Niagara-on-the-Lake Valentines, The Prince Hotel

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With our wedding only 6 months away and planning starting to ramp up, Dan wanted to give me an extra special valentines treat this year. He kept everything a secret (which of course was killing me), and only told me what to pack and how long we were to be gone for. Earlier in the week I got a delivery from out wedding florist. It was a BEAUTIFUL bouquet of flowers. He had sent them early so they could decorate my desk throughout the week as we would be away all weekend for Valentines. And where did we escape to? Niagara-on-the-Lake!

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I have never been to Niagara-on-the-Lake. I had past through many times and gone to the Falls, but never stayed in this enchanting little town. Dan booked our nights stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel. As soon as we pulled in, I could feel tingles of excited but never in a million years did I expect what I saw when we walked in the front doors.

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No exaggeration, this is the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in. Last Fall we stayed in a 5-Star hotel in Beverly Hills and although that was posh beyond belief, this place was MADE for me.

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Prince of Wales stands as a landmark in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake. It has stood in this exact spot since 1864! It is a part of a chain of hotels called "Vintage Hotels" that features some of the best preserved hotels that retain their historic charm.

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The hotel is called the Prince of Wales in honour of the 1901 visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, who were later crowned King George V and Queen Mary. And their legacy can be seen all over the hotel. Painting of their reign are hung throughout the hallways and guest rooms and the essence of Victorian charm covers the floors, walls ad even ceilings.

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Its architectural style was that of the Second French Empire, seen most clearly in its mansard roof.

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Everything felt so regal. It was as if you became the same kind of royalty that his hotel was named after when you entered.

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Our suite was in the building the furthest away from reception but I didn't mind. It was a treat walking down all the corridors and exploring every little corner of this place.

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Our hotel room was the cutest little place. Even the rooms are decorated in the Victorian style with Tiffany stained glass lamps on either side of the room and paintings of young girls in frilly petticoats all over the place.

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We even had our own little fireplace that was the perfect thing to curl up in front of after coming in from the cold outdoors.

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One of my favourite things about this place was the corridor into the reception area. It was lined with replica paintings from famous flemish painters and other grand masters. Even the wallpaper was luxuriously embellished!

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The ornate frames seemed to grow and swell with overgrowth, as if they were living within these walls.

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After settling in, we headed off for a dip in the pool. Even the swimming area was decked out with Victorian designs. The shape of the pool reminded me of European bath houses.

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After a dip in the pool and a soak in the hot tub, we were off for our couples massage. Katie and Michael have an anniversary tradition of getting couples massages and I think Dan and I are slowly stealing this tradition for ourselves.

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We changed into our robes and made our way down to the spa. There we sat in lush leather chairs and sipped tea and coffee while we waited.

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Even the bathrooms down here were gorgeous. Delftware inspired porcelain sinks and wall tiles sparkled and real wooden doors with etched glass made up each stall.

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Even the room where we had our massage was as decadent as possible. It was perhaps the largest room I'd even been in for a massage but the opulence of the place simply added to the relaxation.

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After our massage and our little outing, we came back to the hotel for a 4-course Valentine's Dinner. Everything was perfection, but we perhaps had the best time being entertained by a couple fighting with the waiter beside us. We came him our condolences as they were the worst kind of people but it made for a very entertaining dinner.

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After too much wine and indulgence we tottered our way back to the room where there were roses and chocolate covered strawberries awaiting us. We ate them in front of the fire as night poured itself over our eyes.

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The next morning we ordered food to our room, not wanting to escape the warmth of our fireplace.

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I ordered a simple English Breakfast with a side of cinnamon biscuit and Dan chowed down on peanut butter pancakes.

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But like all things, there must be an ending. We begrudgingly packed up our things and headed out. It was no doubt the most romantic and luxurious weekend of my life - and I got to spend it with my favourite person in the world.

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Niagara Valentines: Visiting the Falls

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This year for Valentines, Dan surprised me with a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We stayed at the most beautiful hotel (post to come soon) and on Saturday we dove down to see the frozen Falls

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I haven't been to Niagara Falls since I was itty-bitty. I remember very clearly going to Marineland and a very very scary haunted house where someone grabbed my foot and my dad had to carry me out of there because I had not only peed my pants but also could not move because of fear. Suffice it to say, this trip was a lot more fun.

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The frozen falls were a site to see. It was a lot less busy than usual and we found a parking spot right near the entrance. We had the run of the place except for a few sparing other tourists. We stood on the giant balcony over the falls and watched as the ice would crack and groan againast cold. Large floating ice flows will fall over the edge, crashing below to a satisfying smash.

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It was cold though. There was no getting around that. We fought the cold but sipping on a few delicious cups of coffee and run back inside the complex near the falls to warm up then quickly run back outside.

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I always wonder who these signs are for?.....

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One of my favourite part of the day was ducking into the Restaurant on the Falls. It has a beautiful view of the falls from a mere meters away but with the comforts of being inside.

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We weren't hungry but we did decide to have a glass of wine and break out the magic cards. It was a great time just to get offline and play a few games with some delicious wine! The perfect end to this, or any, day.

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Summertime Adventures 2014

My summer of music continued with catching The Antlers at the Mod Club. As always, they were amazing. But I have to say, the older I get, the harder it seems to be able to block out all the annoying things that surround modern day concert going. People constantly filming the entire set with a huge iPads held up in the air, groups of kids chatting so loud you can barely hear the band, and rude people pushing themselves to the front of the stage with no thought or concern for those around them. I try as I might to keep these things  from ruining the night and just aim to focus on listening to the wonderful music in front of me. But sometimes that's easier said than done...

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The California kids, along with their lovely parents, came to visit this summer. It's always such a treat for Dan and I to spend some quality time with these quickly growing (and changing ) kids. Dan's heart is so full of love for those two and nothing warms my little heart more than to see him getting to play along with them.

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Mila is growing up so fast too! It's nice to be here to see her grow into such a little lady!

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Dan's birthday fell in the midst of the visiting relatives trip so in a not-so-secretive move, I attempted to plan a little surprise party for him. I think he sneakily knew something was up but for the most part, he was delighted to be surprised by the day in a blaze of birthday confetti.

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Hours earlier, I had had a pretty bad accident - a biker ran into me on the street - causing me the fall down less than graciously and essential tear my knee up in bloody mess of skin and bone. I was determined to get his birthday decorations and baking finished before he arrived and just wrapped it up in gauze, with a bit of tape and powered through. I 100% should have gone to the hospital but I guess hindsight is 20/20. Now I'm left with a less than lovely scar but it's a memory I'll not soon forget.

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The Summer of Music continued with more sweet melodies at the Turf Festival over in Fort York, just a short walk down from our house. For the few years it's been going on, we've frequently sat on the balcony listening the music which would always creep across the city and over to our apartment, but this year, with the awesome bands that were set to perform at the festival, we couldn't pass up an opportunity to go to the event in person.

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July Talk and Gogol Bordello were the highlights of the day for us. Despite an early show, July Talk brought so much energy and enthusiasm to the park. They are the sexiest duosome alive, in my humble opinion, and seeing them perform on stage sometimes feel like peeking inside their bedroom. It's almost voyeuristic and that, in addition to their incredible vocals, always makes for an unbelievable show. Gogol Bordello is somewhat similar in that their performance enhances the already incredible music they produce. They showered up with wine, got us up on our feet and most wonderful of all, put this huge smile on my face the entire time.

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Although not always a yearly tradition, Sarah D and I try to get out, when we can, to see a show in Stratford. It's something that always make the month feel more the like summer when we do it. This year Zoe and Dan joined up on our trip out there. We stopped over at St. Jacob's Market to pick up some delicious goodies to enjoy when we arrived at our destination. St. Jacob's is such a neat little place. If only it was closer, I would much rather walk through the outdoor vendors in this less than over crowded area than struggled through the packed street of Kensington of tourist filled St. Lawrence Market.

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We arrived in Stratford a few hours before the show started to feast on our findings along the river and afterwards just wandered around the city, enjoying the sights and sounds of this historic village.

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We went to see King Lear and although Zoe, our resident Shakespeare nerd, was disappointed in the production, I thought it was acceptably compelling. The acting I thought was wonderful, and as always the set design and costuming were superb. It was so nice to get some quality time with Sarah as she was just on the cusp of heading off to Glasgow, where she would be studying for the next year. This kind of trip makes me realize how much I'll miss her. But I keep telling myself she'll be back soon and we'll get to go to Stratford together once more.

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Elvis Fest is always a HUGE event in Collingwood. I usually try and avoid being up at the cottage during the raucous but this year, we happened to find ourselves, unknowingly, up there at the same time and seeing as this was the "Summer of Music" we couldn't help but head on downtown and see what all the fuss was about.

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Elvis Fest is, I have to say, one of the strangest things I've experienced. Old women from all over the continent come to gawk, scream and flaunt themselves in front of men dressed as Elvis from every period of his life: old, young, fat, skinny and everything in between. Some of the Elvis impersonators are spot on, others seems like they're barely trying. But no matter how odd or off kilter, no one seems to care. It was, in some almost spiritual way, a form of worship to their fall idol.

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The best part of the day out at the Fest was watching the Elvis Parade. Old fashioned cars from all different eras cruised down main street. Inside the cars were all sorts of different Elvis impersonators waving to their adoring fans. It was so cool to see all those vintage cars accented with the strangest of men inside the interiors.

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When we got back to Toronto, we were treated to what I feel is my version of the Elvis idol, Nick Cave. Everything about him and his music seems to speak to my soul on some level. I might be a late comer to the party, but I'm here for the long haul. We saw him perform last year and although, in the moment, I thought that performance could never be topped - this performance simply blew my mind. It was so heady and emotional. For those few hours all that existed was this space and this moment. We were a few rows from the front and I would just watch him stare down the audience like a hungry wolf. His eyes piercing into your heart. He would occasionally come out into the audience, balancing on the tops of the chairs and reach towards one individual and sing just for them. It was insane and I honestly can't see how any show, for the rest of my life, would be able to top it. But let's wait and see.

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As summers come and go, so do trips to the cottage. There is truly nothing better I can think of doing on a hot summer's day, than resting by the pool, cooking on the BBQ and watching the sun set over Collingwood. This year was all about cooking new and exciting meals, drinking unique craft beers and getting away from city stresses.

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But no trip to the cottage would be complete without one or two obstacles. Our biggest obstacle this summer was, on our way back home, we found the driveway to be blocked with a giant tree. With no help in site, Dan and I took to sawing away at the tree ourselves and after breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, we were able to move the tree out of the way enough to get our car by. It was quiet the feat of teamwork and strength!

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Summers are for lovers, and we were happy to be a part of Emily's #WVRSTWedding as she and her hubby David got married in style in this cute, modern german style brewhaus. Emily is a baker and so her wedding not only featured the amazing savoury delights from WVRST but also some scrumptious desserts like yummy gluten-free cupcakes and even their very own cotton candy machine!!! Too cool

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We capped off the Summer of Music with Arcade Fire at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. They are one of my long time, favourite bands and their show is nothing more less than spectacular! The show called for fancy dress and I was excited to have another reason to get all gussied up. With an explosion of confetti all over the crowd, we celebrated yet another Summer of fantastical music! And although on the walk home I could feel the cool, chill winds of Autumn on the horizon, I smiled thinking back to all the wonderful memories this summer brought.

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