Tag: road trip

Travel Swellness: Road-tripping to Niagara with Chevy Equinox

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Leave a Comment May 18, 2017

Travel Swellness: Road tripping in the Rocky Mountain Foothills with Buick Envision

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When I was invited to drive a 2017 Buick Envision over two days in the beautiful Rocky Mountain Foothills in Alberta, you bet I replied as quickly as my fingers could type YES and hit send. My first one-day visit to Banff in 2014, along with my much longer trip exploring the area spring 2015 (when I was out west to run the Calgary Marathon) — these trips remain high, very high on my list of  my most favourite. Ever. Even just typing this I feel breathless just thinking of the gorgeous mountains and lakes.

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This trip with Buick Envision had us based in Priddis, Alberta, which is just outside of Calgary, staying at Azuridge Estate Hotel. This property feels remote (even though it’s not far from the city), and the fresh mountain air, along with the deer we spotted on our drive to the property, well, it was all very idyllic.

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Hitting the road with the Buick Envision was of course the main priority. While city driving often stresses me out, the quiet open roads around Priddis I actually love navigating (well, with the GPS keeping us on track), and the Envision was a smooth drive. And I’ll be honest with you; Buick is not a car brand I’d normally gravitate to, and while I’m not personally in the market for a car right now, I was impressed with how refined the car felt (and I liked how spacious it felt, and yet it wasn’t so overwhelming that I thought “I’ll never be able to park this thing!”). I’ve driven other compact SUVs and I can’t say the same about them. I spent more of my time inside the car than admiring it from the outside, and I think they have achieved making it feel luxe from the inside out.

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Another reason it was a smooth drive (as I learned from Buick)? They’ve developed quiet tuning so that your drives are peaceful. Things like acoustic absorbers for the door system to engine compartments have all been incorporated, as well as acoustic laminated windshield and front side glass. Which made for a very peaceful way to take in the incredible scenery of Alberta.

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On the first day, we set out with a route to check out the views with a few stops along the way. We visited Leighton Art Centre, where there’s the work of local artists (with a focus on landscapes), a lovely greenhouse-type room full of plants in this heritage home and a wide open view of fields with the mountains in the distance. I could’ve stayed all afternoon just taking in that view.

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No visit to the area is complete without a pit stop at Longview Jerky Shop, where the jerky is award-winning. We picked up two varieties, and then popped into the cute gas station across the road (where we couldn’t resist getting an ice cream cone — guess we were ready for dessert after that jerky!).

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The smooth drive as the sun set was peaceful and relaxing, and I got a chance to use the car’s wifi since my partner for the day of adventures was behind the wheel. Although I’ve been in vehicles with wifi before, when I thought about it more thoroughly, I wasn’t clear as to what the advantage is over using one’s data plan. But here’s the thing: you can get a wifi plan for the car as a one-off purchase, and say you’re on a road trip. Everyone in the car can use the wifi (well, up to seven devices); if you have kids, they can stream movies; and if you have teens (or um, if you’re me and always online) you can update social media and check emails using that wifi plan. And I know I’ve been on road trips where my smartphone can’t get a signal. This didn’t happen to me when using the Buick Envision’s wifi. And rates for a one-time data plan starts at $5 for 250MB for 24 hours with OnStar.

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The next morning, I chose to set off for Canmore, and I was paired up with two auto editors so it was refreshing to get a bit of their expert input on the technical side of things when it came to the car (and I impressed them with my knowledge of car brands I didn’t realize were no longer in production…I guess I only remember important things like what’s Justin Bieber’s latest haircut…). I’d chosen to drive to Canmore as I’d been earlier this year, as I mentioned, and I can’t get enough of mountains. Like, I think I need to buy one of those paintings with some inspirational mountain saying, that’s how much I love them. “Take me to the mountains.”

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We drove the Envision and our first stop was Verde Day Spa, where I got a massage; always appreciated but honestly, I was just so happy and stress-free already thanks to being in Canmore. The drive up there seemed effortless — and because I was a passenger this time (I was driving the first time I went to Canmore in the spring), I got to take in the mountain views to my heart’s content. But this is actually  the type of driving I love so I’d have been happy to be the driver for the day; the roads weren’t crowded, there are views that knock your socks off, and we had the spacious and comfortable Envision — but I happily Snapchatted and took photos for the trek. Post-spa, we had a delicious lunch at Crazyweed Kitchen (which I highly recommend if you’re in Canmore). I had a very good fried chicken sandwich, and started with a velvety soup of the day.

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After lunch it was sadly time to head off to the Calgary airport where we handed back the keys to the sleek ride (and now whenever I see the ad of the hot dad driving his baby around to help him fall asleep I am reminded of these sweet couple of days of driving it in the Rocky Mountain Foothills). Psst: there’s also a cute ad for the Envision featuring Schmidt (well, of actor Max Greenfield) from New Girl — oh, he makes me laugh.

Leave a Comment January 3, 2017

Travel Swellness: Escape and discover with Ford Canada

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In the summer, I was invited last-minute on a fun “Escape and Discover” getaway with Ford Canada…in their Ford Escape (duh). Except a little road trip from Toronto wasn’t the big surprise. The dozen of us were told to pack only the small duffle bag we’d been given and although I think we all thought we were just driving up to cottage country, instead we were divided into four teams and all took off on flights that morning to different destinations in Ontario.

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My team ended up flying to Ottawa, where I haven’t been since I ran my first half-marathon there in 2008. We got into our shiny new Escape at the airport and went straight to lunch at the very tasty gastropub Murray Street. I’ve been to Ottawa a few times but have never had a chance to check out its food scene much, and would definitely make a point of going back here.

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From here, we wandered a bit then got back into our Escape to get around the city quickly, fitting as much as possible into our afternoon. First, a stop outside and then inside the National Gallery of Canada, and here by the Supreme Court of Canada. Then we popped over to Hog’s Back Falls, and I think this was my favourite stop. I have this thing with waterfalls, OK?

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Then because we had an itinerary to stick to, we started to head to our evening destination, Kingston, but not before I insisted we stop that car to check out these adorable sheep! (Sigh. I had many more pics of these cuties, and of the rest of the trip but I lost all the photos from my smartphone recently, so this is all I’ve got left!)

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With WIFI in the Escape, I got to catch up on emails and social media while one of my teammates drove us to Kingston. It was a smooth drive; having driven the Escape myself before, it handles well and this jaunt, I got a chance to take it easy as a passenger in the backseat and hello, loads of leg room.

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Once in Kingston, we checked into the very lovely Rosemount Inn & Spa. Would you believe this is the first time I’d been to Kingston? I’ve driven by it a million times on my way back and forth to Montreal, but thanks to this Escape, I finally got the chance to check it out. We feasted on the lovely patio at Chez Piggy, and then, even though none of us were super early birds, we did want a chance to take the car out again in Kingston, so we met up at sunrise and checked out City Hall, parked by the waterfront and soaked up as much of this quaint city before having breakfast.

Then it was time to hand back the keys of our Escape and we were off to the airport to be flown home to Toronto. I spend a lot of my time traveling, and I’ve driven more this year than ever, and having an Escape to discover gems I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to check out, well, that’s what I love most about adventures like this Escape and Discover weekend. Thanks, Ford Escape, for the opportunity to learn a little more about what cities in Canada have to offer (it was cool to see what the other three teams got to check out in cities like Sarnia and North Bay!), ones I haven’t taken the time to explore. And there were so many other spots in both Ottawa and Kingston I didn’t get a chance to check out in our whirlwind trip, so next time I’ve got keys to an Escape, I’ll be checking out that sandwich spot in Kingston, and will  visit those sheep again, obviously.

 

Leave a Comment October 10, 2016

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