We Took Our Tastebuds To Prince Edward County

Lake Ontario from the Drake Devonshire

Lake Ontario from the Drake Devonshire

The first time I experienced the white, silky sand and ocean-like vistas of Prince Edward County—an island in Lake Ontario, east of Toronto—I knew I’d found a piece of our province to treasure for years to come. It happened when a group of my university friends decided we should reunite over the summer at Sandbanks Provincial Park for a weekend of camping. As I walked to the crest of my first sand dune, I noticed the sound of the shimmering leaves on the trees and the beautiful bending of the tall grass that lined the paths to the beach. I felt connected to where I was in a way that’s hard to come by during the usual rush and busyness of city life. And when I reached the top of the dune, I didn’t want to come down.

It was the start of a lifelong pull to the area, which you’ll understand if you’ve been lucky enough to spend time there, too. My friends and I continued to reunite in the park each summer, adding on our significant others over the years. And for my own family, camping there became a tradition. We’ve camped in numerous Ontario parks over the years, but Sandbanks is at the very top of our kids’ list.

Drake Motor Inn, Wellington, Ontario

Drake Motor Inn, Wellington, Ontario

drake motor inn

drake motor inn

This year, we decided to use our shared birthdays to experience the county from a different perspective (and during the fall, since we’ve only ever been in the summer). The weekend began by leaving the kids and ditching tents in favour of a comfortable bed and hot showers. We found exactly what we had in mind at the Drake Motor Inn (the sister inn to the lakeside Devonshire Inn). It would be too dramatic to say we wept when we pushed open the door to our weekend abode, but I will say my eyes were shiny with gratitude. And I know I heard my husband release a most contended sigh. When you live with four growing humans, minimalism is a laughable and lofty goal—one we’ve never been able to achieve.

drake-motor-inn

The location allowed us to walk through and around the town of Wellington easily. The inn also features common rooms filled with ‘70s-inspired decor, magazines, and board games, as well as private patios on each room, and a bespoke, communal firepit. We were also able to access the larger inn and all its amenities, and we enjoyed dinner with a gorgeous view of the lake on our first night.

drake-motor-inn

After a great sleep, we spent the day travelling from one end of the county to the other: visiting tiny shops, breweries and delicious eateries. I’m not saying those things are impossible with your kids, but it’s all so much more enjoyable without the work that comes with travelling as a family. We were able to wander in and out of shops and practice the lost art of browsing with no particular list or agenda at hand. We could feel the clutter of all those to-do lists evaporating with each passing hour. And that is a very fine feeling, indeed.

The actual distance across the county is very manageable and many visitors explore the county by bike. There are also several shuttle services and tour packages available if you’re planning to sample the wineries and breweries while there. The scenery as you move from one village to the next is quite beautiful and we took advantage of the winding side roads, too.

Drake devonshire inn

Drake devonshire inn

Here are some of the highlights of our two-day stay:

Bloomfield public house

Bloomfield public house

BEST FOOD

We set out to enjoy the food during our stay, and we were not disappointed. We dined at the Devonshire for both dinner and breakfast the day we left. There are beautiful seating options, beyond the seated dining area, including a beach bonfire pit and bleacher-style seating that faces the lake. We also ate dinner at the Bloomfield Public House (built inside an old bank) and thoroughly enjoyed our meal there, too.

La Condesa

La Condesa


The front desk at the inn recommended we stop by the local Mexican restaurant, and it ended up being our top food experience of the weekend. Served tapas style, the flavours and attention to presentation in each dish at La Condesa were absolutely wonderful. We couldn’t stop talking about it, and, yes, we can’t wait to take the kids next summer.


BEST COFFEE

enid grace cafe

enid grace cafe


Knowing we would be having a long day of eating ahead, we decided to go in search of a good coffee first thing in the morning, instead of a sit-down breakfast. Across from our inn, we found the Enid Grace Cafe and had the most scrumptious, perfectly smooth Americanos. There was a gorgeous offering of different baked goods, pastries, and breakfast options, too. But we deferred reluctantly and waited until we headed to another village for treats later in the day.

BEST BEER, WINE, AND SPIRITS

La Condesa & Prince Eddy’s cream ale

La Condesa & Prince Eddy’s cream ale

There’s a growing craft-beer industry in the county and the aesthetics of each location are fantastic. Most breweries in the county have vibrant outdoor spaces. The Drake Motor Inn actually backs onto the Midtown Brewery, which is very popular with both the tourists and locals. But the tastiest beer of the weekend went to Prince Eddy’s Cream Ale, from the Prince Eddy’s Brewing Co. Smooth and light, it went down well with the rich food we were recklessly consuming.



County cider

County cider


We also stopped for a cider at County Cider in Wapoos, where the views of the Lake Ontario are absolutely spectacular. Due to the unique topography of the area, there are more than 40 wineries to explore and each one has a signature style and vibe. One of our favourite flavours is the Pinot Noir found at Keint-He Winery and Vineyards.

BEST CHEESE

fifth town artisan cheese co.

fifth town artisan cheese co.

I’ve never been a cheese connoisseur, but after pulling into Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. to search for a birthday gift for a friend, I may be a convert. We had the opportunity to enjoy several samples and it was actually hard to narrow down the choices we took home with us. They offer eat-in cheese boards or can prepare you one to take on a picnic (which is what I would do if we went back again). All of their award-winning products are produced environmentally (it’s named Canada’s Greenest Dairy) with locally-sourced ingredients.

BEST BAKED GOODS

Throughout our travels, we noticed a lot of places featuring a Wapoos butter tart. I may not be cheese-savvy, but I do know my butter tarts, and I hoped to find them at another county favourite—the Argarian Market. This delightful market offers an array of locally-sourced and produced food including cheeses, charcuterie, picnic perfect bites (call ahead and they’ll pack a picnic for two for you) and meals-to-go. But it was the baked goods and coffee that we were in search of, and the infamous Wapoos butter tart did not disappoint. This is a must-see stop and there are locations in both Picton (market style) and Bloomfield (bistro and SpeakEasy).

wapoos, prince edward county

wapoos, prince edward county

For us, everything about being in the county can be described in a single word: community. Each business/restaurant/market you visit is a celebration of the people who appreciate the bounty of this unique agriculturally-abundant land. The attention-to-detail you encounter at each stop is what makes the county such a great weekend getaway. You won’t just feel like you’re just sitting down to a meal or sampling a glass of wine—you’ll enjoy beautiful aesthetics, a relaxed vibe, and a welcoming space that makes it so worth the drive.











I Knew I Loved You Then

Young kids in love

Young kids in love

He's in the driver seat, and I turn my head just in time to see his shoulders lift and his face shift to annoyance — but I'm not fooled. Even though I'm breaking the driver-gets-to-choose rule, he doesn't touch the dial. 

My sentimental attachment to things is something he accepts about me. It's everything he dislikes about pop music, but he lets the song play itself out and keeps the groaning to a minimum, while I belt out the words.

It's the words in the uber-saccharine song that have captured my heart, after all. And I remind him every time it comes on. The story of two young people caught off guard by a meeting and dancing the night away. It's simple and predictable and the kind of song a very young version of me would have played on repeat. I know better than to be wooed by a cliché, but I feel an affection for its lyrics anyway. It reminds me of a memorable night at the beginning of our own story. 

At our wedding, my sister told that story. It was about a huge party we all attended the night she met him for the first time. For our group of friends, it was the party of the year and I was nervous about how our new relationship would play itself out in front of everyone. I was also young, inexperienced and had too much to drink before we even arrived. She told our wedding guests that it was a funny story, but also a special one. She said watching how he cared for me that night showed her that nothing mattered more to him than making sure I was okay. 

We had only known each other a month or so by then. He led me out of the party, got me home safely, made sure there was someone there to stay with me, and told me he'd see me the next day when I was feeling better. I cried as I said goodnight and apologized for ruining his night, before it had even begun. I was still learning about love then and was sure I'd shown him a side of myself that would make it easy for him to walk away. He leaned into me and whispered, "When you love someone, you have to take care of them." I already knew I loved him, but I hadn't known he felt the same.

It's been decades since that night and he has never wavered in the words he shared with me — even though years of marriage and all the challenges that come with sharing a life have given us both ample reasons to forget

We're like any other family; there's no such thing as perfect. We've each had heartaches and disappointments. And we've also been through experiences together that we dealt with in our own and often differing ways. All of it has changed who we are, because that's what life does.

But I believe the heart of our relationship is still as simple as the song. We are older and wiser, but have never let the picture of who we were at the beginning get too blurry: two kids with a pure and simple understanding of what it means to take care of someone you love. It's not grandiose; it's not complicated; it's not too much to ask. 

The song is coming to a merciful end, and I watch his hand move towards the dial before another syrupy song has a chance to assault his ears. He'll probably put on some shouty rock song that will make me want to cover mine. 

"Thank you," I tell him. And I know he understands — it's for so much more than the song. 

 

Podcast: What A Sinking Ship Taught Me About Love

Podcast: What A Sinking Ship Taught Me About Love

Maybe I thought it was a sign they had allowed staleness into their relationship, like they weren’t trying hard enough or too easily letting a distance grow between them. At the time, I was still greedy for outward gestures and declarations to reassure me of my romantic partners’ love. Losing myself to that togetherness was part of what I thought united a couple that had declared themselves in love.

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Back To School: With The One Who Always Believed In Me

gradphoto.JPG

I was the first one to say something when we were introduced.

Some things haven't changed about who we are when we're together. 

My roommate had tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, 

This is the guy I was telling you about. The one who's in your program.

I think she nudged/gently shoved me forward and said something similar to him.

I looked at him, did my best to ignore the firework show that was setting itself off inside my body, and said something like, 

So how did you find that anatomy course last semester? 

We still laugh about how such an awkward exchange could feel so natural. We ended up continuing that conversation through the night and into the following day. We talked about our lofty goals and the plans we each had for our future. 

It's a conversation we're still having. 

We were in our third year of university then and, as our relationship grew, so did our mutual support for reaching those goals and achieving those plans. We developed rituals like sitting in certain cubicles in the library (though never on the same floor, because that ultimately proved too distracting), meeting at the doors when the library was closing for the night, pulling through a drive-thru on our way home for milkshakes. 

We held each other accountable for showing up at class. He used my computer to write his papers, I borrowed his meticulous study notes when I got overwhelmed. When we walked across the stage at convocation two years later, we very much had each other to thank. We continued on in school together and crossed a few more convocation stages in the years that followed. 

But being on similar career tracks and committing to a long-term relationship came with its challenges, of course. Sometimes one of us took the lead, while the other had to fall back. Sometimes, and especially after parenthood became part of our story, resentments would make themselves known. Eventually, we ended up in completely different places in our careers, and we're doing okay with those roles today. 

A few weeks ago, we settled on a documentary for our family room date night, about a talented life that ended too soon. As often happens with the two of us, it inspired a long-into-the-night conversation. We revisited our individual goals and plans. And with years of experience behind us, we spoke openly about regrets and missed chances. 

When we finally went to bed, I lay down beside him with a full heart and busy mind. But our conversation rattled around for days afterward. Have we done enough to keep regret out of each other's lives? Have we continued to hold each other accountable for showing up for ourselves, as well as each other?

Last week, we accepted an invitation to return to that first campus and meet with undergraduate students from our program who are planning for their futures. We were placed at different tables, because we have very different careers. And as I snuck glances at him from where I sat, I wondered what advice he was giving the students who lined up to speak to him. 

I was surprised by the more philosophical questions I was getting about how I knew I was on the right path (I didn't) and how I decided to get on it in the first place (accidentally). I spoke with students at the beginning of their journeys, while being pummeled with memories of being in that same position, on that same campus, years ago.

When the event was over, and we made a last-minute decision to return to the campus pub where our paths first crossed, we talked about how we had been asked very similar questions. And we both wondered whether we had been able to answer them with the passion and sense of possibility those questions deserved—being that we were so far from those days now.  

back-to-school

I looked at him on the other side of the table, only a few feet from the place I first passed him my dreams and he gave his to me, and I thought about our recent late-night exchange about regrets and missed chances. It struck me that none of those regrets and missed chances live in the time and space we've spent with each other. 

Resentments and frustrations dot our timeline, yes, but they were never given enough light to cast shadows on our goals and plans. Even when my conflict about stepping off a full-time career track to focus on our children had me lashing out at him for the ease with which I felt he could stay on his, he held on to the bigger picture for me. Possibility is as close to us now as it's always been.

Thank you for the pep talk, one student said after we spoke about her next steps. It was nice to hear those things from someone who doesn't know me, because the people who love you are supposed to say those things about you. 

I looked over at him again, before I answered her. 

If you're very, very lucky, I said to her, that's true