For me, the concept of turning 40 was much more intimidating than the actual event.
Despite years of longitudinal, academically sound, rigorous studies that demonstrated, (with statistical significance) that the day after a birthday feels exactly like the day before a birthday, I was terrified. More from a mental-break-down perspective than a break-a-hip perspective.
I figured I needed to ease into this seemingly sad and hopeless decade away from it all, where I could commiserate with nature. Enter the Drake Devonshire in Prince Edward County.
I admit I’m a bit of a PEC addict. I fell in love with this part of Ontario years ago, thanks to a Chatelaine article (that generously took all work out of planning a weekend break). I’ve returned each year since and figured this would be an ideal spot to grieve midlife.
Being at the Drake Devonshire is akin to being on set of The Royal Tennanbaums. The decor is eclectic, mismatched, and hot-before-it’s-cool. The attention to detail is meticulous and their service game is tight. The man operating the parking lot greeted us with an equally flattering / ominous, “welcome! We’ve been waiting for you all day!”
And it only went uphill from there. Four of us (two other 40-year-olds and an enviable 36 year old who just. didn’t. understand.) shared the 2-bedroom loft, which covers the entire top floor. The rooms were spacious, decorated with quirky plush toys, and boasted top quality linens, rain showers, robes and slippers, and a turn down service including sweets. There are no phones in the rooms, but staff shared the cell number we could text if we had any requests (with almost visible “because it’s 2016″ thought bubbles).
Throughout the weekend, we enjoyed the hotel’s permanent and rotating art exhibits, including outdoor installations in an open air gallery. The property has bikes to borrow and plenty of wineries within cycling distance. Wineries offered tastings and small bites that hit the spot as we covered about 20km in one afternoon. Staff offered to drop off any purchased wine at our hotel on their way home from work. Not necessarily “policy”, but rather a reflection of the local / community vibe.
Meals at the hotel were creative and tasty. Hits included a surf and turf platter, house made kimchi, and French toast made with giant slabs of baguettes. The Drake likes steak with their steak, so vegetarian, and especially vegan dishes, have to be negotiated with the chef (pro tip: do this in advance).
Our favourite meal was brunch – likely something to do with the sun pouring in off the balcony and the lake being visible a mere stone’s throw way. With a packed May 2-4 crowd, staff seemed slightly overworked. It was a good thing time was on our side and we’d made reservations in advance.
So what does one do on warm summer evening in PEC? Head on over to the Hayloft Dance Hall. With conveniently scheduled yellow school bus pickups around the county, guests were shuttled to an old barn-turned-dance hall to see an internationally acclaimed DJ (Scratch Bastid). Despite the smattering of high heels (mostly donned by ill-placed bachelorette parties) there’s nothing fancy about this venue which boasts wood floors, cans of beer, and more plaid than a Scottish wedding. I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore when a highly intoxicated guest was booted out, but not before being graciously reimbursed her cover charge. The DJ had the crowd dancing till 2 am when said yellow school busses started to escort party goers home.
If barns are not your thing, it’s worth a visit to Stache on Main – an art gallery by day and a piano bar by night. Unfortunately, we missed the live performance during our visit, but my musically talented husband didn’t miss a beat. He took over the grand piano and serenaded me with Billy Joel and Elton John. Check the schedule on their site for listings.
So how am I faring, dear reader? As with all other years, the day after 40 is much like the day before. Only this time, I had the sun pouring down on me, the wind in my hair, and a nice cold glass of Chardonnay in hand. I highly recommend this therapy.