Stratford Girls Trip: Day 1
There are few things better than a good girls trip. Seriously, think about it: you get to travel and experience a bunch of new things with your gal pals, eat delicious food and have refreshing cocktails, shop, and you don’t have to worry about anything or anyone else for a few days! This past weekend, I got to travel to Stratford, Ontario with five other Michigan bloggers: Liz (@withwonderandwhimsy), Anne (@curlsandcontours), Grace (@colorandgrace), Sarah (@sarahbrithinee) and Alleigh (@alleighchrzan). We spent three days and two nights in this beautiful little city, and I’ll be sharing all of the details in a series of three blog posts. I felt like breaking it down by day would be easier for everyone to digest (and for me to write!).
How Did the Trip Come About?
When I told a few friends and family that I was going on an influencer trip, the first thing they asked me was, “How did that come about?” Well, Liz has traveled to Stratford a few times, and the last time she went, she wrote a blog post about her experience and sent it to the Stratford Tourism Alliance. They loved what she wrote, and from there, a partnership was born! Liz emailed me during the winter to ask me if I was interested in going on an influencer trip in June and of course I said yes! The six of us met up around Valentine’s Day for a super-cute themed brunch at Liz’s so that we could all get to know one another better and learn about the logistics of the trip. It was so hard for us to contain our excitement. Four of us had never been to Stratford before, so we we couldn't wait to see what was in store!
Time to Hit the Road
I know I say this all the time, but time really does fly, y’all. It seemed like we had just met up for brunch, but I looked up and it was time to start packing! I don’t know what it is about vacations and feeling like you need to buy all new clothes, but since I’m balling on a budget these days, I knew buying new stuff wasn’t really an option for me. I had to challenge myself to get creative with the things I already owned. And as you’ll see later on in this post and the next two, I think I did a pretty OK job!
We all met at Liz’s house on Friday morning to pack up the car and hit the road. Alleigh and I had the biggest bags – everyone else brought medium-sized ones, but we brought the big guns, lol. I was nervous that all of our stuff wouldn’t fit in the trunk, but by playing a little game of Tetris (get it?), we were able to stack everything perfectly.
The drive to Stratford is only about three hours long. Since we spent the whole ride there just talking and listening to music, it really didn’t even seem that long. We got into the city around 11 a.m., and when I tell y’all the weather was perfect – believe me! It was about 75º when we arrived and there was not a cloud in sight. Such a contrast from the rainy weather we’d been having in Detroit. Our first stop was the Stratford Tourist Alliance office, which is where we met our tour guide Cathy and her social media manager Lucy. The ladies were SO incredibly nice. They kept telling us how excited they were to have us in town. It really made me feel special. I’m really big on energy so I really appreciated their kindness and enthusiasm.
For those of you that have never been to Stratford before, I’ll give you a little info about the city: They’re known as an arts town. Their most popular event is the Shakespeare Arts Festival, which has been held every summer since 1953. Only a bout 32,000 people live in the city, but they draw in large tourist crowds because of the many plays, musical events and attractions they have to offer. They take their food seriously – more on that later – and to top it all off, Justin Bieber is from there! If that isn’t enough reason alone to make you want to visit, then I don’t know what to tell ya. Lol.
We were a group that was all about prioritizing, so of course the first order of business after leaving the office was to go and get cocktails. We went to a place called the Revival House, which is a popular food, drink and events venue in the historic McKenzie Memorial Gospel Church. We hung out in the Belfry Lounge, which was remodeled and relaunched as the “Revival House” in 2015. Although there were clearly some renovations that had been done, (um, can you say full bar?), there were still plenty of original elements of the church like the gorgeous stain glass windows.
I could try to explain the décor inside of the Revival House, but I don’t think my words would do it justice. It was such a charming place. You could tell there was a lot of history there. One of my favorite things about the building was the chandelier inside of the lounge. It was a copper color with some crystals spread around the base; it caught my eye as soon as I walked in the door.
We were greeted by the staff and served some yummy green tea-based cocktails and a light lunch. I loved sitting outside on their patio and watching passerby as we ate and drank. Visiting the Revival House was such a great way to kick off our activities for the day!
Illume Wellness Spa
Next, it was time for a little pampering at Illume Wellness Spa. Illume is one of the city’s newest spas. The therapeutic space gives off a calming and natural vibe; they want to ensure that you feel great after visiting. When I walked in, I fell in love instantly. I am all about natural beauty and skincare, and just from looking at the aesthetics inside of the spa, I could tell that those two things were aligned with Illume’s mission.
We got to meet and talk with the owner, Elsa, who told us a little bit about her background and how she started her business. Then, we split into two groups of three for our treatments. One group (which consisted of me, Anne and Liz) went into the salt room and the other three got foot massages and scrubs.
I had never been in a salt room before but I had heard good things about them. For those that are unfamiliar, this is how it works: You sit in a (massage) chair and get comfy – you can put an eye cover over your eyes and even snuggle up with a blanket if you want to be extra cozy. There’s a generator in the room that will release Himalayan salt into the air for about 45 minutes. Within the first 2-3 minutes, you’ll be able to tell the difference in the air. I was talking and all of a sudden started to taste salt, lol. Salt rooms are beneficial for the body and mind. The salt helps to purify the air, increase lung capacity, reduce inflammation, and allows you to focus on meditation. I didn’t end up falling asleep, but I felt so relaxed when the session was over with. I honestly didn’t want to leave out of the room!
After the salt room, we got our foot scrubs and massages. Like I said earlier, Illume is all about natural care, so they don’t use the typical pedicure bowls that you’d see at a regular nail salon. For sanitary reasons, they use large metal bowls that they fill with water that they are able to easily transport and clean thoroughly. Jenna was my esthetician, and she did a wonderful job! You sometimes never know how much you need a foot massage until you actually get one.
Not Your Average Hotel
After Illume, it was time to check into our accommodations so we could do a quick change before dinner and the theatre. We literally only had like, 30 minutes to get ready. The pressure! We stayed at the Bentley’s Bar Inn & Restaurant, which is a pub with bi-level loft suites above it. I had my own room (woo hoo!) and it was so spacious! There was a king-size bed, kitchenette, dining table and flat screen TV on the lower level, and upstairs there was a full-size bed, a pull-out couch, another TV and the bathroom. I really liked staying here because it was so different from your typical hotel. I liked being able to have the option of sleeping on the upper or lower level. Of course I chose to sleep on the king bed, but still! Haha.
Sadly I wasn't able to capture any pictures before we had to leave out for dinner, but you can check out Bentley’s website to get a glimpse of what the rooms look like.
Everyone got all dolled up for the night’s festivities, and I must say, we all looked stunning! We were scheduled to go to AO Pasta for a family style dinner, but we managed to stop in the Shakespeare Gardens for an impromptu photo shoot first.
I wore a green and pink printed Eloquii dress with gold Madewell earrings and black strappy heels from Target. Since theatres are typically a little chilly, I decided to bring my black faux leather jacket along. I’ve worn this dress several times before, but this was my first time pairing it with the jacket. I think it gave me an edgy, yet feminine, look.
After we finished taking pictures, we got seated at AO Pasta. Y’all. The food was SO GOOD. We got to meet one of the owners, Chef Suzy, who started the restaurant with her husband, Chef Kris, in 2018. Chef Suzy gave us a brief rundown about the restaurant – they named it after their two kids, Axel & Olive – and shortly after, the dishes started coming. We started with a few appetizers, with one of them being their signature “Arancini,” which are deep fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella. To be honest, I could’ve eaten five of them on my own! They were that good. They also brought us three different kinds of pasta and dessert. Safe to say we were stuffed for the rest of the night!
I loved how fresh everything tasted. They make all of their pasta in-house, and it shows! I also liked how the restaurant was rooted in family. I thought it was so cute that the “AO” represented Chefs Suzy & Kris’s children. How cool is it to be a kid with a restaurant named after you?
Feed Me, Seymour!
Finally, it was time for the theatre! We walked a few blocks over to the Avon Theatre to go see “Little Shop of Horrors.” I love musicals, so I was really excited for this part of the night. Funny story: My oldest brother, Brian, used to love watching the movie, and I used to get so scared of Audrey II so I could never sit through the whole thing.
The theatre was beautiful on the inside and outside. There were hundreds of people making their way inside when we arrived. It was apparent that going to the show is one of the more popular Stratford activities. The play was AMAZING. All of the actors did a wonderful job, especially those that were controlling Audrey II!
Although there were some parts that were still just a teensy bit scary to me, there was a lot of comedic relief and the songs were really catchy.
Time to Rest!
As you can tell, we had a really busy, but fun, first day in Stratford! I was so pleased with everything I had seen and done that day, and knowing that we were just getting started gave me even higher hopes for the rest of the trip!
Keep following along with my posts to read about what else we did during our weekend getaway.