Reviving Romance in Cambridge Waterloo
After 30 years of marriage, my husband and I can’t be the only couple who don’t too excited about Valentine’s Day. It’s not all champagne and chocolates anymore. (Green smoothies and hemp seed energy balls are more like it).
Truth is, sometimes we don’t even bother with the schmaltzy Hallmark cards. But after a two-night couples getaway to Cambridge and Waterloo over the winter break, we’re determined to revisit the area for Valentine’s and deliver a shot of adrenaline into the lethargy of our long-term conjugality.
On the agenda: wining, dining, butterflies, walks in the park, a downtown stroll and even an ambitious snowshoe hike. Our soundtrack for the drive? Glenn Miller’s In The Mood. The best way to start our Valentine’s adventure is with a magical stroll through the tropical rain forest setting of the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory where thousands of free-flying delicately-winged creatures — including iridescent blue morphos, emerald swallowtails and silver-spotted flambeaus — flit in excited circles above our heads.
Chinese painted quails, green singing finch and German roller canaries make their home in the massive leafy lobster claw plants, elephant ears and bird of paradise — vegetation on steroids. The place is also home to lots of creepy crawlies — tropical insects and arthropods such as the giant cave cockroach and the Chilean rose-haired tarantula are on display and you can also handle some large insects with the assistance of a naturalist.
My husband took particular delight in having an eight-inch lime green Malaysian jungle nymph crawl tenderly up his arm…so romantic. The Conservatory offers a special Valentine’s Dinner on February 14, which includes entrance to the attraction as well as a gourmet four-course dinner for $69.95 (you can also add wine and roses).
The Cambridge Mill, an elegant circa-1844 renovated mill and popular wedding spot with riverside views, is another option for a romantic dinner for two. Operated by the same owners as the Ancaster Mill and Burlington’s Spencer’s at the Waterfront, it’s rolling out the red carpet for Valentine’s from February 10-14 with shareable menus, a special steak and wine night and an expanded version of its already famously bounteous Sunday brunch.
The Dunfield Theatre, just a five minute drive from the restaurant, is staging a Valentine’s-themed “All You Need is Love” Beatles tribute concert on February 13 and 14 that will be performed by awardwinning Drayton Entertainment singers backed by the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra. At the end of the night there’s no more luxurious spot in the region to lay your head (or enjoy a nightcap in front of the in-room wood burning fireplace) than Langdon Hall, one of only 14 Relais & Châteaux properties in Canada that also comes with a prestigious pedigree — it was built in 1904 by the great grandson of New York mogul John Jacob Astor, one of the richest people in the world when he died aboard the Titanic.
On our last visit to the 60-room inn we sank into a deep sleep on the deep feather king-size bed that’s perfectly fit for royalty. We were determined to head out early the next day for a snowshoe trek on the property’s 2.5 km Deer Run trail, but come morning we could barely resurface from the cozy comfort of the down duvets.
We made it to breakfast just in time to make our selections from the overflowing country breakfast table, including the last two large and perfectly flaky chocolate croissants that offer a satisfying — and surprisingly loud — crackle when we bit into their tasty goodness.
The front desk lent us snowshoes and we worked off our breakfast indulgences trudging over deep snow through the Carolinian forest. (Other opportunities for hiking in the area include the Grand Valley Trail and the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail.) Before checking out we grabbed a couple of the wooden sticks and individually wrapped marshmallows provided in the lobby to roast outside in the open fire pit - a sweet and elegant ending to our stay.
Before leaving Cambridge we checked out the street shopping in the historic Galt section where multiple magnificent church steeples poke through the sky and warmed ourselves with a latte at the funky Monigram Coffee Roasters. We made a note to come back in the summer to check out L.A.
Franks, a popular spot famous for its hand-cut French fries finished with sea salt and cider vinegar. Next we made the half-hour trek to head to Waterloo and checked into the 4-star pet-friendly Delta Hotel, which offers a romance package ($229) that includes a bottle of wine in the room, as well as a cheese plate, dipped berries and candied nuts and breakfast for two with a late check-out at 2 p.m.
The hotel’s Proof Kitchen + Lounge offers a lively setting, great food and the most charming waiter who takes great pride in reciting the dinner menu as if it were poetry. How could we resist his recommendation of the wild mushroom ravioli: “filled with earthy mushrooms on silky cauliflower puree with truffle so rich and aromatic” or the restaurant’s reigning champ of dessert known as the OMG: “a thin crust of peanut and pretzel, held together with salted caramel, holding aloft a deep rich wedge of a dark fudge-y chocolate epiphany. It is a thorough visceral thrill. Garnished with a Luxardo cherry.”
Before calling it a night we take a postprandial stroll through Waterloo Park, a five-minute drive from the hotel. It’s the dead of winter but we see a number of couples out walking, bundled up and huddled close. Love warms them against the chill. We hold hands too. Because after 30 years of marriage, it’s what you do.