Covid-19 has, temporarily at least, changed the travel landscape. Rather than lament our inability to freely cross provincial and country borders, we have elected to embrace the change. These restrictions are an opportunity to re-focus on our own backyard. Guelph is a beautiful city with a lot of great attractions and sites to behold.
A favourite pastime for us is to walk through the streets of the downtown core (usually with our dogs #CooperandDarwin). We have a great passion for history and architecture; Guelph is full of both, particularly in the downtown core. There are many beautiful and historic limestone buildings, churches, and homes that are still in use to this day. Dotted throughout the city, you will even find relics & ruins of buildings no longer standing. The remains have been preserved as reminders of a bygone era.
We recently had the opportunity to experience downtown Guelph in a totally different way. Tour guide & operator, Jay Wilson, leads “JayWalking Guelph“. Jay is an actor, puppeteer, and storyteller who regales you with the stories from Guelph’s rich history as you walk past the buildings and locations where many of the events took place.
With his flair for the dramatic (he is a performer, after all) he transports you back in time as he entertains and educates you with the fascinating stories of Guelph’s past. As you enjoy the relatively short walk, you will hear the tales of the people involved in the story, their background, and some local history about the buildings and sites you are visiting. While some of the buildings are no longer there, many of them are still standing. These remnants of the past create a beautiful backdrop, bringing to life the colourful stories that Jay tells.
Scandal! Murder! Intrigue!
JayWalking Guelph offers three tour options. With our penchant for murder and mayhem, we eagerly chose “The Unfortunate Man: the story of William Harvey 1889″.
In 1889, William Harvey was arrested, convicted, and ultimately hanged for the murder of his wife and two daughters. The story starts in St George’s Square, the location of Bond’s Hardware store, where he purchased the pistol that he used to murder his family, and down Douglas Street past the locations of the World Publishing Company, where he worked. You continue on down Wellington St. to St George’s Church where Harvey was a Sunday School superintendent, and then to Wellington County Courthouse where he was jailed and eventually hanged for the murders.
The story also explores the possible motives for why William Harvey would commit such a horrible act. Was he insane? Was it some misguided act of kindness? Was it the cause of an allergic stupor or something else? It is a story of shock and intrigue that captured the attention of the nation.
We have walked past these spots on many occasions during our years of living in Guelph. While we appreciated the beauty of these buildings; it became apparent that there is so much more to discover. Until this tour, we had never been to the courtyard of the Wellington County Courthouse, which is now a beautiful spot to enjoy – in spite of its past. Jaywalking has given us a newfound appreciation for the history behind these buildings and inspired us to learn more about the city that we have called home for so many years.
To help the struggling restaurant industry, the city of Guelph has opened up the streets of the downtown core to create a car-free pedestrian dining district. These changes allow dining establishments the space to develop new patios and expand the existing patios to allow for more socially distant dining.
The options for dining al fresco in Guelph are pretty remarkable. We have a lot of incredible eateries that appeal to all budgets and every pallet. Our dining choice for this evening is a restaurant that we had enjoyed in the past, but hadn’t visited in quite some time, La Reina. Although the rain threatened to ruin our outdoor dining experience, we are troopers. With the help of a live satellite weather app, we were confident the torrential downpour would soon subside – which it did. So, tacos and tequilas continued as planned. The flavours at La Reina are always a hit, making this one of the most popular independent restaurants in Guelph.
Now is the perfect time to take another look at where you live and embrace it like a tourist. Enjoy the many great attractions, activities, and restaurants that are right around the corner, and support those small businesses that need you now, more than ever before.
Special Thanks to TIAO and FedDev Ontario for making this project happen through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.