Two Luxurious Hours at The Spa at 124

Last week, I had a deluxe facial booked at the spa at 124 Queen. My only previous experience with having a facial was a few years back at a Toronto spa and although relaxing at the time, did not leave my skin feeling glowing afterwards as I had expected. In fact, I distinctly remember my skin worsening in the days following my facial.edp_co_124Q-0031

That being said, I was willing to give the spa another go… perhaps it is being 8 ½ months pregnant that gave me the ‘incentive’ to pursue some solitary relaxation, opportunities soon to become fewer and far between! I am happy to report that my time at the Spa at 124 on Queen exceeded all expectations.

Upon changing into a robe and slippers, I was greeted by my spa therapist, Erin. She explained that all treatments I would be receiving were from the Eminence Organic Skin Care Line, which meant they were all natural, something that has become an increasing priority for me over the years. Even the procedure that therapists use for transitioning from one treatment to the next is done with steamed towels (an instant relaxant) as opposed to any machine or gadget.

Massage

As part of the deluxe facial package, which lasted two luxurious hours, I was given an array of customized treatments from the Eminence (a Canada based company) line based on Erin’s initial assessment of my skin type.

She began with two cleansers—A Eucalyptus Cleansing Concentrate mixed with a Blueberry Soy Exfoliating Cleanser—before exfoliating with a Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant and finishing the initial process with a light spritzing of a refreshing tonic.

Every product Erin used on my skin, without exception, smelled so fresh and authentic, an inherent benefit of the natural ingredients used.

Eminence Skin Care

She followed up the cleaning procedure with a mixed mask (Eight Greens Phyto/ Strawberry Rhubarb), two serums (Eight Greens Youth Serum/Strawberry Rhubarb Hyaluronic Serum) and a Facial Recovery Oil. As an unexpected but very welcomed surprise, while treatments penetrated my skin, I was also treated to a scalp massage and an arm/hand massage.

Facial moisturizer followed, along with an eye treatment which involved an under-eye exfoliant, mask and cream and a lip treatment, encompassing exfoliator, mask and lip balm.

To finish off, Erin dusted my now refreshed complexion with a Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Mineral Powder called “Radiant”, another line carried by the spa which also focuses on natural, quality ingredients, with inherent sun protection.

Before leaving, Erin provided me with free samples of the facial oil and moisturizer she had used on me. Most importantly, she provided me with a prescription sheet of sorts, highlighting all the specific Eminence products she had used on my skin, a handy list of products to refer to when my Mom and husband are in need of birthday and Christmas gift ideas (or when I feel like treating myself!)

I could not believe the transformation of my skin after those two luxurious hours of pampering. As someone who never leaves the house without at least a dab of foundation and under-eye concealer, I could not believe I had the confidence to enjoy the rest of my day without any makeup because my skin looked that good. Even my husband could not help remarking throughout the day how amazing my skin looked.

The Spa at 124 on Queen has now guaranteed that I will no longer be waiting years between facials. I’m already thinking about when to book the next one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weekend Was Just Peachy

Last weekend, Niagara-on-the-Lake was taken over by millions of peaches. Fruit festivals are becoming more and more popular events in our area and for good reason.

Peach Festival

Celebrating the products grown in the Niagara region is very important and it’s clear that many people think the same. Queen Street was packed full of hungry peach seekers, ready to find a peachy delight. Reportedly, there were over 800 peach pies made in preparation for the festival and I imagine, just like last year, they sold out within a very short amount of time.

Not only was the street jammed full of peach goodies, but there was also plenty of entertainment to be enjoyed. There were five different bands that took the stage during Sunday, including the very enjoyable, Toronto All Star Band. There were also plenty of activities for the family, including face painting, balloon animals, a clown and plenty of crafts. All of this was set in the grounds of St. Vincent de Paul Church on Picton Street, a great setting for such a festival.

Peaches

This year was also a special year for the Peach Festival, starting back in 1990, this year was its 25th anniversary. To help in this celebration, The NOTL Chamber of Commerce held its usual Peach Celebration over the weekend, including an evening of wine, beer and culinary treats given to us by the great wineries, breweries and restaurants of the area.

But it was Sunday that stole the show. Queen St. was set out for a sit down dinner for over 1000 guests. The guests had the chance to enjoy the Shades of Summer Harvest Dinner while listening to the music performed by Flat Broke. The atmosphere was electric and the whole weekend was a great display of NOTL and its people.

The Peach Festival is an annual event and is normally held in the month of August. If you are staying with us or just in the area during the month, make sure you check out the wonderful celebration of local products.

A Nibble at The Pie Plate

Recently I took the short drive up to The Pie Plate in Virgil, about a 10 min ride up Niagara Stone, and it was well worth it. Set in a quaint building opposite the Silversmith Brewery, the Pie Plate offers a variety of foods, including sandwiches, tacos and thin crust pizzas. I decided to try out their dinner menu and their famous pizzas.

The Pie Plate

Sat on the deck of what is a converted house, I went for the pizza that was on special, the Niagara Strawberry & Balsamic Pizza, with a pint of Oast House Barn Raiser to wash it down. As I waited in anticipation and as the sun was starting to drop in the sky, I was able to take in the warm and comfortable surroundings. There is no doubt that a night on the deck on a warm summer’s evening with great music playing, and the excitement of what culinary delights await, is something to behold.

Niagara Strawberry & Balsamic Pizza

Within a few minutes, the food was placed in front of me and I wan’t disappointed. The pizza looked amazing and it took me no time to grab my cutlery and start to saw away at making the first bite. The combination of strawberry, balsamic vinegar and pizza base wasn’t something I had contemplated before that point, but as soon as it hit my taste buds I knew I was in for a treat. The pizza was delicious, and I ate the whole thing without taking a breath.

The Pie Plate Deck

 

 

The food was tasty, reasonable and the setting was perfect. Without doubt, this is a great place to stop off to grab a pie for lunch, as well as an ideal place for a light and delicious dinner. This is by far one of the best pizzas I have had in the Niagara Region and I would recommend it to anyone staying or living in the area. A must visit!

NB. They also offer accommodation above the restaurant, so if you are looking for a place to stay and enjoy a pie or pizza, this could be the place for you.

Check The Pie Plate‘s website for more information on menus and opening hours.

5 Best Places to Grab a Pint in NOTL

Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for its wineries and fine dining, but where’s the best place to go if you just want a nice cold beer. NOTL has a lot to offer with regard to to bars and restaurants, and we wanted to find out the best places to go if a pint is all you need. So we asked our staff where their favourite place is to have a tipple, and here is what they came up with:

5. The Sand Trap Pub, Mary Street

The Sand Trap Pub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a short ride away from 124 on Queen and the hub of the town, is a little hideaway pub that serves a lovely pint and a tasty menu. The Sand Trap offers many screens with various sports on and a host of beverages, including those from local breweries. A popular choice with the locals, The Sand Trap pub prides itself on being part of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s pub scene and therefore is a must visit for all.

4. The Irish Harp, King Street

The Irish Harp Pub

This little pub is just off the main walkway of Queen Street and is certainly the best example of an Irish pub in the area. With a host of Irish paraphernalia and Guinness in every form, The Irish Harp is a great boozer. It also offers a small but great little outside space, which is ideal for sipping at your pint while watching the town roll past. With an array of beers on offer (including its very own, Irish Harp Lager), a huge menu, and regular live music, The Irish Harp is an ideal place for a cold beer.

3. Oast House Brewers, Niagara Stone Rd

Oast House

As the name suggests, first and foremost this is a brewery, but they do also serve beer from the tap in their Beer Shed. Although, Oast is a 5 minute drive from 124 on Queen, it is well worth a visit. Their beer is some of the best in Ontario and the building in which it is situated is an ideal setting for a brewery. On Friday nights they often have live music and offer food from the amazing El Gastronomo Vagabundo, which is a great way to start the weekend.

2. Silversmith Brewing Company, Niagara Stone Rd

Silversmith Brewing

Another 5 minutes drive up Niagara Stone is the Silversmith Brewery. This place also has its brewery on location, but its the setting of its bar that really makes this place stand out. Occupying a converted church, the pub offers a superb place to sip at a Silversmith beer. Its ambience is second to none in the area, and makes for a relaxing place to socialise. Silversmith also offers food and some guest beers and ciders from other local breweries. This should be high on anyone’s list, especially if you are interested in craft beer and a quiet pint.

1. The Olde Angel Inn, Regent Street

The Olde Angel Inn

Our top pub in NOTL is the famous (and infamous) Angel Inn. Boosting one of the longest histories of any pub in Canada, The Olde Angel Inn is the closest thing to a British pub that you can find, near or far, and has both the atmosphere of a great pub, as well as the beer and food. An ideal stop off point for lunch and perfect for a pub dinner, the Angel has everything you need in terms of pub grub. They also offer live music, accommodation and some haunted history (hence the infamy) which all comes together to make this the greatest boozer in Niagara-on-the-Lake and maybe the whole of South Western Ontario.

 

 

Treadwell Restaurant – The Perfect Dinner

Next door to us here at 124 on Queen is the magnificent Treadwell Restaurant owned by Stephen Treadwell & supported by his son, James, the restaurant’s lead Sommelier.

As you enter the restaurant you instantly feel the sense of quality from the interior design and the smells coming from the open kitchen. Immediately you are greeted with friendly service and are given the seasonal menu, which offers a small choice of delights, with the guarantee that each one has been well designed and carefully thought out.

Rabbit Tagliatelle

The restaurant prides itself on its farm-to-table selling point, and therefore offers an abundance of local foods put together to a high quality. This was exemplified by my first course at Treadwell’s – Homemade Tagliatelle with Pulled Ontario Rabbit, Morel Mushrooms & “Kozlik’s” Triple Crunch Mustard Cream – when I last visited. Although, rabbit may not be everyone’s first choice when it comes to dinner, the dish was extraordinary! Everything on the plate had its place and its reason for being there. The flavours worked so well together and all contributed to a starter that defined fine dining.

 

 

Having chosen to sit at the front bench, it was a joy to watch the chefs at work as I sipped my wine between courses. The efficiency and attention to detail is there for all to be seen and it is a fascinating watch. The short intervals between courses were made even shorter by the culinary expertise on show, it really is a spectacle. My main course was soon in front of me and again I was in awe of the dish’s look, as well as its taste. I went for the Wild Honey and Peppercorn Glazed Muscovy Duck Breast, Quinoa Salad & Sea Buckthorn Vinaigrette and was again delighted by the combinations of flavour.

IMG_0745

There were five choices of dessert, as well as a cheese menu, and they all sounded delicious. For me, however, there was only one choice – Angel Food Cake with Macerated “Whitty Farms” Strawberries, Yogurt Ice Cream & Basil Syrup. Knowing how good Ontario strawberries are, I was filled with anticipation to try this dish. As it happened, the dish turned out to be my favourite dish of the night, with the rabbit tagliatelle a close second. The dessert was so light and flavoursome that it was the perfect dish to round off an exquisite meal.

Treadwell

Treadwell will not disappoint, and anyone with an interest in food or wine must have a meal here. This is the ideal restaurant for that special occasion or well-deserved treat.

The restaurant is open seven days a week during the spring and summer, with a lunch menu available from 11:30am – 2:30pm and dinner service at 5pm – 10pm. Check Treadwell’s website for more information and make sure you book ahead as tables are in high demand.

 

The Perfect NOTL Stroll (allow 1-2 hours)

The best way to see Niagara on the Lake is on foot. The town thrives on its laid back attitude and its beautiful setting, so there is no better way to spend an hour or two enjoying the area by taking a nice, casual stroll. 124 on Queen has put together a suggested walk to take in a few of the hotspots of the area as well as enjoying the vistas that NOTL has to offer.

1. Starting at 124 on Queen, walk down the NOTL hub of Queen Street towards the Niagara Apothecary, east or to the right if you are outside Starbucks facing the road. Take in the hustle and bustle of the store lined street and then turn left, towards the river, on King Street. Walk down the street past Romance Collection Gallery and King Street Gallery (or stop off for some artistic delights) until you get to the gazebo and lake.

IMG_4156

2. After enjoying the view of the river and Fort Niagara, turn right on to Delater Street, keeping to the left and then turn left on to River Beach Drive.  Once on River Beach Drive, keep walking down the street until you see the river again. With the river on your left, walk down the street admiring the pretty houses and the beautiful river. Please note, there are no sidewalks here so please be mindful of any traffic. Follow the road around the corner past where the Whirlpool Jetboat Dock is situated and continue up the street, which is now called Melville Street, to the intersection with Ricardo Street. On the corner here you will see the Queens Landing Hotel, this is a great place to stop off to eat or drink.

IMG_4163

3. Once refreshed, continue walking eastwards down Ricardo, passing the Niagara Harbour and Dock Company original office on the right, until you come to a sign for the Waterfront Trail on your right. This is opposite Nelson Street. Take the trail up the steep hill and through the trees and you will pop out on Bryon Street. If you look to the left you will see Fort George, a great place to tour around if you wish. Follow the path that keeps the fort on your left and is signposted as the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail.

IMG_4168

 

4. Follow this trail for a while, taking in Fort George on your left and being careful of any cyclists riding on the path. The trail will eventually hit Ricardo Street again and here you cross the road to continue on the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail. Again, you will be met with the Niagara River, continue walking with the river on your left.

IMG_4175

5. After about 750 metres, you will find a junction in the path and an option to continue on or turn to the right. Turn right so that you are now facing the road. Cross the road and then cross Queen’s Parade. Rejoin the path and soon you will see the entrance to Peller Estates Winery on your left. Continue down the path for another 1.2 km until you get to Butler’s Barracks. Take the path to your right, keeping the barracks on your left. This is a great spot to stop off for a break or to look around. You will pass various information spots that tell the story of Butler’s Barracks and its history.

IMG_4179

 

6. The path will eventually lead to Veteran’s Memorial Park and Veteran’s Lane. Take the lane and follow it down to King Street. Turn right on to King and head back towards Queen Street. You will pass the Irish Harp Pub on your left and Balzac’s Coffee House, either are great stops to reward yourself with a deserved beverage. Once you are back on Queen, take a left and after a short walk you’ll be outside Starbucks and back to 124 on Queen.

We hope you enjoyed our self-guided walk, please write a comment to let us know how your stroll went and of any recommended changes to our description.

 

The Cigar Centre of Niagara on the Lake

As some of our guests might have noticed, 124 on Queen is surrounded by various retail outlets, such as Starbucks, Natasha Bradley Home & many more. You might have also noticed the little cigar store on the corner next to the Ghost Walks headquarters, named Customs House Cigars.

Customs House Cigars

Recently, I was lucky enough to meet Ian Wilson, the owner of Customs House Cigars and talk to him about the history of the store and his fascination with the world of cigars and tobacco. The store was established in 1996 during the height of the 90s cigar craze. Ian told me that the first edition of the suave magazine, Cigar Aficionado was published just a few years before he opened the store, the periodical featured huge stars with a cigar in hand on their covers and personified the cool cigar image. With this in mind, Ian Wilson opened his cigar store in Niagara on the Lake.

Originally, the store occupied both its current building, and what is now the Ghost Walks building, the latter being the location of the smoking lounge, a place to test out the cigars and meet like-minded smokers. Due to the changes in attitudes towards smoking and the banning of smoking indoors in 2006, the smoking lounge became more and more difficult to keep in place. The federal government’s new regulations were costly and difficult to adhere to, and soon enough Ontario adapted their laws to make it impossible for the smoking lounge to stay in place. Ian was therefore forced to change his store and lose the smoking lounge.

IMG_0806

However, the store that is left still shows Ian’s fascination and expertise when it comes to cigars and tobacco. The store is full of different tobaccos from all over the world, and Ian even has his own blend of pipe tobacco that is very popular in the area. The humidor sits at the back of the store and holds a variety of cigars. One of the walls is full of art and photographs that relate to the furor that surrounds the world of smoking cigars. There is artwork influenced by Cuban culture and photographs of trips that Ian and his friends have taken to explore the world of cigars and tobacco. The wall is an accidental history of the past 20 years, for Customs House Cigars, and the cigar frenzy.

Customs House Cigars

If you are partial to a Cuban and are in the Niagara on the Lake area, then this is a must visit. Ian is very welcoming and has a wealth of knowledge about cigars and pipe tobacco. If you are a cigar expert or have never tried one before but like the idea, then Customs House Cigars is the place to go, and Ian Wilson is the person to talk to.

Dinner at Peller Estates Vineyard

If you are looking for a place to eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake and want to try dinner at a vineyard, make Peller Estates top of your list. I was lucky enough to visit Peller and try out their Five Course Tasting Menu. For a reasonable $89, you will be taken on a wonderful journey led by your taste buds and the culinary expertise of Chef Jason Parsons.

IMG_3972

Sat in the picturesque setting of the Peller restaurant, I prepared myself for the worst. A blind menu is a leap of faith and for some can be anxiety-filled. I didn’t need to worry. I started off with an appetizer of succulent Octopus on a bed of beautifully dressed salad. Now, the thought of Octopus on your plate might cause you some concern, but it was delicious and something I would definitely have again.

IMG_3976

 

 

The meal continued in that way and every dish brought out was a new and fresh experience for my taste buds. The main dishes were interjected with palate cleansers and bonus bites, including a mouthful of carrot cake before my delicious desert.

An added option of the meal is to have a series of wines expertly combined with the dishes, so you can enjoy the correct Peller wine with the right dish. Although, I did not choose to do this, I did have a lovely glass of the Cabernet Sauvignon, which complimented my food journey perfectly.

IMG_3974

 

Every dish was a delight and with the menu changing regularly, who knows what delights you will get when you take the journey over to the vineyard from your comfortable 124 on Queen room, but be sure to give it a try. Its the ideal choice for a romantic meal as sharing the food experience will give you plenty to talk about and remember.

Outdoor Yoga on a Rooftop: Perfect!

Sounds good eh? Even for those non-yogis, this sounds like a nice way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It does to me, but unfortunately I have yet to make myself a yoga expert. Therefore, to get a true understanding of the yoga held on 124 on Queen’s rooftop patio, I asked my wife, Kristyn, to take part in a session. Defeatist maybe? But at least I can relay to you a more detailed reflection of the class through my wife’s experience, rather than a series of events told by someone who did one session, over five years ago.

IMG_4134

The class is held at 9am on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months (visit our Spa store next to Starbucks to find out more information and to register on the morning of your class) and is run by Robin Garrett. Kristyn and I met Robin on Saturday morning and were instantly put at ease by her welcoming and friendly demeanour, ideal for any yoga instructor. Kristyn told me after the class that it was clear that Robin was an experienced instructor who had been practising yoga for many years. She said the class was perfectly paced and that watching Robin was inspiration to push that little bit harder during poses.

IMG_4137

Kristyn continued to explain that the class was made up of a great mix of poses, working the whole body and therefore making for a challenging but rewarding session. “The combination of the tough workout and the level of relaxation set the tone for the rest of the day, it was a great start to the weekend.” she told me. She also found Robin very accommodating and understanding as she was able to help her adapt the poses to allow for the fact that she is six months pregnant. Clearly Robin is a talented and patient yoga instructor, as Kristyn found the transition from her prenatal classes to this one very easy and comfortable.

When I asked Kristyn about the setting of 124 on Queen’s rooftop patio, she smiled and slowly released the words “that view…” The view is pretty special and makes for a great setting for yoga and many other things. There is plenty of space and when the sun’s out it can make for a hot yoga session. Although, there is plenty of shade up there due to the canopy. The fact that the session is outside also offers benefits of lowering levels of stress and helping with memory, problem solving and creativity.

IMG_4129

After the relaxation period at the end of the session, Robin prepares a tea that is carefully chosen to compliment the class. This is not only a perfect way to assist the relaxation aspect of the class but is also a great way to socialise with the others taking part in the class. The perfect start to the weekend, Kristyn said as she finished the class and it was clear that she felt refreshed and relaxed, ready to  enjoy the rest of the weekend.

There is no need to book, all you need to do is meet at the 124 on Queen Spa on Queen Street at 9am on the day of the class to register. Each session costs $20, but if you book three you will get them for $15 each. Class begins at 9:15am and lasts for 70 minutes. Don’t forget to bring your own mat!

The Winery Tour at Jackson-Triggs

Whether you’re staying in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a night, a week or as a resident, visiting the wineries is a must do during your stay. One of the wineries that we recommend you visit is Jackson-Triggs and taking their tour must be on your list. At just $5, it is an ideal activity for couples, groups or big parties alike. The tours run every hour, on the half hour from 10:30am to 4:30pm daily, during the Summer months (June – Mid-September) – see here for more information.

IMG_3996

 

I took the tour, nice and early. at 10:30am and even though the weather wasn’t great the tour was interesting, informative and tasty. Led by one of the staff at Jackson-Triggs, the small group was guided around the winery. Starting at the barn-like hub of the winery we were told a little about the history of the winery and how it was started. As we listened our glasses were filled with a sample of a Jackson-Triggs wine so we could sip it as we found out more about the winery.

Moving outside, we were then told about the vineyard itself, the difficulties of growing certain grapes in the Niagara region and some of the innovative solutions that wine experts came up with in order to grow grapes not indigenous to the region. You are allowed to get close up to the grapes and see the intricate way they are grown.

IMG_3986

As we walked up the ramp, continuing to sip at our wine, we were told about the unique climate that the Niagara region has and why its an ideal place to grow grape. Our guide then described to us the process of harvesting and the machines and vehicles used to make the process as speedy as possible. Next, we moved inside, and out of the breezy conditions, into the area where the grapes are turned into wine. The shiny vats are beautifully set in a purposely built structure, designed to keep the wine as cool as possible. Here we were offered another sample of wine, this time red, which was perfect as I had just finished my first tasting.

IMG_3994

We were then taken downstairs and into the cellars. The part open to the public is filled with barrels of French and American oak. We were then told about the differences between the barrels and why some barrels are better suited to different grapes.

After this we were taken back upstairs and into the tasting bar and wine store. Here we were told about the prices of the wines that we had tried and showed where we could buy them. With more wines on offer to taste, for a small fee, we stayed in there and tried a few more. The store is full of different Jackson-Triggs wines, gifts and souvenirs and is the perfect place to find that memory of your trip to Niagara.

Don’t forget that if you prearrange a time with the 124 on Queen office, we can take you to the winery with our shuttle service, so you can enjoy the tour without having to worry about the drive back to your room!