I guess you can't really call going for a marathon an 'escape' but if you've ever had to run, watch, or attempt to get around during the Toronto Waterfront Marathon you will understand how much more desirable it is to be in the rolling countryside during peak colours than running along Lakeshore Drive whilst irate Sunday drivers openly curse your existence.
I'd heard good things about Prince Edward County. Well, not really, actually. I hadn't heard much of anything about it except that I knew Wellington brewed beer there. That's it.
We decided on Prince Edward County for the marathon because after years of running in cities, Jed decided it would be nice to run in nature with less than 15000 sweaty people, some of whom would most definitely be wearing banana costumes, wafting around him.
Having booked a B + B and a bike from Bloomfield Bicycle Co. well in advance we drove east from Toronto, stopping only for a memorable apple fritter in the shadow of the most giant inhabitable apple in the world.
As we drove into the county the somewhat cloudy skies began to break and sunshine basked the countryside in the kind of glow only October can bestow. We stopped at a fruit and veggie stand to admire the produce and get some apples, also vowing to find a legitimate use for warty gourds beyond table decorations. We went into Picton to pick up Jed's race pack and had a coffee at the wonderful Mrs. Lily's.
Our bed and breakfast was located in Wellington, where the race would start on Sunday. We had a reservation at Agrarian in Bloomfield - a total gem where fresh, local food & wine and impeccable preparation & presentation is the rule. It's the law for Jed to fill up on tasty carbs before a run and I can never let him feel like he's doing it alone. We ate well and went to bed as early as possible.
The next morning I went with Jed to the start line before the race started at 8am. I had my bike with me and as soon as he was off, I set out for a side trail that would parallel the race course for the first 6km. At that point, I joined up with the route and rode along with him for almost the entire duration of the race. The route wove through Wellington, Bloomfield, Sandbanks Provincial Park, and looped up to Picton. It was the most relaxing marathon we have ever been to - and this was Jed's 15th! He ran 3:13 and came in 19th overall :)
Not only was the route totally gorgeous, the people are so community oriented and friendly; the whole county seemed involved in volunteering to hand out drinks, clean up afterwards, or block off roads. People came out of their homes with signs and stood at the side of the road cheering on the runners. It was such a beautiful experience.
After a tasty pizza lunch in Picton we went back to the B+B for a rest. That evening we went over to the new Drake Devonshire for pre-dinner drinks before heading to East & Main. It was another fantastic meal - local, fresh, delicious.
Monday morning was gloomy and rainy, but we were determined to drive around the county and explore. We headed up to Lake on the Mountain and over to some of the wineries / fromageries further along the highway 7 / 8. By the time we stopped into Black River for a sample of their cheddar, the skies began to break up and we were driving once more into a picturesque rolling countryside with autumn colours dappled by rainy sunbeams.
Next up was the 66 Gillead Distilery, a place that dazzled me with its heritage chickens, historic charm and incredibly tasty sipping rum. After a short walk around Karlos Estate Winery, we went back to the Drake Devonshire for an afternoon coffee and a bout of severe longing about our sad lives as apartment dwellers in Toronto. One day, Prince Edward County... One day...
On our way out to the highway, we stopped at a pumpkin patch to take in one last, long look at the county. Until next year...