Thornbury, Ontario - Stretched out on my deck catching some sun, under the view of a dozen apartments, I hear a cacophony of horns and sirens and window-shattering music thumping from one lone car in the street.
I imagine getting away, if only for a couple of days. Ontario is mine to discover, I've heard, so why not discover it? But what could possibly be exciting here?
I long to go away - far away - not stay close to home. The word "vacation" brings to mind sandy beaches, margaritas flowing as if from a bottomless crystal-stemmed glass. I envision passports and plane rides and distant, undiscovered lands.
But I don't have the time or the money to play the world.
For my retreat from city life, I flip a coin. Moose we go north of Toronto, Queen we go south. Moose it is. I immediately call my partner. "We're outta here as soon as you get home."
Before he can utter an "um" I'm packing for two, and before he gets into the apartment I've started the van.
Getting out of the city on a Friday isn't pretty, but when you're looking forward to something different, the trip's worth it. We drive two hours north up Airport Road and disappear into the Georgian Triangle.
My first thought is of Wasaga Beach and Blue Mountain, but instead we head for a small town called Thornbury in Grey County, just west of Collingwood on Highway 26.
Thornbury has numerous B&Bs, but you definitely need to book in advance. We're not ready to rough it by camping at Craigleith Provincial Park, so we opt for the Royal Harbour Resort overlooking Georgian Bay.
After settling in, we have a romantic dinner at one of the local restaurants before taking an evening walk along the banks of the Beaver River to the bay.
The next day we weigh a number of choices: mountain biking at Kolapore Uplands, rock climbing, a chartered sail, golf, a walk on the Bruce Trail along the Niagara Escarpment or exploring the labyrinth of caverns at Scenic Caves.
We choose none of these, and instead rent a canoe in the village of Heathcote, just south of Thornbury, to paddle at least part of the 40km Beaver River.
We feel like we've been whisked into a forgotten world. Untouched nature surrounds us. As our oars dip into the water, we glide in a silence broken only by our friendly hellos to couples passing by.
A light breeze rustles the maple trees. There are ospreys and blue herons in the trees and deer at the shoreline. Beaver dams hug the banks.
About two hours into our leisurely paddle upriver, we discover an inlet with a small island big enough for two. The thought of being stranded on an island has always been enticing. This land mass may be only 4 by 6 metres, but it definitely is deserted.
I unpack the cooler, some sandwiches we picked up at the local bakery, a salad and the sangria we concocted. Bare-chested in the heat, my partner lays out the blanket.
Suddenly, a primal part of me emerges, brought out by the brush of leaves and the harmonized sounds of nature. I feel romantic. There isn't a soul around. I grab his belt.
The stream rushes, pounding against rocks, then calmly widens into the mouth of the river. A blue heron perched on a treetop stares at us, possibly wondering who we are and what the hell we're doing.
You can't buy this kind of privacy in Toronto.
There's definitely something to be said for nature, human and otherwise. Since then, when I hear the word "exotic" I shrug, but when I hear the word "erotic" I think of losing myself to the Beaver River, if only for a weekend.