Our Babymoon (and 10 year wedding anniversary) in Prince Edward County
Babymoons are a funny concept. I mean it's not exactly comparable to a honeymoon now is it? Firstly, they take place before the big event rather than to follow, and while honeymoons are typically boozy, exotic, sexy vacations, babymoons require you to be sober, close to home, and well, let's just call it ... a lot less sexy. But they're a nice way to treat mama-to-be (or to-be-again if you're having your third child like I am) to a night off before the madness of newborn life begins.
Now in our case the timing coincided perfectly with our ten year wedding anniversary. It landed approximately three weeks before baby's due date, and we wanted to do something a little bit special, so why not combine the two occasions? We considered nearby destinations and one of the first that came to mind for me was a cozy little inn we had been to two years prior in Prince Edward County. The best part? It had recently undergone a major renovation (and I thought it was fantastic before the work was done!) and what was once called The Merrill Inn was now Merrill House - a Victorian Home turned boutique hotel that seamlessly blends fine antiques and artefacts with contemporary art and all the modern amenities you could ask for.
Now it might seem odd to choose Prince Edward County for a babymoon destination given it is essentially wine country, and the point of a visit to the area is to hop from vineyard to vineyard tasting some of the best wine Ontario has to offer. But it came down to these three things:
1. Proximity to home: PEC is just over two hours from Toronto, Ontario, but has a completely different vibe and feels like a destination.
2. We love wine! Sure I could only do small tastings, but my husband enjoyed it enough for the two (three?) of us and we were able to stock up on some great bottles that I'll be indulging in as soon as this baby is out!
3. The Merrill House. Rather than choosing a destination and then finding a hotel to suit, I found the hotel and then decided the destination would work too :)
Given my physical state, we only visited a handful of vineyards while we were there and made sure to include food along the way - after all I needed to indulge in something! We chose Casa-Dea Estates Winery, Norman Hardie, and Stanners Vineyard, and it was at Norman Hardie that we sat down to wood-fired thin crust pizza among barrels of vino. The pizza was actually exceptional, and the small amount of wine I tried wasn't bad either.
I was eager to check-in to Merrill Inn, so we did so around 4pm and were able to enjoy our handsome room - the Victorian Suite - for a few restful hours before dinner. The suite was light-filled, spacious, and while it boasted gorgeous Victorian, grand decor, it wasn't stuffy at all, and included all the modern necessities you could hope for. The best way to put it? Your posh Aunt would love the room just as much as a millennial couple who NEED their Netflix. And only a flight of stairs away awaited one of the best meals I've had in ages, thanks to the culinary delights of Executive Chef Michael Sullivan.
The dining area proved the most obviously renovated (and upgraded!) part of Merrill House (for me at least, not forgetting that it had been two years since I visited last and wasn't exactly taking notes). It was modern in design yet still felt cozy, and was essentially a stunning wine cellar that apparently holds up to 2,000 bottles. It also opened on to a heated conservatory which would have been lovely had it not been such a chilly evening. I preferred to stay firmly indoors.
To start I had the Merrill Signature Salad while my husband had the Beef Tartare. Both were exceptional. For our main he had the Moulard Duck Breast while I ordered one of the night's specials - county Pickerel - a beautiful white fish I hadn't tried before. Almost entirely out of curiosity we ended the meal with a Baked Alaska - spongecake topped with homemade hazelnut ice cream baked in a meringue casing - and were not disappointed. The entire meal was a treat - portions were the perfect size, the food was gorgeous, fresh and locally sourced, and it was uniquely special (and convenient!) to enjoy a fine dining experience just a short walk from our room.
All in all our babymoon was a wonderful way to slow down, reconnect and just indulge in some of the things we love most: wine (for him), incredible food, and sleep! Merrill House proved the absolute highlight for us, while the entire county won us over with its simple charms and fantastic wine. We'll be back, and next time, I'll be able to indulge even more!