Filed under: Travel Swellness

Travel Swellness: 5 musts for the first-time Toronto visitor (and a discount for your next BOOKING.COM trip!)

IMG_5646
Advertisement
Traveling is a passion of mine but after a whirlwind couple of years in and out of town, I definitely need to balance it with quality time at home in Toronto. And even though I spend a lot of time escaping the city, there is definitely a lot to love about TO. If a friend who had never visited Toronto, what would I take them to go see in Toronto? Here’s my personal guide to some of my favourites in the 6 for those who’ve never been to T.O. (and if you’re planning on booking a trip, be sure to use this booking.com link to get a discount on your travel booking!).

Visit the CN Tower. Yes, it’s touristy (possibly the most touristy thing), but these attractions are popular for a reason. I’ve done the CN Tower Edgewalk, and it’s thrilling and fun if you’re not scared of heights, but even just going to get the view of the city on a clear day, it’s fantastic. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, though; have been up the Empire State Building as a kid, and to Vancouver Lookout. the SkyDeck in Chicago, and Sky100 in Hong Kong. Nothing like the breathtaking views of the city below you to remind you that you are just a small speck in this big beautiful world of ours.

Tour Casa Loma. I think I became enamoured with Casa Loma as a teen reading a YA book and the characters went to Casa Loma on a date. And then I finally got the chance to visit it when I moved to Toronto. I have been back once or twice for events, and I just love that there’s this magical little castle in the middle of the city. I bet you’ll fantasize about being of royal descent and living there, just like I maybe (totally) have.

IMG_3863

Run along the Lake Shore. Or walk or bike. Not all of it the route pretty, but how can you not love the pretty pink beach umbrellas at Sugar Beach or the phenomenal view of the downtown skyline from the new Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail (which is just off of the Lake Shore trail)?

IMG_4863

Eat. Eat. Eat. One of the things I feel so fortunate about living here is the wealth of good food we have here. I don’t go to very many places regularly because there are so many options, but some spots off the top of my head that you should try: go for a burger and fries at the beautiful Café Cancan (it’s the pretty pastel nistro pictured above); go with an empty stomach to Bar Raval and eat as many tapas as you can (even better if you’re a bigger group so you can try as much as the menu as possible); have dim sum at Rol San in Chinatown; carb load at Buca downtown (their pizzas — especially the burrata pizza, oh my gosh, so good — and pastas are simply beyond; that’s their carbonara pictured below); do a little taco tour and hit up Grand Electric, La Carnita and Campechano; stop into Momofuku Noodle (it’s in the Shangri-La Hotel, which is one of my favourite hotels to stay in when I travel, their service is always top notch) for some pork belly bao and to slurp up a bowl of ramen.

IMG_1549

Hike in Rouge Valley National Park. The Rouge Valley Park is a new discovery for me. It’s outside of the core, but there’s now Parkbus that’ll get you there. I know when I travel to cities, it’s busy and noisy and sometimes I just need a half-day to decompress. Getting out into some nature and solitude is what works best for me, and the park is green and pretty.

IMG_5459

Not motivated to drive an hour to Rouge Valley? Stay central and pop over to Trinity Bellwoods Park or to High Park for a summer picnic.

Now, ready to book your next trip? Here’s how you can save some money:

Inspired to go travel, whether it’s to come here to Toronto, or anywhere in the world? Well, here’s a little gift for you: book through www.booking.com using this exclusive link (it’s my exclusive refer-a-friend link), and you’ll get a $40 discount from your reservation. That money you save could go towards a great meal, or tickets to a show, or whatever you choose to do on your adventures!

www.booking.com

And I’d love to hear about your travels! I’m always looking for wanderlust inspiration!

Our website uses third-party cookies to help provide personalized ads and analyze our traffic. This information may be shared with our advertisers, where it may be combined with other information you’ve given to our website.

(sponsored)

 

3 Comments July 24, 2017

Travel Swellness: Cottage getaway to Viamede Resort

IMG_5032

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!).

IMG_5017

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.

GMC Acadia at Viamede Resort

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.

IMG_5220

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.

 

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.

smores at Viamede campfire

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.

IMG_5086

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).

Billie Jean at Viamede

 

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!

 

Billie Jean relaxing Viamede cottage

 

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.

Buick Envision in Picton

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 :

IMG_3124

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.

Perfect Lil Bakeshop

 

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

Next page Previous page


Recent Posts

Categories

Recent Comments