Friday, February 26, 2010

Northeast Indoor Pool Series: Four Seasons Boston

This pool at the Four Seasons in Boston overlooks the Boston Public Garden (Think "Make Way For Ducklings, and check out all the great amenities the hotel has for kids.  Even though the Four Seasons Boston isn't super cheap (rooms start at $325), if you are desperate for a pool and a getaway, it is certainly cheaper than booking flights anywhere.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Finger Lakes Region NY

So many people I know have no idea about the Finger Lakes you?  It's in Central New York (locals do not appreciate it being referred to as Upstate), and it's about a 4 1/2 hour drive from NYC.  There are twelve lakes, and over 100 vineyards.  We went for an overnight last week, at the end of our trip to Canada, just Matt and I, and left Clara with her grandma in was lovely.  We stayed at the Mirbeau Inn and Spa in Skaneateles, which was lovely. Food was really stellar, as was the wine list (they turned us on to , and the staff were so thoughtful, informed, and professional.  The spa was also really well done--lovely treatment rooms with fireplaces, a quiet waiting room with a foot soaking area, and really talented therapists.  
(breakfast buffet at Mirbeau)
After we checked out, we went to the Skaneateles Bakery , and got a fresh homemade donut, and a delicious cup of Gimme Coffee .  That place is so cute, and the food (and coffee) is so good--I just can't understand why nobody can do a version of this in Park Slope.  We wandered around, checking out a couple of antique stores, and then it was time for lunch.  We couldn't decide between Doug's Fish Fry (which our friend Jenny had said was amazing), and just getting a sandwich and soup at Skaneateles Bakery, but we had had enough of fried food, and went back to the bakery.  Our short-rib sandwich was to-die-for.  We also picked up some local vanilla yogurt there to bring back to Clara, from Wake Robin Farm, and I am kicking myself that I only bought one. 
We hit the road, heading to Ithaca, and on the way, stopped in the charming town of Aurora, which is on Cayuga Lake, and the home of Wells College.  There are two really nice hotels to stay at, the Aurora Inn and the E.B. Morgan House (same owner--Pleasant Rowland, the woman who started MacKenzie-Child--she pretty much owns everything in town), although the E.B. Morgan House is the only one which is open to guests year-round.  You can stay at the Aurora Inn in the winter, if you rent out the whole house.  Both are so well appointed, and directly on the lake.  I would definitely suggest coming here in the summer months, when the Aurora Inn  is open, and has its restaurant open, because the only dining option in town is the Fargo Grill, which is really a burger/fries kind of place, and not the kind of place you'd want to eat more than once.  You could always drive down to Ithaca and have a great meal at Moosewood Restaurant, but it's about a half an hour, and for me, at night, that's too far (if I really want to enjoy a bottle of wine).  There's a cute cafe called Dorie's in town that serves Gimme Coffee, and is filled with Wells students.  
We liked it up there so much we want to look into renting a house for a week this summer.  Since everything is spread out, it isn't the kind of place where you cover it all in a day or two.  There are lots of great houses on the lakes, and vineyards to check out.  We'd love to get to the Ravines Winery and Dr. Konstantin Frank's vineyard (the vineyard that really started the whole New York wine industry), and go swimming in what they say is some of the clearest (and cleanest) lakes in the country.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ottawa Winterlude

I feel like I always get the best travel tips from other parents in hotel pools or jacuzzis.  When we were in the hot tub at the Chateau Montebello , I met a mom from Ottawa, who told me that we had to check out Winterlude , a winter celebration in Ottawa that lasts a couple of weeks in February.  She said the best part for kids was the Snowflake Kingdom , which had free ski lessons, ice slides, snow mazes, and ice fishing. We made sure to drive through Ottawa on our way home, just so we could check it out.  It was so worth it.  

(that's the ski lesson area)
(i don't know what is going on here--wrapping the trees with knitted scarves, but i like it.)
Of course we had to stop at the antique market in town, after running around in the snow...and we found a great mid-century shop, called Found Design, whose owner, Mike, was really sweet, and gave us a great lunch suggestion.  He sent us to Murray Street , within the ByWard market (a four square block area that is one of the oldest (1826) and largest public markets in Canada), and we had a delicious duck club sandwich, mac and cheese, and charcuterie plate.
We are definitely going back, and will spend a weekend poking around.  It has an amazing museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization that has a genius kids museum within it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Channel Islands--Who Knew?

I was just talking to my friend Steve Orr, who has a fantastic blog, and mentioned to him that we were supposed to be in Santa Barbara last week, but had to reschedule due to some schedule conflicts with the friends we were visiting. He said that when we go back, we absolutely have to go to the Channel Islands.  Read his blog post, and check out his beautiful pictures.

Montreal Half Day

We really wanted to go back to Montreal, to the Jean Talon Market (a vast food market, even in the winter months), and bring Clara, since we had gone on a weekend trip without her last January.  It was just an hour and 15 minute drive from our hotel here, so we decided to go there for lunch.  We were hungry so we ate lunch first, at the Premiere Moisson bakery there, and had a delicious ham sandwich, soup, quiche...and creme brule for dessert. 
Everything looked amazing.  The market was as perfect as I remembered--we bought mushrooms, raw milk cheeses, beautifully canned maple syrups, dried mushrooms, and a hand-made lanolin lotion. I gave Clara $20 and we had a math lesson the whole way--and even if her subtraction wasn't the best, I think she was starting to get how much things cost and how it all works. 
 Then we went a couple of blocks away to Petite Italie (their Little Italy is the best I have ever been to--it feels just like Italy--old men sitting around, soccer games blaring on the TV, and Italian posters and soccer balls), and had a perfect macchiato at Cafe Italia.  Afterwards, we stocked up on all sorts of pastas, olive oils, anchovies, and mustards, at Milano, a great Italian supermarket a couple of doors down.
(homemade pasta at Milano)
(photos matthew hranek )

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Pics of Fairmont Chateau Montebello

(grand dining room)
More pictures from one of our favorite hotels ever, the Fairmont Chateau Montebello .   Yes, that's a curling ice (that's the proper term they taught me)'s probably one of the only hotels in the world that has one. We didn't get any pictures of the food, but the breakfast buffet, while all good, has a couple of local dishes that are stellar: baked beans done with maple syrup and bacon, maple cream crepes...and the buffet is just $6.50 for kids.  An especially great deal if your kid eats as much as mine does.

(main lobby)

(dining area)

(photos matthew hranek )

Friday, February 19, 2010

Appreciating Winter

As we have been driving through Quebec, we see so many ice fishing huts on the frozen rivers.  It really makes me think about how cool it is to have something that you do that inspires you during each season, so you really feel the season.  I see these huts and just imagine that these guys that are out there in those huts live for the winter, whereas I and most of my friends just can't wait for it to be over.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Parc Omega

We've been to alot of zoos.  Some are better than others, for sure...but the Parc Omega , about 10 minutes drive from where we are staying in Montebello, Quebec, is probably the most awesome one we've ever experienced.  Here's what it is:  a huge wildlife park, that you drive through.  When you enter, you can put your radio station to 88.1, and have a guided tour.  Within minutes, there are huge elk surrounding your car, mouthing at your windows, waiting for you to roll them down, and feed them carrots.  It doesn't get old.  You move on, and all the while, you are driving through a very natural landscape--there are no fences...the animals really just roam.  Next we came upon alot of wild boar, and then it was caribou, and red tailed deer. Then the largest bison I've ever seen...and babies.  And mountain goats.  There are wolves and bears too, in a very natural environment, but they are fenced off. I only wish we brought more carrots so we could have kept on feeding was such a blast--having wild animals put their faces into our car, and slobbering all over the windows.

(photos Matthew Hranek )

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Getaway: Fairmont Chateau Montebello

We arrived here late Monday afternoon, and wow, it is such an amazing property.  First, it's the world's largest log cabin.  It was built in 1930, as a private club, and became a hotel in 1970.  It has a lobby that has a fireplace right smack in the center, that I think is 6 sided,  and is 4 stories tall.  The furniture is great--nothing seems shabby, even though it seems vintage.  The scale of everything is so awesome.  It has a massive dining room, with fantastic artwork and totem poles, that surround a stage.  The rooms are smaller and cozy, but you aren't here to spend tons of time in your room.  It's the kind of place you come to experience the outdoors (cross-country skiing, ice skating, ice hockey, dog sledding, horse sleigh rides, tubing, curling)...and then there's the beautiful indoor pool.  I think it must be so lovely here in the summer too.  The food is really good (and so is the Molson Dry beer on tap)--they use local and organic as much as possible (this is actually a Fairmont standard).  More to come tomorrow.

(all pictures from matthew hranek )

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

World's Longest Ice Skating Rink: Ottawa

We were driving through Ottawa, and all of a sudden, we saw a canal filled with people ice skating...I had always thought that the ice skating on canals was something that happened just in Holland.  Who knew, that Ottawa holds the record for having the world's longest ice skating rink, the Rideau Canal, which is 7.8 km long. It turns out, it also was Family Day, a holiday in Ontario, and it's also the period called Winterlude (a three week winter festival, that seems worth a trip to Ottawa in itself--think snow mazes, ice slides, igloos, free ski lessons).
(all pictures from matthew hranek )

On The Road Trip: Three Bears Inn

We left Binghamton yesterday morning, and about a half an hour outside of town, we were already hungry.  We stopped in at this diner in Marathon, NY, and had a great breakfast.  The pancakes were made with New Hope Mills flour, and the syrup is true maple.  It's been there since 1799, and is a classic upstate NY joint. 
(all pictures from matthew hranek )

Monday, February 15, 2010

Northeast Indoor Pools Series: Winter Getaway Idea 1

 indoor pool at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa
We were meant to go to Santa Barbara for winter break, but our plans fell through, and at the last minute, we were scrambling for a place to go, that didn't involve booking a flight.  I started looking at lots of hotels with indoor pools, in beautiful locations or interesting cities, within a day's drive from New York.  I found alot, and am going to document them all here (not all in this post--I'll spread them out)...As I've said before, as long as there's a pool, and good food, we are happy.  I love the look of this deco pool, at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, in Ottawa.  Another place we have been to, and love, and isn't quite as far as Ottawa, is the Omni Bedford Springs, in Pennsylvania.  It's about 4 1/2 hours from NYC, and has an indoor pool that uses their mineral springs water.  I believe this was the first indoor pool in the country.  I'll do a post about later this week, when I have access to all of my pictures.  Right now we're in Binghamton, visiting Grandma, and I'm without wireless.  We're driving to Quebec today, to stay at the Chateau Montebello, which looks amazing.  I'll report back on Tuesday.