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Introducing Niagara-on-the-lake

One of the best-preserved 19th-century towns in North America, affluent N-o-t-L is a strange fruit indeed. Originally a Neutral First Nations village, the town was founded by Loyalists from New York State after the American Revolution. It later became the first capital of the colony of Upper Canada. These days it’s an undeniably gorgeous place, with tree-lined streets, lush parks and impeccably restored houses, but the atmosphere smacks of skin-deep tourist cash-in. Tour bus stampedes overrun the streets, puffing Cuban cigars and dampening the charm; the town fountain is full of coins – there are no homeless people here to plunder it. Is this a real town, or just gingerbread? Is there a soul beneath the surface? The annual Shaw Festival paves the way to redemption.