If you have ever driven on the 401 West toward Windsor/the 401 East toward Toronto, you have definitely passed a sign that says “Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.” As a lover of nature and the outdoors this sign has been haunting me for years; I have been dying to see what it is all about! My cousin Melissa and I picked a day to shop at the outdoor mall in Halton Hills, I convinced her to extend our drive a bit further and head toward the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory with me. I took my Jeep Liberty Limited, 3.7 litre-6 cylinder engine along for the ride.
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We drove from Vaughan, which is approximately 97 kilometres east of Cambridge and a 1 hour and 10 minute drive – not including a few stops we made to and from our destination. Before I got in my car to leave for the road trip there are a few items I always make sure to keep with me:
- A car phone charger (for my cell phone, I rely on my GPS and it drains the battery)
- Windshield wiper fluid
- $20.00 – my jeep always has a $20 bill in it as emergency cash. I stash it away so that I am never tempted to grab it out – you never know when or why you'll need cash and it's always good in case of emergencies.
- My CAA card...for obvious reasons
- My 407 transponder because highway 401 traffic is unpredictable
- A flashlight... seriously
- Hand Sanitizer! No matter how many times I wash my hands on a road trip, they don’t feel clean enough!
Picked up Melissa! My cousin lives about a 20 minute drive east of me. We had planned to be on the road by 8:30am. Luckily our little road trip was on a Saturday, so the roads were not too congested. It’s always better to leave earlier for any road trip. Depending on the day you leave, giving yourself extra time can help avoid traffic or if you hit traffic, you left early so you won’t be too behind schedule. We were right on time.
The first thing Melissa said to me when she got in the car is, “We’re getting coffee, right?!” Umm...YES! I feel as though a staple in any Canadian’s road trip is a Tim Horton’s stop. Let’s face it there’s a Tim Horton’s at almost every major intersection in Canada. We picked a Tim Horton’s located right near the 401 ramp keeping us on track and on time!
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After our coffee and breakfast stop, we got on the ramp marked 401 West and began our mini road trip! I decided not to fill up on gas just yet, I have a big tank (3.7 litres) and my jeep is pretty good on gas especially highway driving. I had exactly half a tank full of gas before we got on the highway. We headed toward the Halton Hills outlet mall which is about 37 km and 25 minutes away from Vaughan.
Stop 3: The Toronto Premium Outlets in Halton Hills
located at 13771 Steeles Avenue. This place is magnificent! With over 85 outlet stores, this mall is a shopper’s dream come true. The beauty in waking up early to take our road trip is that we arrived around 9:15am and snagged a close-up parking spot before the mall became packed! I actually recommend waking up early before going to any mall… especially in the Winter. No one wants to walk a long distance in the bitter cold! After an hour and a half of shopping, Melissa and I got back on the 401 West and headed toward Cambridge.
Now before any road trip I recommend updating your phone’s music playlist
. Nothing is more gruelling than the repetitive radio
in the car for over an hour. I can’t even tolerate it for 20 minutes to be honest. The only problem you might come across by doing this is enjoying the music too much
… which is exactly what happened to us. We missed our stop on the highway and ended up in Hamilton. 45 minutes away from Cambridge! How does that happen?! We only had ourselves and Aretha Franklin to blame. I must say, sometimes mistakes can be a blessing in disguise, because this detour brought us to one of the most beautiful Canadian churches.
Stop 4: The Cathedral of Christ the King
is a Catholic Church located at 714 King Street West in Hamilton, Ontario. We found out that the bishop of Hamilton, The Most Reverend D. Douglas Crosby, lives at this church. The Cathedral of Christ the King’s architecture is breathtaking and looks like it could be a church in Europe. We couldn’t drive past it without stopping by.
The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is the destination that the “Butterfly Conservatory” highway signs lead you to.
It’s located at 2500 Kossuth Road
in, you guessed it, Cambridge! The conservation sits on 117 acres of land and has a 10,800 square foot indoor tropical garden which features exotic plants, waterfalls
, tropical finches, Chinese painted quail, red eared slider turtles and among all: thousands of breathtaking butterflies. For those of you who have never been, the garden room is kept at tropical temperatures, so dress light
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Walking into this conservation is comparable to getting off a plane on a tropical island. There is an extreme rise in temperature and it is humid...weather Canadians might crave after this frigid and dry winter. The sound of a waterfall surrounds you alongside classical music playing lightly in the background. A rush of tranquility captivates your nerves and almost instantly calms them. I glanced toward the waterfall and through it I saw a woman sitting on the other side peacefully reading a book. It’s clear she has found the perfect reading space.
Fluttering around you are hundreds of breathtaking butterflies and moths of all different kinds. A lot of the butterflies are rice paper butterflies which are white. When encircled by them you feel like you are in a world where summer and winter collide. It truly is a Snowfall of Butterflies.
After spending time in this enchanted greenhouse we make our way over to the Cambridge Conservatory restaurant. The chef Kyle Nichol, gave us a sneak peak at some of the new dishes on the menu! My favourite was his little Teacup Vanilla Custard. Kyle gave me the recipe and encouraged me to share it:
Vanilla Custard Cups
YIELD : 2 ½ CUPS
500 ML 35% CREAM
½ VANILLA BEAN, SEEDED AND SCRAPED
4 EGG YOLKS
½ CUP SUGAR
2 TBSP FLOUR
¼ CUP UNSALTED BUTTER, ROOM TEMPERATURE
- In a non-reactive pot, combine the cream and vanilla bean (seeds and the pod itself)
- Bring up to a simmer, watching carefully that it does not boil over
- Immediately combine the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a heat resistant bowl with a whisk
- Carefully and slowly add about ½ cup of the cream at a time to the egg yolks, whisking constantly
- Add the next addition when the last is fully combined
- When all the cream is combined with the egg yolks, return the mixture to the pot
- Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer
- The instant it simmers, strain through a fine sieve into a clean heat resistant bowl
- Add the butter while the mixture is still warm and whisk vigorously to combine
- Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until completely chilled and set
The Teacup Vanilla Custard was the perfect way to end our little road trip.
At 3pm we left to come home feeling stress-free and serene. Before we headed home I realized I needed gas because my tank was verging empty. To avoid anymore stops or delays, I decided to get gas at an “En Route” on my way back. Service centres are convenient stops when on a road trip; they have restaurants and gas stations all in one place. They are metres away from the highway, involve no detours, and have an on and off ramp. I filled up my tank for 96c/litre in Cambridge...not to brag or anything!
We had a pretty smooth drive on the way home from Cambridge going straight on the 401 East toward Toronto. I always find that the moment I hit the Milton area the traffic gets considerably heavier, especially around 3:30pm or later. Thankfully I had my 407 transponder (Toronto/GTA Toll Highway) which allowed us to beat the traffic and get home in a timelier manner.
Sometimes you just need a mini-road trip even if it is for one day. Leaving your everyday routine behind and doing something that is outside of your comfort zone feels great. I strongly suggest using your days off to partake in an activity that gets you in touch with nature. So often we are consumed by technology and responsibilities that we forget about the effortless magnificence that surrounds us.
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