Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Perth!

Dykes on bikes head to a small-town destination, a scenic pit stop along the Rideau Canal route

There are two ways to get there. One is by climbing into your vehicle and stepping on the gas pedal. The other requires less gas but more pedal. Just throw the panniers on the back, don your well-padded bike shorts, and haul your ass onto the saddle.
 
I went on the adventure a few weeks ago with my partner and a friend — three dykes on bikes — where Perth was our first stop en route to Kingston. The ride is not arduous; it is laid back with most of the pedalling done along bike paths and quiet country roads.
 
We spent a great deal of time on the Carleton Trailway (ontariotrails.on.ca), which is long and relatively flat with a few scenic places to stop. We had brunch on a platform overlooking a lagoon with birds, frogs — and the sound of metal being crushed. Turns out the not-so-scenic part is the scrap-metal yard on the other side.
 
The trail ends at the old Carleton Place railway station, which is now the tourist centre and a good place to have a pee and look at the map. Getting from Carleton Place to Perth is an easy ride along country roads that wind their way — via the beer store, if you believe that beer and biking go together — to the town of Perth.
 
Perth is not a big town, but it has character and a gorgeous park — Stewart Park, which is the venue for an annual summer music festival (stewartparkfestival.com). There are numerous bed and breakfasts in Perth, but we chose to stay at the hotel overlooking the park.
 
We met Christy Cochrane, the manager of Code’s Mill on the Park Inn & Spa (codesmillinn.com), the first time we went to Perth (about an hour’s drive, as opposed to the six hours it took us by bike).
 
Cochrane is petite, full of energy and an enthusiastic general manager who introduced us to the cultural, culinary and historical side of the town.
 
Through Cochrane we met Laurel Smith and Matthew Behrens, who run the Classic Theatre festival. Smith and Behrens have recently retired to Perth with the goal of making the town a theatregoers’ destination. This summer the company is producing two plays, Blithe Spirit and The Voice of the Turtle (classictheatre.ca).
 
On the culinary side, we ate lunch at the Stone Cellar Restaurant (thestonecellar.com) and in the afternoon met some local farmers. My favourite stop was Funny Duck Farms (funnyduckfarms.com); they have everything from bath-bombs to raw meat bones, but no ducks. We were too early in the season for the farmers’ market, which is open every Saturday until October (perthfarmersmarket.ca).
 
Cochrane also introduced us to Susan Code, a member of the historical association and the author of a book called A Matter of Honour and Other Tales of Early Perth. Code was the ideal guide for a historical tour of the town. She spins a mean yarn about ghosts, underground tunnels and the tale of Canada’s last duel (beautifulperth.com/susancode.html).
 
But that was on our first trip. This second time around, we rode in late, sweaty and in need of a beer. We spent a few hours lazing in the hotel room, lingering in the Jacuzzi tub and getting ready to go out for dinner.
 
Perth is not known for its nightlife, but it does have a few great restaurants. Having dined there on our first visit, we returned to Bistro 54 Italiano for dinner (bistro54.ca).
 
Bistro 54 is a funky little Italian restaurant on one of the side streets downtown. They don’t take reservations, so it is the luck of the draw if you manage to get a table immediately, but they do have an extra room upstairs where you can have a drink and some appetizers while you wait. The staff is friendly and the food is tasty — I had the lobster ravioli, which was scrumptious.
 
Perth is not a gay destination — what small town really is? But for the gays who want to enjoy some peace and quiet just an hour from Ottawa — unless you travel by bike — then it is worth a visit.