Tag: ontario

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: Road-tripping to Niagara with Chevy Equinox

IMG_1213

Last week, I was invited on a road trip to the Niagara region with Chevy Equinox. It’s an area that I haven’t spent time in for more than 10 years (although I have been to Niagara on the Lake via GO train about two years ago), I think, so I took them up on the chance to explore it for a couple of days.

The trip started by Toronto’s Pearson airport, and it took about an hour to drive from there to our hotel, the Inn on the Twenty. I had no idea that this was so close to Toronto. I’ve had dinner at the Inn many years ago as part of a Niagara on the Lake getaway, and in my mind it was more than a two-hour drive. I didn’t get behind the wheel for the drive up, but instead took advantage of enjoying the view, and Instagramming the drive without fretting about my data plan since the Equinox is equipped with wifi for up to seven devices.

After a lovely lunch at the Inn, we set out on our chosen adventures, and I’d selected the Whirlpool Jet Boat outing–I’d done this many years ago and  loved it so was eager to do it again (although, truth be told, I had envisioned a warm, sunny day). Suited up in about five extra pieces including a jumpsuit, thermal fleece, poncho and a lifejacket, our small group boarded the jetboat and swirled around in the powerful jetboat in Class V rapids in the Niagara Gorge. We also ventured towards the whirlpool. While the cold water swooshing onto the jetboat and soaking us to our skivvies was exciting, for me what I loved most was just the views of the rapids–the swirling water is mesmerizing. I found myself jealous of the hikers we spotted sitting by the Gorge.

The drive to get to the jetboat tour was an adventure in itself. I was driving, and we came across a road closed except for local traffic, as it was basically washed out. We had to go through it, though, to get to our destination, and although I was a little nervous, I took the car straight through it, and it was a splashy little drive but the car drove smoothly through. Nice job, Equinox! (Coincidentally, the Equinox is actually produced in Ontario, not far from where we were, in Ingersoll).

I’ll add a video soon here (once my technical difficulties are sorted out!) that I took of us going through it as we left the jetboat HQ. I was in the back seat when I recorded it and very appreciative of the  heated back seats (yes, the back seats are also heated!) since we’d all caught quite a chill after being drenched on the jetboat. And by the way, the  Equinox also has ventilated seats, and if you know me, I hate the summer’s overwhelming heat and humidity, so ventilated seats are possibly even more of a draw for me than heated seats and heated steering wheel. No pics taken on the jetboat as the Go Pro I had been given didn’t have any space on its memory card, so this is afterwards, once I’d taken four of the five non-waterproof layers off (I don’t know why they provide non-waterproof pieces…!). You can see a pic of us in all of our enormous yellow poncho glory on my Instagram.

IMG_3025

From there, we made a quick pit stop at Niagara Falls. Even though I’ve seen the Falls many times, it has been quite awhile, and I swoon over its power and beauty each and every time.

IMG_1768

For dinner, we were treated to a decadent meal at Redstone Winery, where I ate possibly the most delicious pork loin I’ve ever had. Juicy and so flavourful. You know it’s a good meal when you ask everyone else what they had after the dinner so you can either revel in the deliciousness of the pork (or share a #sorrynotsorry look with those who did not have the pork dish!).

IMG_1832

IMG_1836

On day 2, we did a scenic drive to Ball’s Falls and stumbled across so many fields of the prettiest trees. I loved how well the car (even with me, the infrequent driver) handled the winding roads of the area. I”m also a fan of the size and feel of the car. Car interiors I find can often easily seem flimsy but the Equinox feels luxe, and as someone who always craves natural light (most of us do, except for one of my besties, she may be a vampire…), the enormous sunroof is incredible. And as for the size, when a car is too big for me, I feel nervous about nicking things (and forget about parking!); when it’s too small, I feel like I’m going to be swallowed whole by the big trucks on the roads. But like Goldilocks, I’m looking for the one that is not too big, not too small, but just right, and size-wise, that’s the Equinox.

IMG_1923

At Ball’s Falls, we did the very short “hike” (it’s really more of a short walk) to both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls, and took in the heritage buildings, too. I don’t often get to trails and to hike when I’m home in Toronto, so it was nice to make the quick drive and get in a quick dose of forest bathing.

IMG_1994

Our road trip ended with a phenomenal lunch at Good Earth Food & Wine, and I feel  like a failed foodie as I wasn’t familiar with this resto. I had the prettiest and most delicious salad there, full of bright and beautiful ingredients with a hefty helping of Guernsey Girl cheese, too. This was followed by a decadent tartine that was more of a gourmet open-face gyro, and a gorgeous lemon rhubarb tart. If you’ve noticed a theme here it’s that everything was so, so pretty and beyond satisfying. I will most definitely be back to eat at Good Earth.

One quick drive back to Toronto, and our Chevy Equinox road trip came to an end. We easily unpacked our trunk thanks to the hand-free power life gate feature (another fave feature — I’m forever carrying a ton of packages or groceries and now with my dog, Billie Jean’s leash often occupying one hand, freeing up my hands is always a plus). A slight wave of the leg underneath the back of the car and up (or down) goes the trunk door.

I’ve been living in Toronto since 1999 and I love that, thanks to Chevrolet Equinox, we were able to find new roads pretty much right in the city’s “backyard.” That is what makes me wish I had a car–not so much for living downtown, although it would make certain errands easier–but for the opportunities to venture out and discover the fun adventures that the world has to offer.

IMG_1767

Leave a Comment May 18, 2017

Travel Swellness: GO getaway to Niagara or Barrie

Inniskillin Winery

As much as Toronto is lovely during the summer (well, minus the humidity), sometimes you just gotta get out of the city. But visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) or Barrie isn’t an easy option when you don’t have a car. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been on my own to either destination since that last time I had a car. Add to this that you’re probably going to be drinking on your day trip, which then forces someone to take the role of designated driver. Le sigh…

But wait, did you know that the GO train has service to NOTL and Barrie? I didn’t. Now, this opens up all sorts of day trip possibilities for the summer! And it’s affordable: round-trip to NOTL from Union Station costs $36.30 for an adult, and it’s $26.90 round-trip to Barrie.

GO bus to NOTL

For NOTL, you get off the train at St. Catherines, then you hop on a GO bus that’ll bring you to downtown NOTL (and from there are some wineries that offer shuttles). Or, and I love this option, there are specific cars on the GO train that are equipped with bike racks, so you can bring your bike to St. Catherines and pedal to NOTL and from winery to winery. Throw a blanket, baguette, charcuterie and cheese in your bike basket and what a charming little outdoor summer day you have in store for yourselves.

GO train

I had the chance to try this GO train service to NOTL (however, we had a private bus take our group from St. Catherines to a couple of wineries rather than bike), and we stopped into Jackson-Triggs for a tour and lunch, and then a tour at Inniskillin. We learned much about the wine process (like how ice wine is produced, and what the windmill-like towers in the fields are actually used for — to find out, get yourself out on a wine tour!) before we hopped back on a bus for our group that took us back to the 6, bottles of wine in tow. And from these pics, you can probably tell we got a lovely little day trip out of it!

cheers in NOTL

This GO service made the getaway easy breezy and I’m already hoping to do it again soon.

Will you use the GO service for a getaway? What’re your fun summer plans??

FullSizeRender (25)

Oh, and here are the details of the dates of service:

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Friday, July 3 to Monday, September 7

Friday, October 9 to Monday, October 12 (Thanksgiving weekend)

(once-daily on Fridays and three-times daily on Saturdays, Sunday and holidays)

* As a part of the summer service there is a connecting GO bus from St. Catherines to NOTL; check the GO Transit website for that schedule.

Barrie

Saturday, June 27 through Monday, September 7

(four times daily on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays)

Jackson Triggs

Leave a Comment June 4, 2015

Previous page


Recent Posts

Categories

Recent Comments