Birthday Surprises in Chatham

Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham, OntarioAnyone who knows me knows how much I love birthdays (especially my own)! Every year, I take a fiendish delight in planning a birthday scavenger hunt for the boy, a trip into the unknown filled with food and fun. All he has to do is follow Brigitta’s (our appropriately christened dictatorial gps) directions to the surprise destinations. The boy’s birthday is usually accompanied by a beautiful autumn sun and vibrantly hued foliage as we wind our way through Ontario’s back roads.

Unfortunately, my birthday doesn’t have the same fate. Falling smack dab in the middle of January, I’m lucky if the world is covered by a white blanket of snow and the crisp air pinches my face with frost. More often, grey slush coats the streets under heavy ashen clouds. Apparently, this year, in the first 26 days of January, we were lucky to see 12 hours of sunlight. Yikes!

Although the boy makes every attempt to make my birthday special, the weather foils most of his elaborate surprises. Curse you snow belt! That is why this year, I was shocked when he instructed me to pack an overnight bag for a birthday escape! Beside myself with all the suspense, I peppered him with questions and begged for clues. I did get 3. None of which came close to discovering our final destination, Chatham, Ontario.

Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioFacade of Retro Suites Chatham, ON         Fire Escape at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON              Front Door of Retro Suites in Chatham, ONIn the heart of downtown Chatham sits a remarkable getaway destination. The Retro Suites Hotel. It is exactly what a surprise escape should be. A turn of the century building conversion that preserves historic architecture and combines it with a wonderland of modern art, vintage artefacts, and 45 individually styled rooms. Within an hour drive of London, it is the perfect place to work, play or stay.

Decor at Retro Suites in Chatham, ONFull View of the Retro Suites Front Lobby - Chatham, ON        Eccentric Decor of Retro Suites in Chatham Ontario           Fornasetti lamp at Retro Suites in Chatham OntarioFun Decor Details in Retro Suites - Chatham, ON      Feather Pink Lampshade in the Lobby of Retro Suites in Chatham, ON         Front Lobby - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONLooking Down at Retro Suites Front Lobby - Chatham, ON3D Art Inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ONRetro Suites in Chatham Ontario     Cobblestones and Cappuccinos at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON          Vintage Elvis Microphone in Retro Suites - Chatham, ON With a great deal of squeeling and a million ohs and ahs on my part (boy, did he get this right!), we checked into room 217 “The Study”.

The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON  Design Details of the Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON    Close up of Books Inside The Study - Retro Suites - Chatham, ONBookcases Inside The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON       Door Leading into The Study of Retro Suites in Chatham, ON          Cobblestones and Cappuccinos inside The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONArtwork in a Hidden Hallway - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONArtwork in the Halls of Retro Suites in Chatham, ONTennis Racquet Art Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON    3D Toy Car Art inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ON      Rolling Stones Inspired Artwork - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONUnique Artwork - Retro Suites - Chatham, ON    Red Sculpture - Artwork Inside the Retro Suites in Chatham, ON      Art in the Retro Suites - Chatham, ONColourful Sculpture Inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ON   Colourful Artwork at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON                Vintage Milk Dispenser - Retro Suites Decor in Chatham, ONI woke up on Sunday morning (my official birthday) to golden streamers of sunshine creeping in through the blinds. It was the perfect start to the day.

And since I’m a breakfast girl, we took in a lazy brunch at the Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge, the hotel’s equally eclectic restaurant. The place slowly filled with hotel guests and locals, a morning symphony of chatter, clanking utensils, and sighs of culinary delight followed. The menu, like the space, did not disappoint in either innovation or taste. The boy and I tucked into a cheese and ham omelet, hash potatoes, and strawberry and chocolate french toast. It was worth the linger.

Tables Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON     Vintage Poster in the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON         Closeup of Tennis Racquet Art Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONInside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONInside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONBack Room of the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON      Sunday brunch, Chilled Cork Restaurant, Chatham, Ontario           Chilled Cork Restaurant, Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioRetro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioWe took off for London shortly after brunch. The streets of downtown Chatham were quiet and still as we wove our way toward the highway. It was a beautiful and sun-filled drive back home. Birthday 2017 totally rocked!

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Kitchener’s Christkindl Market

20161204_122133Ever since I got a taste of a traditional German Christmas Market at the Distillery District in Toronto last year, I realized it was the perfect way to get into the winter season. Holiday music blaring through speakers, hot drinks, fried food, and cold noses somehow scream Christmas is coming! So when I heard that Kitchener, just a little over an hour outside of London, put on a 4 day Christmas Market extravaganza, there was no stopping us.

The Christkindl Market takes place in and around Kitchener’s City Hall. It’s a free to attend event and, on Sunday, parking at all city lots is free! Wooden huts line the street outside the building and there are plenty of traditional goodies, from food to crafts, for purchase. German music, dancing and blacksmithy demonstrations entertain the bundled masses. And if you want to warm up or work off the fried up feast, strap on some skates and take a spin around the rink! 20161204_11134420161204_111505      20161204_11121320161204_11100620161204_11102120161204_11152820161204_11122620161204_11121720161204_111305     20161204_11130120161204_11123720161204_11094720161204_11160620161204_11232220161204_11244920161204_11163620161204_11170820161204_11172020161204_11111920161204_11241220161204_12211920161204_11273020161204_122322But the boy and I found a better way to warm up. We grabbed some goulash, fried potatoes with applesauce, and fritters and headed for the 10th floor of City Hall. Surrounded by views of the city, we devoured our lunch and defrosted our toes.

Bellies full and back on the main floor, we wound our way through an indoor market displaying traditional wooden folk art from the Ore Mountains, felt crafts, jewelry, snacks, and gifts. And listened to an organ grinder named Klaus entertain the shoppers with his music and monkey puppet. He’s been part of the event since 2000!20161204_11534320161204_115425       20161204_11534820161204_12053520161204_12051720161204_120741    20161204_11591720161204_11585720161204_122054The Kitchener Christkindl Market is the perfect blend of tradition and entertainment, sating our bellies and our hearts. Although this event only takes place for 4 days once a year, I hope you all put this on your to-do list for 2017! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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A Morning Date with Edgar & Joe

Edgar and Joe's Cafe Interior | London, ONI am a diehard advocate of, in my humble opinion, the most important meal of the day – BREAKFAST! Whether hot or cold, at home or out, I always start my day on a full stomach.

The boy is, by now, familiar with the sound of my alarm clock gently tinkling in the darkness. It urges me up at 6am (two and a half hours before I leave for work) so that I can indulge in my ritual of a steaming cup and a warm breakfast. Always warm! My tastes run from a smooth egg scramble with bacon to warm apple and cheese filled crepes. Sunday is always a Dutch Baby extravaganza! All a bit time consuming in my bleary eyed state. But well worth it.

However, I cherish the days when I can hand over breakfast making duties to the experts. Enter my other favourite boys, Edgar & Joe‘s. Edgar and Joe's Cafe Sign | London, ONIt’s a little spot that has found a firm hold in London’s blossoming downtown.

Part of the Goodwill Industries, it touts itself as a cafe with a purpose, serving fresh, local, and affordable food that keep the patrons coming back.

Chalkboard Menu at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONInterior of Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONDecor Lighting at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONCoffee Preparation at Edgar's and Joe's Cafe | London, ONItems for Sale at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONItems for Sale at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ON   Table and Decor at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONDecor at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONBarista Preparing Coffee at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONCappuccinos at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ON      Cappuccinos at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONBreakfast at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONSo if your tummy starts to rumble at the sight of the last pic, grab a spot at Edgar & Joe’s and start your day off right!

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Dipping into Delicious at Revive Kitchen

20160806_173043 It has been a little more than a week since the end of another successful Londonlicious event. Although the boy and I popped into a few favourites, Revive Kitchen, a new kid on the restaurant block, was the best of the lot.

We had passed by the location on Wellington a number of times, staring at the paper plastered windows and wondering what would take the place of the former Organic Works Bakery.  To my delight, the new restaurant anchoring the up and coming SoHo neighbourhood and headed by the gracious and affable Executive Chef Alfred Estephan and Chef de Cuisine Ashton Gillespie, not only incorporated the delicious treats of Organic Works but upped the ante on innovative, elegant cuisine in London, Ontario.

Lighting, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario       Patio, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario, View from the kitchen, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioRevive sign, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario        Restaurant interior, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioWine selection, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioChef Alfred Estephan, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioView of kitchen, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioGenerous portions of seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients blend into offerings that are at once comforting and familiar, yet have a contemporary twist in preparation techniques, combinations of flavours, and presentation. And the light filled restaurant has a quiet elegance that doesn’t take away from the food. I personally enjoyed the huge window that allows for a theatrical view into the kitchen where the magic happens (although my highlight was taking a sneak peak behind the scene with Chef Alfred…it was an honour!).

Beef sirloin dinner, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario      Lamb shank dinner, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioTomato appetizer, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioCappuccino semi fredo, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario     Strawberry short cake, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioRestaurant interior, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioAlthough I encourage all of you to reserve a spot for lunch or dinner and indulge in Revive Kitchen‘s offerings, if you only have a moment for a coffee and a quick treat, stop in at the coffee bar for a warm cup  and a fresh, organic, gluten and allergen free sweet delight.

Coffee bar, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario

I hope you take the time to visit this new addition to London. It is well worth it!

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Afternoon Tea at Eldon House

Tea tables, Eldon House, London, OntarioThis past Sunday, the boy and I spent a sunny, relaxing afternoon drinking tea on the grounds of Eldon House in London, Ontario. Nestled under the shade of a magnolia tree, we were treated to the sounds of a ballgame floating over the river, a game played in the oldest continually operating baseball grounds in the world. It was the perfect summer afternoon.

Having lived in London for quite a few years now, I don’t know why it has taken me this long to experience the tea program offered by Eldon House. I’m glad I didn’t wait much longer to rectify this mistake or I would have had to wait another year. Afternoon Tea is only offered from the end of June to the end of August, with a handful of special tea events sprinkled throughout the year.Porch, Eldon House, London, OntarioGrounds, Eldon House, London, OntarioUrns, Eldon House, London, OntarioAfter choosing our spot, a little table set for two, we were attended by a staff member dressed in a service uniform. She explained our tea choices; I opted for the Boston tea and the boy ordered the Eldon House blend. She soon returned with a tray filled with warm scones, jam, butter, whipped cream, fruit, and warm tea pots. We filled our charmingly mismatched cups with the deep amber liquid and left a trail of crumbs for the ants. The tables around us were soon occupied by visitors of all ages, laughing and drinking the genial beverage.

Staff, Eldon House, London, Ontario   Tea Service, Eldon House, London, OntarioCarriage House, Eldon House, London, OntarioFront Garden, Eldon House, London, OntarioServing tea, Eldon House, London, OntarioTea tables, Eldon House, London, Ontario       Cobblestones and Cappuccinos, Eldon House, London, OntarioMagnolia tree, Eldon House, London, OntarioPost tea, the boy and I took a tour around Eldon House, which is included in the price of the tea service. Although we had an option to poke around on our own, we opted for a guided tour.

It was worth every penny to learn that the original estate, built in 1834, stretched to the Thames River and covered 11 acres which included a golf course and pool. The house and most of the contents are original and were donated to the city by the great-grandchildren of John Harris, for whom the nearby park is named. The museum is an exciting and rather rare glimpse into the lives of London’s most prosperous residents. I urge you to check out the contents of the curio cabinet in the smoking nook!

Grounds and pond, Eldon House, London, OntarioWith only three weeks left until the Eldon House Tea Program is over for the season, I highly recommend a visit…and don’t forget to make a reservation! You can find all the information you’ll need right here.

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