Monday, 15 October 2012

Discover: Caledon Hills and North

Sometimes I find it difficult to get up the energy to make a weekend remarkable.  After my work week, I would be happy to lay on the couch and watch a marathon of the Kardashians with snacks and my brain firmly in park.  It's really easy to do; time just slips through your fingers and you really begin to debate the feasibility of $50 000 diamond earrings in your life.  That's not a healthy or economical way to spend your weekend.  After all, this blog is about living your life, not the lives of miniature humans with a media empire.  It's easy to waste 12 hours in a way that does not contribute to a beautiful life and you end up asking yourself 'where did my day go?’  I want to pursue those days that are so packed full of experiences that when you look back on your camera, you are almost surprised to see the ground you've covered.  It is my general preference to pursue those days on weekends when the weather cooperates and a bitter cold doesn't sneak into your bones - but hey, you work with what you've got.
When it comes to car trips, I want to know exactly how much time I will spend confined.  I drive with a plan and the end in mind.   My boyfriend is the 'let's just get in the car and see what we find' type.   This journey was a bit of a compromise, we knew we wanted to take the meandering way to Collingwood and would end at Mrs. Mitchell's restaurant.  Our goal was to focus on new places, routes, and experiences.  It's fun to see what the world will show you when you are willing (spoiler alert: fall colours, fall flavours and an elephant).
To follow this route, I recommend starting with a full tank of gas, a scarf, hot apple cider and a great playlist (heavily featuring a fiddle, if possible).

Spirit Tree Cidery
1137 Boston Mills Road, Caledon, ON L7C 0N1

I had heard of the Spirit Tree Cidery and driven past with an uncommitted promise to eventually visit.  As we flew past Boston Mills Road heading north, the road sign said 'Cider Mill and Wood-fired Bakery' - naturally irresistible, right?

 The Spirit Tree smells exactly how you wish your kitchen would smell.  It was sort of a combination of sausage, fresh bread, apple and spices.  The market area has a great selection of artisan products - cheese, fresh fruit and veggies, fresh wood-fire baked goods.    We picked up a dense and perfect Caledon Sour Dough for breakfast the next day.
The selection of ciders was amazing (alcoholic and non).  I was surprised to see Cider Ice wines, crab apple rose, pub cider and pear cider.  I am kicking myself for not picking up a bottle of ice wine, but now I have a reason to go back.   Fraser went with a 6-pack of pub cider which now has his endorsement. The Spirit Tree Cidery also features a tasting room, but it was far too early in the day and, like I said, we had a journey ahead of us.

Alton Mill Art Centre
1402 Queen Street West, Caledon ON L7K 0C3

The Alton Mill is another place that we had heard a lot about, but never made the time to visit.   It was different than a traditional gallery in that many of the pieces were for sale and often the artist was on site or in their studio.  The smell of linseed oil and clay tickles the dustier parts of my brain.  You are free to walk around and explore the rooms.  The building itself is gorgeous with the contrast of rough hewn lumber and glass.  The best surprise was wandering the grounds around the Mill and coming upon pieces unexpectedly.  If it wasn't for a cold snap, we probably would have spent more time outside.  Self-preservation drove us back to the car.

Additional awesome features: a cafe, courses on site, a section of the Bruce Trail.

Before anyone decries that Creemore is not a new experience since my (fantastic) in-laws live there, but we technically don't spend a lot of time in town.  Plus, it's our blog and we choose what technicalities to live by.
Affairs Bakery and Cafe
148 Mill, Creemore ON L0M 1G0

That chill doggedly followed us all the way from Alton to Creemore.   Lunch had one requirement: be hot.  Affairs might be the cutest bakery on the block and was the most promising place for a big bowl of soup.   Carrot and Turnip helped defrost us from the inside out.  If we hadn't planned on eating at Mrs. Mitchell's, we would have sampled a good portion of their baked goods.  I mean, we still naturally discussed, ranked, and marvelled at their treats (my money was on the apple crumble square being the best).

100 Mile Store
176 Mill Street, Creemore ON L0M 1G0

I love a store like this.  As the name hints, 100 Mile Store is about local, natural, wholesome food.   The entire store smelled like fresh apples!  It sounds cheesy, but it's easy to see everything in the store as precious.   It's so simple to run into a large grocer and to lose sight of exactly how lucky we are because of the copious amounts and selection available.

We picked up some peppermint tea and some apple smoked sausage for Sunday breakfast.  It was hard to not look like a total weirdo taking photos and fawning over gooseberries.   It was probably a good thing that we didn't have a cooler with us, otherwise a good portion of the store would have come home with us.

I am skipping over Collingwood because although we did make it, we hardly spent any time there.  We were tight on time since we had a 5pm reservation, but wanted to reach our destination.   We walked the downtown quickly which was a first, but we will definitely be heading back to really explore.  It seems like a perfect Christmas shopping spot.

Mrs. Mitchell's
Violet Hill, Shelburne, ON L0N 1S0

Mrs Mitchell's has been a pain point for my dear fianc√©.  In the early day of dating, he promised to take me there one day.   As we have driven past it on the way to Creemore for the last four and a half years, I'd say "you know  Fraser, I promise to take you there one day" - much to his chagrin.

Since our theme of the day was to try new things, Fraser finally pulled the trigger and brought me to Mrs. Mitchell's.  Our reservation was for 5pm (the last available), so we were there right when they opened.  Within half an hour it was packed.  *not evidenced by the photo below

Mrs. Mitchell's is an old converted school house that has an old-timey feel.  The food is fantastic and as my bil (brother in law) would say, it's traditional upper Canadian food. I mean, the meal came with Spoon Bread which reminded me of a cornmeal Bannock.
The food was all gorgeous, but the photos end here.  Like I said, it became quite busy....and there is no time for photo evidence of the giant plate of bourbon braised ribs that only one woman in the restaurant was brave enough to order.

There were a few lessons from the day that puts my beautiful life in perspective:

1.  Push yourself to do more than your comfort zone.  There are a ton of interesting things to experience that aren't going to find you on your couch.
2. Sometimes it takes standing on a hill surrounding by changing trees with absolutely nobody around to remind you that there is a whole word bigger than you (and your blackberry).
3. Once in a while, if you are lucky, you're going to be rewarded with an elephant.


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