Filed under: Travel Swellness

Travel Swellness: Q&A with the women behind The June Motel in Prince Edward County

 0P1A9249_edited
Last year sometime, a super cute motel room in Prince Edward County showed up in my Instagram feed, and I was instantly interested in it because it was so pretty and I’m a huge fan of the County. Reading the comments and clicking around Instagram, I realized that the motel was something someone I knew was working on. I first met April Brown, one of the owners of The June Motel, when she used to work in PR in Toronto. One of her accounts was Nike so we spent more than a few mornings working out at Nike Training Club classes together.
TheJuneMotel_DeluxeWineStudio_LaurenMiller_TorontoBrandPhotographer-9647
I immediately messaged her to find out what was going on. I knew she had left PR, and I’d seen she’d done some traveling. But owning a motel with your best friend? This sounded too awesome, and I’ve essentially been hounding her with questions pretty regularly in the months since then. Because how do two 30-something women with no motel experience (April’s parter in The June, Sarah Sklash, worked for the government) do a 180 with their lives by buying the old Sportsman Motel and transforming it into one of the hottest places to stay  in the very hot Prince Edward County? And more importantly, how can I do the same? Yes, I think why it so fascinated me is that I often dream about ditching city life and starting something brand new than the grind I’ve been doing for many years.
IMG_3124
I had the chance to stay at The June Motel a couple of months ago (in both the Deluxe Wine Studio and the Rose Room), not long after the officially opened, and it’s even better than I’d seen online.
The June Motel lobby
Firstly, I need that leather couch in the wine bar. Secondly, I need to learn how to keep a plant alive so I can incorporate some big leafy plants at home, too. Thirdly, and most importantly, I need to move to a idyllic little wine country spot! Half-joking aside, the rooms and the wine bar are gorgeous, and April and Sarah are such lovely motelier hosts. It’s thanks to them that we discovered the Perfect Lil Bakeshop and Lighthall Winery (you can read more about that trip on the blog here). But it’s also thanks to April that I ran up the brutal hill to get to the Lake on the Mountain, but I suppose I forgive her for that (N.B. The hill up Chuckery Hill Road from the motel is a very, very tough one, but it flattens out and the lake view is a gorgeous reward). As you can see, I got over that tough run pretty quickly as I basked in the very pretty Rose Room:
IMG_3221
I grabbed April and Sarah–who have been besties for the past 14 years since meeting in a sorority at the University of Western Ontario–to find out more about the new lives in Picton as moteliers.
So how did this new career as moteliers come about?
April: Sarah and I were looking for that next chapter in both our careers and personal lives. The daily grind in Toronto was no longer as fulfilling as it once was when we were in our early 20s. We started to dream about having something of our own, a new creative outlet. Meanwhile, Sarah and I had been coming out to Prince Edward County with our friends for years. Her and her boyfriend had recently bought a cottage in the area, so we had seen first-hand how it’d grown in popularity year-over-year. There was a little fate in how it all worked out as well. This motel had merely come up in
conversation, but we instantly thought “we should buy that motel”. We drove out to look at the motel one week later, two months later put in an offer and less than six months from that initial conversation, we moved into the dingy roadside motel that it once was. When we bought in 2016, it was just becoming the new hot spot . Despite the popularity of the area, everyone seemed to struggle to find a place to stay. We ourselves had struggled on several occasions, so the we knew the demand was there. Purchasing a vintage roadside motel introduced us to a whole new world. We were suddenly challenged in new ways, and we had endless opportunity to be creative in how we transformed not only the look and feel of the place, but the entire experience of staying at a motel.
What caught your eye about the Sportsman Motel and what was the vision you had for it?
Sarah: We knew there was a market for accommodation in the County. We’d seen it grow over the last five years, and we ourselves had struggled to find a place to stay. We wanted to create something that was boutique and provided a well-curated experience that appealed to millennial travelers. We’re focused on good wine and good vibes, because it’s all about balance. It’s about getting out of the city, breathing in the fresh country air and exploring. But also about indulging and treating yourself to good wine and good food with good friends. We saw something special in the Sportsman Motel, because we’d travelled to places like Palm Springs, California, etc. where the motel revival is a serious thing. With this property in particular, nothing was structural, it was mainly cosmetic changes that were required to see our vision through!
Where does the motel name, The June Motel, come from?
April: It was a name we loved for it’s retro appeal and summery vibe. It’s meant to remind you of that school’s out, first day of summer feeling.
TheJuneMotel_ClassicRoom_LaurenMiller_TorontoBrandPhotographer-9005
The June is beautiful; you’ve done such a great job with it. Can you share more about what inspired the design and what your favourite space is in the motel?
Sarah:  This is a tough one! I think The Classic room is my favourite. It’s exactly that, classic. It was also the first space we designed, so really set the tone for the rest of the property. I think the biggest piece of inspiration if you will, is the palm print wallpaper in this room. We came across it flipping through wallpaper books at the local paint store, and we instantly fell for it. From then on, it was all about what flowed with that wallpapers.
I’m sure you get a lot of people (myself included) who are envious of your new life in the County! But I’m sure it is also tough. Anything you found surprising or really unexpected when it comes to the business?
April: When I started this, Sarah had to teach me how to use a drill. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly the handy kind of woman, and I struggled a lot with how I was going to be capable of all this. I think as women, it’s sometimes hard to believe that we’ve got the strength and ability to renovate something on our own. In the end, it’s so empowering to realize you can do it. We tiled our own lobby floor, we floored all the rooms, learned how to wallpaper and paint, managed electricians and other contractors, and did a million other things I never dreamed I’d be doing.
What’s been the biggest adjustment for living in PEC? I know you both still come into Toronto pretty regularly and keep your apartments here in the city.
April: For us, it’s about designing the life we want. That life includes a lot of time in the County and a little city time
as well. I love running the County roads and going to the beach on a Tuesday. However, I love getting dressed up and going out for dinner in the city with my girlfriends. The best part of this gig is that we don’t have to chose between the two worlds. In the winter we’ll close down for a few months and fulfill our wanderlust. We’ve got our sights on India this January for a yoga teacher training course!
I feel like more and more people are investing in properties as an Airbnb but you two dove right in with motel! Any advice for people considering either?
April: I think Airbnb is the perfect place to dip your toes in hospitality, and is relatively risk free. It’s inspiring to see so many young people buying property and creating really unique Airbnb accommodations out here. That said, we were looking for something bigger, with more opportunity. Essentially we were looking for a new life adventure.
What else do your have in the works for The June?
Sarah:  For us, it’s about appealing to the millennial traveler who’s looking for a personalized, curated experience. We do a few things to make that come to life for our guests. One is a breakfast in bed service where we’ll deliver a platter of
freshly baked scones, chia puddings and fresh pressed juices to your room in the morning. We also do a Detox & Retox yoga program. Every Saturday morning in the summer we hold an outdoor yoga class that ends with a mimosa in our
Lobby Bar. Again, it’s all about balance! Lastly, we just launched Text Message Concierge. Our guests can now text us for everything from towels to local recommendations for where to eat and drink in the County. Finally, I think our check-in process is really informal and special at the same time. We pour each of our guests a welcome drink and chat with them about their plans for the next few days. We’ve usually go the wine map out, helping them navigate their way around to the best spots! We like to say that staying with us is a lot like staying with a friend, one who knows all the hot spots!
Fave part of being motelier? Least fave?
April: Fave part… creating new experiences and designing new spaces. I love seeing something old and forgotten become new and beautiful!
Sarah: I love catching glimpses of guests creating their own travel memories.
April: Least fave? Garbage duty… it’s the least sexy part of motelier life.
Sarah: Ditto.
What’s your fave thing to do in the County on your day off?
April: A beach night. I love packing-up a picnic and heading to a hidden beach with my friends and a bottle of wine in tow. The sunsets here are epic!
Want to drink rose all day in Prince Edward County and stay at The June? I know I do! Here’s where you can make a reservation. (Plus, you can check out my articles about PEC over at Travel & Style and AmongMen, and my blog post about a dog-friendly trip to the County here.)
IMG_3676
Photography (April & Sarah, Deluxe Wine Studio and the Classic Room), Lauren Miller, courtesy of The June Motel.

Leave a Comment August 22, 2017

Travel Swellness: Camping getaway in a Chevy Trax

IMG_8167

On my the fourth road trip of the summer, I went camping for the first time, and I loved it. More on that in a future post.

For this road trip, I was looking to try a car I’d never driven before so for this camping weekend, thanks to General Motors Canada, I had the chance to test drive the Chevrolet Trax. I will say, when I checked it out online, I was skeptical about whether it’d fit all of the camping gear, food, and my dog, Billie Jean. It is definitely much smaller than the other SUVs I’ve driven recently, such as the Buick Envision, Chevy Equinox and GMC Acadia.

So how was the Trax? When I picked up the car, it was indeed as petite IRL as it’d looked online (it’s category is indeed small SUV). This made the car way easier to park and simple for sometimes hectic city driving, so it definitely gets points for that. Much like the Chevy Cruze I drove the WayHome, it was a breeze to park in my cramped underground parking garage.

Billie Jean in Chevy Trax

I did get concerned as I started packing the car for the weekend, though. Trunk space is limited. Once I put in one large MEC bag of gear and my carry-on bag, and it was essentially full (save for some nooks and crannies I was able to stuff small, soft items into). Thankfully, my friend knew that the flap that covers the trunk space can easily be removed, and once we took that off, we were able to pile much more gear into the back trunk space.

Chevy Trax_camping in Rondeau

From there, we put the rest of our stuff into the backseat, leaving one spot for Billie Jean to sit. It was tight, but we made it work. So ultimately, the Trax is just big enough for a camping trip for two to three people. Although, I should mention that we ended up bringing more gear than we needed (such as an extra sleeping bag, some awkward-to-travel-with chairs, and some sleeping mats, we didn’t end up using).

IMG_6598

The soft lines of the car make it a really cute and fun SUV, and so in that way, I think it was perfect for our little girlfriends getaway. We both thought it handled well on the road and appreciated the blind-spot assist (we took turns driving that weekend) and we loved being able to connect our iPhones with Apple CarPlay. I thought it was well designed and I appreciated the black finishes (all of it felt sturdy and well-made). In terms of what we didn’t love: we found that the backseat headrests get in the way of looking through the rear window when driving; and while not a big deal, I did miss having that compartment you’ll often find between the driver and passenger seat (I usually find this cubbyhole helpful for storing things like maps and sunglasses). And the trunk doesn’t feature a button to close it (and we went into the trunk a lot over the weekend since it served as a storage space for our food and some gear).

Since I’d be primarily driving a car in the city and only doing getaways calling for a lot of space (like this camping weekend) occasionally, I think this car makes a lot of sense for someone with a similar lifestyle.

I have another two road trips this month so be sure to check back to read about my camping and driving adventures. And if you’re an avid camper, I’d love to hear any tips and tricks you’ve got!

Leave a Comment August 18, 2017

Travel Swellness: A quick getaway to King City

Kingsbridge outdoor pool

Early this summer (where has summer gone already?!), I went for an overnight getaway to King City, which is just north of Toronto, to experience an equine therapy session with Jennifer Schramm and I got a chance to stay at Kingbridge Hotel and Conference Centre.

Kingsbridge indoor pool

I’m almost reluctant to write about this little gem because I want it to be my little secret, but this property is so quiet and pretty, I really felt like I’d escaped city life even though I hadn’t (I was conveniently near a suburban Walmart when I needed a pair of emergency shorts given the warm weather). I know it’s probably funny to some people that I consider King City a getaway (especially as I know people who live in that area!), but when you live right downtown, and escape to the quiet and greenery of the property, it does feel like you’ve taken a road trip to completely different surroundings.

Kingsbridge swing

On the property, there are hiking trails, where you’ll find this darling swing from a tree, and a quiet little river. There’s also one of the coolest indoor tracks I’ve seen here; it circles through the woods, so I got to fit in some speed work when it rained briefly.

Kingsbridge indoor running track

My entire stay, I had the pools entirely to myself, and the quiet time in the sunshine helped to calm my frazzled brain. I spent most of my time outside by the pool or hiking, but there’s a cozy library you can lounge around in, too.

A short drive away is where I grabbed a couple of meals. Firstly, a good thin crust pizza at Locale. This place was a popular spot and I’ve heard that a lot of the dishes are great (that’s always the downside of traveling solo — not getting to try more dishes when eating out!).

Roost Cafe in King City

For a casual lunch, I popped into The Roost Cafe for a fresh chicken wrap and a smoothie; it’s a charming coffee shop set inside of a century home, and there are pretty views from its’ patio.

Before driving back to the city, I went for a hike in Happy Valley Forest (one of the largest intact hardwood forests on the Oak Ridges Moraine, which was pretty but I had to cut my hike short as I hadn’t packed insect repellent and got more than 30 mosquito bites in the half hour I trekked there. Douse yourself in repellent if you go!

I often crave getting outside of the city, and I think a weekend at Kingbridge is a great option because it’s so close to the city and yet offers some light hiking, greenery, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a running track (helpful if you’re a runner in training for a race), all on a beautiful property. The only thing missing is perhaps a spa treatment, but I’m sure there’s a day spa nearby you could book a treatment at.

Have you been to King City? I’d love to hear your faves in the area.

Leave a Comment August 16, 2017

Next page Previous page


Recent Posts

Categories

Recent Comments