This is a story about three moms who escaped the big city for a wild and crazy weekend in the Ontario Highlands. You read that right, the Ontario Highlands, home to charming bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, fine dining and antique shops galore was the back drop for three ladies cutting it loose for a weekend, because wild is what you make of your time and crazy, well that’s just a state of mind, right? The truth of the matter is we wouldn’t have had more fun if we were in New York City.
First, Perth, we’re sorry. We, erm, really cut loose in your little town. But can you blame us? We literally felt at home walking your charming streets. The expression “hometown pride” was obviously coined here because we’ve never seen people prouder to show guests around, to smile at you or share a laugh. I guess living somewhere so beautiful must be good for the soul.
Of course, when you start your day having your body anointed with a maple scrub, Canada’s version of holy water, it’s hard to go wrong from there. Our visit to Tay River Reflections spa was nothing short of sublime and exactly how all girls’ weekends should start. Expert hands kneaded every ounce of stress out of my body from the top of my head to the tip of my toes, so that when my masseuse was done I felt like I was levitating a foot above the table. The looks on my travel companions faces when we met in the lobby told me that they had similar experiences. While this spa is already amazing in my mind, put it on your watchlist for Fall 2014 when their Scandinave pools open. Serenity now lives at Tay River.
With our heads in the right space and the stresses of work and children left on the massage table, we headed out to explore Perth. A stopover for me many times on the way home from my girls’ summer camp, I’m sorry that I haven’t spent more time in the past getting to know it better. I won’t be making that mistake again. Small town does not mean small mindset and Perth offers exactly the right mix of culture, cuisine and fun for any discerning traveler. Notables for food include Fiddleheads (great food, stunning patio), The Masonry Perth (cool vibe, great menu, father/son dynamic duo) and The Sunflower Bake Shop (world’s best carrot cake – this is not hyperbole). Exploring the main street, including the stunning Matheson House, will help burn off the calories.
As I mentioned, the people here love their town, and nowhere is this more apparent than at Perth Outfitters, where owners Ian and Jeanie simply exude joy. Their happiness is contagious, so I’m recommending them to you as your number one anti-depressant this summer. Stop and rent a canoe, a kayak or a rowboat from them and let your worries slip away. I’m already making plans to return with my daughters for water play and golfing on their new mini-putt course. Also, to see their dog Tugboat, because I’m a sucker for cute dogs.
Finally, where do three ladies rest their weary heads in Perth? While there are many beautiful places to be found, I think everyone should book a night or two at the Perth Manor Boutique Hotel. At the risk of sounding a little like a broken record, it’s the people behind the business that make it worthy of your visit. Gordon and Linda are passionate about their hotel and it comes through in every detail from the impeccably decorated rooms to the incredible breakfast served on the terrace. If you do book here, do take the opportunity to get to know them. You won’t regret it. Finally, I have two words for you. Manor. Martini. You’ve been warned.
Believe me when I say to you Almonte, that you were exactly what we needed after Perth. By Saturday, we were looking to slow things down just a little. Slightly smaller, but no less beautiful, we fell in love with Almonte, which is much how I would envision Pleasantville if I could make it a bricks and mortar place.
Antique stores abound on Mill Street, so come with your wallet ready if you’re looking for unique finds. Charming stores like Hello Yellow! and the Tin Barn Market, are perfect for moms who have time to actually look and touch without little cries of “I’m bored” ringing in their ears. Have I mentioned that it’s good for your sanity to take a girls weekend? I digress, I was lost in the beauty of that weekend for a moment. While strolling and exploring along Mill Street don’t miss having lunch at the Mill Street Crepe Company. The hardest decision you make all day will be sweet or savory.
The pièce de résistance though was definitely the Almonte Riverside Inn & Kitchen. This heritage estate sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in Almonte. This boutique inn marries old and new together seamlessly, from it’s stunning 1800’s exterior to the contemporary design found within, you know that owner Rob Prior loves his work. If you can pin him down (he’s a super busy guy) you’ll love getting to know him better.
It’s hard to determine what you’ll enjoy more at the Almonte Inn…the accommodations or the restaurant. Personally, I’ll tell you that they go hand in hand. Staying here is an experience. You can tell when you enter that you are meant to linger. And linger we did.
The rooms are just too beautiful to not sit and enjoy and guests have access to a lovely rooftop patio so they can enjoy views of the Mississippi. When you’re hungry, walk down to the kitchen for one of the best meals of your life. I’d love to tell you what’s on the menu but changes are made roughly every three days so that it is constantly evolving. What I will tell you, is to order the Trust Inn Chef meal and then sit back and enjoy. We ooohed and aaahed over dishes like eggplant croquettes with a potato aioli, elk ravioli with ricotta cheese and butter and chicken in mustard. For each course we were expertly guided for best beer or wine accompaniment by Rob or the chef. No one is rushing you out the door and when we were sated and completely content, we walked upstairs to our rooms for more conversation and laughs.
When I was younger, okay fine, as recently as a couple of years ago, I used to think that travel was only legitimate if it required you to travel great lengths. No more. In fact, the best trip I’ve had recently was a little over an hour from home. No long drives, no security line up, or flight delays and no long journey home. For three friends looking to escape for a weekend our trip to Ontario Highlands was all we needed, we were a million miles away in our own backyard.
Many thanks to Ontario Highlands for inviting Life in Pleasantville to come experience their region. Many return visits are already being planned.