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A Weekend Indulgence in Northumberland

© By Margaret Swaine




























































  My husband, Bill, is a constant business traveller so he's reluctant to dislodge from his home on a weekend. However, the lure of two days of indulgence at Ste. Anne's spa with a winery visit and golf on the side was enough to get him motivated. Not that he golfs. I do. However he had the promise of a massage and facial while I hit the links.
     The drive's an easy ninety-minute highway cruise from Toronto or a relaxing train ride away with Ste. Anne's picking you up at the station. Ste. Anne's sits on a 570-acre parcel of land and has several homes on the property converted into guesthouses as well as the original building with its 1850's exterior. The main inn has expanded considerably over the years to 40,000 square feet yet retains the look of a rambling fieldstone mansion (locally known as Grafton Castle).
     Greeted at the door by Father Edward Cachia, who acts as the inn's spiritual advisor, my husband was instantly attracted by his friendly manner and invited him to our room to chat. Bill had plenty to occupy him when he ran out of conversation. There was a steam room, dry sauna, exercise room, walking trails and a daily menu of activities. I grabbed my clubs and made off for Timber Ridge Golf Club about a half hour away.

     

     Timber Ridge has been praised by golf writers since it opened in 2001. (In 2002, it was nominated as the best new Canadian golf course by Golf Digest.) It packages golf with Ste. Anne's and other inns in the area, but even à la carte green fees are a reasonable $55 to $70 depending upon the season. It takes advantage of Northumberland's rolling hills to offer 18 holes of beauty and challenge set on 200 well-wooded acres. The fairways are lush, the bent grass greens well manicured and the fescue ready to trap an errant shot.
     When I returned, I found my husband at the swimming pool enjoying a dip. His smile told me he didn't miss my absence at all. We enjoyed an afternoon tea while he regaled me with the chaplain's story. (It turned out Father Cachia was a local hero. Rome took away his pension and his congregation over his support of the ordination of women.) Then, I got my turn at an Aveda treatment. Ste. Anne's is one of five Aveda destination spas in North America using treatments based on a 2000-year-old tradition from India geared to "balance" people. I picked the signature "synchronised tuning" treatment in which the therapist helped me to choose two hours of treatments to best suit my needs. After a scrub, wrap and massage, my skin was soft as a baby's and my mind in full relaxation mode.
     Our room in the four storey new wing was luxurious with large windows that opened to wonderful views. It was hard to leave it even for dinner. The place was so relaxing that many guests took their evening meal in bathrobes. We chose to go casually comfortable. The meal by Chef Christopher Ennew offered low carb options and allergy sensitive dishes (wheat free, dairy free) but was mainly focused on pleasure. We both passed on the marinated tofu dish with Bill going for the New York steak while I chose the red snapper. This was a pamper and relaxation spa, not a Czech style purge and pummel one.
     Next day after an early morning yoga class and hearty breakfast, we headed off to Warkworth and the new Oak Heights Estate Winery. Oak Heights, the first vineyard in Northumberland, was planted in 2000 by Ian Fraser as a weekend hobby. The hobby took off. It seems that Fraser, who also ran a marathon when he turned 60, doesn't know how to slow down. His YMCA running group came and helped plant the vines. In 2003, he lost seventy-five per cent of his vines to winterkill but decided to commit to a winery and replant. To be commercial, he needed five acres and now has over seven. Finally, in 2007, he decided to build a retail space.
     Located minutes from the charming town of Warkworth, it's set on the rolling hills of a hundred-acre property bordering the Oak Ridges Moraine. Part of the original 100-year-old barn was used to create a space both modern and historic. The outdoor patio features panoramic views of the countryside. It's proven popular and every weekend since it opened on July 21, it's packed with locals and tourists enjoying the "100 mile radius" menu and on Sunday free jazz concerts.
     The menu was developed by consulting chef Peter Gosling who has worked at many prestigious restaurants in England and Canada. Local farmers call in with their produce and while we were enjoying our poached salmon on field greens and fresh heritage tomato soup, Peter Finch of Quinty Organics came by with freshly picked mustard greens. We helped ourselves to a sample and were smitten by the intense flavour. For those in a hurry to explore the area, picnic baskets to go are sold, packed with prepared local produce, wine (optional), chilled Mill Valley spring water and all the linen, glasses and utensils necessary.
     Wine and food pairings are also available for a bargain of ten dollars. Prior to our lunch, my husband and I enjoyed delectable sea scallops paired with Covert Hill White 2006, a buttery rich chardonnay (from Niagara grapes) matched with a triple cream Quebec brie and an easy drinking cabernet franc with wild boar pâté from La Ferme.
     Too soon it was time to head home. However, I've since heard that Ste. Anne's has newly packaged vino-therapy weekends. The perfect opportunity to tempt my husband again. This time with offers of wine on the body as well as in it.

Margaret Swaine is a frequent contributor to Toronto Life, Chatelaine, National Post, Food and Drink, Ottawa Citizen, SkiPress, ScoreGolf, Urbane, and Luxe.

Photo Credits
Margaret Swaine: Oak Heights Winery - Warkworth, spa flowers, front view, garden, relaxing.
Ste. Anne's Inn & Spa: aerial view, berry cup, couple relaxing, couples' massage, Elizabeth room, lamb serving, Ste. Anne exterior.
Timber Ridge Golf Club: #15 trap, 1st tee, lunch time, aerial view, undulating course.

If you go
This Destination
as seen on
YouTube
Northumberland Tourism: www.northumberlandtourism.com 1-866-401-3278
Oak Heights Estate Winery: www.oakheights.ca, 337 Covert Hill Rd., R.R. #1 1-866-oak-6051
Timber Ridge Golf Club: www.timberridgegolf.net 19 Timber Ridge Drive, Brighton. 1-866-228-4653
Ste. Anne's Inn & Spa: www.steannes.com R.R.#1, Grafton. 1-888-364-6772

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/





Northumberland's small town escapes

© By Betty Zyvatkauskas

Small town charm makes Northumberland a winning weekend destination. Rural roads wind along the Lake Ontario shoreline and into the hills of the Oak Ridge Moraine, linking towns and villages known for their historic character. Shop, enjoy art galleries and theatres, and then relax at a historic inn or B&B. Best of all, it's no more than ninety minutes east of Toronto.

The Capitol Theatre in Port Hope
When most towns were busily tearing down their heritage sites thirty years ago, Port Hope's activists were figuring out how to save theirs. Today, Walton Street is one of the best-preserved nineteenth century main streets in Ontario, known for its harmonious streetscape and great shopping: antiques at Smith's Creek, high end ladies' fashions at The Senate and clever kitchenware and cooking classes at Table Talk. At Lord Russborough's Annex, visitors peruse thousands of prints, engravings, and maps to discover a first collected edition of Hogarth's scenes of London.
     Built in 1930, the Capitol Theatre is still magical today, with its trompe l'oeil murals of a medieval castle courtyard and a ceiling painted to resemble a sky that changes from daylight to dusk, with twinkling stars emerging as the house lights dim. A professional cast performs light summer fare.
     For overnight stays, the Lantern Inn, an 1845 hotel on the banks of the Ganaraska River, has been renovated with an eye to its history, preserving high ceilings and large windows in all 16 guestrooms. The outdoor terrace with ironwork that evokes Old Montreal is a favourite place to linger over lunch on a summer afternoon.
     To relax in luxury, the Hillcrest Victorian Inn is a serene retreat in a 1870s beaux-arts-style hilltop mansion complete with an outstanding spa known for its personal service. A private dining room offers expansive view of the inn's 5.6-hectares of gardens and old forests, and excellent seasonal cuisine. Swim in the outdoor saltwater pool then enjoy a luxurious facial with organic Dr. Hauschka products.

Architectural grandeur in Cobourg
Just 10 minutes to the east, Cobourg is known for its Lake Ontario beaches and its extraordinary Victoria Hall. Flush with hopes of becoming a capital city, in 1842 Cobourg residents erected a Palladian style town hall so grand that it took nearly a century to pay it off. But their hopes sank, along with railroad leading into town when ice washed away the trestle bridge over Rice Lake. Over the next century, Cobourg slowly drifted into tranquil obscurity. Today it is known for its handsome Lake Ontario parks, marina, pleasant shopping, and Victoria Hall's magnificent trompe l'oeil murals still draw visitors.
     Architecture buffs and movie set dressers love to shop at Legacy Vintage Building Materials & Antiques, a sprawling warehouse at the edge of town, known for its wide-ranging artifacts. Need a fifties fridge or a nineteenth century newel post? Chances are you'll find them among the tin ceiling tiles, antique doorknobs and old leaded windows. The town is known for its outstanding B&Bs, among them: Victoria View, Corner Cottage, MacKechnie House and the Woodlawn Inn.

Art and Artisans in Warkworth
Set among the rolling hills of the Oak Ridges Moraine, this true country village is still unmarred by urban sprawl. Nevertheless, it has seen big changes in recent years. Its once-decaying main street of Victorian shops and farmers' co-op is now home to galleries and cafes.
     Frantic Farms is a special favourite, exhibiting the colourful clay and art glass art of Monica Johnston and Paulus Tjiang while The Cheeky Bee Candle Company specializes in top quality beeswax candles. I never leave without a fresh crusty baguette from the Lionheart Baking Studio - better than any I've had in Toronto. For a town of only 800, it has an extraordinary array of amenities-including Supreme Bean café where the organic coffee beans are always freshly roasted. The village even boasts an upscale B&B, the Thornton Inn, a renovated 1890s red brick home where each of the three guest rooms has ensuite bathrooms.
     The surrounding countryside begs to be explored. Since it opened in the summer of 2007 Oak Heights Estate Winery has become a local favourite for its outstanding patio and restaurant overlooking the vineyard. On Tuesday afternoons, the livestock auction at Hoard's Station offers a real slice of farm life. Driving past fields of contented cows will inspire a stop at the Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op for a block of their well-aged cheddar. Warkworth's country style entertainments include a rodeo every July complete with bull riding and steer wrestling. One day each August the main street closes down for the Long Lunch as tables are laid end to end to accommodate several hundred hungry folks with barbecued meats, corn on the cob and pies.


Music in Campbellford
In keeping with the area's rural feel, it's not surprising that the region's outstanding musical venue is a barn. When soprano Donna Bennet, and husband-pianist, Brian Finley, built their barn-style theatre on the family's Campbellford farm, they knew the audiences would enjoy the acoustics in the 400-seat Westben Arts Festival Theatre. Doors open to let the summer breeze and the scent of new-mown hay drift in-along with the odd barn swallow.

Betty Zyvatkauskas enjoys more than 20 years experience contributing travel articles to the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Chatelaine and others. She writes the annual Getaway Guide for Toronto Life Magazine. Betty is a frequent contributor to AAA Living, and author of bestseller, Great Getaways.

Photo Credits
Betty Zyvatkauskas: Capitol Theatre, Hillcrest patio, Shoreline, Smith's Creek Antiques, Thornton Inn and boudoir.
Northumberland Tourism: Oak Heights Estate Winery, Victoria Hall and tower, Westben - singers, musicians.

If you go
To find the best back roads, the Northumberland County Driving Tours brochure is available by contacting Northumberland Tourism or is available online at:
http://www.northumberlandtourism.com/en/getaways/resources/2007DrivingToursBrochure.pdf
Northumberland Tourism: www.northumberlandtourism.com 1-866-401-EAST (3278)
Capitol Theatre: http://www.capitoltheatre.com/Welcome_-111217.html
Cheeky Bee Candle Company: http://www.cheekybee.com/
Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op: http://www.empirecheese.ca/
Frantic Farms: http://www.ruralroutes.com/franticfarms
Hillcrest Victorian Inn: http://www.thehillcrest.ca/
Lantern Inn and Suites: http://www.lanterninn.ca/
Oak Heights Estate Winery: http://www.oakheights.ca/
Westben Arts Festival Theatre: http://www.westben.on.ca/


What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/




Northumberland's Inviting Trails

© By Gene Chambers

Imagine - magical, undulating hills of the Oak Ridges Moraine, broad valleys with bubbling streams, gently rolling farmland and small towns - bordered by two large lakes. This is Northumberland County, an hour east of Toronto, presenting each sightseer with a variety of summer and winter experiences on its extensive trail systems - hiking, biking, geo-caching and birdwatching in the summer; snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.
     My favourite escape from the hustle and bustle of today's hectic lifestyle is to stroll along a meandering forest trail, relaxing in the tranquillity of the woods. In the springtime, Trilliums carpet the forest floor in a quilt-work pattern of green and white, while fall unleashes a riot of colourful changing leaves. In winter, I enjoy strapping on a pair of snowshoes after a fresh overnight snowfall, the first person down a newly-covered forest trail, with fluffy puffs clinging to limb and branch, painting the forest into a pristine winter wonderland.
     Scattered across Northumberland County are twenty-one trails intended for such delights with length varying from less than a kilometre to those that link up with major hiking trails. Whether a serious hiker or biker or you merely want to savour a relaxing stroll, this trail system offers something for everyone.
     Five major trail systems pass through the County, permitting access to wider parts of the Province. These include the Ganaraska Hiking Trail, the Trans Canada Trail, the Oak Ridges Trail and the Waterfront Trail, as well as the Ganaraska Forest. In addition to these, a large number of smaller trails of varying lengths offer shorter routes, including a few that are wheelchair accessible.
     Ferris Provincial Park near Campbellford showcases Ontario's first 300 foot-long suspension bridge over 30 feet high above the Ranney Gorge. Walking out along the gently swaying steel path, I gaze down at the rushing waters of the Trent River as it flows through the gorge beneath my feet. A glance upstream reveals Ranney Falls cascading over a limestone rock ledge, while downstream I observe the Trent Canal System locks, allowing boaters a safe passage around the gorge and falls.
     For birdwatchers a must-visit site is Presqu'ile Provincial Park in the south-eastern part of the County, a boomerang-shaped spit of sand and limestone that juts sharply into Lake Ontario. The park represents a haven for spring and fall migratory birds and monarch butterflies. Standing on a trail in late summer, I watch hundreds of orange and black monarchs winging their way south to their wintering grounds in Mexico. Over 300 species of birds have been sighted within the park's boundaries, and 125 species are known to nest there. I love dawn on a fall morning as flocks of teal and mallards zip over my head in day's first light on their fall migration.
     For cycling enthusiasts, Northumberland trails accommodate all from flatland tours along abandoned rail lines and fire roads to downhill treks and mountain biking. Several maps of cycling routes are available, and with 37 B&Bs and several motels and inns in the County, cyclists have the opportunity to create their own personalized multi-day trips.
     Have an urge to seek out buried treasure? Well, you can satisfy this craving with geo-caching, a modern day treasure-hunt game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to first hide and then seek containers (called "geo-caches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache consists of a small waterproof container containing a logbook and 'treasure,' usually toys or trinkets of little value. All you need to participate is a map, computer and a GPS. The longitude and latitude coordinates for each cache are shared on the internet. Employ your GPS device to search for these caches hidden at various points along trails or in other locations. The general rule of thumb is - "If you take a trinket, leave a trinket, and write in the logbook."
     Northumberland County has amassed over 100 caches luring you to rove about the hills, valleys and forests, GPS in hand, an intrepid explorer, seeking elusive treasure. Finally, you reach the site indicated, but where is the cache hidden? You cast about, sleuthing out the secret hiding place. Aha! - with a shout of exultation you pounce upon the elusive spot, eager to discover what trinkets await, an enjoyable way for individuals and families to take pleasure in the beauty and serenity of Northumberland's alluring rolling hills and valleys.

Gene Chambers is author of three secondary school textbooks on computer studies in data processing, and a travel writer..

Photo Credits
Northumberland Tourism

If you go
This Destination
as seen on
YouTube
Northumberland Tourism: www.northumberlandtourism.com 1-866-401-EAST (3278)

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/

When travelling to Northumberland - just an hour east of Toronto,
you may wish to investigate the following links:

Other Destinations
Travel Tips
Travel News

Northumberland Tourism
 
 

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