a wall. I cycled away, profoundly moved by this gifted Canadian.

- If You Go
-London Information:
-Archaeology Museum:

London, Ontario: A river runs through it

My butt is sore, but the rest of me is happy! I’ve just spent two sunny days astride a Raleigh Tomahawk mountain bike, pedaling the paths that line the Thames River in London, Ontario. Two branches of the river flow from the east, right into the heart of the city, where they join and then continue westward as one. The riverside paths follow a cornucopia of parks, playgrounds and nature, and it quickly became clear why London is called the Forest City. As I discovered, the Thames-side trails are as good as any inner-city bike paths in North America, and a great way to explore London.

My friend Marty Rice and I started in the west end at Story Book Gardens and Springbank Park. We dodged around mothers pushing baby carriages and geese shepherding little fuzzy goslings across the path. We stopped for gelatos at the recently renovated Wonderland Gardens, where Glen Miller and Guy Lombardo once played on sultry summer evenings. A plaque marked the site of one of Canada’s greatest maritime disasters, the sinking of a pleasure boat with the loss of 182 lives. The paths also offer views of the city’s underbelly: we looked into back yards, passed old pumping plants and at the Labatt’s brewery the smell of hops hung in the air. We hopped off the bikes to wander through the gardens of Eldon House (London's oldest residence), to stroll about the elegant grey limestone buildings of the University of Western Ontario and to savour a hot dog at Grandpa’s Chip Wagon. With the sun sinking low and our legs pleasantly weary, we gingerly dismounted and headed for a pub.

-If you Go
-Bike rentals: Herms Sport Exchange:
-London information and bike maps:
-Accommodation: Residence Inn, Marriott:, or University of Western residences (May to August):