Travel Swellness: Cottage getaway to Viamede Resort

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I am not one of the lucky people who has a cottage. Nor do I have friends who have cottages. So it was so wonderful to get away last summer to Viamede Resort in the Kawarthas. So much so that early this year I looked into going again, and they kindly hosted me again. I was especially keen on returning there, as it’s a dog-friendly resort. Last year, we borrowed two golden retrievers from the hotel’s GM to go for a hike, but this year, I had my very own dog to bring along, Billie Jean!

One reason I really enjoy Viamede (besides it being a beautiful, quiet property) is that it’s like cottaging lite. As in there is the Boathouse and Mount Julian on the property, so you don’t have to cook at all if you don’t want to, and I’ve stayed at cottages where it’s quite remote (and I think I’d maybe feel a bit wary to stay solo with just Billie Jean), but here you have other guests around, and there’s staff who can help you with questions (like last year, when I was on the hunt to find an air pump to inflate my swan floatie!).

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For this, another edition in this summer’s road trip series I’m doing, General Motors Canada set me up with a GMC Acadia Denali to test drive for this road trip (which, with the traffic we got caught in took about three hours, but we did stop for a late lunch), and I felt it is exactly in line with this type of trip. Still luxurious in feel but with a little bit  more rugged appeal — think subtle wood-grain touches on the dashboard. And it has phenomenal trunk space — no problem at all packing Billie Jean’s crate, her toys and supplies and all of our bags. The car feels very solid and even for me, the not too frequent driver, felt it was manageable in terms of size. And I thought it did great in terms of fuel economy. And I felt like we fit right in with all of the other more rugged cars and pickup trucks we were surrounded by. Although I bet we still very much seemed like “Toronto people.”

On the drive home from the Kawarthas, we hit some extremely heavy rain. But the Acadia handled well, and we made it through easily even though roads were slick and the visibility was low.

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As for what to do once you arrive and stay at Viamede Resort? Here are some of the top things I’ve discovered during my two visits:

Just relax. If you’re like me, and your mind’s always going a mile a minute, this is where you can and should enjoy a breather. I probably missed out on discovering new things to do at the resort and in the area because what I needed most was just sometime to recharge.

Kayak. Canoe. SUP. All of these watercraft are available on the resort’s beach to take out onto Stoney Lake (just grab whatever’s available) and the water is typically pretty calm. If the floating bouncy thing is too far for you to swim (or the water too cold, as it was for me — I’m a wimp with the temp of Ontario lakes!), you can use the SUP to cruise on over to it. If watersports aren’t your thing, there is a tennis court, disc golf, and a few bikes you can  borrow to explore the property.

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Eat at Mount Julian. Mount Julian is the restaurant on the property where you can enjoy tasting menus and wine pairings, and the focus is on local ingredients — I particularly loved a perch course last summer. It’s a way to add a little bit of a foodie indulgence that’s more on the fine dining  to your trip to the country. But the food is solid at the Boathouse as well, it’s just a more casual setting and menu. I enjoyed the burger, and the fish and chips, and I’m sad I didn’t get to try the brisket poutine.

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Hike. There are a few hiking trails on the property, and while we found the maps a little bit confusing and the trails not too clearly marked, it’s easy enough to find your way on some sort of hike. We stumbled onto a 100-year-old oak tree that looks straight out of a fairy tale.

Make s’mores by the campfire. The supplies are there so all you need to do is roast that marshmallow perfectly and squish it with chocolate in between two graham crackers. What’s a cottage getaway without s’mores?!

Bring your dog to vacation with you. Billie Jean’s tail wagged the entire time we were there and it made me so happy to see my little rescue so at ease and joyful. She loved roaming the woods and hanging out on the dock. Dogs are to be leashed in the main property area but otherwise they can be off leash, and there’s even a grassy dog park on the property, too. The dog-friendly bookings are for the cottages, whereas the main resort building is just for human guests.

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Attend the ice cream social. I believe this is held Saturdays at 1 p.m. Complimentary ice cream, I mean what’s not to like. And if you’re an ice cream fiend like me, make sure to stop for some Kawartha Dairy when in the area (we popped into Country Cone before we drove back to Toronto — and they have a whole variety of different butter tarts, such as bacon and Rolo versions).

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Those are just a few of the things you can do; there’s a daily schedule at Viamede, which looks remarkably like the property from the movie Dirty Dancing (that’s the main building behind Billie Jean in the photo above). Last year, we visited the farm, although we didn’t go this year, but other guests told us they saw the pigs being fed the breakfast scraps, which I would’ve loved to have gone to. There’s also the Petroglyphs Provincial Park, that I’ve had on my to-do list both years…and then just relaxing by the lake wins every time!

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Leave a Comment July 21, 2017

Travel Swellness: Girlfriends road trip to Prince Edward County

IMG_2903Two years ago, I visited the County for a quick getaway, and despite the rainy weather we had, I loved the one-night trip, but it was a pretty quick visit. I visited again last year on a food tour, and that was fun and delicious but it was a whirlwind and I was overwhelmed by a food coma.

So I was super keen to head back now that summer is here. For my first visit this summer, I grabbed one of my wine-loving girlfriends and got to test drive a Buick Envision for the trip. I drove this car before in Alberta, and maybe it was the quiet and wide open roads there that made the difference, but I did find that the Envision felt rather large (but that’s probably just me and having not driven regularly in awhile — my friend didn’t find it felt like a large vehicle) but I did get more used to it the more I drove it.

The more I test drive different cars, I’m noticing (and appreciating) features I may have overlooked in the past. And since I’m lucky enough to get some pretty nice wheels to try out, I’m getting used to these features and finishes — I recently had a “regular” car rental, and I thought, “Where’s my Blind Spot Assist??” and the interior of this rental car felt more plastic-y.

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So, yes, I’m turning into an luxury car tastes girl on a regular car budget. Totally getting accustomed to the great features these cars have. A new feature (well, new to me) that I noticed? On the dashboard of our Envision, it shows the speed limit. I find this super helpful because I often find that on country roads, the speed limit can change pretty often and I used to always find myself wondering, “Wait, so what’s the speed limit here?”

Another feature I thought was interesting? The driver’s seat vibrates to warn you if you get too close to the car in front of you; it’s called Safety Seat Alert. I’m not sure if I found it super helpful (and I know my friend found it too jarring); at times I did find it on the sensitive side (it’d alert me with a light on the dashboard and the seat vibrating, but the vehicle it was warning me of was quite far away–but I guess the point is to give you enough time to avoid having an accident).

Possibly the feature I discovered this trip that I found most useful is Rainsense. The window is equipped with a sensor that measures how much rain is coming down, and it automatically adjusts the frequency of the wipers.

The Envision turned out to be just right for my girlfriend getaway to Prince Edward County. Sleek enough for us city girls, but with loads of safety features that I appreciate as an only semi-frequent driver.

3 must-stops in Prince Edward County

As for what to do once in the County? I have several must-dos on my list, such as eat pizza at Norman Hardie Winery, but here are three of my top recos I discovered on this particular trip to Prince Edward County :

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Stay at The June Motel. The wine bar in the lobby and all of the rooms I’ve seen at the June Motel (we stayed in two different ones during our visit) have me plotting to completely revamp my space at home. If you don’t stay here, at least pop in to enjoy a glass of wine at the wine bar. Besides the motel being gorgeously decorated, the owners, April and Sarah, are two great girls in their 30s who’ve totally started brand new lives for themselves as moteliers in Picton. How cool is that? I’ll be blogging about them and the June soon.

 

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Shop at the Perfect Lil Bake Shop. Just up the road from The June is this adorable red shack that is the Perfect Lil Bake Shop, where there are fresh homebaked goods (including pies, squares, cookies, bars, dog treats and more) and you pay by the honour system. That’s right, there’s a jar with cash and you pay just like that. For a city girl  like me, that’s fascinating. I love their pecan squares, and the strawberry rhubarb pie I shared from there is great, too. And Billie Jean gives their dog treats two thumbs up (do dogs have thumbs?).

Do a tasting (and buy) of wine and cheese Lighthall Vineyards. We stopped into Lighthall Vineyards, which you’ll find on the more low-key side of the county east of Picton because April and Sarah at The June recommended it. We did the cheese and wine tasting; forgive me, I did not take notes–but I believe we tried four cheeses, each paired with a wine, and then one more additional wine. I wanted to buy everything, but I limited myself to the manchego-style cheese and a bottle of their Progression sparkling wine. I’m admittedly easily wooed when wineries have food you can ejoy while at a tasting; I love the crepes you can purchase at The Old Third, to name another fave.

I have a running list of recos if you’re visiting the County and looking for some suggestinos, so let me know if you’re heading that way!

 

 

Leave a Comment July 13, 2017

Fitness Swellness: Work up a sweat this summer outdoors at CF Shops at Don Mills

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I have no idea what took me so long to realize this, but I much prefer outdoor workouts. I will almost always opt to run outside over the treadmill or an indoor track. And when it comes to yoga and group cycle classes–workouts that in and of themselves, I’m not personally a huge fan of–I’ve actually enjoyed when done outside with the breeze, blue skies, and sunshine.

Which is why I’m totally into the outdoor exercise classes being held all summer long at CF Shops at Don Mills. They’ve got both group cycle classes and yoga all season held in the Town Square. I had a chance to try out the group cycle class last week and I found it much more fun than being in a dark studio.

Plus, here’s another great reason to take advantage of these summer classes at CF Shops at Don Mills: you work up a sweat and can tick off your workout of the day from your to-do list, then you’re right at this great open-air shopping centre (did you know it’s Ontario’s first open-air mall of its type?), so you can treat yourself right away to both some retail therapy, and a delicious bite to refuel.

If you live nearby or it’s easy for you to get to, I recommend going to check it out. And, hello, the yoga classes are free! You can’t beat that price! Plus, the 50-minute group cycle classes are a very reasonable $15.

Here’s the nitty gritty details so you can plan your workouts:

Group cycle classes run every Tuesday and Thursday from now until August 31st at 9:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 5:30 pm. The class happens rain or shine (the class is indoors if it’s raining btw). Just bring your running or Spin shoes.

The complimentary yoga classes happen every Sunday from now until September 3rd from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. (and only if the weather permits — if it’s raining, class is cancelled). BYOM. That’s bring your own mat, but you yogis probably got that.

You do have to reserve your spot online, though! To register, head over to CF Shops at Don Mills to snag a spot in a class.

I’m hoping to round up some friends to go this summer, so maybe I’ll see you there!

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2 Comments July 5, 2017

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