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 Brunch In Bayfield

Black Dog Pub, Bayfield OntarioStaycation was a hugely popular term a few years ago due to the slumping markets and economy. But, to be honest, I don’t think it has gone away. Not because of money issues but because we realized that experiencing something new, relaxing, breathtaking, or thrilling didn’t have to happen far from home.

Bayfield, located about an hour from London, is a quick escape for the boy and I. Sitting on Ontario’s west coast, the charming little town has the water, the beach, friendly residents, fun shopping, and some of the most delicious casual and fancy pants food around. During the summer, we often drive up to Bayfield for brunch at The Black Dog Pub and an after meal ice cream on Main Street.Black Dog Pub patio, Bayfield Ontario     Black Dog Pub, Bayfield Ontario     Black Dog Pub, Bar, Bayfield OntarioBlack Dog Pub menu Bayfield Ontario     Black Dog Pub interior seating, Bayfield OntarioMushroom brie bruschetta, Black Dog Pub, Bayfield OntarioLunch, Black Dog Pub, Bayfield Ontario     Fruli beer, Black Dog Pub, Bayfield OntarioLittle Inn, Bayfield OntarioPatrons on cafe patio, Bayfield OntarioShop alley, Bayfield OntarioRed benchRed bench, detailRed Pump Inn, exterior, Bayfield OntarioRed Pump Inn lodging, Bayfield OntarioRetail sign, Bayfield OntarioGallery garden, Bayfield OntarioMain street, Bayfield Ontario Where the Heck Is Easy StreetJuice Bar, Bayfield OntarioArchie's shop, exterior, Bayfield Ontario"I Lake It" signRosie's Ice Cream shop, Bayfield OntarioPink Flamingo Bakery and Shop, Bayfield OntarioAlbion Hotel patio, Bayfield OntarioBed and Breakfast, Bayfield OntarioBicycle on porch, Bayfield OntarioWith the sun still high in the sky and an opportunity to explore another little town well known for its charm but never visited by us, we headed twenty minutes north to Goderich.

It was our lucky day. The square in the centre of old downtown, although devoid of the mature trees destroyed by the 2011 tornado, was now dotted with new greenery and a multitude of vintage cars. I felt transported back in time.

We wove through the colourful display of power and engineering, and popped into some of the local businesses which fill the historic buildings around the square. Music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s filled the air. I hadn’t expected to have such a unique first impression of Goderich, but it definitely guaranteed my return.Vintage car show, Goderich OntarioBlue and white vintage car, detailVintage car show, Goderich Ontario20160723_134924        20160723_134444Vintage car show, Goderich OntarioPink vintage car with orange lucite hood ornamentI highly recommend a weekend visit to both of these delightful destinations, summer or winter, rain or shine!

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Historic Alton Mill

Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonWith beautiful weekends dwindling quickly, the boy and I like to take advantage of all the sunny days, colourful landscapes, and dry roads that crop up. So on a recent long weekend, my feet got itchy for another funventure drive somewhere we’ve never explored. With only gps coordinates to my most recent discovery, we set off on a drive to Caledon. Our final destination was a heritage building known as the Alton Mill Art Centre.

On the banks of Shaw’s Creek, and housing artist studios, galleries, a museum, shop and cafe, it was the perfect destination for a sunny weekend drive. Only steps from the luxurious vintage hotel and spa of Millcroft Inn and numerous lush forests, it’s very easy to make this area of Caledon a romantic overnight stop, but it’s also just a 2 hour drive from London.Gallery windows, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonGallery space, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonDetail of exterior door, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon Art studio, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonTurkey sculpture, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon    Paintings, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonArtist studio, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonLandscape art, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonPaintings for sale, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonOutdoor tree sculpture, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonCobblestones and Cappuccinos, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonArtist studio, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon   Outdoor face sculture, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon  The Mill houses a small museum dedicated to its more than 130 year history. Established in 1881 and originally known as the Beaver Knitting Mill, it was renowned across Canada for producing fleece-lined long underwear (a Canadian winter must!). The building escaped the great Alton flood of 1889 but was struck by fire in 1908. After rebuilding, the Mill had many industrial incarnations until its present day and remains one of only two 19th century mills still standing in the area (there used to be 12).  Mill mechanics, Museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill mechanics detail, Museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill mechanics, Museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonFlowers, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonCourtyard, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonHistoric plaque, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon  Outdoor cafe seating, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill pond with kinetic sculpture, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonExterior, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonLivery exterior walls, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonOutbuilding at Alton Mill, CaledonInspired by all the art around me, I just had to get creative with a little snap I took of us at the Mill.  Posterized portrait of Cobblestones and CappuccinosOur experience at Alton Mill has definitely put it on our favourite list of “Fall Drives”. Hope you take the time to visit.

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Steed & Company Lavender – Sparta

Steed and Company farm shop, SpartaEver since returning from my French adventure this summer, I have been feeling a little nostalgic for quaint European charm and enveloping scents that stir up precious memories. It’s one of the reason French women fill their lives with beautiful perfumes – one reminds them of an ex-lover, another of the new one, and yet the third of one still to come (oh la la!). So on the most recent sunny September weekend, I packed up the boy and went in search of my field of dreams – lavender!

Just 20 minutes from London, outside of the tiny historical village of Sparta, sits Steed & Company Lavender farm. It’s one of a number of beautiful lavender farms that dot southwestern and central Ontario and fill the air with a wonderful calming fragrance. I stepped out of the car with big expectations of purple fantasies…and I quickly learned two things: lavender blooms in June/July, and there are many varieties of lavender, English being a much more popular cultivation than French.

Steed and Company small garden, SpartaLavender shrubs, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender flowers, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender field, Steed and Company, SpartaHence, we were greeted by tiny green shrubs laid out in geometric rows with only a sprinkle of the precious purple blooms. However, we found a few other things that fed my fragrant fantasies…beginning with some lavender ice cream!

Lavender shop, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender ice cream cart, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender sachets, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender cookbook and cookies, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender preserves, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender honey, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender soap, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender conditioner, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender gift sets, Steed and Company, SpartaAnd just at the entrance to the farm, I found another piece of magical real estate!

Enchanted forest sign, Steed and Company, SpartaEnchanted Forest clearing, Steed and Company, SpartaEnchanted Forest art, Steed and Company, SpartaFairy house, Steed and Company, SpartaFairy house, Steed and Company, SpartaFairy house, Steed and Company, SpartaAlthough I was disappointed in missing the purple lavender fields, I look forward to catching them next summer (it’s already in the calendar!) and I hope I’ve inspired you guys to make the short trip to Sparta.

In the meantime, I will be enjoying my jar of lavender honey which I picked up on the way out!

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