The slush- and winter-jacket-jammed commute is driving me crazy. I’m clamouring for fresh air and wide, open spaces that the city can’t provide. And if I have to spend one more morning shovelling my driveway, I’m going to lose it. Any suggestions for a winter getaway close to Toronto where I can actually enjoy all the season has to offer?
Before you murder anyone with your shovel – shockingly, a cursory search through Toronto news archives reveals that this has never actually happened … yet – you should hop in the car for a quick jaunt up the 400 to South Georgian Bay.
Well, that works for my husband, who loves to ski. And for my kid, who might like to ride the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster that I've heard about. But I won't put down this shovel until I know what exactly is in it for me.
Okay, let’s just calm down. Sure, skiing is one of the biggest and most obvious draws for the area, thanks to the nearby Blue Mountain Village, which boasts dozens of trails. Yet, may I very gingerly suggest that you explore the many other attractions of the region, which include the ultra-charming Meaford, Clearview, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach (which, yes, has much to offer even when the beaches are frozen over). For starters, there’s the Apple Pie Trail …
Apple pie? I'm listening …
How about these apples, then: The trail, which unites 28 local orchards, is the best kind of tour – self-guided and organized, so you can either fill up an entire weekend or a mere afternoon. The area has a long history of apple-growing stretching back to the mid-1800s, when European settlers found the environs perfectly suited to apple crops. The large and deep Georgian Bay reduces the chances of late-spring and early-autumn frosts, the high slopes of the nearby Blue Mountains restrict warm lake air to small patches of land where ideal microclimates are formed, and the soil is just right.
The result is a booming industry of farms, restaurants, bakeries and shops dedicated to 18 varieties of apples. Start things off at the Duntroon Cyder House for a glass of liquid stress-relief before heading deeper into apple country with visits to the Blackbird Pie Co. (live your best life with the apple blackberry sour cream crumble) and Ravenna Country Market in Beaver Valley. Then continue driving north for respites and bites at Goldsmith’s Orchard Market in Thornbury and the Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery in Meaford. And yes, there’s an apple app for all this McIntosh madness: Search “Apple Pie Trail App” on the App Store or Google Play to find an interactive map to explore and be notified of contests and special events.
What if my husband is allergic to apples? He says that he is, at least. I don’t quite believe him, like a lot of his lies over the years. What else is there for a discerning diner?
It sounds like there’s a lot going on in your family life. But let’s stick to the restaurants that will satisfy even the most demanding of big-city gourmands. In Collingwood, make your way to the Tremont Cafe, which offers eclectic Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine (try the shankleesh, a flatbread dish topped with feta and labneh, alongside a bright and light salad of onion, tomato and Lebanese olive oil) and so cozy an atmosphere that it can save any marriage. For another intimate dining experience, head to Bruce Wine Bar in nearby Thornbury, where the pâtés are just as tasty as the pizzas. And if you want to take in the absolute best view of Blue Mountain Village while devouring a perfectly cooked steak or a comforting shrimp linguine, there is no better option than the Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill, where the wine list is as impressive as the something-to-please-everyone menu.
While my allegedly apple-allergic husband is skiing at Blue Mountain, what can I do to keep my own pulse up?
First: I think it’s healthy that you both recognize the need to spend time apart. Second: Strap on some snowshoes for a tour of the Kolapore Uplands wilderness area on the Bruce Trail, an adventure that will end as all good outdoor activities should: with a wine and cheese tasting (call 1-877-445-0231 to set it up ahead of time). Follow it up the next day with a waterfall tour through the Beaver Valley, which you can wash down with a sip or three at the Thornbury Cidery (705-446-5824). And if you’re stuck on the Blue Mountain Village grounds, book a massage at Kalola Spa, where the soothing staff will treat you probably better than your spouse does.
This all sounds surprisingly delightful, although a bit tiring. Where should I lay my head down for the night?
I notice that you’ve dropped the shovel, which is welcome news. As for where to stay, the Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain is seemingly engineered for maximum relaxation. The rooms are spacious and tastefully appointed, the location central, the views wide and enchanting (especially now, when you can gaze out at the frozen pond at the centre of the village), and the ambience dripping with R&R vibes. And if you, for whatever reason at all, want to get some alone time outside of your room, the lobby is cottage-country-level inviting, while the outdoor pool is heated for maximum winter enjoyment.
Thank you, I think you may have saved my marriage.
Don’t thank me – thank the apples.
The writer’s travel was supported by the Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain. It did not review or approve this article.
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