"Now shift!" I urge my friend, Penny, as she turns the Mini Cooper left onto the highway and an 18-wheeler passes us with a gust of wind so strong it rocks our two-door vehicle. Neither of us has driven a manual transmission before, but I recognize the furious whine, the clue to shift, from days spent in my brother's Jeep. My shoulders are tense, eyes fierce and yet my hands remain jelly from a soothing, tendon-loosening manicure at the Spa in Bayfield, tucked in a western hamlet of Ontario.
We whiz and jerk past deep ditches on our quest for a few bottles of wine to cap off what had been a relaxing day. This fretful ride is necessary simply because the Mini Cooper was parked at the end of our rented cottage's driveway, blocking in our tame, fully automatic truck. "It was easier to take it than to move it," Penny laughs, her face shiny and rosy from the morning's facial.
The engine pleads for the next gear. "Again!" I yell. I peel my gaze from the swiftly passing fields as the flash of coral color on my nails catches my eye. Penny finally gets the Mini into sixth gear, allowing my mind to wander to the old Victorian home we were so safe inside just hours before — a maze of bedrooms-turned-spa suites with yellow walls, sky-blue ceilings and wispy, white curtains that felt like home. I try to recapture the calm of being covered in thick goo from my ankles to my shoulders during a luminous mud wrap.
But in mere minutes, I'm snapped from my reverie as we zip past the store and Penny attempts to reverse our shiny green ride, landing us in a dirt patch rather than a parking space. We pop out of the car — and burst into laughter. And I yield completely, because best friend time is rejuvenating, no matter the danger involved.
Kick back in Bayfield, Ontario, with good eats, a relaxing spa day and fun activities throughout town.
4 p.m. Check into Bayfield Pines, a secluded five-bedroom log cabin ($1,100 weekend rate).
5 p.m. Grab seats near the Docks Restaurant and Bar's wraparound windows for views of the marina and Bayfield River. 1 Bluewater Highway,
6 p.m. Pick up dill pickle chips at Foodland for a very Canadian snack on the beach as you watch the sun drop at the end of Long Hill Road.
9 a.m. DaVinci Ristorante offers a guilt-free, berry healthy breakfast made with fat-free yogurt ($6) and house-made raisin bran muffins ($1.85).
10 a.m. Start your spa day with a French lavender salt glow ($60), followed by a Yum custom facial ($80).
Noon Stroll along Main Street, where you'll find Hive, a colorful store that carries sumptuous bath products from Barefoot Venus.
12:30 p.m. Indulge in the Pink Flamingo Bakery and Boutique's signature lemon cupcake with pink lemonade frosting ($2.50).
2 p.m. The Spa's herbal foot care treatment ($40) and a spa manicure ($25) will revive feet and hands tired from shopping.
4 p.m. Gab about your spa day as you walk along Bayfield River by way of the Sawmill Trail.
6 p.m. Hop into the car for a wine run.
7 p.m. Settle into the Black Dog Village Pub and Bistro to share salt and pepper calamari ($12) and pulled duck tacos ($6 each).
8 p.m. At the Little Inn Restaurant, share a chocolate pecan tart ($12) with a glass of regional wine.
8 a.m. Head to the beach for yoga. (Keep an eye out on the Bayfield Town Hall's website for spring and summer classes.)