Gems to be Found Near Home

I often drive on Highway 400 between southern Ontario and places north, and I always pay attention to the road signs marking where to gas up, where to expect construction, and how much farther I must go to reach my destination. But, truth be told, seldom, if ever, have I given any thought about the exit signs along the way, and where they might lead. That is, until now.

Friday, David and I had a book event with South Simcoe Probus in a venue called the Gibson Centre in new-to-us Alliston.

In just a little over an hour from our home in Guelph, Google Maps guided us through Alliston’s charming tree-lined streets, by well-kept older homes, and passed a bustling sports field. What a lovely town, I thought. Then … wow! The Gibson Centre appeared up ahead, standing proud and stately, like a Parliament building in Ottawa. I don’t know what we had expected, but this was definitely not it!

According to the website, the building was originally a farm implement factory built by the Mercer Manufacturing Company in 1889, designed in the “second empire style”, perhaps explaining its Parliament Hill feel.

In 2001, it was donated by the Gibson family and the “Gibson Centre for Community, Arts and Culture”, a non-profit organization, was created. As such, it is now home to many groups, like the South Simcoe Probus; it holds exhibitions, musical events, and live theatre; and it is an intrepid supporter of the local arts and crafts community. A gem, just a few minutes off the busy Highway 400; Exit Highway 89!

Following our presentation, David and I ventured to downtown Alliston where we discovered a second gem, Taqueria El Norte, tucked in its main drag!

In the boldly painted intimate space, we savoured chips and guacamole, street tacos, and craft beer. The Mexican fare was fantastic and the service, second to none.

I won’t travel Highway 400 again without feeling a tug towards the Alliston exit, also wondering what gems might lie beyond the others.

Come to think of it, just maybe David and I should plan a few day trips and further explore the region in which we live!