All posts in “Experiences”

Mind Body & Soul Retreat Recap

Another successful retreat under our belts. This one felt no different than previous years. The setting at Sherwood Farm was idyllic, the workshop facilitators were phenomenal and the food was delicious. Yet there was a difference for me; with respect to the preplanning in the midst of a pandemic to ensure the safety of all our delegates and vendors. Here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes:

Firstly, I dithered a bit. Would I have the nerve to offer a live event despite the pandemic? And if so, what were the steps I needed to take to host a safe event? I had already hosted 2 virtual retreats and they were very successful from all aspects, including vendor and delegate satisfaction. It would be so easy to just offer another virtual event. However, I decided to take the plunge. If I, as an event planner could not design and curate a safe event, then who could?

Step One: I asked past participants to weigh in on this issue. Namely, would they want to attend a live event, knowing that I would be taking every precaution? An overwhelming majority said yes, so I hit the ground running.

Step Two: I enrolled in the Event Leadership Institute’s course: Pandemic On-Site Protocol. This was instrumental in determining which layers of safety needed to be incorporated to ensure a safe event and entailed the creation of a customized Duty of Care process. I also enrolled my on-site event planner in the same course so that we both benefitted from this specialized training.

Step Three: I decided early on that all participants needed to be fully vaccinated in order to attend and embedded that requirement in my registration process. For those who were not fully vaccinated, I had a private conversation with them requesting that they take the COVID-19 rapid test upon arrival. I ordered the Abbott Rapid Test kit and familiarized myself with the testing protocol. As a biochemist, I felt confident in administering the nasal test but nevertheless practiced using the kit beforehand.

Step Four: I selected a private venue so that there would be no exposure with other guests, such as at a hotel where various groups would be on site.  Sherwood Farm is located in King City, ON on 70 acres of land. I met with the owner and we mapped out the space. The aim was for all activities to take place outdoors including meals. There were designated areas for vendor booths, yoga, horse meditation and speaker talks. We ensured that everyone was socially distanced and made use of signs “ Stay One Horse Length Apart”. Masks were mandatory inside the house which guests would access to grab coffee or use the washrooms. I also allocated a private area for on-site testing.

Step Five: I purposefully marketed the group rate to encourage people to sign up together. The thinking behind this was that people in the same bubble (siblings, best friends) would be more apt to feel safe participating in the various activities and eating together.

Step Six: When making catering arrangements, I requested that all meals be boxed so that delegates would only need to pick up their power bowls and an apple and proceed to eat anywhere on the property. There was a few tables and chairs set up and some people took advantage of that, while others ate elsewhere on the grounds.

Step Seven: On the day prior to the event, I sent out a link for the Covid screening questionnaire and asked delegates to provide us proof of completion when checking in at the registration booth.

Step Eight: I attended an event planning summit shortly before the retreat and benefitted from a planner’s story about how to differentiate people’s comfort level with being greeted by using a colour coded name badge system. Green meant you were comfortable being hugged. Yellow meant you were OK with elbow taps and red meant you were only OK being spoken to. It was interesting that most people chose yellow at our event.

I am happy to report that the retreat went very smoothly. People were very respectful. Everyone followed the protocols we set out and no one got sick. As a result of having planned this year’s live retreat, I am more confident in my ability to design and curate a wonderful experience that incorporates safety at every level.

Québec City does not disappoint!

On a recent trip to Québec City, I was delighted to rediscover some wonderful sites and take in lots of lovely sounds from musicians performing throughout the Old City.

Here’s the back story: a few years ago, I had bid on this trip at a MPI Xmas event which included a flight for two from Toronto to Québec City, a 2-day stay at the Hotel Château Laurier, a dinner at the famous Fairmont Château Frontenac and museum passes thanks to Québec City Business Destination We were all ready to redeem this trip last year, but then COVID hit. So we rescheduled till this Summer and as they say “good things happen to those who wait.”

This city knows about food; we ate our way through the trip! Highlights included a very inventive meal at Chez Rioux & Pettigrew, which had been rated as the #2 best restaurant in Québec City by Trip Advisor. Originally this was a store that was founded in 1860 by Narcisse Rioux and bills from that time are on display throughout the restaurant, giving it an added historical touch. We had 4 dishes to share, everyone one of them a hit. Imagine scallops and mussels in a creamy corn sauce. Delicious.

The meal at Le Sam Bistro’s in the Château Frontenac was outstanding and included fresh oysters with a fennel & citrus salad and an amazing chocolate dessert. The best thing about the meal, other than the fantastic food was the view; our table overlooked the old town.

What surprised me was how hilly Québec City was; a walk around town used muscles I did not know existed. There are lots of staircases as well; so bring sturdy walking shoes. The Plains of Abraham are definitely worth checking out. There is lots of history at this site.

Another place not to miss is the Musée de civilisation. We saw the Maya exhibit which is featured until October 3, 2021. There is an extensive collection of artifacts, most of them never before exhibited outside of Guatemala. Did you know that the Maya built cities with massive temples in the middle of dense forests? Truly impressive!

I highly recommend Québec City for its culture, gastronomy and friendly locals; this destination should be on everyone’s bucket list!

Local overnight stay turns into a fabulous experience!

On a recent visit to Langdon Hall, Cambridge, I was very impressed by the standards they set. Our room was ready upon arrival at 2:00 PM. And what a stately room it was; spacious and magnificently furnished. I was delighted to see a fireplace and there was lots of wood available in and outside the room. The bathroom had a deep tub and they provided bath salts. We definitely took advantage of both fireplace and bathtub during our stay!

But what was truly impressive was the fact that someone remembered me mentioning that it was my husband’s birthday. Waiting for us was a sweet package of apple muffins, beautifully packaged with a red ribbon and a card wishing him Happy Birthday. It’s the little things that count.

We took a walk around the grounds which were spectacular. Then we came back and awaiting our dinner which was served in our room. The sommelier advised us about the wine, which turned out to be very memorable! The food was outstanding especially the cheese platter I had for dessert which included local honey.

I had reserved a garden tour the next morning and I feel that this was the highlight of the stay. It even surpassed the lobster scrambled eggs, served with fresh croissants, a berry bowl and fresh OJ. So what was so special about the tour? It was led by the head gardener and he was so passionate about what he did. We toured the garden, learned a lot and by the end of the tour, I was inspired to grow herbs and veggies in my backyard. This is a major shift for me as I was really not that interested in gardening and left most of those chores to my husband. But I was inspired and over the next few weeks, I went to the garden centre, bought mint, Thai basil, cilantro, chives, regular basil and thyme. I love that I am able to go out to the garden and pick some herbs to add flavour to my dishes! I also bought lilies and hydrangeas which I planted. I am really enjoying my garden this year, and it is thanks to the tranquil setting of Langdon Hall and their dedicated staff, that I have found a new passion!

Langdon Hall is part of Relais et Chateaux, and this designation puts them in good company amongst the most coveted properties around the world. I feel very lucky to have Langdon Hall in close proximity so my home so that I can go visit often. Next time, I will make use of their fabulous spa, which I have tried in the past.