Thursday, July 13, 2017

Camping in Muskoka

Although they were unheard of when I was a youngster, S'mores are now a popular conclusion to any camping or out-of-doors dining experience.

... consisting of a fire-roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker. Contraction of the phrase "some more". One early published recipe for a s'mores is found in a book of recipes published by the Campfire Marshmallows company in the 1920s where it was called a "Graham Cracker Sandwich". The text indicates that the treat was already popular with both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. In 1927, a recipe for "Some More" was published in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.

While going for our customary bicycle ride yesterday morning we pondered where we might direct ourselves later in the day.  It was a Thursday, normally the day our housekeeper attended to go through the apartment.  But as the result of the untimely recent death of her husband, her scheduled visits have been put on hold for the remainder of the month.  Nonetheless our habit of tooling about on that day persisted in our minds. Initially we considered all the usual haunts such as Gananoque and the Ivy Lea Club along the St. Lawrence River, Cedar Cove Resort on White Lake, Neat Café in Burnstown and Renfrew and Arnprior in the Upper Ottawa Valley. When those places proved unconvincing we decided instead to attempt a jaunt to Lake Rosseau in Muskoka.  I say "attempt" because in the past when trying to make a similar spontaneous tour we were disappointed to discover the JW Marriott hotel where we prefer to roost was solidly booked. Luck however was on our side.  Even though when we called the front desk of the hotel directly we were advised there were no rooms available we were oddly able to make a reservation for two days through the on-line booking mechanism.  So we were off and running! Conditioned as we now are to short trips (which we customarily take when we hibernate in the United States), it was the work of a moment to pack our things and get ourselves on the road.

The trip northwest to our destination was smooth and predictable except for a stretch of road construction through Algonquin Park. Other than that however the traffic was what I would describe as light (especially for mid-July). We must have done something unusual on this particular visit because our journey from Huntsville to the Marriott Resort was longer than normal, winding two-lane roads (though lately paved) through villages and remote locations.  But at last we turned onto the familiar long manicured drive leading up the hill to the Marriott hotel perched high overlooking Lake Rosseau.

We have stayed at the hotel twice before, once just about a year after it opened (say about eight years ago) and the second time probably the following year. My failing memory on the exact dates is assisted by the fact that I must not have had an iPhone when we first stayed at the resort because I have no recollection of having taken any photos, something which is now instinctive. My first iPhone was an iPhone 4 so that gives some idea of the history of events. Google tells me the iPhone 4 was introduced on June 24, 2010.  I can't imagine I bought mine until the autumn of 2010 so my speculation about dates seems to work. A quick look on the internet indicates the hotel under Marriott's management first started in the summer of 2009 (though there was some obfuscation precipitated by different ownership and receivership).

During our initial sojourn here years ago we stayed in what are touted as the most expensive accommodation, 3-bedroom condos located very near the Lake. The next time we stayed in a standard room in the main hotel.  Being in the main hotel permitted readier access to the spa, front desk and dining facilities. This time we're in the main hotel again.  While some of these rooms overlook Lake Rosseau ours does not, rather more of a side view of the hotel bounded by tall trees.  There is a balcony (which of course we do not use).  The bathroom is spacious and everything else about the room is perfectly adequate as far as I am concerned.

Because we didn't arrive at the hotel until after five o'clock - and because we had eaten nothing since breakfast - we headed directly to the lobby to investigate the latest restaurant choices.  Apparently there are six or seven restaurants.  In the past we tried the formal dining room which catered to Italian dishes and the more family restaurant for breakfast and lunch.  Last evening we were greeted at the family restaurant by an enthusiastic employee who encouraged us to try the new chophouse. Though there was some consternation concerning whether we would be able to get a seat without a reservation, we succeeded to do so after some deliberation between the Maître d' and the hostess.

We were not at all disappointed with our decision. Every course without exception or qualification was superb - a dozen oysters, Maryland lump crab cakes, filet mignon with sides of broccolini, mushrooms and frites, and - wait for it! - S'mores complete with bonfire smoke.  I have no idea how they accomplished that particular additive but the photo (above) does not lie. By the way I opted instead for fresh berries and whipping cream (the waiter also brought me a side-bowl of whipped cream which I handed over to His Lordship). Given the short duration of our stay here we booked dinner at the same restaurant again this evening.  And we may even repeat the same menu (though the Halibut is tempting me as well).

Before leaving the subject of food permit me simply to remark that our breakfast this morning in the family restaurant was good.  I did the buffet (so I could get tons of bacon and sausage); His Lordship ordered à la carte. After breakfast we walked around part of the extensive property, specifically down to the dock on the Lake where we perused the nautical artifacts and moored boats.  The weather today is dull, grey and on-and-off rain.  After we returned to the room I prepared myself for a visit to the spa.

Last evening I had enquired about availability of times today for mani, pedi and massage but there was nothing.  So I contented myself today with the sauna, steam room, whirl pool and swimming pools. The spa has a smaller private pool specifically for spa guests so I dozed there for some time, wrapped in layers of towels and a robe.

Upon returning to the room a housekeeper enquired whether I wanted the room made up today, to which I replied yes and suggested the moment was now convenient.  When she proceeded immediately to undertake the task it pleased me to give her a gratuity.  It was apparent that it was unexpected but welcome.  It isn't often we have the opportunity to express our gratitude to these assistants.  We know they work hard and are under-paid.

For our return trip tomorrow we propose to travel directly south towards Toronto, then engage the 407 ETR (Express Toll Route) eastward before joining the 401 to the 416 to Ottawa. As much as I enjoyed the bucolic route we took to get here it won't disturb me to take 4-lane highways instead.  I find many travellers are annoying on the 2-lane routes, always pushing to go in excess of the speed limit, sometimes dangerously so.

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