A lot can happen in one year, and yet it can go by just like that. They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I’m not really sure what they were talking about because our first year was easy like Sunday morning. Maybe this expression was created back when it was majorly taboo to live together before marriage. It’s the first time you’re living with another person, you’re getting used to each other’s habits and routines and you’re blending two separate lives into one. Well I hate to break anyone’s heart, but Mike and I co-habitated for about 2 years before we said, “I do”.
We checked off a lot of milestones in this past year. We went on an unbelievable honeymoon to Alaska (Check back for a full post about our Alaskan Adventure!), we completed a major home renovation project, we gained a nephew, we completed the Whole 30 and completely revamped our lifestyles, both our careers received huge boosts, we celebrated my best friend’s wedding and went on countless adventures together.
To celebrate all that happened in the past year, we decided to take a mini trip to Collingwood and Blue Mountain, Ontario. For us, experiences are much more rewarding and valuable than “things”. We chose to take a trip to England and Scotland as our gift to each other, which we have booked for the end of August. With printed tickets, it’s kind of sticking with the traditional gift of paper for one year right? Even though we have this big trip booked, we wanted to do something different than just a dinner out one night. Collingwood, ON was the perfect destination: Just far enough to feel like a trip, close enough to travel on the weekend and lots of fun things we can do together.
We left our house early Friday afternoon and arrived in Collingwood a couple of hours later. After checking-in to our hotel, we decided to take a drive to Blue Mountain Village to walk around. The village is full of great shops selling all kinds of things from kitchy home décor to one-of-a-kind pieces of art and clothing from familiar brand names. We stopped at Iwa Spa, a favourite spot of mine, to look around their retail space. I love the items they sell: candles made in Collingwood, handmade jewelry, unique clothing and natural skin care products.
Another great thing about the village is even if you don’t like to shop, it’s great to just walk around and enjoy the sights. There is a large pond which is circled by the stores and the hotels all of which rest at the base of the ski slopes. I could easily spend an hour or two sitting in the sun on one of the brightly coloured Adirondack chairs, just soaking up the scenery. I’ve only been in the Spring, but I can imagine how beautiful it looks draped in a fresh dusting of snow.
After a little while we were starting to get hungry, so we made our way back to Collingwood to check out a restaurant we saw on an episode of “You Gotta Eat Here”. The Smoke is a small restaurant in Collingwood known for the fact that they basically smoke just about anything. As soon as you walk in, you can smell the different scents of wood used in their smokers. For the past couple of years, my dad has been smoking meat at home, so it brought some fond memories to mind while I sat scanning the menu. This menu is definitely not Whole-30 compliant, but sometimes you just have to let loose. There were pulled pork nachos, pulled pork poutine, salads (but who goes to a smoke house and orders salad, right?), ribs, wings and of course, smoked Salmon. A quick scan of the restaurant showed us the crowd favourites were the Smoked Burger, Pulled Pork Nachos and all of their sandwiches.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, sandwiches are my favourite food! I love how the combinations are basically endless and by making one little change you can switch up the whole taste of the sandwich. So, it was a no-brainer to order the Pulled Pork Sandwich. Mike ordered Cow Meats Pig Sandwich which is pulled pork and beef brisket all in one happy place. While we waited for our food I sipped on a Side Launch Wheat, which is local to Collingwood, and enjoyed some cornbread that the waitress brought to our table. I don’t normally like cornbread, but that was out of this world. Before long, our food arrived and the show’s name was no lie. No matter where you are from, it’s worth the trip! My favourite part was the selection of sauces they leave on your table for you to customize your flavours. There were six different sauces, each one better than the next (the Carolina Mustard was my favourite). They even do smoked desserts, which obviously couldn’t be passed up, especially when it is Smoked Banana Ice Cream with Smoked Apple Crumble. AH-Mazing.
For our second day in Collingwood, Mike had planned a surprise. He knows that I love hiking and I made it a goal to do more mountain hiking this year, seeing as how there are so many great places to hike in Ontario, so he planned a morning of hiking through the Scenic Caves of Blue Mountain. Nature does some pretty strange things. It was such a neat experience to climb our way through these caves, up and down and deep into the mountain. At one point, we found ourselves at a spot called “Fat Man’s Misery” with just a 14 inch wide pathway which required some creative maneuvering. While in this tiny pathway, there was a group of Korean women all gabbing to each other in Korean. When we mentioned that we used to live there, they instantly became our best friends. I hear Korean all day long at work, but there’s something about hearing the language in unsuspecting places that brings back a wave of memories from our time in the tiny country. Once we made it through the caves, we followed the path to a suspension bridge that revealed some of the best views of Georgian Bay you can get.
The rest of the day was spent having lunch and shopping in downtown Collingwood. It reminds me of Niagara-on-the-lake, with the unique stores, great cafes and friendly atmosphere. These are my top picks of places to check out if you go:
- Duncan’s Café for a delicious lunch. Mike and I stopped there for a Caesar salad for myself and a Club Sandwich for him and it hit the spot.
- Luek and At Home Interiors for some great home décor ideas. It’s a great place to get ideas for your own DIY projects if you don’t’ want to pay the retail prices.
- Clerkson’s Home Store for all types of home accents from bedroom linens and tablecloths to wall art and throw pillows.
- Madison Clothing has some great finds for great prices. My mother and sister-in-law both love this store! They also have a store in Blue Mountain Village in case you can’t find what you’re looking for.
- The Body Bar by Kalola Botanicals is a wonderful little shop to find skin and bath products that will cure whatever is ailing you. Suffer from headaches? Try their Headache Relief Roller balls.
Our Anniversary dinner was at Tholos in Blue Mountain Village and it was the perfect end to a perfect day. With views of the village and an authentic-style ambiance, Tholos has it all – including delicious food. Mike and I both ordered the Beef Souvlaki and shared a Greek Bruschetta to start which were perfect. Maybe it was the fact that it was our anniversary, or the glow of the flaming Saganaki around the restaurant, but we had a lovely, romantic time.
Our final day in Collingwood was a short one. We took one final walk through the village to scope out some stores for the last time. But, before we left, we stopped for lunch and no trip to Collingwood or Blue Mountain is complete without a visit to Firehall Pizza. Our weekend was complete with a thin-crust, stone fired Margherita Pizza.
It was such a great time to getaway and play tourist for the weekend, and the fact that we were celebrating our first year as a married couple made it even better. I realize that every marriage has their ups and downs, but if this first year is an indicator of what the rest will be like, I think we have a lot more adventures in store.
Have you ever been to Collingwood or Blue Mountain? If so, I’d love to hear about it!