Category Archives: Placez

A Long Weekend Gettaway to Prince Edward County

I need to get away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto, which is why a big population drive few hours to their cottages or to a less populated province for some great relaxation period.  I do not have a cottage nor do I have the patience nor energy to sit in a car for more than five hours to reach destination.  Approximately three hours east of Toronto is Prince Edward County, where I spent a three days, two nights summer long weekend getaway.

Rule of thumb, leave your house early on Friday or Saturday of a long weekend if you want to avoid the traffic.  I was dumb enough to leave at 11am for the county and stuck in the crazy slow traffic for two to three hours.  Thank heavens I was not driving, but even as a passenger, I was quite frustrated and wished I had the right of way!  There are couple ways you can drive to the county from Toronto.

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  1. 2 hours 30 minutes: Highway 401 East.  Exit Wooler Road / County Road 40 towards Trenton.  When you get off the ramp, turn right onto County Road 40 South.  Turn right onto Loyalist Parkway / County Road 33.  Follow the signs to Picton or Taste Trail logos.
  2. 3 hours or the Lakeside Scenic Drive: Highway 401 East.  Exit County Road 2 in Port Hope.  When you get off the ramp, turn right to continue on County Road 2.  Follow the County Road 2 signs and keep driving forward.  You reach Prince Edward Street and keep going straight.  The street then will be named County Road 64, keep driving forward.  You will reach a fork, with Fort Kente Road, Gardenville Road and County Road 64.  Turn left onto County Road 64.  Turn right at the first cross street onto Loyalist Parkway / County Road 33.  Follow signs to Picton or Taste Trail logos.

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Prince Edward County is located southeast of Ontario, on the eastern end of Lake Ontario and  west of the head of St. Lawrence River.  It is comprised of three major populated towns – Wellington, Bloomfield and Picton, with some more smaller communities around.

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I stayed in Downtown Piction, at Harrington Bed and Breakfast, which is a 5 minute walk from Main Street.  The B&B was well kept, clean and convenient.  The owners had great hospitality, ensured we ate our breakfast, gave us local maps and recommended routes, restaurants or activities that should be done.  They were very nice, passionate with the county and great to chat with.
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It was here in Picton that Sir John A. MacDonald managed a law office for his uncle.  It was also in Picton, a No 31 Bombing and Gunnery School, that the British trained thousand of pilots outside of United Kingdom in World War Two.  There are still remnants of the former barracks and airfield when you walk up the millennium trail.

Everything in the county closes early, around 6 pm.  There is the odd store that opens a few hours later.  But definitely plan your time wisely and utilize the natural sunlight to your greatest advantage.

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Climate at the county is relatively mild due to the lake effect, which contributes to the optimal environment for the growth of grapes, establishing a lot of wineries in the area.  Currently, there are 30 wineries and the numbers are increasing annually.

Food & Winery:

Drake Devonshire, Wellington is a great lake side cottage inn – restaurant.  It has great eclectic atmosphere with fresh food using local produce.  I think this is a great brunch, lunch or afternoon treat.

Norman Hardie Estate, Wellington is on a side road when you are driving to Picton.  The plantation took place in 2003.  With a decade of hard work and craftsmanship, the winery is so popular that is has to be on your radar.   They are well known for their traditional wood fire pizzas.  This is a great lunch eatery while tasting their renowned wines.

The County Cider Company, Waupoos is the only apple orchard and cider producing company in the county.  It is definitely worth your time to check out the old traditional barns and to taste the variety of ciders they offer.  There is a beautiful patio, where you can enjoy a meal and drink, that looks down into the lake.  Gorgeous!

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Waupoos Winery, Waupoos is an old winery in the county.  The winery was sold to an American company after the original owner’s death.  They transitioned it into an atmosphere suitable for families by implementing a chocolatier and ice cream parlor to the wine tasting hall.  I was told the wines were not as good as it once was and they focus too much on the mechanics in business.  There is a Gazebo Restaurant on site too but it has an interior dining hall.  You are enclosed inside and the view is very limited.  Wine tour groups put this winery on their itinerary, therefore, they are always busy.

Exultet Estates and Winery, Milford is a small one of a kind winery that hand makes their wine traditionally by the owners.  This by far was the best winery I went to with the most pleasurable wines.  This winery is the only winery that was able to win the gold award for their Chardonnay five years in a row.  It is not cheap but I guarantee you, it is worth every penny.

Portabella, Picton is a cozy Italian restaurant in Downtown Picton.  It has a great community and family touch to it.  The food also tastes fresh.  This is one of the restaurants that opens late everyday.

The Acoustic Grill, Picton is a neat restaurant or bar to go to.  Arrive early because this small little eatery is always jam packed.  I wanted to have dinner there but the wait was around two hours, so I never had the chance to.  They have band performances every evening, jamming up the atmosphere and very fun to be at.  Apparently, many Juno award winners have performed there.  Once the shows begin, the audience aka visitors stay for a long period of time with a drink in hand, enjoying the performance.  The bar is very cool, uplifting and upbeat!

Snacks:

Slickers Ice Cream, Bloomfield is a great refreshing snack parlor to visit.  The ice cream just taste so natural and creamy.  They are also located in the middle or heart of the county, where all the activities you want to do cross at Slickers and in close proximity too.

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Black River Cheese Company Ltd, Miilford is a local dairy farm that supplies locally and particular high end grocers in Ontario.  This joint is a great stop for families in search for snacks.  Cheese is produced fresh everyday and you can sample them as you explore their showroom.  These artisan cheeses are a luxury and is organic, produced using the traditional fermentation process.  Each type or variation is smooth, crumbly and has a soft acidic flavour.

Activities or Sight Seeing:

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Lake on the Mountain is a mysterious icon at the county. Till this day no one exactly knows how the lake got there and where the water source is coming from. It is believe to be on large lake in the ice age and the tectonic plate movement or earthquake that broke up the lake and elevated it. The first nations believed this lake is a miracle and a gift from heaven, therefore, the lake is mythical and held a lot of tribe gatherings or medical healing. It is quite neat and because it is at the hill top, you can look at the cottages around, the ferry connecting islands together. But remember to bring a jacket, there is a strong breeze at the lake.

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Who says we need to go to Europe or Japan for lavender, we have some in Canada.  Prince Edward County Lavender Farm at Hillier is a hidden nature farm.  This must go destination is unique and different from other landmarks.  Prime time is between end of July to early August.  They host lavender festival annually.  Plan your trip around the busy months.

Lavender fields are small and when I visited, most of the lavender had been harvested, leaving empty bushes.  But there was a patch that was in its prime.  There were bees, grasshoppers and birds hoovering around the bushes for pollen.  The farm smells great!  Do stop by their shop for products you can purchase, quite cheap and interesting to look through because so much can be done with lavender.  They have lavender chocolates and culinary products too.  I tried their homemade lavender gelato and it was amazing, tasted minty with a herbal soothing effect.

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Sandbanks Provincial Park is a large popular attraction offering beautiful beaches.  Parking costs $20 a day and there are few locations you can stay leisurely, Outlet Beach, Dunes Beach and Sandbank Beach are the most popular for families.  Arrive early in summer months because it is packed and you can not find parking.  If you are a hiker or cyclist, there are many trails that takes you to the wetlands, marshes, sand dunes because this is a bird migration hotspot and habitat for water species.

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I was surprised by the strong big waves at the beaches.  They were comparable to the cliff side ocean waves, very picturesque.  I enjoyed climbing the sand dunes, as they were peaceful and quiet, standing alone jutting out of the lake.  You can view the expansive sand dunes from the opposing shore, and the entrance is off a side street as you exit the park.

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A great way to tour the county is by biking.  There are bike rentals in Picton that you can inquire about.  Honestly, for the three days I was there, everyday was sunny and even if there were signs of a storm, it got blown away and became sunny again.  Biking is honestly the best sport to get around with other than by car.  Plus, there are a lack of hiking trails, so the main roads are the trails itself.

Prince Edward County is beautiful with scrumptious food made of fresh ingredients.  This relaxing community is very laid back and welcoming.  Do visit the county for a change, to understand the history behind the area and experience the nature.

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And, watch out for turtles!

 

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An Afternoon at Ripley’s Aquarium~

Address: 288 Bremner Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3L9

Phone: (637) 351-3474

Website: https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/

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Front Entrance…..and yes, I went in March

If you are doing a day trip of Toronto in the Downtown touristy area of CN Tower, Harbourfront etc, then you should probably take a look at Ripley’s Aquarium.  Its grand opening was in late 2013, still quite recent in my terms.

Even if you are not touring, the aquarium is a great location for dates and family time during weekends and holidays.  It is very educational; amazing information on the species in the ocean and the Canadian Great Lakes.  It is also extremely interactive, attention grabbing and very curiosity driven.

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Interactive Area

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The aquarium begins with the Great Lakes.  There were big tanks filled with fishes swimming in circles nonstop.  With the lighting, the tanks look mysterious and magical.  Aren’t they cute?

After the great lakes, we begin the ocean species.

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Octopus tentacles suctioned onto the glass walls.  I was in awe after seeing the details and size of those individual cups.  They look so squishy and I can imagine the slime.  I can not believe this is a species we eat.

IMG_6505 IMG_6511IMG_6514  There are tanks showing the different coral reef families on the planet.  There were videos and boards telling us how they survive, the depth they live in and the overall environment.  The tanks were well displayed, and extremely colourful.  Doesn’t it feel so happy and joyful?

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I just thought the “zebra fish” (that is what I named it as) looked really cool and pretty with the fins fanned out like the peacock.IMG_6566

Everyone would love this.  Let’s find NEMO, the famous clown fish and DORY, the blue fish.  They look dopey, so amazing.

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This is the BIG shark lagoon.  You hop onto the moving walkway and it will take you through the whole lagoon, showing the different types of sharks and sting rays.  I wish I saw the sea turtle.  The lagoon was really awesome because it felt like a 360 panoramic view of the deep ocean.  You have the species swimming above and around you.  The darkness made it eerie or creepy but arouses your curiosity.

IMG_6574  Seahorses!  They are so pretty and funny.  The species love to hook onto plants and each other because they have a funny S-shape.  I just never imaged there are more than that one kind we are familiar with.  There are camouflage seahorse!  IMG_6579

 

 

IMG_6582  The BIG Eyed Shark, but harmless.IMG_6589

The stingray tank

IMG_6598  The jellyfish exhibition was the coolest of them all.IMG_6599IMG_6605  It was so relaxing and gorgeous to look at.  I enjoyed seeing the jellyfish floating freely in whichever direction.  I also loved that bobbing or pumping position they make to move.

IMG_6609In the end, you enter their water tank or cleansing room.  They explain how they maintain the water environment for the species and why the filter system is probably at its best.

I think the Ripley’s Aquarium is definitely a place you can spend a day at in awe and joy.  It is a great learning feature and the interactive areas are a place you can turn into a goofball and play your hearts out!

 

Old Time Confections

Old Time Confections @ Upper Canada Mall

Address: 17600 Yonge St, Unit 225. Newmarket, ON L3Y 4Z1

Phone: 905-898-8976

Website: http://www.oldtimeconfections.com/

Never envisioned to have such a huge candy or junk food shop in a popular shopping mall.

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I felt like Hansel and Gretel, walking into a candy house.  Sweets galore!  Large colourful wrappers and drinks on display shows everyone what products are carried.  The display is so attractive and cute that I just have to go in and browse.

wpid-20140824_161347.jpgSimplistic interior decor – very standard and straightforward.  This is quite a low budget decor because they only need to change the flooring and paint the walls, install wall paper.   Products were organized by type, brand and manufacturers.  Good layout and spacing between each display is provided.

 

 

The store carries some of the quirkiest things ever, from chocolate bars to candy to drinks.  Their products are rarely found in regular grocery stores and department stores.  A niche market~wpid-20140824_161430.jpg A full shelf of skittles and starbursts, one of my favourite candy.  I used to have a bag everyday when I was in school.  My favourite were the sour skittles, then berry and lastly the original.

wpid-20140824_161536.jpg Brands of drinks I have never ever heard of.  Who wants to try?

wpid-20140824_161556.jpgDifferent Coca Cola – Vanilla and Cherry flavour!  For some reason, I like the soft gummy candy version of these flavours more than the drink.  I can eat nonstop candy, but cannot finish one can of coke.  Maybe the company should make candy under their brand?

Other things I have seen in the store were Salt Water Taffys, 1 pound Reese Peanut Butter Cups, 1 Kilogram Gummy Bears, a life sized gummy python candy, Willy Wonka products, cereal and cookies!

There was such a long line up at the cashier, which makes me believe there is a market for any age group.  They may collect the products, interested in something different, or like to walk down the memory lane.

If you are in the area, explore the store.  Treat it like a museum, to recognize the different brands and products.  See what intrigues you.  Maybe you will end up at the cashier, unknowningly paying for a handful of food. ^____^”

Soma Chocolatemaker

Soma Chocolatemaker

Address: 443 King Street West. Toronto, ON. M5V 2Z4

Phone: (416) 599 – 7662

Website: www.somachocolate.com/

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Other than suntanning on the beach, enjoying drinks on the patio or hiking, there are other activities to consider.  On my summer weekend, I adventured and explored Downtown Toronto.  After vigorous walking and exposure to the sun, a rest was well deserved.  Walking past Soma, the word chocolate captivated me.

Soma Chocolatemaker has 2 locations.  The headquarter is at Distillery District and the one I visited is located on the busy King Street West, in the Fashion District of Toronto, but on the border of the Entertainment District.  The store is smacked in between design related lofts and boutiques.  On TTC streetcar route and major intersections, they have a high volume and broad array of clientele.

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Stepping inside, I am welcomed by a cute, trendy, modern contemporary space.  The interiors feel very personal, or rather down to earth, with the finishes, displays and counters made of wood and limestone collected from mother nature.  Great carpentry skills were shown, as the shelves and tables appear very sturdy and solid.  The space felt welcoming, as it gives off a strong homey feel, appearing like a dining room or a long hallway, but realistically, a storefront full of interesting items to discover.  The layout of the store looks sleek and clean, feels laid back.

Other than being a chocolate retailer, they are also a cafe, serving gourmet coffee, latte, mocha and teas.  Ingredients are imported from South America, mainly Peru and Chile, which arrives as raw beans and is processed or refined into edible products.  However, this process is done at the Distillery District location, as it has a larger storefront and kitchen.

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A fridge or showcase of artisan chocolates were on display, which are for sale as a gift box or individual to have in store.  Truffles, caramel and fresh selection made everyday are found on display here.  wpid-20140727_173729.jpg

Shelves of chocolate bars were compelling to look at.  They have chocolate flavours that you do not find often with other chocolate brands purchasable from grocery stores.  You find chili hot pepper dark chocolate bar, chocolate bar coated with salt, pistachio chocolate bar, berries chocolate bar etc.  They have gift box of mini size assorted chocolate bars if you do not know what to get.  Other than chocolate, they bake biscotti, cookies and others.  A wide selection of products are offered here.

The price of the chocolate is reasonable and worth a try.  No disappointment guaranteed!  They are not sweet or creamy that it feels artificial or fattening.  The chocolate leans toward the bitter side of flavours but not heavy at all.  I find the taste really attractive and hearty.  With a cup of black coffee or black tea, the flavours of the chocolate is brought out.
wpid-20140727_173644.jpgAt the back of the store, there is an area serving gelato and sorbet. It is very popular within the store. On the day I visited, there were at least 10 customers ordering cups of coolness within the hour, which is extremely enjoyable in the summer.  Other than the specialty flavours, they have common ones like vanilla, strawberry and chocolate too.  wpid-20140727_174150.jpgMedium gelato ($5.94) comes with 2 scoops of your choice of flavour.  I picked pistachio gelato and basil blueberry sorbet, after sampling the selection.  The girls told me how everything there was handmade and used sustainable ingredients.  The pistachio gelato was very creamy, but lacked the pistachio flavour.  It felt like I was eating vanilla gelato.  The basil blueberry sorbet was like shaved ice but it was a very different taste, or rather amusing.  The minuscule blueberry seeds and basil herb added texture to the sorbet.  It was really rich in flavour and really surprised how the basil complimented the blueberry extremely well.
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At the very back of the store is the chocolate making workshop, a lot of silver-wear.  Looks like a professional kitchen.  Too bad there was not much happening that day I visited.

With Toronto Development projects sprouting, I have the confidence Soma Chocolatemaker will become a popular hangout place in the near future.  Their personal branding and selection of gourmet products to offer are their biggest asset to become successful.  A lot of potential room for further development and expansion.

Ratings

Food 4/5

Service 4/5

Ambiance 4/5

Soma Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Unionville Main St.

Unionville Main Street

Website: http://www.unionvilleinfo.com

800px-Unionville_SignTucked into the northeast corner of the Greater Toronto Area, in the heart of City of Markham, is the well known heritage village of Unionville, a great place to enjoy with family and friends.  Unionville was founded in 1794 and a lot of the original European or Victorian architecture were maintained till this day.  There will always be festivals and shops to venture, served as a local tourism development plan.

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On a Monday evening, we decided to just take a post dinner walk along Main Street for some exercise.  Many locals share the same interest as us, especially during the summer time, to enjoy the weather and some dessert.  Families pushing the baby stroller, elders sitting at the patio, young children laughing, crying and pleading for ice cream or dessert, couples holding hands and on dates were among the activities seen and heard.

This intimate neighborhood has many festivals and celebration throughout the year- fireworks on July 1st Canada’s Day, Jazz Festival performances on the stage at the park, food festivals from the renowned restaurants, skating during the winter and many more.  The council has the idea and creativity to bring everyone from around together.

Strolling along the streets of historic Unionville made me feel like I was at the Shire, from Lord of the Rings or Hobbit – the greens, brick architecture, moss, stone paved sidewalks, intimate peaceful space, rustic countryside appearance.  Hidden within Markham, Unionville is like a subdivision of its own, with its own style and uniqueness.

A must go place for me

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Old Firehall Confectionery

Website: www.oldfirehallconfectionery.com/index.php

They sell ice cream, handmade chocolate and assorted candy.  This is a heaven to me, or someone who has sweet craving.  I felt like a 3 year old, my eyes shining like stars, admiring and inhaling the world of candy and sweets!  I’m not the only one, there were many others who were waiting in the long line up ordering and paying.  Happiness and satisfied!

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The back wall was lined with candy dispensers.  I was ecstatic when I saw the cherry coke bottle and sour coke bottle gummy candy because they are a rare find.  The place I used to buy my candy from closed down couple of years ago and I could no longer find it, even in Bulk Barn.  The opportunity and chance has come, too hard to resist!
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Look at the container of candies I bought! =D $5.99 for a variety, as much as you want, given you can put the lid the lid on.  Look at the busy line!  Cute place, eh?!

 

The Links Road Animal & Bird Clinic

The Links Road Animal & Bird Clinic

Address: 41 The Links Road.  Toronto, Ontario M2P 1T7

Phone: (416) 223 – 1165

Website: thelinksroadanimalclinic.com/

Pet owners know how to relate animals as a family member and how they are emotionally connected to them.  Whenever something arises, the panic attack, the worries, the nervous system fires and attack us.  Therefore, it is EXTREMELY important to have a reliable, knowledgeable and sympathetic veterinarian.

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Our family has a pet red-ear slider turtle, in other words, a reptile, for at least a decade.  I come from a weird family, does not like the usual things, like being un-ordinary and sort of weird.  The weirder the better.  We only got the turtle because the Japanese electronic pets, Tamagochi, was very popular.  My mother was not fond of the electronic or fake idea because we cannot get the full experience, brought us to the pet store and *TADA*.  We came home with new pet turtle, which till this day, still has no name.

It surprises me how turtle has quite a character because you’d be thinking, it doesn’t make sounds and spends all day in the water swimming or on the sun bathing deck absorbing natural sunlight.  However, she gets excited when it is feeding time, swimming quickly, splashing water and eagerly stares up at your spoonful of pellets.  She pounds on the tank if you are disturbing her sleep schedule.  She is very curious to a new environment.  She is a very cute, attentive, bossy and funny turtle.  We care about it.

Like all other creatures, turtles can catch an illness too.  She had a habit of crawling on rough surfaces, gradually sloughing and thinning the plastron (bottom of the shell).  4 years ago, she had symptoms of shell infection because of the pink marks, lack of appetite and movement (all from assumption, internet research, e-mails and doctor’s dignosis).  This was mainly how we discovered The Links Animal and Bird Clinic.

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Credits to: Yellow Pages

The clinic specializes in reptiles, avian, and unusual animals, and highly recommended by all veterinary clinic in the York Region area.  It was quite an awesome experience.  I was sitting in the waiting area with the turtle, and surrounded by parrots, budgies, rodents of sorts and gecko or lizard of sorts.  I felt like I was sitting in a zoo.

Next up, I was extremely pleased and satisfied with the doctors and technicians.  They were very gentle with the handling of the turtle; so soft that the turtle felt so relaxed and not frightened at all.  They asked a lot of living environment questions and gave us recommendations to improve the quality of life, pamphlets and diet samples.  They were very patient with the turtle, showing us how to feed the medication.  Extremely tentative because we bombarded them with phone calls when we had trouble feeding turtle with medicine using the syringe.  The technician slowly guided us over the phone.

This year, 2014, she has a weakened leg and ‘constipated’.  The vet took x-rays and blood tests to determine the problem.

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Once again, I am impressed with the flow of the clinic and the attitude they had for the animals, making the owners at ease.  GREAT WORK!

Covernotes Tea and Coffee House

Covernotes Tea and Coffee House

Address: 10267 Yonge St. Richmond Hill, ON. L4C 3B7

Website: www.covernotescoffee.com/

On a hot summer day, I decided to walk along the historic streets of Richmond Hill and stumbled upon Covernotes, carrying a heart full of curiosity.

wpid-20140704_203755.jpgCovernotes’ storefront is a restored high school in the Town of Richmond Hill from the late 1800s, which, currently adjoins the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts.  The architecture has gone through a lot of fires and rebuilt quite a few times.  In the decade, the building has been reformed, expanded and repainted to fit the town’s modernization plan.    However, the aged, rustic aura is still recognizable.

wpid-20140704_210105.jpgIt must be quite a luxury to go to school then.  I visualize and assume, there must only be a minimal amount of students going to school back then, and all age groups in the same room, learning same things because it does look a bit small compared to the schools we attend nowadays.

wpid-20140704_205757.jpgThe owners are very supportive of local Canadian farmers for their fresh produce.  Their selection of coffee and teas are imported from Africa.  They have a wide variety of food and drink options, along with prepackaged coffee and tea for sale too.  Their coffees and lattes are very aromatic and not overly bitter.  On their condiments table, they offer a jug of water of endless refills, sometimes with a few slices of fruit, making it more refreshing, and definitely feels more welcoming.  The store front is kept very clean and neat.  I respect the hard work and commitment the staff has for shop.  They are extremely friendly and helpful, answering any questions you have.

wpid-20140704_203933.jpgI LOVE THE ENVIRONMENT, as it is very relaxing, laid back, comfortable and intimate.  First half of the store front is the sitting and food area.  And behind is lined with bookshelves, organized in alphabetical order by author and genre, like a miniature library.  This part is definitely like treasure hunting, where you stumble upon used rare books and antiques.  You can buy the books too, of course for a bargaining price.  *I found two first editions Nancy Drew hardcover books; ones that I have never read before.  I swear I was gleaming in joy.  No second thoughts, I went to pay for these books and bought them for less than $5!  How much cheaper can it get, when at Indigo, it is at least $8 per book.  Good Deal!*  If you do not buy a book or two, you are more than welcome to take a seat, read a book or newspaper or magazine and enjoy a drink or a snack.  Slow down and take your time!

wpid-20140704_205920.jpgThey are pretty much a localized version of Starbucks, except the owners do their own product sourcing and better service.  Despite having the public library down the road from them, this is a comparable to a small collectibles bookshop.  You can still find New York Best Sellers on the shelf, meanwhile, also having its old and dirty collection.  Every time I come here, there are small groups of friends gathered together to study or to catch up on things.  In conclusion, Covernotes is a very cute and neat place to check out or hang out at.

Covernotes tea and coffee house on Urbanspoon