We had already seen and experienced so much on this gorgeous fall day: from Brantford’s signature sights such as the Bell Homestead and the Mohawk Chapel to the Farmers’ Market, a bike ride by the Grand River and lunch in a café / gallery that is part of Brantford’s railway station, we now continued our explorations to the historic riverside town of Paris.
Paris abounds with historic architecture
A small community with about 11,000 residents, Paris can look back on a long history. It was first settled in 1829 and officially became a town in 1850. Paris is probably most well-known for the fact that the first “long distance” telephone call was made on August 10, 1876 between Paris and downtown Brantford.
Downtown Paris, Ontario, offers many shopping opportunities
The name of the town stems from “plaster of Paris”, referring to the gypsum deposits that were mined in the area in the mid 1800s. Paris is also known as the “cobblestone capital of Canada” because it features numerous buildings that were constructed from rounded riverstones. The historic architecture and quaint main street have also earned Paris the nickname “prettiest town in Canada”.
The Café de Paris offers a great riverside patio
We strolled along the main street which was flanked on both sides by Victorian-era buildings with retail shops on the main floor. At the Café de Paris we headed inside to admire the spacious river-side terrace that is a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Two licensed patios overlook the Grand River and beckon visitors to sit down in this bistro bar.
Viewing platform over the Grand River
From Paris we continued our country drive through the rolling hills of Brant County to stop at Robert Hall Originals, a showroom where we admired a wide variety of artistic creations made from pewter and natural stone. Robert is a master pewter smith with a big passion for collecting rocks and minerals, and he merges his passions in his artistic creations. His rock collection comes from all over the world, and his crystal specimens hail from as far away as Brazil, India, Morocco, Russia and other places.
Robert with his wife Betty in the showroom of Robert Hall Originals
The pewter ware at Robert Hall Originals features hundreds of different designs in themes such as Canadiana, Celtic and equestrian. The artist took us into his workshop to demonstrate the elaborate process of creating pewter art, which starts with the creation of clay moulds that are used to create rubber moulds which are then used in the casting process. Robert indicated that he uses about 3000 different moulds to produce his wide assortment of artistic products.
Some of the designs at Robert Hall Originals
The three-dimensional clay mould creates an impression in the rubber which is put inside a casting machine and subjected to 1.5 tons of pressure. Pewter melted at 550 degrees Fahrenheit is then poured into the casting machine and fills the cavities in the rubber mould. Once the casting is finished, the mould is allowed to cool for a brief period of time, and then the pewter objects are removed from the mould.
A pewter letter opener from Robert Hall Originals
At this raw stage all the individual cast objects must be cleaned up with a knife or a file to remove the rough edges, and from here forward they are painted and polished and all remaining sharp edges are removed. Pewter casting is a very labour-intensive process, and Robert stresses that he only uses lead-free pewter which consists of 98% tin, 2% copper, antimony and silver. This stands in contrast to many imported low-cost pewter products that could still contain lead.
Robert’s love for stone manifests itself in his extensive rock and mineral collection that features many colourful and intricately patterned specimens. His wife Betty says that they regularly attend large mineral shows in the United States where Robert spends hours studying different rocks and minerals. A love for the delicate patterns and textures of natural rocks and minerals has been in Robert’s blood for a long time.
Polished natural stone
The showroom also features a bead store for artists who want to make jewellery themselves where they can also purchase settings and mountings. It further showcases a variety of pewter pendants that have been made by Robert himself. Beautifully polished stones can be displayed on pewter stands to bring out their best features.
A polished agate at Robert Hall Originals
We had enjoyed our introduction to pewter casting and mineralogy and continued on to our final destination of the day: the quaint village of St. George. There we met our hosts for the night: Rene and Jose Gonzalez from the Two Roses Bed and Breakfast who have worked miracles to restore their 1860s mansion to its former glory. This Victorian jewel was going to be our home for the night.
Jose and Rene Gonzalez from the Two Roses Bed and Breakfast