Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Westcott Vineyards

It was recently National Rosé Day (second Saturday of June), and here I am talking about the place that made me appreciate rosé: Westcott Vineyards. I really liked their pinot noir rosé. It was very light and refreshing.

Approximately two hours away from Toronto, I love that Westcott is pretty much an outdoor venue and that it’s away from the city. (Hello, fresh air!) The dining area is covered, but it’s basically a tent, so there’s a natural breeze. And then you can hang out on the lawn/grass and enjoy the sun.

The tasting room is the only area with a real roof, and it’s actually quite homey. It gets natural light, too. On the day we were there, they were preparing bottles for their rosé event for that evening.

Also, their food is amazing. We ordered pulled pork, beef tartare, and “Ontario-style” Hawaiian pizza for our “mains” and then panna cotta and berry tart for dessert. My favorite dish was the pulled pork, but I guess it was also the most familiar one to me. Their pizza had cheese curds in it, which reminded me of poutine.

PS: The bottle of pinot noir rosé retails at ~CAD23, which is on the lower end of pricing. Dine-in bottle service, though, is twice as much.

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Montreal in Small Plates

When we were in Montreal, we made it our mission go visit small plates style bars around the city. We wanted to do small plates style so that we could order various small plates and share the food. This worked out quite well; we were able to enjoy the place, the food, and the drinks without feeling overwhelmed by the amount of food in front of us.

The one craving we weren’t able to satisfy was churros. A tapas place we tried going to was too busy, and another one was not yet serving dessert because they were still only serving salty dishes. Nevertheless, we made the most out of our trip and enjoyed our small plates tour.

We made it to five tapas places. My favorites were Biiru and Bar Henrietta.

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Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Old Montreal + Mount Royal

We went to Montreal over a long weekend. It’s a 1.5 hour flight away from Toronto, and it’s in the part of Canada where everyone speaks French. (They also speak English, so I got by.)

We stayed in Old Montreal, so the touristy places (and numerous coffee shops and restaurants) were within walking distance. I enjoyed walking around and just enjoying the view. It reminded me of Europe, at least the parts of Europe I’d been to, cobblestones and all.

The Notre-Dame Basilica is beautiful, and I think it’s worth a visit regardless of one’s religion. (If you are interested in their masses, they play the organ during the weekend ones, but double check whether the mass is in English or French for that schedule.)

While walking around in the evening, we saw a clip of a man’s face projected onto a wall. It turned out it was part of a historical touristy attraction. There was another clip projected on a nearby building as well.

We also found ourselves on Mount Royal; we were looking for the Mount Royal Chalet. Unfortunately, we were dropped off at an incorrect location and had to hike a bit to get to the chalet. The whole “mountain” is a park, so there were locals running the trails as well.

The chalet had a nice view of Montreal plus some flowers.

All in all, it was a fun, low-maintenance trip. My allergies flared up with all of the construction in Old Montreal, so I spent most of the last two days indoors. I’ll definitely come back when there’s less construction or dust in the air. (The other parts of Montreal were fine! It’s just that we stayed in Old Montreal, so maybe next time, we’ll opt for a different neighborhood.)

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Casa Loma

It only took four trips to Toronto and numerous occasions of passing by Casa Loma until I finally made it inside. Casa Loma is a castle in midtown Toronto and was previously an affluent family’s residence.

There’s a fee to enter the castle (which I feel is worth it considering the upkeep required for the property), but there’s no time limit nor structure your visit has to abide by. There’s a self-guided audio tour in multiple languages, but all of the rooms in the castle have signs and descriptions in English as well.

The main level rooms are largely for entertaining visitors, except perhaps the study, which has a not-so-secret passageway to the basement and upper levels. The upper-level rooms are bedrooms, and there’s even one dedicated to the Royal Family, should they have ever wanted to visit the castle. The basement houses the wine cellar and the entrance to a tunnel that leads to another part of the property. Wow, #goals.

My two favorite rooms are the library (no surprise there) and the conservatory. The library has walls lined with books, and the conservatory pays homage to plants. I’ve found my wedding peg. (I’m filing Casa Loma as the peg for Plan A.)

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Toronto, Home Base

In a prior post, I mentioned that I was visiting Toronto for few weeks. It’s a rather odd stopover since I came from the West Coast, which is closer to my final destination, yet I traveled East. But I’m having a great time. Although it’s been raining, I’ve still been able to explore the nearby neighborhoods. (I’ll go farther out when I’m guaranteed more sunlight.)

First impressions from someone spoiled by coming from the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • Toronto’s spring feels like San Francisco’s winter.
  • Public transportation is still reliable even as you venture away from downtown. (I’m guessing this is an East Coast/non-Californian thing altogether. California is definitely a driving state.)
  • Independent bookstores are harder to find here, but there are a lot of vinyl record stores around.
  • The roads are flat (and I’m very thankful for this). I have yet to find a place that makes climbing San Francisco’s steep hills feel easy peasy.

So what have I been doing these past weeks?

I’ve been visiting coffee and tea shops. I actually have a pretty long list of coffee and tea shops to visit—I have gone to 13 of my (still growing) list of 28 coffee and tea shops. Because of this list, I’ve been able to visit different neighborhoods, my current favorites being King West and Kensington Market. I’ve also gone to museums: I viewed the Impression in the Age of Industry exhibit at AGO before it ended; and I visited Casa Loma out of curiosity. I’m waiting for the sun to shine more, and then I’ll explore the beaches and visit some wineries.

Oh, and I’ve been reading, too. My sister suggested I read up on Canadian literature, and I’m honestly surprised I hadn’t thought about it sooner. I binge-watched Kim’s Convenience on (thank you, Netflix) some incredibly cold and rainy days, and I’m about halfway through a nonfiction book I committed myself to reading. OK, next week it’s back to the bookstores!