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Gone glamping at Bingemans in Ontario

- June 25th, 2012

If you’re like the 25% of Ontarians who, according to Ontario Parks, have never been camping, a “glamping” vacation may be just the push you need to experience the great outdoors.

Glamping is a travel trend catching on everywhere from Vancouver Island in British Columbia to the Yukon to northern Ontario. Perfect for discerning travellers or any would-be camper nervous about equipment or the elements, it combines the comforts of modern furniture, electrical lighting and, in some cases, chef-prepared gourmet meals with the simplicity of camping.

At one hour from Toronto, Bingemans Camping Resort in Kitchener offers a family-friendly option close to Ontario’s capital.

The glamping yurt – a wood frame, tent-like structure – has a door that locks and is raised off the ground on a platform. There are no steps or ramp to get on the platform, though, so small children or those with mobility concerns may need some assistance. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Guests stay in Bingemans’ waterproof glamping yurt – a large, circular wood frame tent raised two-to-three feet off the ground on a platform – in a gated area near the resort’s RV park. There are no steps or ramps up to the platform, so small children and those with mobility concerns may need some assistance accessing the yurt.

The yurt’s deck faces the Grand River that flows through the resort. Sitting by the campfire at dusk while watching the water on the river is a relaxing way to pass the time.

There are two large windows in the yurt that have no covering beyond clear plastic sheets meant to keep out the nighttime chill. This is an obvious privacy issue, especially evident during my stay when several groups used the edge of the campsite just metres from the window as an informal path to the river where they launched and landed kayaks and walked dogs for a drink from the river. It made changing out of swimsuits or into pajamas an especially uncomfortable task, as one eye had to be kept on the window for foot traffic while clothes were quickly swapped.

The glamping yurt has electricity and fans ensure you won't get too warm during a summer visit. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Inside the yurt are two beds with linens, a sitting area, fans to keep guests cool on warm nights and chandelier lighting. There’s also a mini-fridge inside, something most campers at one time wish they had on summer trips when the ice in the cooler didn’t quite keep food fresh.

As someone who camps often, I found the convenience of not having to unpack and set up a tent, blow up an air mattress or constantly return to the park store for more ice a very welcome change. Guests should remember, though, that despite these amenities, they’re still camping. Spiders had covered the yurt’s chandelier in webs, bugs and outside dirt got inside and guests still have to use those less-than-pleasant public washrooms.

When dusk falls, sitting by your campfire overlooking the Grand River is a relaxing way to spend an evening. Wood costs $8 at Bingemans camping registration. Outside firewood is not allowed. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Kids will enjoy all the activities offered on site at Bingemans, especially the speed slides, wave pool and cyclone at Big Splash waterpark. Other family-friendly activities at Bingemans include go karting, a mini putt course and rock climbing.

A stay in the glamping yurt is pricey, with rates starting at $120 per night on weeknights and $150 per night on weekends. Extras, such as family passes to Bingemans’ waterpark or chef-created meals and spa treatments, are available at an additional cost.

For more information on camping at Bingemans Camping Resort, visit bingemans.com.

For more images of glamping at Bingemans, visit canoe.ca/glamping.

Lots of wet and wild fun awaits at Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark in Kitchener. (Courtesy Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark)

Welcome home to Trump Toronto

- June 7th, 2012

Having first experienced the opulence of Trump Hotels during a stay at the Trump Chicago last fall, it was a homecoming of sorts when I visited the Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto one rainy weekend in June.

The director of the Trump Toronto’s front office, Kervin van den Meijdenberg, even recognized my name when checking –in from my stay at Trump Chicago, where he worked before transferring to Toronto when the new hotel opened in January 2012.

The crystal cherry blossom art at the check-in desk of the Trump Toronto was assembled on the wall and features 3,100 pieces of crystal. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

 

The first Canadian property in business magnate Donald Trump’s hotel collection, Trump Toronto is undoubtedly stylish. Designed by Toronto firm II By IV Design Associates, the décor follows a “champagne and caviar” colour palate. Deep, dark features are offset by lighter shades in every element, from the pattern of tiles on the floor to the art deco inspired design on the elevator doors. Rich hints of purple compliment the contrasting neutral tones, incorporating the colours of the cherry blossom, another key design element that pops up everywhere from a crystal art installation behind the check-in desk, to artwork hanging in the hotel rooms, and even in the hallway carpets.

“It’s an extremely elegant building,” says John Bullock, director of marketing for Trump Toronto. “No matter where you are in the hotel, you’ll see a light and dark colour contrast.”

At one time, travellers considered a king size bed a treat. Now, luxury hotels have to up the ante on their most lavish amenities. Trump Toronto takes extravagant amenities to the next level, making it a “perk again to travel to a luxury hotel,” says Bullock, pointing to the hotel’s cutting edge features such as heated bathroom floors, touch screen lighting and curtain controls, and in-room Nespresso coffee machines.

The mosaic at the entrance to the Trump Toronto features two images superimposed on eachother: a photo of the crowd at the Air Canada Centre and a photo of the crowd at Roy Thompson Hall. Do you think you'd be able to spot yourself? (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

The first thing guests of Trump Toronto see upon arrival is a portrait of the people who call Toronto and area home. A large mural on display on a wall across from the entrance to Trump Toronto was created using a photo of fans at an Air Canada Centre event superimposed with a photo of a crowd at Roy Thompson Hall. The image was then recreated using 500,000 individual tiles. Would you be able to spot the one empty chair – or even yourself – in the mosaic?

While Trump Toronto strives to be a home-away-from home for all visitors, the first resident of the property’s condos will be welcomed home in July when construction on the units is complete. The hotel is also the tallest residential building in Canada at 65 storeys, with 218 condos above the 31st floor. Hotel suites can also be purchased through the property’s hotel-condo ownership model.

Turn-down service at the Trump Toronto is all about you. Features include bedside water, slippers out and ready to use and a weather forecast for the next day printed and waiting by your pillow. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Of course, the feeling of being welcomed home is not foreign to Trump Card holders. When signing up for a loyalty card, guests choose their preferences on everything from the temperature of the hotel room to which floor they’d prefer to be on. When arriving for a stay, the Trump Attache – a beefed up butler who can help with requests from dinner reservations to personalized business cards – will ensure the room is set up exactly the way the guest wants it to be.

But Trump Toronto goes beyond making their clientele feel at home; they have succeeded in making themselves at home in Toronto’s financial district at the corner of Bay and Adelaide streets.

SUITS Lobby Bar is sure to become the latest “it” spot for post-work drinks, thanks to its location, cozy décor and extensive martini menu. Be sure to try a tipple made with cherry blossom infused vodka, created exclusively for Trump Toronto.

Quartz Crystal Spa features treatments for both men and women in its 15,000 sq. foot space. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Trump Toronto also houses a 12,000 sq. foot business centre equipped with the latest in communications technology for perfect presentations, as well as the Quartz Crystal Spa, which features a salt water lap pool and offers body treatments, couples massage rooms, manicures, pedicures and more.

Welcome home to the flavours of STOCK

Before tucking in to the Italian Bellino linen covered beds, tuck in to the unique flavours of STOCK Restaurant on the 31st floor.

The 135-seat space offers magnificent views of the city and incorporates all the light and dark – “champagne and caviar” – design elements the rest of the hotel uses. In the summer, a sky-high outdoor patio will be open to diners.

The tuna tartare at STOCK Restaurant is a fresh, tangy dish with a rich avocado topping. It's a must-try for all visitors to the property! (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Under the guidance of head chef Todd Clarmo, who Torontonians will recognize from his work at Oliver & Bonacini, STOCK has developed a menu full of classic restaurant offerings – like pastas and steaks – and elevated them to a gourmet level; think gnocci stuffed with rabbit, guacamole with blue crab or filet mignon smothered in blue cheese with Chimichurri on the side.

One imagines this is the type of comfort food “The Donald” dines on when having dinner at home.

Of course there are also menu items simply meant to tantalize and tempt. I had the tuna tartare for my appetizer and was blown away by the ultra fresh bed of tuna sashimi with its tangy hit of lemon and rich avocado topping.

The arugula salad is also a must-try for its signature Minus 8 dressing, made with icewine.

For those who can't resist indulging, the chocolate cart at STOCK Restaurant is the perfect treat. (Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

Reward a sweet tooth by having the server bring the restaurant’s chocolate cart to the table at the end of the meal. Loaded with chocolate bark, truffles and other confectionary delights, all chocolate is prepared and crafted by pastry chef David Chow in-house at the restaurant’s temperature controlled Chocolate Lab.

The chocolate is priced by weight and the server can box up the treats to take back to the room to munch on later. This was certainly the chocolate-covered cherry on top of my “suite” Trump Toronto stay.

For more information or to book your stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto, visit trumptorontohotel.com.

For more images of the Trump Toronto, visit canoe.ca/trumptoronto.