This time last year, I spent Mother’s Day at home alone. (Single tear.) My 22-year-old son had just flown our Ontario nest for the Rockies, and my 16-year-old daughter and I had only just met.
Aimée and I were in the mandatory pre-adoption courtship phase: meeting up on Saturdays to see movies, wander around museums, and bake cupcakes… figuring out if we wanted to take the next step and become family. We did.
To celebrate surviving Year One of the subsequent pick-up-your-socks-and-do-your-homework phase, we’re treating ourselves to a relaxing Mother’s Day girls’ getaway—filled with celebratory desserts—in and around Cobourg, Ontario.
Spa time at Ste Anne’s
The bonding begins with a one-hour train ride from Toronto to Cobourg, then pick-up service by a driver from Ste Anne’s spa, to nearby Grafton. The sun is setting over Lake Ontario and the rolling Northumberland County fields, where cattle graze, as we make our way to Ste Anne’s.
We pass through an arch lit with fairy lights and cross a stone courtyard, before and we’re both already feeling the magic. “I’ve got butterflies,” I whisper to Aimée, as we head to the lobby for check in. “There are people eating in their bathrobes!” my daughter whispers back, part-shocked, part-delighted, as we pass the dining room. I think I could get used to this.
I treat myself to reflexology (to get the Qi flowing) and a seaweed wrap; Aimée does the foot treatment “my feet will be happy” and an express facial to amp up her youthful glow, which was already pretty freakin’ glowy.
My daughter and I are both big fans of animals—the furrier the better. So we schedule a session at the stables to learn how to groom a pony named Porkchops together. After we’ve finished giving Porkchops his own spa treatment, we linger on the farm to pet a three-month old Bernese mountain dog, who’s all love and furry cankles.
We also discover a shared love of spa cuisine, thanks to the long dessert menu at Ste Anne’s. The sweet stuff is all made in the property’s gluten-free on-site bakery. If you’re all gluten-free, schmuten-free, hear me out: the choices include syrupy butter tarts, rich hazelnut chocolate tarts, and the creamiest crème brûlée my teaspoon has ever shattered.
Aimée spends her entire allowance at the bakery for souvenirs to take home. My mother’s instinct says that sweet stuff won’t even make it the whole train ride home—and honestly, I’m too relaxed to care!
A Lazy Saturday in Cobourg
We venture into town on Saturday morning to visit the Farmer’s Market in downtown Cobourg, one of the oldest in Ontario, having been running since 1839. It’s located just behind Victoria Hall, the grand Greco-Roman-style town chambers in the heart of Cobourg, which also houses a concert hall and art gallery. A little hinting gets me a bouquet of farm-picked flowers from my daughter, and she is richly rewarded with warm donuts tossed in sugar, fresh from the fryer.
Cobourg is known for its sandy beach right downtown, next to Victoria Park, but even though the sand is as white and pristine as the sand on any Caribbean resort, it’s pleasantly uncrowded at this time of year and super-relaxing for an afternoon walk. We watch some kids play Frisbee with their mom and dad and a dog venture knee deep into Lake Ontario to retrieve his stick, as we stroll along the boardwalk.
Then at Harbourlight Delights—a yellow-painted restaurant with cottage-style shutters and a bright purple door—we reward ourselves with soft scoop on the patio.
Just north of the west beach boardwalk, we discover Cobourg Ecology Garden. The first spring flowers in the bog garden and the wildflower garden are just starting to bloom—Snow Drops, Lily of the Valley, Violets and Trilliums. We sit on a sculptural wooden bench just off the path, to listen to the bright wood warblers trill.
A local gardener tells us that the Monarch butterflies will be fluttering here in a month or two, after wintering in the South, to gorge on the nectar of the milkweed and the Butterfly Bush. Reason enough for us to return for a summer trip, Aimée and I decide, before we make our way to the final stop of our day in town: The Mill Restaurant and Pub.
Built in a former grist mill built in the 1800s and overlooking Cobourg Creek and a gorgeously landscaped golf course, this relaxing spot serves up lunches made from ingredients from local farms: think golden and red beets with goat cheese or heritage pork sausage and chicory tossed in handmade pasta.
After I’ve filled my belly with Millstone bread pudding and Aimée has reveled in the velvety liquid chocolate magic of her first lava cake, we conclude that this is our best Mother’s Day weekend ever!
Top image: Ste Anne’s Spa (© Ste Anne’s Spa)