Band on the Run: Folklore Bed & Breakfast on Lake Ontario

Ember Swift, Canadian musician and touring performer, will be keeping us up-to-date on what it’s like to tour a band throughout North America. Having just arrived back from Beijing where she spent three months (check out her “Canadian in Beijing” series), she offers a musician’s perspective on road life.

Staying at “Bed & Breakfasts” (B&Bs) is something that I have done many times with the band. Often events presenters or festival organizers choose to put up the artists in regional B&Bs because they have local connections for donated or discounted rooms. I prefer it, actually, since I’ve seen so many identical floor plans to corporate hotels.

Staying in those widely known hotel franchises takes the travel out of my reality; inside the hotels, I could be anywhere and everywhere at once. Nothing has changed from the previous night’s accommodation despite the miles under my wheels.

Perhaps corporate hotel chains offer the comfort needed for weary travellers: something consistent. For me, it’s just boring, not to mention false. If I’m going for illusion, I’d rather go for the illusion that I live somewhere else, not that I’m not somewhere else.

B&Bs offer that illusion. The most beautiful one that I have ever seen (and I’ve stayed in plenty) is perched on the edge of Lake Ontario (just south of Grafton) and has an amazing story. It’s called Folklore Bed & Breakfast.

Generally, houses that are transformed into Bed & Breakfasts are still lived in by the owners (or hosts). This gives one a glimpse of someone else’s kitchen, furniture, view, record collection, etc. It’s a bit like trying on someone else’s life for a moment, despite the fact that the owner is still present and you’re usually paying for the privilege of this residential dress-up game, (unless you’re working as musicians and you’re “being accommodated!”)

What’s more, B&Bs offer a middle zone between being just another completely faceless customer who is virtually ignored after payment has been processed and your lonely friend’s long-lost house guest, i.e. just enough privacy so that socializing is optional without it having to be awkward if you need space.

This particular B&B takes the prize as my most perfect illusion of residency yet. Located less than an hour from Kingston, Ontario and about an hour and a half from Toronto, it is traditional log home that originated in 19th century Quebec. The owner, Leslie Benson, found the house one province over and arranged to have it shipped in pieces to its current site where it has just recently opened as this 21st century Bed & Breakfast. Originally built in the 1860’s, it is a square hewn log home with a huge central hearth. Leslie has since added a board and batten addition and porch that stretches out towards the lake to better view the water. The space is now about 1800 square feet in total.

Ample Land and waterfront.
History and great view.
Privacy and tight-knit community beyond the property lines.
A fireplace.
A hammock.

(I’m drooling even typing this.)

There we were as performers at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival and this is what we were treated to as our “pretend residence” for three days. We drove up the long driveway at night (at least 1 km in length) along 35 length-wise acres of land in the traditional lake property style of the area. (When settlers took over this land, they were ceded strips along the lake to enable everyone to have at least a narrow lakefront but still enough land on which to have a sustainable farm.) The house at the end of the driveway was stunning. Lit in the front by two flood lights, it looked like history itself, the front windows two wide eyes staring back at us with the lake sparkling behind it like secrets daring to be told.

The next morning, one of those secrets turned out to be the incredible view of Lake Ontario. I could have spent hours just listening to the waves and watching the sun dance off the water. Unlike smaller lakes, all of the Great feel more like an ocean than any other body of fresh water I have ever been near. (There’s some dispute about whether or not they actually have tides, however.) I’ve also heard that it’s clean enough to swim here, though the water was way too cold for me.

It took another day before I learned it wasn’t the original house on this property. I was amazed. Leslie is an engineer and “Transportation and Design Manager” for a company in Clarington, Ontario, which explains how she was able to negotiate moving an entire house and re-assembling it in a new location. And, I have to say, with a few years of restoration of a century home under my own (tool) belt, she and her team have done a remarkable job. I would never have known that this wasn’t its original location. It looks like it belongs here.

The home came home, perhaps.

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The inside is filled with antiques and traditional furnishings. There are four bedrooms upstairs: her master suite above the addition and three other rooms equipped with big wooden wardrobes and quilts on the foot boards of the old-fashioned beds. Even the bathroom, a huge room upstairs the size of a bedroom (obviously having once been just that before the days of plumbing) had wooden furnishings and traditional washbasins on display as well as the requisite modern bath and shower.

In my estimation, we more than “stayed in style.” I felt sorry for the other musicians down the road at The Comfort Inn.

I have never encountered a B&B chain. Has anyone else? Though, nowadays with houses being constructed all over North America with the same floor plan and by the same interior designers, it’s possible that such an idea could strike an entrepreneur. I’m still hoping it never does, though. It would take the charm right out of the experience. It’s all about every space being different, after all.

B&B chain = oxymoron.

And this was different. Beautifully so.

I left a note for Leslie when we left offering to “house sit” anytime along with my personal phone number.

I meant it.