Sometimes all you need is a vacation.
Alright, every morning at 7:00 (7:10 and oh! Crap! 7:40), I need a vacation.
Vacations, the planned and pined-for kind, are all fine and dandy, but an impromptu getaway can just as easily be what the doctor ordered. No plans, no google maps and most certainly no clouds or stormy skies to be seen (literal or metaphorical) make for a fabulous weekend jaunt.
Over Labour Day, my fabulous friend Julia and I headed off to Prince Edward County (henceforth called “the County” for those of you who didn’t grow up in Bay of Quinte Country) for a weekend of snacking, wine tasting and other girly pursuits.
The weather was beyond perfect and we had two days of no stress explorations that helped to ground me a bit, screeching me back to a reality that doesn’t exclusively revolve around work. A little bit of a break really helps your perspective.
Now, I’ve been to the County before, so I had a list of places that we just had to see, but with a little bit of “let’s just go that way” and “is this map the right way up?”, we found a few new gems that even a veteran like me didn’t know about.
I’m going to preface this list with a bold statement – fall is the best time to head to the county (even though there are great beaches). The crisp air is perfect for stopping at roadside stands to pick up apples, pumpkins or baked goods. Sitting by a fireplace in a century home, drinking hot apple cider and wine tastings are perfect fall activities. Plus, since you really need a car to get around, drives through the leaves make for the perfect backdrop for good conversation and a relaxed mind.
|Doesn't this just relax you? Green makes me calm. I think it's the country, sneaking out of my subconscious.|
The Top 10 things you need to do in the County this year:
10. Foodie Frenzy: Check out new restaurants/hotels cropping up in small towns all over the County. Toronto-based chefs and entrepreneurs are venturing out into the County to be closer to local produce and change their pace of life. You can get great value out here; prices are better than in the Big Smoke and the emphasis on local fare makes for a tasty dish. Check out Pomodoro in Wellington (Chef Matt DeMille of Enoteca Sociale fame) for some seriously good Italian food (http://www.pomodoropec.ca/ )
9. The Mustang Drive-In: This is a great activity for all types of travelers, especially families. And although it has a stereotype of being the place you take your high school sweetheart (yes, you over there, we could see the steam on your windows), it really is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Real butter on the popcorn, 3 movies for $10 (or on Thursdays, fill your car with as many people as you can and the whole car can see 3 movies for $15), and a playground to tire out restless kiddos make for a great ending to a long day at the beach or hunting down treasures. (https://www.facebook.com/MustangDriveIn)
8. Natural wonders: Being out on a peninsula, the County is chock-full of beaches, provincial parks and all sorts of places to explore. Sandbanks is the gold-standard, but can get pretty jammed in the summer months. My personal favourites are Lake on the Mountain and North Beach. Both are quieter than Sandbanks and, in my opinion, North Beach has a better beachfront.
7. Treasure Hunting: There are oodles and oodles of antique shops in the County, with anything and everything you could be after. There is a pretty comprehensive list on their website (here) and the best way to approach them is to just go on an adventure! Most places are open on Saturdays, but other days of the week, it’s best to call ahead. Also keep an eye out for monthly flea markets and special events that could help you to find that one trinket you’ve been dreaming of.
6. Vintage Finds: While you’re at it, check out my favourite vintage shop (ever!) on Main Street in Picton. This place is a cornucopia of amazing finds (including vintage Armani Sunglasses, custom gowns from the 50s and tons of unique jewelry). http://www.cityrevival.com/
5. Schroeder's Cafe & Bakery: (and other roadside pitstops of course). Schroeder’s is a family-favourite around here. They make the best homemade doughnuts (still hot when you pick them up), as well as homemade pies, tarts, jams, jellies, pickles and other treats. They serve a good country lunch (sandwiches on homemade bread, anyone?) and have tons of frozen soups and stews to take home and save for a rainy day. Plus! If you’re gluten-tricky (and I know some of you are), Schroeder’s has lots of gluten-free breads and other goodies (all homemade) for the taking.
4. Farm stands: Take a drive down Rednersville road (highway 62, or anywhere in the county for that matter) and stop at a few of the roadside stands that dot along your route. Rednersville is particularly nice because one side is dominated by mansions and the Bay of Quinte, while the other is filled with apple orchards and farmers’ fields. A personal favourite stop on Rednersville is Campbell’s Orchards; they have great produce, pick your own apples and pumpkins, and tons of activities for kids (a pet pig, corn maze and lots of places to explore). Most of the stands are right on the farms that grow the delicious veggies and fruits, so everything is super fresh (plus, getting to meet the farmer always makes me feel closer to my dinner). http://www.campbellsorchards.com/
|A PEC-appropriate shirt, if I ever saw one.|
3. Vickie’s Veggies: Here’s where I’m going to digress a little. Vickie’s Veggies is a farm outside of Picton on the lake side that grows everything from peas, to lettuce to tomatoes. The people there are beyond friendly and have a fantastic attitude about life. Now, you’d think that doing two items in a row on farms would be a little redundant, but here, I’m really trying to emphasize how great the food and people are in PEC. Julia and I did an heirloom Tomato Tasting at Vickie’s and it was Amazing (with a capital A) – this one is next in my “To-Post” queue. Vickie’s is also awesome, because if you live in the GTA and don’t have the time/money to head out to the county this year, Vickie’s comes to the Brickworks Farmers Market on Saturdays. You can still get tomatoes and other treats, so I really suggest you head on down there this Saturday. http://www.vickisveggies.com/Home.html
|So. Many. Tomatoes.|
2. Tasty Tastings: The County boasts over 30 wineries in just over a thousand square kilometers, on top of all of the other farms and food producers. As well, my favourite cider is grown, made and bottled in PEC (http://www.countycider.com/waupoos.html) Each winery offers different tasting programs (sometimes by the glass, sometimes a flat fee and sometimes tastings are free), so you can go and find your favourite vineyard, vintage or grape. Tastings at Waupoos Cider are free, and they have a fabulous little restaurant that looks out over fantastic vistas. Just don’t forget to have a designated driver (I worry about you, you know).
|I like them better in liquid form. And in big glasses.|
1. Slickers Ice Cream: You would think with all of the other foodie-related items on this list, that number one would be something complex like a truffle festival or a cheese that tastes like rainbows, but I’m a simple gal and I really like ice cream. Slickers makes homemade, small batch ice creams with flavours that are unexpected or fantastically familiar. The factory is right in Bloomfield, so the ice cream doesn’t have far to go from churner to your cone. I dream about this place in the middle of winter, I almost drove to Bloomfield this year JUST to have a cone of campfire ice cream. It’s not expensive, and if you have a favourite dessert (like your grandma’s strawberry cake), they’ll turn it into an ice cream for you. Personal favourites – campfire, jack daniels and toffee and apple pie. http://www.slickersicecream.com
|The bench outside slickers. Obviously I was too excited to eat my treat and didn't take a picture of it.|
If you’re planning on taking a trip this fall, but don’t know where to go, I highly suggest exploring your own back yard and checking out the County. It holds a special place in my heart, so if you have questions, just ask. We stayed with family (thanks Aunt Ruth and Uncle Mike!), so I don’t have any B&Bs on here, but I do know a few places that friends and family have enjoyed.
|Just for you.|