Tag: PEC

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

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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.
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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.
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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:
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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.
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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.)
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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: Dog-friendly road trip to Prince Edward County

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With my recently adopted dog, Billie Jean, who I adopted from Save Our Scruff, much of my life now revolves around whether she can be included in my plans. In fact, she’s part of the inspiration behind the road trip series I’m doing this summer.

Bun in Chevy Equinox

For my second visit this summer to Prince Edward County, I went with one of my girlfriends (like the last visit in early June) but this time, I planned a dog-friendly trip so both my girl Billie Jean and my bestie’s adorable silky terrier, Bun, could join, too.

The County is, yes, a little bit country, but it’s also more than a little posh with its wineries and great food, and with two girls and two dogs, thanks to General Motors Canada, I got the Chevy Equinox to test drive for this trip and it was the perfect vehicle for us. Roomy (for road trips, I often lean towards overpacking, plus Billie Jean doesn’t travel very light as there’s her crate, giant bag of food, toys, and more). Also, the Equinox is, in my opinion, both practical for my lifestyle but also quite refined — just like me (I’m the picture of refinement, no?!)! I love, love, love its luxurious interior — they had me with these leather seats. And as you can see, both Billie Jean and Bun got very comfortable and relaxed in the car.

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Of the cars I’ve driven in the past year or so, I think it’s the Equinox I feel most comfortable driving. I guess I’m partial to SUVs (I like the height of them) but this crossover seemed more easy to maneuver than others I’ve driven. Also, since I usually road trip with one friend along, I loved that we could each control the temp of our space in this Equinox. It’s key for us both to be comfortable when you’re on the road for a couple of hours or more.

One thing I did notice: Either we toured around more than we realized (there was our last day when we had the hardest time finding a spot open for lunch, so we did roam around a lot!) as it would say it seemed the Equinox isn’t as fuel efficient as other crossovers I’ve driven recently (although it is 5.7 L/100 km hwy). I will have to pay closer attention to this from now on.

For those of you with a dog in your brood who are looking to visit Prince Edward County, here are some of the things you should add to your itinerary.

The Ferg The Loft

Stay at The Ferg

Finding accommodations that accept pets isn’t the easiest, so when I came across The Ferg and it ticked off both boxes for beautiful and cozy (and a great location!) and also allows dogs, I knew I had to visit. And coincidentally, one of the owners, Jaime, is someone whose book I copy edited some years ago! Small world.

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We stayed in the Loft at The Ferg and its two floors fill with natural light during the day, and it’s decorated in the prettiest cottage chic. Spacious for us with the two dogs, and just off of the main street in Picton, and most key, it’s within walking distance to my favourite ice cream shop, Slickers Ice Cream (have the Campfire!). And for late night or early morning quick jaunts outside, there’s a grassy backyard that both dogs enjoyed.

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Eat and drink at Norman Hardie Winery

You may have to wait a little longer as they seats guests with dogs on the tables by the outside of the patio, but the wine and pizza (I’m in love with both the mushroom and the margherita) is well worth waiting for.

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There’s usually a special side dish you can order as well (last time it was a gorgeous asparagus with burrata cheese dish) and it’s always superbl; this visit we had the green salad that is on the menu, and it is quite possibly the best green salad I’ve had (so fresh and with a lovely vinaigrette). Norm Hardie is pretty much always my first stop in the County, as we plan to arrive there around lunch as our first stop and are usually ravenous after the two-hour drive.

Visit the alpacas at Shed at Chetwyn Farms

Introduce your canine to some adorable alpacas at Shed at Chetwyn Farms. I’m a little obsessed with interspecies friendships, and how cute would a dog and alpaca friendship be? I actually didn’t get to stop by this trip at Shed because it was closed the day we were nearby, but I do usually pop by to say what’s up to the cuties and to check out the beautiful knit goods in the shop.

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Visit Prince Edward County Lavender

For $2, traipse around the beautiful lavender fields at PEC Lavender and breathe in that lovely, relaxing scent. If the fields are not in bloom, pop into the shop to buy lavender souvenirs to make your home a soothing oasis. The dogs visited the fields with us, but it was hard for me to get Billie Jean to pose for pictures. I don’t think she “gets” Instagram yet :)

Enjoy taco time at Guapo’s Cantina

I was introduced to Guapo’s Cantina on my foodie tour of PEC last summer and I think we taste tested each type and they were all incredible. So you can imagine how devastated I was when we drove all the way there on our way home only to find it closed that day (we were in PEC in June, so it wasn’t high season yet, so many businesses were closed Tuesdays). It’s set up outside of Traynor Family Vineyard, so you can easily grab some tacos with your four-legged buddy along with you and grab one of the tables outside.

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Play at Sandbanks Provincial Park

There are two dog-friendly beaches in the Park, and we set up ourselves at what I think is the smaller one that’s not on Sandbanks Beach. There were a handful of dogs off leash and splashing about in the shallow water, which Billie Jean ventured into (she doesn’t mind getting wet, but doesn’t seem fond of swimming, so likes to have her feet on the ground). She was in heaven, as was Bun. It was my first time spending time in the Park and next time I hope to explore Sandbanks Beach more.

Perfect Lil Bakeshop with BJ

Buy dog treats at Perfect Lil Bakeshop

I discovered the adorable Perfect Lil Bakeshop during my visit in early June and Billie Jean loved the dog treat I brought home for her last time. So we made a point to go again to get our dogs some treats, except they were all out! Not to worry, as we picked up plenty of treats for ourselves, including a delectable strawberry rhubarb pie to share.

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This dog-friendly trip marks my fourth visit to the County and I feel like I’ve gotten to know a lot of the great spots in PEC, but I’d love to hear about your favourites (Especially of the dog-friendly variety, because Billie Jean is just dying to visit again!)

 

 

Leave a Comment August 8, 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 :

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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.

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

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