Tag: wanderlust

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

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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.

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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)?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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3 Comments July 24, 2017

Travel Swellness: Cottage getaway to Viamede Resort

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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

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