Monday, 28 July 2014

Some southern cooking and time at Meech Lake!

With the many events and activities we do as a family, Nick and I find it equally important to take time out for ourselves as a couple as well. Our community has a great selection of theatre, dining and entertainment ideas for date nights but every now and then, we do like to travel to nearby cities and take in what they have to offer as well.

One of our favourite “hidden gems” is Meech Lake, in Old Chelsea, QC. It is just over an hour drive and a small piece of heaven on earth. Nick is originally from British Columbia and has always known a landscape with rolling hills and breathtaking views. When we found Lake Meech it felt like something from his childhood.

With two beaches, boat launches, beautiful homes and of course the Prime Minister’s cottage – Lac Meech draws many tourists from all over the country. With so much to see, I was surprised at how private the beaches felt. They were full of course, but not packed like the many “popular” destinations of Wasaga or Sandbanbanks. The entire atmosphere was very tranquil.

Before we hit the beach for the day, we stopped into the famous Chelsea Pub. This is one of the oldest heritage buildings in the municipality of Chelsea and has an incredible history behind it. There is an extensive list of craft, domestic and imported beer and a delicious array of tapas, lunch items and mains on the menu. Add the laid back atmosphere and sunshine on a hot summer day- it was the perfect start to our date weekend!

We paddled around the lake for a few hours, stopped and swam at the beach and took some time to catch up with one another (which is harder than it sounds with three small children!). Once we were “beached out”, we headed back into Ottawa as we had booked a room at the Lord Elgin Hotel for the night.
 I've stayed in a few places downtown and was always curious about the elegant Lord Elgin. It is in a perfect location- close to the Parliament buildings, shopping and the Byward Market. It had been on my list for a while and I was not disappointed once we checked in. From the grand entrance, that immediately makes you feel luxurious and at-home at the same time, to our suite – everything was perfect!

One of the reasons for our stay in Ottawa was to head over to Fatboys, located on Murray Street in the market. It is owned by one of my dear friends, who had been telling me about their different events that they host monthly. One of the events was the Capital Tease “Smoke and Garters” Burlesque Show on the first Friday of every month. Neither Nick nor I had ever seen a Burlesque show, but I knew if my friend was raving about it – it had to be good.

We walked up from our hotel, found the perfect spot on the patio at Fatboys and ordered dinner. I had the pulled pork poutine and Nick had the Brisket with their amazing mac and cheese on the side. Let me tell you- if you want down home, southern cooking that won't disappoint – you HAVE to go to Fatboys! The service was wonderful, the burlesque show was incredibly entertaining and the food is second to none. I can't wait to head back soon (I am currently planning a girl’s night – as it is the perfect location for a date or to grab drinks and have fun with friends)!

I always love to support local, but every now and then it is important to support your neighbouring cities as well. We have made some great memories in and around the capital region and look forward to many more years to come!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Kayaking in the 1000 Islands!

Guest Post by: Kendra Lorimer of Brockville Tourism

Recently, due to the great relationship that our office has with Parks Canada and Thousand Islands National Park, I was invited to tag along with one of our summer tourism ambassadors on TINP’s annual kayaking and camping trip. This isn't just any camping trip, it’s a 2-day guided kayaking adventure in the 1000 islands with an overnight stay camped out on an island with the chance to test-drive one of the new Parks Canada "oTENTiks". An oTENTik is a permanent tent-like structure that sleeps six that was introduced to the region just last summer and has been a buzz word in our office ever since. An opportunity to try one out for myself was too good to pass up.

The morning of our trip we met up with Parks staff at 1000 Islands Kayaking in Gananoque to get outfitted with our kayaks and gear. Luckily the Parks boat was taking our camping gear across to our campsite so that we didn't have to pack lightly – otherwise I would have had an issue stuffing my “essentials” into my kayak to take with me. We were a large group, so the kayaking company provided us with two guides to take us on our paddling tour. After a brief lesson on water safety and what to do if our kayaks flipped (yikes!), we were ready to get out on the water. Our guides led us quickly out of the harbour and to a more secluded area near the shore where we were taken through Kayaking 101 to get us all more comfortable in our kayaks.

After Kayaking 101 we crossed the channel and went for a light paddle around a number of small islands, finally coming to a stop on McDonald Island for lunch, which would also be where we would be camping for the night. While our guides prepared us a delicious gourmet, local flavours lunch, we took a tour of the island and started setting up our campsites. McDonald Island has boat docks, a picnic shelter, a number of campsites including two oTENTik sites, and green composting toilets. With well-worm paths, access to the water on all sides, and plenty of picnic tables and docking for boats, it is easy to see why this would be a popular island in the summer for both day use and camping.

After lunch we got back in our kayaks and pushed off for the second half of our paddle and guided tour. We paddled around more islands, a mix of privately owned and National Parks islands, making our way to half-moon bay, affectionately referred to as the “cathedral with the highest ceiling”, where islanders meet in their boats for a Vesper Service on Sundays in July and august – a tradition since 1887. We paddled back towards McDonald for the night, stopping to learn about ship wrecks and island history from our guides, fighting high winds most of the way back. By this point most of our arms were getting tired, and I was quite envious of the guides who seemed to coast along with very little effort.

Back on the island for the night we settled in for the evening and unpacked our belongings. Our oTENTik not only had room to sleep six, it also had an indoor table and chairs, plenty of floor space, and wall hooks to keep your items out of the way. Thinking back to the days of camping trips with my family, that amount of space would have been very luxurious in comparison; it would have been so nice to play cards in there on a rainy day instead of on top of our sleeping bags on the floor of our tent! The oTENTik also had lights, and each sleeping area had its own thick mattress. All you had to do was roll out your sleeping bag and pillow and you were done. That’s it. Makes camp life a lot simpler and it really cuts down on the gear and equipment you need to bring with you (If you don’t have your own gear, you can now rent everything you would need, and even hire a shuttle from 1000 Islands Kayaking to take you and your gear over to the islands).

After a full day of fresh air and exercise, I slept very well that night, but I certainly enjoyed sleeping in the oTENTik. It was clean, warm, had comfortable mattresses, and best of all – no bugs! (There is nothing worse than being trapped all night in a tent with a rogue mosquito). In the morning we had a lovely breakfast, packed up, and got back out onto the water. Soon after we got out there it started to rain, and we were all thankful that we had gotten in while everything was still dry and we were now protected inside of our kayaks. The rain wasn't a deterrent; in fact the water was much calmer than the day before which made for a much easier and smoother day of paddling, and the grey water and sky really made our bright kayaks stand out on the water. The senior Parks staff took us west to one of their favourite islands, Beau Rivage (or “Beau” as they called it), to show it off to us and to their new summer staff. It was a beautiful island with picnic shelters, trails, and campsites and was a nice island to stop on despite the rain. Unfortunately, after we stopped our kayaks and seats were all wet from the rain, but at that point we were all soaked anyway, so it didn't really matter. After that we headed back to the mainland to turn in our kayaks, finish our trip and most importantly, change into dry clothes!

I am so glad to have been invited to tag along. While I have been out kayaking in the beautiful 1000 Islands before, I am always happy for an opportunity to get back out there, and having guides share some of the history of the islands really added to the experience. It also helps to have people with you who are familiar with the area to keep you from getting lost! I am looking forward to my next opportunity to get back out on the water.

For more information on the islands we visited, contact Thousand Islands National Park, and use the Parks Canada Reservation System to reserve your own oTENTik or campsite. To rent kayaks, camping gear, or to find out about a shuttle out the islands, contact the 1000 Islands Kayaking Company.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Carrying on a dream…

On a very humid Tuesday evening, the courtyard at Maplehurst Manor and Carriage House was filling up with people from near and far – all hoping to pass along their well wishes and congratulations. There was a “changing of the guard” happening with the business and there was nothing but support in the air.

Three years ago, Maplehurst Manor was purchased by Ann Cox and her husband. It was their dream to turn the Manor into a destination Bed and Breakfast to promote Maitland, the area they now called home. With much hard work, Ann was able to turn her vision into a reality and made Maplehurst Manor THE destination for weddings, events and getaways in the 1000 Islands region.

With many life changes and new visions, the time has come for Maplehurst Manor to switch hands. Having worked closely with Ann over the past few years, it was only fitting that Josie and Seth O’Hara purchase Maplehurst and carry on Ann and her late husband’s dream. The event was to thank Ann for her work with the manor and let her know that she will always be welcomed with open arms in our community upon her visits. The event was also to welcome Josie, Seth and their wonderful staff at Brockberry Grill to the Maitland community and let them know there is much support as they embark on this new journey!

If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Maplehurst Manor, it is a must see! Josie graciously gave guests tours of the home and carriage house- which have all been lovingly restored over the past few years. Upon entrance I immediately fell in love with the high ceilings, large windows overlooking the rolling lawns of the property and the majestic St. Lawrence River and the d├ęcor that resembles a spread from House and Home. The Suites are exquisite and not a small detail has been spared.

There have been talks of many new and exciting events planned for Maplehurst and with the success of The Brockberry Grill, one can only anticipate what is to come. Make sure to keep updated on events at 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Smugglers Glen: Paradise in our own backyard

One of the things I love most about Social Media, is the connections you make with others. I am very loud and proud about my love for Facebook, but what you may not know about me, is that Twitter is my absolute favourite social media platform. 

Recently, I was searching Twitter for more local business owners and came across Smugglers Glen. I was drawn in by their profile picture and fun tweets! Smugglers Glen is a golf course on the 1000 Islands Parkway between Brockville, On and Gananoque, On. although I recently found out it is more than just a gold course- it's paradise in our own backyard!

Yes...THAT is the view from the stunning veranda at the clubhouse. Can you imagine teeing off there? Do you see the Adirondack chairs awaiting you? Admittedly, I am not an avid golfer, but this view alone will make me book a tee time with some friends and go back. 

Let's back up a step. Back to my love for Twitter and how it helps connect us to one another. Once I found Smugglers Glen, I started conversation with Jason Boyce, Director of Golf. We tweeted a bit about the course, golf and then we messaged about a tour. Jason was extremely welcoming and easy to chat with and by the time I had actually met him a few days later, it felt like we were old friends! 

Kim Barr, Owner of Set the Barr (Social Media Marketing) and I set off to visit the clubhouse, tour the course and chat all things golf. We immediately hit it off with Jason and of course- took a #Selfie!

This course was so elevated in places, that I was sometimes fearing for my life on that golf cart! When I wasn't breathless from the views- I was excited by the natural way the golf course was blended into the terrain and encompassed it's surroundings. The designer really knew how to show off the beauty of the 1000 Islands and still make this a challenging and fun golf course. 

I really look forward to returning this summer to play a round of golf, reconnect with my new Twitter friend Jason and trying out this course for myself. I have connected with others who have golfed here and they have sang the praises of this course! 

As a bonus- a place I didn't tour but am excited to check out- is The Glenhouse Resort, across the road. I have heard their prime rib dinner is amazing and the ambiance along the St. Lawrence River is unmatched. Perhaps a place to "stay and play" for the future.