August 31, 2012

Wine Country – PEC Style (Part 2)

With our early bedtime we got up and ready early and were at the Picton Harbour Restaurant shortly after it opened. With the city being so busy we wanted to get there before the rest of the crowds did. Unlike the day before, the morning was cool and very overcast. Rain was expected, but we still wanted to enjoy our day. We packed up our things and went to Sandbanks. We had heard from friends how nice it was and how beautiful the sand was and we thought it perfect for a nice morning walk. The sky never cleared as we drove across the island, but we weren’t worried. We were alright with grey skies compared with the day before. Unfortunately we discovered upon getting there that we had to pay to park and it wasn’t cheap, especially since we only wanted to go for an hour or so. We turned around and followed our map to a few other roads thinking we could get lakefront access somewhere (in Cape Cod it wasn’t only common, but also easy to do), but we were again met with private land and access. Again we turned around and found ourselves at West Lake. Since it is a part of Sandbanks there is a meter to pay for parking, but seeing that it was so early and the parking lot was empty, we took our chances. It was a quick walk to the beach, but we could smell it before we could see it and it wasn’t pleasant. The sand was cold and dark and the water wasn’t very warm; all very surprising. We attributed the smell to the temperatures and the washed up seaweed and vegetation and we hoped we were right. There were some tall sand dunes that were easy to climb and offered a nice view of the lake. We discovered some wind-scrolls that were hard as a rock. Their lines and shapes were very interesting and intriguing. 

Back at surface level the smell continued and the sand was no longer soft. As we walked by picnic tables and forgotten lawnchairs we commented on how much garbage there was. It was a beach and a park and it seemed as though people couldn’t care less. We thought it ironic that so many people would go out to enjoy nature and get out in the ‘good ‘ol outdoors’ and leave their garbage behind (there was even a pair of 4” heels!!).

Disappointed we made our way back to the car. The sky was growing darker and we didn’t really want to get drenched so early in the day. Being close to Bloomfield we drove to Schroedter’s Farm Market, Bakery and Café. Having heard that they had baked gluten-free goodies, I was hoping to stock up before leaving. I was also really hoping that it wasn’t the pre-packaged gf stuff that is shipped all over the country by El-Peto and the likes. If they say it’s baking, I’m looking for real baking, and luckily that’s what I got. They didn’t have any fresh gf goodies that day, but there were 2 small upright freezers and a large one full of homemade gf baking. The Honey laughed at my excitement and went to the cash to pick up a carrier basket. I went overboard, but who could blame me?! Butter and jam tarts, pumpernickel bread, turkey and chicken pot pies, date squares. It went on and on. Everything has been really good and with flavour (I’ve still got some bread stocked away). The tarts aren’t delicate things you’d find in the city. The pastry is thicker and sturdier, and for the size, it’s ok. They hold in the jam or butter filling nicely.

By the time we had gotten back in our car the skies had opened up; perfect timing for us. The rain continued on and off; sometimes in bucketfuls, sometimes just a drizzle. As we drove we continued to admire the views, and sometimes we just had to stop.

Not too far off was Prince Edward Country Lavender, a lavender farm and store. There is nothing quite like the smell of lavender and I pictured fields that rivaled Provence. Unfortunately, the lavender was finished for the season, but there photographs of the fields and it looked stunning. I’ll definitely have to go back. The owners were friendly and chatted while we browsed through their wares. They even had a recipe for lavender lemonade which they shared at my request (after I had dropped quite a bit of cash). I had never heard of such a thing and cannot wait to make some!

The rain had let up and we continued to pass more wineries. The Honey offered to stop, but I didn’t think it would be fair if he got tired of driving on his way home. We eventually came upon Wellington, a small village with lake access. We stopped at a park and walked down to the small stony beach. The wind and waves were wicked, but the sound of the waves crashing always relaxes me. We found another somewhat sandy beach further along the road where people were frolicking in the water. It looked cold, but it wasn’t too bad. The sky grew darker again and we got back to the car just as the first drops were beginning to come down. The village had some shops and restaurants, and if the weather had been better, we would have taken a stroll.

We drove back to Picton to get some lunch and wander the downtown a bit more. The clouds had passed and the sun was out. The temperatures hadn’t risen yet so it so great for a little walk. We popped into a shop here and there, looking at kitchen and food wares, some furniture, and some tchotke. We popped into Miss Lily’s Café, reading that they would have some gf options, and it was quite the busy spot. Some were having a late breakie, some an early lunch, and others were just hanging out with their coffee. There was quite a crowd at the counter and the chalkboard menu wasn’t easy to read – so many items squished up there – so we turned around to try somewhere else. Another time. Further down the street there was Coach’s, a pub with the largest patio in the city. It had been busy the day before so we walked the few blocks there. We still needed some a/c so we sat inside. The Honey got a token sandwich and I got a delicious Greek salad – lots of olives, but also too many onions.

After lunch we decided to pop into a few more shops then head back home. It was nice just popping in and browsing. Every place had something different. Before getting into the car I needed a coffee for the drive home. If I didn’t, I was sure I would be asleep even before we hit the 401. The Bean Counter Café was just up a block so I popped in and got in line. The place was packed with people; drinking, eating sandwiches or baked goodies, plus many in line with me. If there had been somewhere else to go, I would have gone there. The line took so long (I was only 7th in line!!) and a woman and her children behind me were driving me nuts. I did my best to be polite, but really, I don’t care about your child’s special issues. He hit me and I’m not impressed. Unfortunately, she put me in such a foul mood and just as I was about to finish a nice trip too. I just kept thinking ‘Just give me a cup of decaf, pleeeasssse!’. I had never been happier to leave a café as I was at that moment.

We were finally on our way and everything went smoothly on the way home. The scenery put us back into good spirits and getting a good deal on gas also helped (Hwy 49 between the 401 and the island is Native Territory so there’s no tax on gas and cigarettes). In no time we were home.

The County, or Prince Edward County, is a nice place to spend some time. It has a relaxed slow-paced vibe to it and everyone, and I mean everyone, is so friendly (except for crazy mom, but she was from Toronto). We would be driving down a quiet street or road and people would wave. At first we thought we were driving too fast, but then we realized it was a friendly gesture and began waving back. There is a small-town feel everywhere you go and it’s such a nice feeling, even with the long-weekend tourists. It reminds me of Niagara wine country many, many years ago, before it got so big (seriously, there are over 80 wineries now!!!) and PEC has just over 20. I’ll return again; there are more wineries to visit, after all!


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