Illustration by Nazario Garziano

With their shaggy white hooves and long-lashed gazes, the Clydesdale horses grazing on the pastures along the shore of Rice Lake look as relaxed as my two daughters and I when we emerge from our spa treatments at Elmhirst’s Resort. We just wrapped up an afternoon of mani-pedis and Tui Na, a deep tissue Chinese-style massage designed to harmonize Qi energy throughout the body and provide a holistic boost to mind and spirit.

A trip to the spa is a key ingredient in a mother-daughter getaway at Elmhirst’s, located on 100 hectares of waterfront in the Kawarthas, a cottage country enclave about 90 minutes from Toronto. Our weekend experiences have included pampering at the spa, floating in the lakeside swimming pool and simply watching the stars rise above the violet-hued islands on Rice Lake.

Courtesy of the writer

This mother-daughter vacation is a world away from the travels we shared during their childhood and teen years. Then, our holidays packed as much excitement and together-time as a busy investment executive (me) could manage while juggling career demands. Fun and frenetic, our adventures were opportunities for spontaneous explorations.

On a weekend jaunt to Orlando, at their urging, I joined them in the spirit of you-only-live-once, upgrading our wallet-friendly compact car rental for a lipstick-red convertible. We breezed past the sand dunes of nearby Cocoa Beach with the wind in our hair and discovered that cruising with the top down was the best way to experience this quintessential Florida beach town.

“Fun and frenetic, our adventures were opportunities for spontaneous explorations.”

On a mother-daughter week in Greece, we balanced my passion for ancient history (Athens and Delphi) with their enthusiasm for beach time (Mykonos). One daughter fell in love (twice), her younger sister took scuba diving lessons and we dined by torch light inwhitewashed restaurants overlooking crystalline Aegean waters.

During those early days of travel with teens, my role often seemed a mix of drill sergeant and chaperone. I steered our experiences through what seemed a gauntlet of testosterone and attentive young men. Familial bonds were sometimes stretched thin with three females jockeying for space in one tiny hotel bathroom.

Photograph courtesy of the writer

But what a bonding experience mother-daughter getaways can be. Even the weighty six-year age gap between my two daughters seemed to disappear on vacation. Differences that seemed insurmountable at home vanished as my daughters explored the world together. They calculated currency exchange rates in the swanky boutiques of Rodeo Drive, giggled about potential suitors and translated foreign menus with ease. In Palm Springs, they rekindled a shared love of horseback riding during a morning trail ride through the breathtaking backcountry of Indian Canyons. In Sarasota, Fla., they bodysurfed buddy-system style while I bobbed in the shallows close to shore.

“Differences that seemed insurmountable at home vanished as my daughters explored the world together.”

Things have evolved since those early days. Now my daughters are adults and they are the ones with busy lives, which means that like life itself, our mother-daughter getaways are evolving. Sophisticated shopping and non-stop excitement are less of a priority and our new focus is rest and relaxation. Adventures can be as simple as kayaking on a mirrored lake at dawn.

New experiences enrich these adult getaways. At Elmhirst’s, we wrapped up a leisurely spa day with a private tutored wine tasting in the resort’s underground wine cellar. One daughter became a fan of a crisp Riesling 2016 by Megalomaniac Winery, while the other was keen on a cherry-noted Pinot Noir 2015 by Norman Hardie Winery.

In our new era of mother-daughter travel, a bit of wine now makes the family bonding go even more smoothly.

This article appears in the May 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine.