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Presquile Provincial Park, Falling For the Minka Tent

We were guests of Ontario Parks during our visit to Presquile Provincial Park. Our views remain our own.

Introducing my kids to camping through glamping during all four of our Canadian seasons has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my parenthood journey. Aside from when they were born or learned how to walk. See, I would rather be outdoors all the time. The kids? They are fairly rambunctious city-oriented kids. Miss M is so not the outdoors girl. If there are mosquitos, no electricity or running water, and lacks attached flushable toilets, she’s out. Make that she’s in. As in ‘inside the house’. Our worlds don’t always collide. So I’ve learned about what makes her tick. Camping is not it.

Little Man is normally up to try anything that gets him outside and out of the confines of our urban, Toronto townhouse. We had an opportunity to try out a Minka tent at Presquile Provincial Park at the beginning of October. Bonus for us? We got to also enjoy the extended autumn season at the park this year so that means extended fall foliage observations and attempts at being bird nerds.

It’s not the first time he and I have ventured off together! Read all about our winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park experience last winter here: Why I Took My Son Camping At MacGregor Point Provincial Park

Presqu'ile Provincial Park signage

Where is Presquile Provincial Park?

Presquile Provincial Park is located just a bit south and a bit west of the town of Brighton, Ontario on Lake Ontario. For reference to larger towns, it’s between Trenton and Cobourg, in south-central Ontario. You will need to exit the 401 at the Big Apple at drive through the small town of Colborne to get there.

When you check-in at the main gate, get a Presquile Provincial Park camping map as the park is really big. If it’s your first time there, it can be tricky when driving or biking around from campground to campground.

 

What is a Minka Tent?

A Minka Tent is basically a one-room hybrid of a tent and a cabin. This one that my son and I stayed at in at Presquile Provincial Park had a small table inside and one single/two double mattresses. It can sleep five people. We had a BBQ outside, picnic table on the deck and a fire pit for cooking. There’s no electricity at the site, so bring your solar-powered lanterns, headlamps and charged power packs to juice up mobile devices. The minka tent was a quick walk over to the water tap. There are 3 at Presqu’ile available for booking. Our Minka Tent is on Site #12 in High Bluff Campground.

Little Man in The Minka Tent at Presquile Provincial Park

The nightly rate for each of the Minka tents is $97.18/night.

For me, travelling solo with my kids, it’s a really great way to get out in nature with them and not have the hassle of setting up tents and pop-up trailers on my own. Presqu’ile was open to campers until October 21 this year – it was not that chilly at all sleeping in there! Despite there not being a source of heat, body heat in our sleeping bags kept us warm at night.

Funny enough, even though there are top bunks and basically your choice of places to sleep in the mink tent, Little Man insisted on sleeping on the double mattress with me.

This is the Mink Tent at site 12 in Presquile Provincial Park.

What Do You Need To Stay In A Minka Tent at Presquile Provincial Park?

Visitors should bring their own blankets or sleeping bags and pillows, food, cookware such as pots, and pans. You will definitely need to bring dishes, cutlery, plastic tubs to wash them all in. Try to pack food in Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers to avoid creating garbage at your campsite. Garbage attracts animals and while they are cute to look at, they’re not cute when they are hungry and tearing apart garbage bags. You will be tasked with cleaning up the mess at your site.

Be sure to pack your basic personal items such as shower kit and toothbrush. There is a comfort station in the centre of High Bluff Campground. You’ll definitely need to pack warm clothes for night time. As there is no electricity in the Minka tent, that means no heat. There’s body generated heat, but that’s all you have.

Please note there’s no smoking for cigarettes or any kind in the Minka tents and you’ll have to leave your pets at home.

What Activities Are There For Families at the Campground?

Normally, if the water is calm, it’s acceptable to put in canoes and kayaks and paddle around the marsh. Unfortunately, the water was too rough for Little Man and I so we stayed on land.

Lake Ontario at Presqu'ile Provincial Park by the lighthouse

Presqu’ile Provincial Park is a hot spot in the province for birding. Bird nerds flock to Presqu’ile en masses for the fall migration. The best spots are Sandy Beach and the Marsh Boardwalk. I was hoping to see some myself! However, birding with a loud and crazy five-year-old boy is not an ideal circumstance. My son has a knack to turn any quiet experience into a complete and total gong show. In order to not anger any bird nerds in the area, we retreated!

Attempting to woo some birds at Marsh Boardwalk look out in Presqu'ile Provincial Park, Ontario

When birding fails, be sure to check out the lighthouse, the visitor’s centre and skip rocks at the shore because there is a lot of shore to do that on. And the sunsets are fairly spectacular too.

Skipping rocks at sunset at Presqu'ile Provincial Park

There are also quite a few easy hiking trails in the park. They’re perfect for family exploration as the ground is fairly level and the area is not hilly, so get out there!

*** As always, please practise responsible hiking. Wear footwear that is practical for the environment, socks and long pants. When done, perform a check of each other’s clothing and skin for ticks and other bugs. ***

Jobes' Woods Trail signage at trailhead at Presqu'ile Provincial Park

How To Book your Stay at Presquile Provincial Park

Presquile Provincial Park reservations can be made online. When reserving online select “Roofed Accommodation” as your reservation type. In the summer months, Presqu’ile Provincial Park operates are near capacity, so consider late spring or autumn as your travel time and remember you can book your reservations five months in advance.

Autumn glamping in a Minka Tent at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, Ontario. The hybrid tent/cabin is prefect for those who want a soft sided shelter and a little bit of comfort in the park #presquileprovincialpark #presquilepp #minkatent #ontarioparks #findyourselfhere #exploreOP #naturelovers #glamping #glampingwithkids #glampingnotcamping #autumncamping #fallcamping #autumnglamping #autumncamping

Autumn glamping in a Minka Tent at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, Ontario. The tent has one single mattress in a cool loft and two double mattresses. There is a small table and benches inside for eating and card games. Outside a propane BBQ and mini picnic table are on the deck. The tent is a short walk from a water tap and comfort station #presquileprovincialpark #presquilepp #minkatent #ontarioparks #findyourselfhere #exploreOP #naturelovers #glamping #glampingwithkids #glampingnotcamping #autumncamping #fallcamping #autumnglamping #getoutside #getoutstayout #wildernessculture #optoutside

If you have been following along for a while, you know that I would rather be camping. Check out some of my other outdoor adventures in Ontario Parks here:

Epic Hikes With Kids – Barron Canyon Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park

Yurt Winter Camping in Algonquin? Yes Please!

Glamping in Bonnechere Provincial Park

20 Photos That Will Inspire You To Snowshoe at MacGregor Point Provincial Park With Your Kids

Serpentine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – 20 Photos to Inspire You To Canoe That Route

Canoe Portage With Friends: How To Have A Successful Back Country Camping Trip

Island Inn Sanibel Island Review

Suites? Sand? Surf? Sunshine? From amazing suites for families to beautiful white sand to ocean breezes and Florida sun. Island Inn on Sanibel Island has it all. I vacationed there with my two kids, Miss M and Little Man for four nights in October of 2019.

We were gifted our accommodations at the Island Inn on Sanibel Island and with excursions while there. As always, opinions and fun times are always mine and those of my kids.

If you’d like to read about what to do on Sanibel Island with your family, check out this post here: Sanibel Island With Kids – What To Do and See

Island Inn’s claim to fame on Sanibel island is that it is the oldest Inn on the entire island. And of course, since it was the first, it’s also sitting on the best piece of seaside real estate. The best in terms of shelling activity. And the best in terms of the nicest 10 acres on the gulf (part of the beach).

Island Inn restaurant, Traditions on the Beach, on Sanibel Island, Florida as seen from the pool on property

The Accommodations at Island Inn on Sanibel Island

The Island Inn is made up of the main building with a restaurant and office, cottages with beach views and two wings with guest rooms and suites. Altogether, there is a mix of 49 accommodations are made up of five different hotel room types & cottages for guests to book.

The kids and I stayed for four nights in a Matthews Lodge Gulfview Luxury Suite. Naturally, we had a screened-in balcony that overlooked the gulf. My mornings were spent on the balcony drinking coffee. Miss M, who is now 10 years old, spent her time there drawing and writing when time permitted. We made a point of eating our dinner there a couple of times.

Island Inn Screened in balcony from our Matthews Lodge Gulfview Luxury Suite

This suite had 1 bedroom with a king-sized bed that we shared (despite there being a pull-out couch in the living room), 1 bathroom, a full kitchen, a combined living and dining room and all the technology hookups we could possibly need. USB chargers were bedside on the lamps.

Island Inn on Sanibel Island Matthews Lodge Gulfview Luxury Suite King Bed

Our room had a safe in the closet for our passports and I could fit my laptop in there too. There was a television in the living room with a ton of channels. We rarely watched the cable channels, to be honest as you could log into your Netflix account here.

Island Inn on Sanibel Island Matthews Lodge Gulfview Luxury Suite Living/Dining Room

Rarely do I ever volunteer myself to do the self-catering type of travel -as in the cooking and cleaning up after myself. However, after paying for dinner at the hotel restaurant the first night, I had zero issues with going to the grocery store and stocking up for the duration of our trip. Now that I am operating a single income household, I have to budget more carefully. Once I realized I could spend the equivalent on four days of groceries and toss in a bottle of wine for what I paid for dinner, it was a no brainer.

Island Inn kitchen in our Matthews Lodge Gulfview Luxury Suite

Hotel Restaurant

As mentioned above, there is a restaurant on-site – called Traditions on the Beach. It’s lovely for an evening out. The kids and I had a great dinner! My son tried oysters here for the first time. The prices are what I would call a premium, as in we only ate dinner there once. If you are staying at the hotel, you do get 15% off your overall bill. As guests of the hotel, we also had the option of going there for continental breakfast. The continental breakfast was fairly basic – toast, some fresh fruit, yogurts, coffee, tea. It got you going in the morning, but it wasn’t anything amazing. If you’re already paying for your hotel room, consider this a bonus.

For those of us who prefer to cook our meals, there are three BBQ grills on the property for use. You will need to bring your own BBQ utensils out with you.

Little Man eating oysters at Traditions On The Beach at Island Inn, Sanibel Island

Island Inn Amenities

Normally I find wifi at hotels weak. Not the case at the Island Inn. I had a solid connection for texting, emails and social media on the property. Once I got to the pool and beach, the signal was dropping.

My kids enjoying fun with pool noodles in the pool of Island Inn on Sanibel Island 2

Speaking of the pool, it was my kid’s favourite place to be during our stay. The pool had a few noodles left there to play with, there were ample deck chairs and seating options. It’s quaint, the deep end only being as deep as the top of my head. The temperature is a lovely 86 degrees all year round. There is no beach bar and no cabana boys, so bring your own libations.

My kids enjoying fun with pool noodles in the pool of Island Inn on Sanibel Island

Bikes, kayaks, paddleboards and beach umbrellas are all available to rent at a cost. There are coin-operated laundry facilities, a library full of books and shells so you can learn about the different species to be found along the beach.

There are horseshoe pits if you want to try your luck! Soccer and volleyballs can be borrowed from the office to play with.

Recreation and space available at island inn on sanibel island

Beach

The most obvious amenity at the Island Inn is the beach!  There’s something about the smell of saltwater that makes me feel at ease. That beach is home to spectacular sunsets and lots and lots of shells.

KathrynAnywhere selfie

Although I have to be honest and tell you that we did not get a chance to swim in the ocean during our stay. There was an instance of red tide in the water and air, so we only dipped our toes in and walked the shore.

Sunsets on the beach from Island Inn on Sanibel Island

Where is the Island Inn on Sanibel Island?

You’ll find the Island Inn on the south side of Sanibel Island. To get there, it’s best to fly into the airport in Fort Myers and drive to the hotel. Depending on traffic, the car ride will be about 40 minutes and you will have to pay a vehicle toll on the causeway.

It’s not a very walkable location unless your goal is to only walk along the beach and have hours to kill. In order to get to area restaurants and attractions, you will need a bicycle for shorter distances. A car is required to get off and back on the island.

Would We Return to the Island Inn?

If given the chance to return to Sanibel Island, I believe we would book our stay at the Island Inn. During our time there, it was quiet, the kids and I felt like we had all the space in the world to do what we wanted. It was truly safe and relaxing.

And for those of us hanging out at home and thinking about those Sanibel Island sunsets, be sure to check out the Sanibel Island Beach Cam for those to die for sunsets.

Suites? Sand? Surf? Sunshine? From amazing suites for families to beautiful white sand to ocean breezes and Florida sun. Island Inn on Sanibel Island has it all.  #sanibelisland #islandinn #floridavacation #southwestflorida #visitflorida #famiytravel #familyfriendly #familyespaces

Have the best family vacation at Island Inn on Sanibel Island. Island Inn’s claim to fame on Sanibel island is that it is the oldest Inn on the entire island. And of course, since it was the first, it’s also sitting on the best piece of seaside real estate #sanibelisland #floridavacation #islandinn #southwestflorida #familyfriendly #familyespaces

KathrynAnywhere is a participant in the Booking.com affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees upon guests booking reservations at the accommodations listed.

Sanibel Island With Kids – What To Do and See

Florida is traditionally a state that screams family travel. That and snowbirds who retire there, my late paternal grandparents being them! In my personal experience, most family travel has been to the area where an infamous mouse hangs out. It is true that growing up, a lot of time was spent in these magical and fairytale kingdoms. I wasn’t sure there was much else to see and do in Florida. I was blind to what else existed in the State. That is until I heard of the western side of the panhandle and more specifically – Sanibel Island. Once I heard of it, I wanted to know what there was to do on Sanibel Island with kids. Although I had never been before, I knew I wanted to take Miss M and Z Man.

It turns out, there are plenty of things to do on Sanibel Island with kids. There are activities that appeal to all age groups and makes for a really nice family vacation. I found in my time there that Sanibel Island is like a magical place with tropical overgrown brush, no street lights and rumours of manatee sighting abound.

Enjoying the beach at Sanibel Island with my kids

Where is Sanibel Island?

Sanibel Island is an island on the west of the Florida panhandle. It is located in Lee County and the easiest way to get there from Toronto is to fly to Fort Myers, rent a car and go. The island is approximately a 30-45 minute drive depending on traffic and time of day. There is a toll to be paid of $6.00 to gain entry to the island in a regular vehicle.

What To Do and See on Sanibel Island With Kids

Shelling

Sanibel Island takes shelling very seriously! And shells of all different textures, shapes, and sizes show up on the shores here. It’s perfectly legal and encouraged to head down to the beach with a bucket and scoop up as many beauties as you can. Just make sure there is nothing living inside of the shell. If there is, put it back. My kids spent hours walking up and down the beach from our hotel doing shelling. We only took a handful home with us as I didn’t want to break them in our luggage.

Shelling is serious business on Sanibel Island!

Swimming

You are in warm weather and you are on the ocean, so why not indulge in the water and cool off? Toddlers, kids, and teens will all want to partake in this activity. If the ocean is a little to rough for your likes, be sure to be booked at a hotel with a pool for guests to use because you will want it!

Sanibel Island With Kids - Little Man swimming with his floaties in the morning at Island Inn in Sanibel Island

See the Lighthouse

If you like a bit of history in your travels, then be sure to pay a visit to the lighthouse on the eastern tip of Sanibel Island. This is the first lighthouse north of the Keys. First lit in 1884, the area around the lighthouse is open to public, but the lighthouse itself is not. Once you’re there, walk down the dock and see if the local fisherman are having any luck. You might spot a dolphin or two from there. Look up and see if you can observe some ospreys or pelicans.

The Sanibel Island lighthouse - or Point Ybel Light was one of the first lighthouses on Florida's Gulf coast north of Key West and the Dry Tortugas.

Watch Sunsets

Florida sunsets are truly like none other in existence. For the 4 nights we were there, we stood on the beach of the hotel and observed and gave thanks that was our view.

Florida sunsets are the most inspiring I have ever seen. Especially Sanibel Island sunsets.

J.N. Ding Wildlife Preserve

The Visitor and Education Centre offers free admission and is open every day except holidays from 9:00 am-4:00 pm year-round.

“Ding” Darling is known as one of the best places to visit for birding. there is a wildlife refuge that you can either take a guided tram or drive yourself through. We opted to drive ourselves. The wildlife refuge is open every day except Fridays.

My kids walking up to J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge visitor centre entrance on Sanibel Island in Florida

Here is a story about patience. The kids were told that if they waited and were quiet, there’s a good chance they could spot a manatee somewhere in the wildlife refuge. We got to one area and a couple said they had heard one there and were waiting. The kids waited for 5 minutes and wanted to go. We stopped a few other places along the way to see birds and a gator. Our next stop was rumoured to be the place to see the manatee. The kids waited long enough for the picture to be taken and then wanted to run back to see if we could see a snake again that had crossed our path. That night in bed? Cue the tears. They didn’t see a manatee. Parenting lesson learned? You should get an annual pass to the wildlife refuge.

KathrynAnywhere and her kids at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

Captain Bob’s Excellent Adventure Day Safari

The kids and I did an Everglades Gator and bird spotting tour with Everglades Day Safari – Fort Myers in an airboat. The gator viewing wasn’t plentiful, there were a few eyes popping up here and there, but it certainly was exciting to try to see them!

checking out the wildlife in the everglades of florida

Here’s something I wouldn’t have done as a kid… Hold boas, king snakes, pythons, alligators… But our day guide Rhett? He had Little Man and Miss M jumping to be first in line the whole time.

Miss M and Little Man holding a boa with Rhett, our day safari guide

He was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the reptiles that live in the Everglades, the kids couldn’t help but be into it. Definitely worth a half-day trip adventure. Note – you will have to head back into Fort Myers to get picked up by there van for this excursion.

Miss M holding a baby alligator with Captain Bob's Excellent day safaris in Fort Myers, Florida.

 

Where To Eat on Sanibel Island With Kids?

When travelling with my kids, I have to know where the good ice cream places are! The two ice cream places we tried on Sanibel Island are Joey’s Custard and Love Boat Ice Cream. Tip for Canadians – Tim Horton’s coffee is served at Joey’s Custard! Joey’s Custard is located at 2467 Periwinkle Way. Love Boat Ice Cream is at 1700 Periwinkle Way in the Plaza with the big Jerry’s grocery store.

One day we went for a later brunch at the Lighthouse Cafe, which was very busy! It’s always a good sign when a place is packed on a weekday.

As I am a big craft beer aficionado, I had to hit up Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille. Located at 2100 Island Inn Road, I was able to try a couple of beers brewed in the Fort Myers area. Unfortunately for me, there are no craft breweries on the island. We also had dinner there and the kids were super happy with their chicken fingers.

Since the island is only 12 miles long, it’s not a far distance to get to any of these places from wherever you are staying.

Little Man enjoying his ice cream from Love Boats in Sanibel Island

Where To Stay on Sanibel Island With Kids?

We stayed at the Island Inn, the very first hotel on the island. It’s located right on the beach in the premier spot for shelling. We had a lodge gulf view luxury suite with a full kitchen for cooking and a screened-in balcony for dining and spending evenings listening to the water. The bedroom had a king-size bed which was amazingly spacious to sleep in with the kids since we currently share a double bed at home. I would absolutely stay there again.

Convinced to travel to Sanibel Island and check out the cool things to do in there? Check out the accommodation options for your dates through my booking.com affiliate search box:

 



Booking.com

And always remember, Florida can be very HOT! Always make sure to bring plenty of water in your backpack or day bag, wear sunscreen, please wear hats, apply bug spray, and wear comfortable walking shoes when doing day trips or walking about.

Island Inn on Sanibel Island

Do You Need A Car on Sanibel Island?

I definitely enjoyed having a rental car while we were on Sanibel Island. I picked it up from the airport in Fort Myers when we landed and there was at least one day where we did not leave the hotel and therefore did not use it. As my kids are only 5 and 10 and we would have to pay to rent bikes anyway if we opted to cycle around the island, it made sense for us to have to get groceries. I personally would not have felt sage cycling after sunset, so driving was a better evening option for us. Having a car made getting to Fort Myers quick and easy as well.

Red Tide

I would also be remiss to not mention Red Tide. Red Tide is a name given to an algae that are harmful to fish and humans. The occurrence of Red Tide is when simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control. Every single coastal state in the U.S. has reported red tide and the cause is primarily pollution – chemicals in the water. When the red tide is high, dead fish wash up on shore, some shellfish is unsafe to eat and humans, especially those with asthma, have trouble breathing. There was a mild red tide when we visited. Smaller dead fish washed up and we had mild coughs when spending extended periods of time on the beach and shore area. Once we left the beach area, we stopped coughing.

Not a single person I spoke to in the area seems to be concerned about Red Tide and carried on with business as usual. One person mentioned that it comes from “Alabama”. As a visitor, that attitude is somewhat concerning to me and in the future, I’d like to see some efforts in place and real discussion about red tide and the time of year when it’s low and high, and how to prevent it from happening.

 

We were gifted our accommodations at the Island Inn on Sanibel Island and with excursions while there. As always, opinions and fun times are always mine and those of my kids.

KathrynAnywhere is a participant in the Booking.com affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees upon guests booking reservations at the accommodations listed.

What to do and what to see on Sanibel Island with kids. Enjoy sunsets, shelling, abundant wildlife and birding, great ice cream, and more! #sanibelisland #floridavacation #southwestflorida #visitflorida #nationalwildliferefuge #periwinklepark #sanibel #shells #famiytravel #familyfriendly #familyespaces

Why you should take a family vacation on Sanibel Island. Enjoy sunsets, shelling, abundant wildlife and birding, great ice cream, and more! #sanibelisland #floridavacation #southwestflorida #visitflorida #nationalwildliferefuge #periwinklepark #sanibel #shells #famiytravel #familyfriendly #familyespaces

Windsor Film Festival and Girls Weekend Getaway

Some women run off to the spa for a weekend getaway to indulge in pampering. I’ve tried doing that and it’s fun. However, it’s not my idea of a getaway when I need a girl’s weekend. For some of us, our idea of a fun time away involves distillery and brewery tours and the opening weekend of a film festival. My friend, Kasia from Kasia Writes and I traveled from Toronto to Windsor, Ontario to attend the 15th Annual Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) opening weekend. Our extra highlights included touring and tasting at the J.P. Wiser Distillery and Walkerville Brewery. Of course, we ate and drank our way around Windsor too! It’s not every day we get to see where 80% of Canada’s whiskey is made and then taste it on site.

Kasia and I on the J.P. Wiser's Distillery experience tour. We are inside where 80% of the whiskey in Canada is made.

The Windsor Film Festival

The Windsor Film Festival 2019 is a cultural event that is now in its 15th year! So that’s fifteen years of running Canadian and international films. Fifteen years of showcasing international films and filmmakers. Fifteen years of bringing exceptional experiences through film to Windsor. That means fifteen years of the people of Windsor enjoying all that the film festival has to offer. And of venues being transformed into movie theatres.

It’s by no means the size or scope of the Cannes Film Festival or SXSW Film Festival. But, if it wasn’t offering value, it wouldn’t still be going. So safe to say, it’s getting bigger and better every year. WIFF 2019 is the biggest yet.

Windsor International Film Festival marquee sign just outside of St. Clair College in Winsdor.

Where Is Windsor?

Windsor is the farthest southwest area of Ontario. The city is on the Detroit River and faces the city of Detroit, Michigan. There are a couple access points to the United States. It’s approximately a 4.5-hour train ride or a 4-hour drive from Toronto depending on traffic.

Did you know that Windsor, Ontario is known as the Rose City? Windsor was chosen to promote the heritage of new English settlers in the city and to recognize Windsor Castle in England.

Windsor has a reputation for being gritty and scrappy. The automotive industry that powered Windsor for so long has tanked over the years. Chrysler, Ford, and GM are not the money makers they once were and therefore Winsdor has not been as prosperous. The downtown area fell on hard times. Windsor also has not been known as a destination to visit. Although lately, it’s going through a period of regrowth.

No longer only known for auto manufacturing, the downtown core has some modern and trendy bars and restaurants going up. The surrounding area is seeing wineries sprout up and prosper.

Windsor marquee artwork as seen in the lobby of the Marriot Towneplace Suites, Windsor

 

Friday – Day 1

Friday morning, we boarded a 6:45 am Via Rail train from Toronto to Windsor. It was shortly after 11:00 when we arrived in Windsor.

First stop – lunch! We hit Grand Cantina in the Ford City area of Windsor. Ford City is a newly developing area close to the train station. The restaurant, Grand Cantina is described as a Central American and South Asian fusion street food joint. I’m a sucker for a good taco and the tacos I had there are the bomb.

The tacos I ate in Grand Cantina, Ford City, Windsor.

Too bad it was too early for tequila.

It was on this street corner that Grand Cantina is located that we noticed the presence of some amazing street art and then we saw it everywhere.

The first street art I noticed in Windsor, Ontario. Across the street from Grand Cantina in Ford City, Windsor

Street Art

I was on a work trip to Windsor at the beginning of October. I did not have time to explore then and did not get a feel for the city, but I did notice the street art. Strolling around the downtown core, it was hard to miss. And it’s outstanding. The street art that is found around Windsor is not messy graffiti. Every mural tells a story from the history of the auto workers to the present day of unifying races. Toronto folk are tough to impress and I’m impressed.

An homage to the autoworkers of Windsor, Ontario in street art. Ford City area of Windsor, Ontario.

Who knew that Windsor was such a hotbed for artistic talent? Straight up, Windsor has a reputation of being gritty and scrappy. Let’s just get it out of the way that Windsor has seen some ups and downs throughout its life. Currently, the Walkerville area is seeing huge gentrification and is attracting a lot of buyers to the housing market. The downtown core has some modern and trendy bars and restaurants opening up. Both the University of Windsor and St. Clair College have opened campuses in the downtown area. It seems like Rose City is about to bloom.

Did you know that Windsor, Ontario is known as the Rose City? Windsor was chosen to promote the heritage of new English settlers in the city and to recognize Windsor Castle in England. Straight up, Windsor has a reputation for being gritty and scrappy. Although lately it’s going through a period of regrowth. No longer only known for auto manufacturing, the downtown core has some modern and trendy bars and restaurants going up. This amazing mural can be found in WIFF Alley!

Me, posing as street art in Windsor, Ontario

J.P. Wiser Distillery Tour

From Grand Cantina, we took an Uber down to the Walkerville area. Destination: the J.P. Wiser Distillery for a behind the scenes tour and experience. This Canadian institution of Hiram Walker’s legacy has been in operation since before Canada was even a county and long before we paid taxes. And this is where 80% of whiskey in Canada is made. J.P. Wiser’s is not the only brand made here. They can not tell us what other brands are made there because some are competition!

selection of whiskey in J.P. Wiser's distillery bar in the shop

At J.P. Wiser’s you learn all about the steep and rich history of whiskey is not just the Windsor area, but also throughout Canada. We had a guide for the group – obviously, we cannot just wander aimlessly! While hearing the stories of prohibition in Windsor and Detroit, how this location was selected over Detroit or anywhere else and the industry of whiskey, you’re taken through the cooking, fermentation, and distillation process.

Me on the J.P. Wiser's Distillery Tour in Windsor, Ontario

I can’t give away too much of the information, because it’s very top secret. You need to take the tour to learn about how they distill the rye, wheat, corn, and barley and how those grains are milled to a fine flour.  but I did get to stick my finger into the “mash”, which is distilled corn. It tasted awful. I seriously need to stop volunteering to do things first.

The Mash in J.P. Wiser's distillery

When the time came to sample four different kinds of whiskey in the tasting room, it was like years of sweet history in my mouth. We tasted J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe, J.P. Wiser’s 15-year-old, Lot 40 and Pike Creek. I think Lot 40 was my favourite. I completely lacked all appreciation for how to properly taste whiskey prior to this tour. It’s art!

The whiskey tasting selection at J.P. Wiser's distillery experience - we tasted J.P. Wiser's Deluxe, J.P. Wiser's 15 year old, Lot 40 and Pike Creek.

WIFF Themed Cocktails

After checking into our sweet accommodations at the Marriot Townplace Suites, it was time for pre-show cocktails at Maiden Lane Wine & Spirits. Each night of the film festival, Maiden Lane is serving up a special WIFF 2019 cocktail. The night Kasia and I visited, they were serving up the “Rose”. Paired with a charcuterie board for me and vegetarian snacks for Kasia and we were happy ladies out for a night on the town in Windsor!

Maiden Lane specialty cocktail "the Rose" for Windsor Film Festival 2019

Windsor Film Festival Opening Night

Walking north on Ouellette Street to the Chrysler Theatre on Friday night, Windsor has a buzz in the air, there is excitement! Could it be because WIFF was named the number one volunteer-run film festival in the country? Or that there is about to be 21 local films in the programming calendar showcasing how much talent comes from the area? Or that 42 films selected for the festival are Francophone of that 46 films were shown at TIFF, one of the world’s leading film festivals showing off how strong the selections were that WIFF volunteers were able to attract.

Also, a really cool fact about the Windsor Film Festival is that all the venues where the screenings take place have been transformed for this use as they actually aren’t theatres.

St. Clair College transformed into a venue for the Windsor Film Festival

The opening night, Kasia and I attended Les Invisibles at the Chrysler Theatre in the St. Clair Centre For The Arts, a French film from France heavy on the feminist anthem, with a side of comedy and a feel-good theme of empowerment. It follows homeless women who transform their lives.

WIFF 2019 promo material

Following the opening night party, we journeyed over to the Capitol Theatre through WIFF Alley for a screening of Slut… In A Good Way. What a delightful surprise that film was – hilarious feature movie out of Quebec of a teenage girl getting over her ex-boyfriend by getting under numerous other males in her workplace. I had not heard of either film before I saw them in the program and I can say I would recommend both of them if you see them on Netflix or any other streaming network you subscribe to.

Capitol Theatre in Windsor, transformed for use during WIFF

What is WIFF Alley?

WIFF Alley is an amazing corridor of art and culture as a tribute to the film festival in the alleyway north from University Street, almost right in front of the Capitol Theatre. The transformation to this alleyway includes lights and was made possible as a joint project between local businesses and the City Of Windsor. 

WIFF alley mural at night in Windsor, Ontario

Saturday – Day 2

After an amazing sleep in our really comfortable queen-sized beds at the Townplace Marriot and having a great hot continental breakfast in the lobby, I was up and out for the screening of I’m Going to Break Your Heart. It is a documentary on the martial struggles of Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk through the creation of their newest musical collaboration. You don’t need to be fans of these Canadian musical legends to relate to this film and what the couple is going through after 19 years together. Hi, getting a divorce right here.

I can say this, as a documentary and television editor, I know there are a million and one ways you can slice and dice the moments that were captured in the midst of their creative process and in their couples counseling sessions. I don’t like seeing reviews or reading too much about films before I see them, but I did read an interview after with Raine and Chantal that pretty much said they fired three editors who made it look like they hated each other and were amping up the conflict. I’m going to say that often the editors are not the problem and if three editors saw the conflict in a certain way that you don’t agree with, well…

Lunch at Bread Meats Bread was fast and delicious. This is one of those trendy new restaurants resurging Windsor’s downtown core. Bread Meats Bread is a little gem gleaming in the rubble. Once we finished up my Italian Job sandwich and Kasia’s salad, it was off to a screening of Last Call.

The salad Kasia had at Break Meats Bread.

Last Call and Scotch: A Golden Dream

Last Call is a Windsor made, intense and dark film about a suicidal alcoholic who accidentally dials a wrong number trying to call a helpline. I think, and I’m sorry if I speak out of turn on this, that a lot of us find stories like this hitting close to home. Without divulging too many of my own family secrets, I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of a family member looking for help. I found myself halfway through the film on the edge of my seat, desperate to see what happened next. The emotions felt at the end of this were tough to compartmentalize.

The director, Windsor’s Gavin Michael Booth, was there for a Q&A and chat after the film, so it’s nice to see the hometown hero do well.

Windsor's Gavin Michael Booth, director of Last Call on stage answering questions after the screening of his film at the Windsor Film Festival on Saturday, November 2, 2019.

Almost immediately after, we turned to the delightful documentary Scotch: A Golden Dream. This was the sleeper comedy hit for me. Scottish men are funny. Especially ones who make Scotch. None of them looked like they belong in the Outlander, but I’ll forgive that. You will too if you see the film. And kid you not, someone has a nose insured for 2 million pounds. You’ll learn about that in the film. So see it!

After our education on the who’s who of the Scotch industry in Scotland, we make out way to Vito’s Pizzeria in Walkersville for an authentic Italian Wood fried pizza and pasta for dinner. It is really cool to see the nightlife out of the downtown core of Windsor. This restaurant was packed and when we left, there was a line up at the door waiting to get in. The blossoming rose, I’m telling you…

Vito's Pizzeria pizza

Saturday Night Is Alright…

A quick Uber ride back to downtown brought us to Craftheads for a flight of Windor’s finest craft beer. This is the place to go to find the collection of all that is craft and local.

Then, over to the Capitol Theatre for David Crosby; Remember My Name, a raw throwback to the musical for sex, drugs and rock and roll. And by the sounds of it, it was a lot of sex and a lot of drugs with familiar musical characters like Joanie Mitchell and Momma Cas showing up in the archival film that illustrated the scene so well. David Crosby says he has no idea how he is still alive. Like Keith Richards, I guess. Music fans of the 1960s and ’70s will enjoy the neighbourhood tour Crosby takes the viewers on. He recaps his triumphs, regrets, and shows where the iconic Joanie Mitchell window picture was taken.

The rest of the moviegoers attended Parasite. Parasite is a Korean film that could be the front runner for the People’s Choice award. 

Frame on screen from David Crosby; Remember My Name, screening at Windsor Film Festival

Sunday – Day 3

 Lucky for us, the opening weekend of the Windsor International Film Festival coincided with daylight savings time and the clocks falling backward on Sunday morning. For us, that meant an extra hour of sleep. Since I’m a Mom and I was enjoying a weekend away from my kids, that’s a welcome reprieve. It allowed me the opportunity to actually get up, have coffee and be on time for the 9:00 am screening of La Belle Epoque on a Sunday. Really thought-provoking for a Sunday morning too. See this film well-caffeinated.

Once that finished, it was over to The Squirrel Cage for Windsor’s most amazing brunch in Maiden Lane. You know a place is good when you walk in and there’s a line-up of locals all bustling and jonesing to get in. The food, atmosphere, and service does not disappoint. Hands down, this is where you want to go in the morning for a chill time. The meal was great, service excellent and space offers some home decor inspiration. The wooden tables have me lusting for a dining room makeover. 

My brunch at the Squirrel Cage on Maiden Lane in Windsor, Ontario

With still a few hours to go before our 5:45 pm train home to Toronto, we took in Willie. Willie is the story of hockey great Willie O’Ree, the first African Canadian player in the NHL. It chronics the long road of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s a wonderful profile of the man, his legendary career and his continued work with coloured youth and hockey.

Walkerville Brewery

With a bit more time left before our train, we knew we had to hit up the Walkerville Brewery. Walkerville Brewery is a craft brewery in the area developed by Hiram Walker over 150 years ago. In fact, this craft brewery is in a building that once housed whiskey distillation. Geographically, it’s not far from J.P. Wiser’s at all. One of the brewery partners, Ian was kind enough to show us around! We pretty much started in whiskey barrels at the J.P. Wiser’s experience and ended our weekend in them too! Yes, that’s right, there are used whiskey barrels housing stout beer. This is part of a brewmaster technique to flavour their special brew.

I'm living my best life in Walkerville Brewery, between barrels of stout.

And all I can say about that beer is wow! Nose that stout beer like you nose a whiskey or scotch and be impressed. They have three types of stout beer currently in their manufacture – the milk stout, the Russian imperial which is a seasonal, limited edition as well as Road Block Dopplebock. The taste is a rich vanilla and heavy smokey barrel with a whiskey splash on the tongue. It was unlike any stout beer I’ve ever drank in my life. This is also Walkerville Brewery’s first year doing cider. Ian was eager to share his new knowledge on which apples are the best and the techniques they are using to perfect their formula.

Amazing stout beer (red block doppleblock) at Walkerville Brewery, Windsor

Ending our Windsor Film Festival girl’s weekend at Walkerville Brewery was an absolutely perfect wrap up. Let’s be real – it was because we were able to purchase cans of beer to take home with us on the train! I had every intention of enjoying them later in the week, but it’s off to Latvia for me!

Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island compensated me for my coverage of the opening weekend of the Windsor Film Festival. Opinions are always mine.

My friend, Kasia from Kasia Writes and I traveled from Toronto to Windsor, Ontario to attend the 15th Annual Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) opening weekend. Our extra highlights included touring and tasting at the J.P. Wiser Distillery and Walkerville Brewery. Of course, we ate and drank our way around Windsor too!How to WIFF 2019 like a local - where to eat and drink in Windsor Ontario and taking in the Windsor Film Festival (WIFF) for a girls getaway weekend!

I don’t really travel much with my friends (as in I have not really blogged about it), but perhaps you’d like to read about What You Need to Know About West Bay, Roatan, Honduras or Why I Do Adventure Self Care (Without My Kids)

The Art of Escapism

I’m in Sanibel Island, Florida with my children on a planned-well-in-advance trip. Sitting down at dinner at the hotel restaurant on our first night, the server asks if we’re celebrating anything. Miss M exclaims “my mom is getting divorced!” Kids say the darndest things, don’t they? I had never made light of this situation to them and I do not suspect their father has either, but here we are.

It has been just over a week since I sat down with my children and with their father and together, the adults delivered the news to the children that we would be getting divorced in the new year.

I have been sleeping with kids in their double bed for the better part of a couple of years. No, it’s not comfortable. The kids travel solo with me primarily. Or I am commonly found practicing the art of escapism. I’m not sure if the tendency to escape from the real world to the security of a fantasy world in another land is entirely healthy. The repeated actions of doing so month after month, year after year have increased is wearing me down.

Escapism Versus Reality

It was rare that my children’s father and I went anywhere together, ever. Family outings with all four of us were not something we did with joy. I’m not going to get into who did what and why, but my husband and I grew apart a long time ago. Our social lives became separate over the years with new sets of friends on each side that never crossed with the spouse. We really separated a long time ago, but hid it from the kids and created this facade of a “normal” life for the kids. Except it was anything but normal. We resided in the same house, just down the hall from each other when I was home. However, you could say we acted more like acquaintances more than anything.

What’s a professional’s take on the art of escapism? Read more on that here: The Art of Escapism for People Suffering a Reality Overdose

I went into hiding more and more. And by hiding, I was always in a location you could find, just away. I was trying to fill the void of how lonely I was for years by running headfirst into the places I would wanderlust for. I accepted assignments that took me farther from living the lie I was entangled in. The art of escapism to me was sleeping in comfy hotel beds, canoeing with friends and shutter bugging my way through Europe for the second time in the first half of this year.

However, the news did surprise the children and there were definite tears and confusion. And sadness. With Miss M’s sadness comes her trying to make light of the situation. I know that tactic well. Deflect to humour to cover up what’s really going on. Little Man is having laughing fits that are forced and loud and inevitably will turn to tears if his sister looks at him the wrong way.

walking to the beach from island inn

Being In The Moment

I’m spending a few solid days with the kids on the beach here. Not escaping, but being in the moment. Letting them ask questions about the future. I am assuring the kids that after I wrap up my travels in the coming month, I’m “grounded” for them while their dad transitions to a new home. I’m keeping their bedroom the same, but I’m moving out of their bed.

For me, I get to be more honest and real now that my children know what the reality is. I have not spoken or have writen publically about my relationships or my private life. Maybe my kids will want to hear more of my stories now. Maybe they won’t in the short term, but the ability to be candid will be refreshing.

I feel like a huge load has lifted from my shoulders. Even though the kids are going to go through a rough patch, even though I have some worries about finances, managing a household on a single income or with my hectic schedule and running my business.

Being truthful and open is one hundred times more freeing.

Enjoying the beach at Sanibel Island with my kids

 

Read some of my recent adventures without my kids here:
Why I Do Adventure Self Care (Without My Kids)

Club Med Les Arcs Panorama – Summer Fun In The French Alps

Canoe Portage With Friends: How To Have A Successful Back Country Camping Trip

Serpentine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – 20 Photos to Inspire You To Canoe That Route

Or read about that time I took my kids to Europe and realized that solo parent adventures were my new reality:

The Nighttime Loneliness Of Solo Parent Vacations

Canoe Portage With Friends: How To Have A Successful Back Country Camping Trip

My camping and canoe portage with my awesome friends and fellow travel writers was taken with The Land Canadian Adventures on The Serpentine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and was hosted by Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism.

Canoe portage and camping go hand in hand. Like peanut butter and jelly. Mix in some of your best friends and suddenly it’s the best trip ever… or is it?

There is a ton of planning that goes into making a camping and canoe portage with friends successful. Food, tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear, washroom habits all need to be taken into account and planned accordingly. You could decide to do this trip with a couple of your closest friends and return enemies if it doesn’t go according to plan.

Camping and canoe portage with friends, Kim and Chris in canoe on Serpentine Lake in Kawartha Highlands PP

Canoe Portage With Friends

Luckily, my friends (Kim from Walkaboot Travel, Ryan from Out With Ryan, Chris from TravelingMitch and my steady stern, Kevin from The Wandering Wagars) and I survived and thrived on one of these fabled camping and canoe portages and you can read all about the Serpentine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park here. We returned home closer friends than when we left. Want to know how we did it? Read on!

Kevin from The Wandering Wagars and Kathryn from KathrynAnywhere relaxing during a canoe portage with friends in Kawartha highlands Provincial Park

Pick a location like Kawarthas Highlands Provincial Park

This newest Ontario Park is made for adventures, canoes portages, and back-country campers. It’s also home of some of the best sunrises and sunsets Ontario has to offer those who wander. Be sure to reserve your sites in advance and obtain a park map with portage routes for ultimate success.

KathrynAnywhere, the author happy be to on a canoe portage with friends

Rent the gear and camping equipment you need from an outfitter like The Land Canadian Adventures

Even better, take along a couple of their guides too. It’s a safe bet to ensure you don’t get lost, have someone who will bring a guitar and sing campfire songs with you and know how to cook gourmet food in the wilderness. The guides are expert canoe paddlers who can help you sharpen your own paddle skills as well. The Land will have everything you need from dry bags to keep your camera gear waterproof to sleeping bags and tents to barrels for food and all your cooking gear and they’re super cool people too.

Canoes packed with food barrels and dry bags with tent, sleeping bags ready for push off

See Our Day 1 Video blog here:

Figure out your roles ahead of time

Pick a paddling partner and know who is going to be the bow and who is going to be the stern. Experience counts here, I don’t recommend that you put two novice paddlers in one canoe together. If you’re all inexperienced on the water, in a canoe or don’t feel comfortable, hop in a canoe with your guide. If you’re the designated picture taker, be the bow and let your steady stern do all the work! Well, help them out sometimes, but the bow is typically in charge of taking all the selfies of the both (or trio) of you. Switch roles now and then if you can.

My steady stern, Kevin Wagar from the Wandering Wagars in our canoe in Serpentine Lake.

Pull your weight in gear

That means when you are in the midst of portaging overland from each body of water, make sure that no one is left making 3 or 4 trips across carrying the canoes and all the gear when you are making just one trip. That’s the fastest way to wreck your friend’s backs and shoulders and they will resent you for it. Unless they tell you it’s okay. Even then, it’s not really okay for you to slack off.

Kevin Wagar carried the canoe on our portage every time.

Get a poop bag

Nothing can ruin friendships faster than not keeping up with each other’s excavation habits. In Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, the campsites have a wooden poop box removed a hundred or so feet away from the campsite. What you need to do is make sure that a dry bag with hand sanitizer and toilet paper is positioned along the pathway from the campsite to the poop box. If the bag is gone, you know someone is indisposed and you won’t call for them. If the bag is there, game on for you to go do your business, no discussion on the topic required!

The poop box. Better than no poop box when back country camping. Photo by Ryan Thomas Woods.

See Our Day 2 Video blog here:

Be a good tent mate

If you snore, don’t share a tent with the person who is a light sleeper. See, your canoe and paddle partner do not necessarily have to be your tent mates! While my friend, Kevin and I spent 4 days together in a canoe, we thankfully slept far apart. In completely different tents. I shared a tent with Kim and Ryan. Kim was paddling with Chris. Ryan boat hopped between canoes with our guides.

Kat puts together the tent, Kim looks cute stuffed in a dry bag. Photo by Ryan Thomas Woods from Out With Ryan

Help prepare food

Nothing is worse than that person sitting around and watching the sunset every time while the same people cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sharing is caring! Share the meal preperation (as long as you don’t poison your friends) and clean up duties for a harmonious meal!

Kevin from Wandering Wagars preparing lunch while camping

Take The Time To Watch The Sunset Together

Nothing is more magical than magic hour. By magic hour, I mean that time of the evening when the sun turns everything a golden hue. When the lighting is best on everyone. When you can all sit in silence and awe of the beauty surrounding you. This is the time of day where no one needs to talk, shhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

sunset on north rathbun lake in kawartha highlands provincial park

Hide the Pictures The Need Hiding

Hiding pictures that shouldn’t see the light of day goes without saying. Like this one:

Chris Mitchell from Traveling Mitch hanging precariously between two canoes

And this one because no one needs to see this:

Strange waterfall picture of Kat from KathrynAnywhere with Chris and Kevin. Photo by Chris Mitchell from Traveling Mitch

Yes that’s me.

At the end of the trip, reflect on what made the trip awesome and what could be improved for next time. Once you do this canoe portage with friends once and do it well, you’ll want to do it again and again and again! Happy camping!

End of canoe portage selfie of Chris, Kat, Kevin, Ryan and Kim. Photo by Chris Mitchell of Traveling Mitch.

Endnote – yes conflict does arise when you’re out in the wilderness with five very different and strong personalities. The inherent fear that we would each blast the others on social media kept us in check.

Just kidding!

We’re actually all cool people and discuss things like adults despite our ability to react extremely quickly.

Canoe portage with friends, how to have a good trip when you all come back alive #canada #paddling #canoeing #ontario #canoeportage #canoeing #camping #ontarioparks #backcountrycamping #outdoors #kawarthahighlands

How to have a successful camping and canoe portage with friends. These tips will guarantee your friendship for years to come! #canada #paddling #canoeing #ontario #canoeportage #canoeing #camping #ontarioparks #backcountrycamping #outdoors #kawarthahighlands

I’m no stranger to experiences in Ontario Parks. You can read up on my other camping and glamping trips here:

Epic Hikes With Kids – Barron Canyon Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park

Yurt Winter Camping in Algonquin? Yes Please!

Glamping in Bonnechere Provincial Park

Why I Took My Son Camping At MacGregor Point Provincial Park

20 Photos That Will Inspire You To Snowshoe at MacGregor Point Provincial Park With Your Kids

Serpentine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – 20 Photos to Inspire You To Canoe That Route