Category Archives: Travel Canada

Getting much needed time away

from the hustle and bustle of the city is just what everyone needs from time to time. This July, I was fortunate to spend my vacation away time in Quebec, a short plane hop or leisurely road trip with friends from either New York or Toronto.

Vacation Day One: Nordik Spa-Nature

The first stop on our summer getaway vacation was at  Nordik Spa-Nature, situated in beautiful Chelsea, QC, no more than a 15-minute jaunt from Ottawa. The largest spa in North America, Norkik-Spa is known for offering a stimulating and rejuvenating experience, as well as providing phenomenal accommodations, offering two exquisite lodges, both with rustic architecture, insanely amazing views, and refined décor to unpack and lay your head. Now, deciding whether to spend time in your lodge or at the spa right next to it, can be challenging! Numerous outdoor baths, saunas, a meditation room, and an amazing infinity pool overlooking the bucolic Quebec landscape, make you never want to leave. And of course, my favourite part of the spa, the Källa pool! The large floating salt-water pool containing 10 tons of Epsom salt is only the second of its kind in the entire world, the other being in Switzerland, making this unique spot the perfect getaway. But our vacation didn’t stop there!

Vacation in Outaouais

Next, on our way to Montebello, we enter the rustic Outaouais Region, just over an hour east of Ottawa, and make a pit-stop for the world’s best poutine and burger at Delice Champetre. This 'Casse-croûte gourmet' sources all their ingredients locally and we could definitely taste the difference!  It was the perfect experience. After all, a great vacation needs to have great food, right? And to add to this amazing experience, Daniel, the owner himself, welcomed us like family, making sure we all enjoyed our delicious meals.
Enroute we checked in with the local wildlife at Parc Omega. The park lets you discover the wildlife of Canada from the comfort of your car.  In addition to the car tour, there are also two leisurely walking trails where you can stroll and feed carrots to deer and farm animals.  Be warned though, I was totally “attacked” by hungry goats, creating a feeding frenzy for my bag of carrots! For those who may want to stay a while, the park has a large picnic area and comfy accommodations should you dare sleep near the bears and wolves!

Vacation in Kenauk

The next stop was just north of Montebello (still within the green Outaouais) at a magical place called Kenauk, a 100 square mile, 65,000 acre protected wilderness domain originally granted by the King of France (it’s that old!). Kenauk is one of North America's largest and longest-established private reserves with more than 70 lakes within its borders and a pristine jewel in the crown of the Outaouais region.  There are a handful of chalets that you can rent and are mostly in very remote, tranquil locations on your own private lake. You will not see another person for the full duration of your vacation.  This year, we opted for the new Chalet Wilson with all the modern conveniences, but still, a completely rustic feel.  The lake was not private but still quiet and perfect for us to kick back, relax and enjoy our vacation downtime. This is my 8th  continuous year visiting Kenauk - it has definitely become an annual vacation tradition. We love how this is the one week a year where we reconnect with nature and for the most part - disconnect from the world.  Most of the reserve has weak or no cell phone reception (trust me, it’s a good thing and you will be okay!), focusing you to disconnect and enjoy each other’s company.


As always, it is hard to say goodbye to Kenauk and indeed Quebec, but we know we will be back for another vacation adventure soon.

Barry Hoy AKA Asianmapleleaf is a Canadian travel, lifestyle and food blogger living in New York and a regular contributor to followsummer. You can follow Barry on his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages, enjoying his daily adventures, vacation destinations, unique experiences, and culinary exploits.


Growing up,

my family did not pack me up with my two older brothers and Fuzzy, our cat, to embark on the typical family summer odyssey of the drive, pee, sleep and keep-the-kids-from-killing-each-other-in-the-backseat road trip kind of vacation. The farthest we drove was to our family cottage, at Lac Orford in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. What seemed to this ten-year-old, a full day’s drive involving bathroom breaks, fidgety brothers and my mother’s insistence that she do the cottage grocery shopping in Magog, (ten minutes short of our final destination) was in fact, less than an hour of door-to-door, road trip discomfort at the most.

In later life, my partner and I have had the pleasure of several extended road trips: in particular a Toronto to Boston, beautiful Autumn, two-week stint via Montreal, Quebec City, down through the Eastern Townships and on through the East Coast of the US. This early October trip provided incredible rocky, wet-leafed vistas with majestic whale watching on the craggy and wet outcroppings of the Saguenay. We took in fall foliage,  enjoyed family Thanksgiving and micro brew beers at the Gold Lion Pub in my hometown of Lennoxville; dinner at the Relais & Chateaux 's Hovey Manor in the quaint and beautiful hamlet of  North Hatley , where Hillary and Bill are currently relaxing with their grand kids.

But really, who needs an out of province road trip, when we have some of the best and awe inspiring scenery, theatre and food experiences right here in our own backyard of Southwestern Ontario?

Onto Lake Huron

Southwestern Ontario is perhaps one of the prettiest and bucolic parts of the world. This time of year the western sun sits lower and more reflective on the gently rolling hills west of Toronto. We have a weekend house in St. Marys and do the drive every Friday, traveling the 403/407/401 route and effectively avoiding the headache of the 401/427/403 interchange hassle.  Once past Milton, you’re home free and will enjoy the beautiful green, undulating landscapes, and rich farm land west of the Waterloo RegionKitchener, New Hamburg and onto Stratford and St. Jacobs.  Looking for more adventure?  Continue up to Ontario's West Coast and  Lake Huron, Bayfield,  Goderich and north towards Southampton, famous for its fabulous sunsets and on any given Saturday summer evening, be serenaded by the skirl of a bagpiper at the foot of High Street.

A Food Lovers Road Trip

The local farmer's markets in Stratford and St. Jacobs cater to a wealth of fine restaurants in this part of Ontario; many support the farm to table theory of local cooking and sustainability. Ruth Clausen’s Monforte Dairy and her artisanal cheeses from her casual resto Monforte on Wellington in Stratford are a must-stop, taste and buy. Stratford is home to such culinary delights as  Bijou, (choose from their three or four course Blackboard Menu), the Italian favorite Pazzo Taverna (casual pizza downstairs, more formal upstairs at street level) and just off Stratford's recently renovated Festival Square sits the  Red Rabbit Bistro, chef Sean Collins and general manager Jessie Larsen's   community-shared restaurant experience serving casual feeds that are “soul satisfying in the way of comfort food.”  For a special night out, the beautiful sun setting dining room of Rundles never disappoints. But make sure you book your Rundles experience now as the renowned Stratford food experience will be serving its last meal in September.  Further down the road in St. Marys, Chris and Mary Woolf's  Little Reds Pub and Eatery, is proud to offer Woolfy’s favorites as well as pub fare highlighting locally-sourced produce and craft beer. (a followsummer favorite!)

Theatre Lovers Applaud

While in Stratford, theatre lovers can applaud Canada’s best and North America's  largest Classical Repertory Theatre Companies, the Stratford Festival and further down the road, the Blythe and Huron County Festivals. Travel south to Niagara on the Lake and the Shaw Festival—all within a two-hour drive of Toronto.  On your way through, consider stopping in towns like Shakespeare for antiques, grab some wonderful cheddar in Tavistock, or beach and motorcycle viewing in Grand Bend.

Stop INN and Stay

Some of the best B&B and Inn experiences are to be found along the Old Huron Road as well: the Relais and Chateaux rated Langdon Hall in Cambridge, The Little Inn at Bayfield and the Benmiller Inn and Spa in Goderich or road trip further south to West Montrose and enjoy the Grand River and the historic covered Kissing Bridge views at the boutique-style Olde Bridge Place B and B.

Road Trip Planning

The Ontario Travel and Tourism board has launched a Trip Planning Tool,  where you can 'Build your BEST OF ONTARIO adventure', get attractions coupons and choose one of their hand-picked travel packages, making the planning and organization of your road trip affordable and accessible.

Plan some leisurely amble time with the ones you love,  pack your car with an overnight bag, your Tom Tom, a well-thumbed summer novel, and tantalize yourself with a Southwestern Ontario road trip.

If you like this followsummer itinerary, simply click on the map below and let Travelabulous help you plan and book your next road trip in Southwestern Ontario!

Road trip well, my friends!

One of the best things to do

during Canada's short summer is to spend lazy days at the beach, either playing in the sand or being in the water. These four books will inspire you to travel to the beach, whether to a family cottage on a lake or by a wave-crashing ocean.

Be inspired to travel to cottage country with this book by Toronto resient Kate Hilton

Just Like Family is written by Torontonian Kate Hilton.

Just Like Family

Author Kate Hilton must be one of those Torontonians who participate or participated as a child, in the weekly cottage commute, a Friday tradition where people pack up their vehicles and sit in traffic to escape the city and spend two days by the lake in cottage country.

At least Avery Graham, her main character in Just Like Family ($22.99, HarperCollins Canada) seems to understand the draw of the cottage including the memories of summers spent on the dock, cottage rules (you don't go on other people's docks other than to rest while continuing on your swim) and traditions including the May dip where toes go numb, and lips go blue as soon as you enter the water.

Her secondary characters also appreciate cottage living, with Avery's mom suggesting some fresh air might cure what is affecting her daughter.

" 'Not city air,' my mother declared. 'Cottage air.' My mother believed that most psychological ills could be cured with a trip north for a dose of pine and lake water."

The cottage, and life at the lake, seems even more appealing after reading about the crazy life Avery leads as the chief of staff to Peter Haines, the mayor of Toronto and a lifelong friend.

A great read that inspires travel to the beach, and a perfect read on the beach.

Be inspired to travel to the cottage, and the beach, with Go Home Lake

Go Home Lake is by Toronto author Megs Beach

Go Home Lake

Go Home Lake by Megs Beach ($19.95, Second Story Press) is another book that shows the commitment of cottagers, this time through the memories of Penny, the youngest of four children who spent all summer at Go Home Lake in the 1960s, catching frogs and getting her daily fill of fresh air.

“For a child, the cottage was heaven on earth. We didn't even miss the television. There was nowhere to be but exactly where we were so that one day flowed into the next, only vaguely divided by time to rest, time to eat, and time to set fire to things.”

Penny remembers the annual trek up to the cottage with boxes, suitcases and provisions packed into the station wagon, and how she and her brothers would take the boat and go on an adventure on the lake - exactly how a summer should be.

The Book of Summer inspires you to travel to the ocean

The Book of Summer is written by Michelle Gable

The Book of Summer

The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable ($24.99, Raincoast Books, St. Martin's Press) is another book about summer vacations, this time to the ocean rather than to the cottage.

Taking place in both the present, where Cliff House will soon fall into the sea due to erosion, forcing out Bess and her mother Cissy, a notorious troublemaker from the once grand house, and the past, where we meet the original inhabitants, including Ruby, Bess' grandmother, on the eve the Second World War.

In the present, we learn why Cissy is fighting so hard to keep the property the ocean is ready to claim. Through the guest book, written by Cliff House's past visitors, we learn what life was like at that time, including disturbing views about Hilter,

The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond inspires travel to the ocean

The House of New Beginnings is set on the Brighton seashore.

The House of New Beginnings

The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond ($24.99, PGC Books, Pan MacMillan) is a story about three women who live near the Brighton seafront in a house called SeaView House (“SeaView House, my arse,” said Georgie, one of the women who moves into the old Regency house with her boyfriend.)

We learn about each of the women, and see the ocean from each of her perspective, including Rosa, who notices:

“It was a twenty-minute walk along the front of the hotel to her flat and there was a stiff breeze, whipping the sea into frothy white peaks, flapping at the striped awnings of the souvenier shops and sending the postcard racks spinning dizzily in a blur of colour."

I love the lake, but the ocean calls me to it, and this book inspires you to travel to Brighton, hang out with these women and celebrate living by the sea.

These books were provided by Raincoast Books, PGC Books, Second Story Press and HarperCollins for honest review. The opinions are my own.

Read my book reviews that inspire travel during Canada150 by clicking here.

Happy beach reading!


My last visit

to Mont Tremblant's Spa Scandinave was in a mid-winter March, a glorious late winter sun, setting over a rushing Rivière Diable, her banks crusted with breaking sheets of ice. There was still snow on the ground, and the Spa’s smoky out-doors fire place became my favourite post-hot and cold waters resting spot. So zen in fact, at one point I shed a private tear at how wonderful this experience was.

Spa Scandinave

Winter at the Spa Scandinave

During the winter, the Spa caters to Tremblant's active skiers and the resort's professional circuit, providing soothing Nordic waters, and a rejuvenating hot and cold Scandinavian Bath and deep tissue massages to ease weary skiers bones. At least those were my bones, not being up on skis for over 25 years!

A Return to Spa Scandinave

My recent return to Spa Scandinave was in high summer, although the day we arrived proved to be a typical Laurentian summer day: cool and rainy. Cyclists, rock climbers, hikers returning from the rugged eight hour Via Ferrata du Diable in nearby Parc National du Mount-Tremblant, boozy partiers nursing hangovers from Tremblant’s big International Bluesfest, or weary participants in the Resort's IronMan competition; all seeking some quiet respite and warm water rejuvenation for both body and soul. To quote Angelique Papadopoulos, Spa Scandinave's Director of Marketing, 'It may seem obvious, but when on vacation, always take the time to relax. I mean really RELAX. That's no wi-fi, no phones, devices or digital escape from the digital world; just for a few hours." We couldn't agree more. 

image courtesy of Spa Scandinave

The little things stand out: refreshing choices of lemon and chlorophyll waters greet you at check in, friendly and engaging staff serving bites of fresh fruit, juicy pineapple on our summer visit, overflowing baskets of apples and warming tea stations to keep you hydrated. If you are hungry, their bistro offers fresh seasonal potages, unique and tasty sandwiches, organic juices and salads. Make sure you book a personal massage with your visit and indulge in a selection of Swedish deep tissue, therapeutic or prenatal. 


Scandinave Spa Mont-Tremblant is currently adding an additional 10,000 square feet of spa-ahhh, including a large open fire pit, new hot and cold water falls and pools, a large infinity hot tub and more zen inducing cozy, resting spots. With outdoor facilities at Whistler, BC, Blue Mountain, Ontario and Tremblant's original property, Spa Scandinave also engages tired and achy city dwellers with their indoor facility at Old Montreal’s Vieux Port.

No reason not to immerse yourself completely and indulge in some Spa-ahh.


Canada is now 150 years old,

but I will be celebrating the anniversary of Confederation all year long. In celebration of Canada150, Parks Canada has offered its Discovery Pass where you can have unlimited visits to its national sites. I hope these books inspire you to visit some of the places mentioned within its pages during Canada150.

FollowSummer reviews The Lightkeeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

The Lightkeeper's Daughters is an amazing book that shows the beauty of Lake Superior.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters

The Lightkeeper's Daughters is written by Thunder Bay resident Jean E. Pendziwol, who spent much of her childhood on her family's sailboat, exploring the islands and bays of Lake Superior. And you can tell: Pendziwol not only loves the largest of the great lakes, but she also respects it.

In her author's note about some of the liberties she takes with her story, Pendziwol writes: “Lake Superior appears in full iconic truth; temperamental, beautiful, vast, magnificent, and moody.”

The LightKeeper's Daughters ($26.99, HarperCollins) is a story about Elizabeth, whose mind is sharp, but her eyes no longer see. She fills the void with music and memories of her family, a past that becomes present when her late father's journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck.

With the help of Morgan, a teenager performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries. Entry by entry, the pair are drawn deep into to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse 70 years before.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters pulled me in from the moment I opened the book, with each chapter telling you whose perspective you were reading including Arnie Richardson, who describes Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Thunder Bay this way: “It is a mystical place, this peninsula, jutting into Lake Superior; chiseled rocky cliffs and worn ridges, mysteriously carved by wind and rain and time, take the form of a giant slumbering in a cradle of icy gray water. Legends speak of an Ojibwe god, Nanibijou, lying down at the entrance to Thunder Bay, his magnificent form turning to stone, eternally protecting rich silver deposits.”

The characters are wonderful, even those who played small parts, and the story is amazing with a mystery I didn't solve. The descriptions, particularly of the lake, are beautiful and you come to know this part of Canada's north a little better.

FollowSummer reviews A Sea Glass Journey and the hunt for sea glass in Canada's oceans.

A Sea Glass Journey makes me want to spend the day looking for treasure.

A Sea Glass Journey Ebb and Flow

A Sea Glass Journey Ebb and Flow by Teri Hall ($24.95, Nimbus Publishing) is the book that made me want to visit the ocean and hunt for sea glass, which I did with my family last year. We spent a couple of weeks searching for sea glass.

Hunting for sea glass in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.

My favourite find - blue sea glass from the Bay of Fundy at Bay in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick.

Sea Glass Journey, with a foreword by Chef Michael Smith, offers a look what sea glass is and the life it takes on afterward. The pictures make me happy and wish I was again hunting for treasures of the sea this summer.

“Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choices as beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”

~ Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This is That Travel Guide to Canada offers a different look at travel writing

This is That is not your typical travel guide.

This is That Travel Guide to Canada

This is That Travel Guide to Canada ($19.95, Raincoast Books, The Tite Group).

I didn't hear of This is That, the CBC Radio show, hosted by Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, until I picked up the book by the same name.

“We set out to write the most thorough, comprehensive, and accurate travel guide ever published about Canada. After reading this book, we believe you'll agree – we tried,” wrote the pair in the introduction.

I then should have known This is That would offer more jokes than stories about Canada and its people, more teasing to those who don't know us than practical ideas of the best places to see.

I will give the book this, I will have to check out the destinations mentioned in the book simply to figure out if anything said is true.

Happy Canada150, everyone! Now get out and explore!


Copies of the books were provided by Raincoast Books, HarperCollins Canada, and Nimbus Publishing for honest review.

Summer is often framed

as the right time to lose weight and get in the best shape of your life. This is usually to look good in your swimsuit on the beach, but the change to a warm season can make anyone want to watch what they eat for a variety of reasons.

Taking a road trip is also a key aspect of summer, and they don’t typically go well for people wanting to eat healthier. Snack aisles are packed with potato and corn chips, and when you try to load up a cooler with drinks for the road, what greets you at the store are endless soda flavors. Think you might find something good at a gas station? Good luck searching for something healthy between the plastic-wrapped doughnuts and deep fried pork skins.

Don’t let the idea of a road trip intimidate you away from your plan to eat better this summer. There are lots of ways to keep you on track with your diet no matter where you are. It’ll take a bit of planning ahead, but if you’re eating healthy meals, aren’t you doing that already?

Snap Peas and Carrots

This snack is like the holy grail of summer road trips for people who are health conscious. They add practically no calories to your daily diet and provide that satisfying feeling of having a crunchy snack. They also trick the tongue into thinking you’re eating something sugary. Just try a snap pea and try to think about anything other than how sweet it is.

Peanut Butter Banana Energy Bites

There’s no reason to compromise on your morning energy boost just because you’re not cracking open a can full of caffeine. Make peanut butter banana energy bites instead! This snack will energize and doesn't need to be baked. It’s the perfect snack for those of us who’ll miss our favorite chocolate and peanut butter candies, too.

Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars 

Healthy Snacks for Your Summer Road Trip

Missing your favorite brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast?

Missing your favorite brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast? These apple cinnamon granola bars will fill that hole in your heart. By quickly combining just a few ingredients, you’ll have a sweet and chewy snack to keep you company while you hit the road. Or after you’ve been on the road for a while. At 127 calories per bar, you could eat them all day long.

Trail Mix

One of the biggest issues that comes along with having a summer road trip is that you might not have time to do everything you’d like. Maybe you’ll get to just some of the homemade snacks you’d like to take with you, or maybe none at all. If you’re in a rush, there are always healthy snack options like trail mix that are already pre-packaged and ready to eat, as well as packaged energy bars, granola bites, and other nutritiously dense options that won’t compromise your time. No one will be able to resist reaching in for a handful of your snack.

Healthy Snacks for Your Summer Road Trip

Trail mix is an easy option for snacking on the road


If you’re not allergic to nuts, take advantage of all their health benefits and stick a couple bags in your cooler. Nuts—especially almonds—have a lot of protein, which means you’ll hold off your hunger without paying a lot for meat or protein powder. Plus, they’ll last the whole trip without going bad.

Fruit Smoothie

Smoothies are really easy to make at home. If you have a blender, all you need is some frozen fruit (bought with no added sugar), ice and whatever liquid you’d like to add. This can be water, milk, or even your favorite fruit juice. A fabulous summer fruit smoothie is a great drink to add to your trip since they’ll fill you up and add variety to your diet.

When it gets closer to your road trip this summer, don’t worry about having to eat unhealthy foods in order to enjoy some time away from home. Healthy snacks are easy to make and include in any vacation, even road trips. As long as you plan ahead for what you want to eat, you won’t have to break a sweat—or your diet.


Kacey Bradley is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us and a frequent contributor to followsummer.  You can follow Kacey on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

about followsummer

followsummer is a global travel and lifestyle blog that is open to advertising, sponsorship, and reviews and is one of Canada’s leading travel blogs. Consistently ranked in the top 100 of #travel1k Top Travel Blogs by Rise Market Insight, our aim is to create engaging content on a weekly basis from contributors in Canada, the US, and the United Kingdom. Followsummer has always been a reflection on the day-to-day personal experiences of our worldly travel. What started in 2004 with us jetting away for a year voyaging around the globe has now become a mature and sophisticated experiential travel booking and advice portal. We call it living travel: the food, hotels, wine, flights; the thousands of life details that ebb and flow and make your travel truly alive. It’s the enthusiasm and ability to love what we do while providing our audience with education, entertainment and the ability to join us on our adventures around the world.

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