The view shows the carding mill, planing mill and cheese factory.
BY JANICE KENNEDY– 2008– What did you do? I spent a perfectly languid summer day doing perfectly languid summertime things getting out of town, enjoying the scenery, strolling, nibbling and browsing. Could you be a little more specific? Sure. I went to Pakenham, part of greater “Mississippi Mills.” The little village on the Ottawa Valley version of the Mississippi River is barely more than a half-hour from downtown Ottawa, so it’s a drive-in-the-country destination that doesn’t impoverish you at the gas pump. Why Pakenham? There are lots of little villages around Ottawa, aren’t there? There are indeed, many of them certainly worth a daytrip. But what’s appealing about Pakenham, besides the proximity and prettiness of the place, is its ambience.
Some visitors might call it sleepy and it does seem to be the antithesis of bustling but I prefer to think of it as laid-back. A visit to Pakenham is an undeniably leisurely affair. Is that code for “leave the kids at home?” Maybe. What I like about Pakenham is the opposite of what appeals to my two young grandsons, whose tastes run more to water parks and go-kart tracks. If you don’t count the ice cream, Pakenham’s attractions tend to be more adult-oriented. Tell me about them. The village is both attractive and historic. At nearly 200 years old, it seems to have a settled sense of self.
Many of the houses some of them meticulously restored or maintained with their original character reflect the 19th-century love of Regency and Classic Revival architectural styles. In fact, if your interests run that way, you can take a detailed historical walking tour of Pakenham, guided by a helpful little pamphlet available free at most village businesses.
Dating back to the 1840s, Pakenham’s general store is thought to be the oldest continually operated general store on the continent. With everything from fresh baked goods to brass beds, it’s a great place to browse. What’s the highlight? Pakenham’s landmark is The Bridge. If you come by way of Kinburn Side Road, the exit you take from Highway 417, you enter the village by way of its famous stone bridge (“the only five-arch stone bridge in North -America,” tourist literature boasts). It’s an impressive structure, built in 1901 with locally cruarried stone cut in the squared look of the time, suggesting solidity and endurance. Small riverside parks by the bridge allow you to get a good look at the five sturdy spans and, on the north side, to listen to the rushing burble of the water over what is called Little Falls.
Pakenham’s century-old bridge is the only five-arch stone span bridge in North America. Then there is 5 Span Feed and Seed (“We feed your needs”). Besides agricultural and cottage supplies, 5 Span also sells outdoor clothing and local maple syrup appropriately, since Pakenham is in Lanark County, the heart of Ontario maple country. Which reminds me: A visit to Pakenham could happily accommodate a short jaunt to Fulton’s, the sugar bush just a few minutes outside town (directions at fultons.ca). Sounds wonderful, but aren’t you forgetting something?
Did you not mention Ice cream? I certainly did. Summertime’s easy livin’ , should always include at least one afternoon stroll by the river or in this case, relaxation on one of the park benches near the landmark bridge to contemplate the flow of the Mississippi a homemade waffle cone in hand filled with the smooth, cool glories of ice cream. In Pakenham, you can get your dose of frozen decadence at Scoop’s (111 Waba, just off the main street) or at the General Store. Either way, it’s a short walk to the river.
OK, I confess. Right next to the feed and seed suppliers, a small stand operated by local Cedar Hill Berry Farm was selling red, ripe and irresistible fresh strawberries. With visions of shortcake dancing in my head, I picked up a litre and doubled back to Watt’s Cooking? for a package of fresh tea biscuits (not quite shortcake, but close enough). That evening, in little more time than it takes to whip up a bowl of cream, we had our glorious old-fashioned summer dessert thanks to our Pakenham daytrip. I guess you could call that a sweet ending to a pretty sweet day? I guess you could, although it also made for a sweet beginning the next morning.
This was written inThe Ottawa Citizen==Ottawa, Ontario, Canada26 Jul 2008, Sat • Page 64
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