“Affordable Muskoka” IS NOT an Oxymoron… Yet!

All The Convenience At a Fraction Of The Price

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   2 bdrm renovated condo in seniors’ lowrise $239,900/$461 monthly maintenance 
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Large renovated kitchen in the Town of Bracebridge seniors’ condo $239,900

Sometimes I feel like kicking myself for not holding onto a home in Toronto as the prices have risen to ridiculous levels. However, I only have to spend ten minutes in Toronto traffic to remind me that the trade-off was worth it.

 

Two hours north, Muskoka is a huge and vast region that covers almost the same area as the GTA. It is comprised of several towns like Huntsville, Port Carling, Gravenhurst and Bracebridge, smaller villages and hamlets in between and, of course, lots of lakes.  In my youth, when we came to the cottage from Toronto to Muskoka, mom would grocery shop in the city because there just wasn’t the variety up here and the prices were jacked up. Decades later Muskoka can boast about having pretty well everything one needs to live an incredible modern life. These days if Sobey’s, Wallmart, Shopper’s, LCBO or Home Depot doesn’t have it you can either travel an hour to Barrie or simply order it online.

Cottages have changed from a summer place where you dump the furniture you no longer want in the city to a place that is fully equipped for year-round use. And as I predicted twenty years ago, more than a home in Toronto, a cottage is an excellent investment. Where Toronto housing is spreading to the outskirts,  God ain’t making any more lakes. “What we have is all we’re gettin’.” 

However, for the time being, homes in the towns and villages of Muskoka have remained reasonable.  So when the time comes to sell that city house for $2.3 million   you paid $27,000 for fifty years ago, you can purchase an incredible home here in Muskoka for what is a bargain compared to Toronto. As I previously mentioned, today Muskoka has everything from fine dining to highly regarded hospitals, a variety of arts and cultural events to parks at your doorstep. Depending on where you buy, Toronto is a mere 2 to 2 3/4 hours away. (Actually, Gravenhurst is only 1 1/2 hours.) Taxes in the towns are reasonable and there you have water and sewers, parks, shopping, high-speed internet plus other amenities.

Offered at $249,900.  Newly renovated on 3/4 of an acre lot located in a small and historic Muskoka community.

For the time being buying here off-water in Muskoka is affordable, however, I must admit that I have seen a steady increase in prices and less product on the market. I think the word is out as more and more people are leaving the city for a life that is equally convenient but less stressful here in the Muskoka region.


Vince Grittani has been a licensed salesperson for fifteen years both in Muskoka and Toronto. He recently joined Solterra Realty Inc. Brokerage, in Port Carling, the heart of the region.  Vince has personally been buying and selling houses for thirty-five years and has owned and/or co-owned several cottages, city and country homes, condos and co-ops, attached and semis, both new and old construction on vacant and built upon land.

He is also known for his vast experience with cottage living and his contributions to the local and cultural community. Vince has written on a variety of topics for such publications as the National Post, Post Homes, Cottage Dog and Muskoka magazine, plus has produced and written extensively for television, stage and other media.  He owns and runs the successful casual TWG GUEST HOUSE in the village of Rosseau and  is the author of “The Weekend Guy; A Survival Guide” (Key Porter Books)   vince@weekendguy.com     www.weekendguy.com

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“Wake Me” It Ain’t Over

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“Wake Me When It’s Over! The ‘12-Step Musical’ 

GRAVENHURST – The Gravenhurst Opera House presents its final theatrical production of the 2016 summer season; the award-winning “Wake Me When It’s Over…the 12-step musical”, an original comedy by Canadian stage and screenwriter Vince Grittani with music by Rosalind Mills. This comedic look at one man’s attempt to cope with change on his sixtieth birthday features Larry Herbert (Stratford’s “42nd Street”, Toronto’s ”Mamma Mia” and “Cats”) and the versatile Debbie Collins (Mirvish Production of “The Producers”), who was last seen in this year’s Opera House production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes!”

This high-energy comedy from the creator of hits “Yuppies! The Musical”, “Quiet! I’m Talking” and “Scenes From My Dock”, has been updated and features, in addition to the original, new scenes and songs like “Divorce of Course” and “I’ve Got An App For That!”

As Roger (played by Herbert) is about to celebrate his 60th birthday, he turns to Dr. Yolanda and her book “Flush, a 12-step program to happiness!” With each step Roger is confronted by a series of hilarious women from his life, past and present, all played (sometimes at the same time) by Collins. From his strap-happy grade school teacher Sister Mary of The Compassionate and Merciful Christ to the slightly wacky Margo, an Evita Peron wannabe, running for president of the condo association, Roger is forced to deal with each of these characters before moving on.

Award winning director Dayna Tekatch, who directed the 2016 season opener, “2 Across” as well as Mirvish Productions’ “Forever Plaid” in Toronto earlier this year, returns to direct and choreograph this production along with musical director Sherisse Stevens. The show opens Tuesday, September 13 and runs until September 30.

Visit www.GravenhurstOperaHouse.com to purchase tickets or call the Box Office: 705-687-5550

The Evolution of the TWG Guest House in Rosseau with AirBnb!

Doing My Own Thing!

The smell of my  “Vin-a-bon” cinnamon rolls and chelsea buns baking in the oven, combined with fresh espresso coffee brewing on top of the stove, filled the crisp morning air. Nick and Lynn, a young couple from Belgium, were in the front sunroom sluggishly rearranging their backpacks, preparing for their first canoe adventure into Algonquin Park.  Dinner of homemade pasta and mussels, eggplant parmigiana and foccacia from the evening before, still filled their bellies with content. However, it did not stop them from enjoying my morning spread of hot lattes and tastey treats.

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Homemade Chelsea Buns, Bagels & Granola

As I stood back and watched, recalling my own backpacking adventures when I was in my youth, I suddenly realized what I had created with the TWG GUEST HOUSE was a combination of all the things  I loved most when travelling.

  1. A place where the host was the owner. They were local, or at least well informed about the area.
  2. You felt like you were stepping into a person’s home and so you got a glimpse of their personality and home life.
  3. The food was their own. Freshly made and again reflective of their personality.
  4. The atmosphere was casual, where you got to meet the owner’s friends, family & even pets.
  5. The rooms were clean, comfortable and not pretentious.
  6. It wasn’t expensive.
  7. It was a gathering place, where people from many walks of life and from a variety of origins met, ate together, laughed and exchanged stories.
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Iago & Willow

This is exactly what the TWG Guest House has become, a gathering place that is affordable, comfortable and personable, with good food to boot!

For years I have been hosting friends, visitors and many actors from my theatre company, all without charging them, because, well, I love doing it. But last fall when the actors returned to the city and suddenly I had an empty house, my cousin Lisa suggested that I list on AirBnB. Quite frankly I wasn’t even familiar with what is now the largest hotel in the world, a combination of all sorts of accommodations from urban condos to luxury recreational homes to campers vans parked on the street of  Brooklyn, New York.

So, after photographing my home, I joined Airbnb and within days I started getting bookings. At first I simply rented rooms and people would use my kitchen to prepare meals or go out for dinner and breakfast. To be honest I wasn’t really comfortable with this arrangement. However, during the fall, when there are fewer dining options in the village, I found myself offering to prepare food. Soon that developed from preparing coffee and toast in the morning to making full-scale dinners.

When I opened in fall ’15, my visitors were primarily Europeans here to see the cavalcade of autumn colours or to experience a final canoe trip to Algonquin Park. During the winter I had only a few visitors but as spring approached I decided to take on this adventure with more of a commitment. In addition to rearranging my rooms, I also added a full continental breakfast that includes homemade bagels, muffins of sorts, chelsea buns, cinnamon buns, granola, smoothies, crepes and a selection of coffees and teas. Of course, dinners too became a favourite and guests started requesting my  Italian specialties.

This year, what I found very popular, were young couples going to weddings at the JW Marriott, just a short ride down the highway and who didn’t want to, nor were able to afford the expense of a room at the resort. Also, I have had several parents staying who were dropping off, visiting or picking up kids at summer camp. Then there were the urbanites looking for a weekend getaway, and others; families, who were looking for an affordable way to experience Muskoka. My reviews, for the most part, have been excellent, except from those who were not comfortable with the cozy atmosphere and having to interact  with other guests. I suspect they have not travelled much.  I’m the first one to admit, the TWG GUEST HOUSE isn’t for everyone, especially the anti-social.

From my perspective the venture has been truly successful and beneficial. It has provided me with security while I write my next project. It’s given me the opportunity to test out new cooking and baking skills. But most of all, in a region of the province where the majority are longtime, permanent residents of several generations, it has assured me that Canada is still a nation that celebrates complex, wonderful and versatile individuals. This year I have welcomed members from every community; visitors from the likes of Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Italy, Spain, Australia and  several African and South American nations not to mention all parts of Canada and the U.S.

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A marriage proposal  while staying the TWG GUEST HOUSE 

As one guest commented “It’s not the Four Seasons!”, nor have I ever claimed to be anything close to it or any other hotel.  I used to describe the TWG GUEST HOUSE as a “BnB”, which in fact, I am not.  I am my own invention; a hybrid of a traditional North American BnB, an Italian penzione and a hostel found anywhere in the world. It’s a place where strangers gather, become instant best friends then leave feeling they have had the opportunity to experience the local culture, and maybe, a bit of Muskoka magic. It’s a place that has turned out better than I had ever imagined. #keepingMuskokaAffordable

Visit www.TwgGuestHouse.com

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STAY WITH THE PLAYWRIGHT & CHECK OUT THE TWG FALL THEATRE SPECIAL 

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The Weekend Guy’s Guest House…Quaint Sells!

cottage simpleThis past September I finally did what I have been doing for years, but now I am charging. I opened a “pop up” B&B. Actually it’s more of a cross between a tourist house and a small inn. I call it The Weekend Guy’s Guest House, of course.

It wasn’t a big leap for me. I just finished hosting a house full of actors and filmmakers for nearly two months. The difference is I’m charging, and now most people only stay a few days, not weeks.

It’s actually a good way of testing a long time dream to open up a small inn, kinda like Bob Newhart did on TV.  I would get to play host and also have the time in my office to sit and write during the day. It wasn’t hard either as my house is set up for such a venture. I have my space at the rear of the house and my guests stay in one of three rooms up on the second floor and share a bathroom.

Of course the internet has made it easy. I literally set up on AirBnB one day and within 24 hours I had my first booking! Since then I have entertained travellers from Germany, Israel, Netherlands, United States and Canada. There’s a learning curve involved. As AirBnB allows you to list anything from an entire house, to a single room, to a yurt in the backyard, you also have a choice as to what amenities you offer. At first I chose to simply provide a room with clean sheets and towels, plus the use of my kitchen. TwinAlthough I didn’t provide breakfast I did make morning coffee. This bare bones service was really all people wanted at first. However, I quickly learned that, yes there were guest who were simply looking for a place to crash for the night, there were also travellers who saw the opportunity for an inside look in the local culture. Naturally, being part of that culture, I switched to local tour guide and  cook as I would invite those staying for a few nights to dinner without charging. Hmmm.

It’s been truly an experience and an opportunity to meet really nice people from all over the planet. But I will admit, whether it was done consciously or not, I used these first few weeks to ask questions regarding my price and what services I was missing. I quickly learned my price was two low and some people prefered locks on their doors. I also learned that I can’t rely on the local restaurants to always be open for my guests, plus, most listings charge a cleaning service…And boy do I know why!

Now with twenty-six paying guests under my belt since Sept 6, having worked up a routine for laundry and cleaning duty, plus staying on top my dog Iago’s early barking routine, I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I’ve increased my prices, (just a few bucks to make it worth my time and effort), plus, I’ve added a cleaning charge. (You won’t believe how many times I’ve washed the sheets in the last few weeks!) I’m now offering dinner and breakfast packages. But what I am really  looking forward to are my group packages. Inviting  cyclists, snowmobilers, snowshoers or hikers up for a two-day all-inclusive. I’m even looking at hooking up with the local spa and offering “girls weekend getaways”.

Sometimes living in Rosseau gets so boring…but to outsiders we are a quaint little village. Last week two delightful girls who are big fans of “Gilmore Girls” compared Rosseau to Stars Hollow! Not quite. Stars Hollow is a metropolis compared to this place…Still, people are willing to pay for quaint….so, line up! I’m open for business!

For details on The Weekend Guy’s Guest House vist http://weekendguy.com/Weekendguys_Guest_House.html

ROSSEAU CULTURE AND ARTS PRESENTS A TOE-TAPPING, EXCITING AND EDUCATIONAL SUMMER OF FUN!

To celebrate our second year of “Destination Rosseau” we are expanding with “Parry Sound I Love You” (P.S. I Love comboYou) and introducing great new activities in both locations.

SUMMER CAMP – Humphrey & Parry Sound

Once again we return with week-long summer camp workshops. First, during the last week in July  (27-31) at the Humphrey Rec Centre we’re running “Get In The Act Theatre Crafts Camp”. This is a real hands-on session and kids get to experiment and make a whole bunch of cool theatre props, play with special effects and learn about other nifty backstage craft. It’s like performance science!

IMG_0442Then for that last two weeks of August we are holding “Caught In The Act Theatre Camps” at St. James United Church in Downtown Parry Sound. We have two separate camps scheduled Aug 17-21 and Aug 24-28. Lead by experienced instructors and professional actors this is a week of encouragement, development and experimentation in various stage crafts. Designed for kids 8 – 16 it’s an opportunity to find one’s inner talent. A great way to bring shy kids out of their shell and an exciting vehicle for experienced kids to show us what they’ve got.  Join in the fun.

Both camps are limited. For more information click SEND MY KID TO CAMP!

After seven years on the shelf we are bringing back our musical salute to summer and cottage life “Scenes From My Dock!”. SCENES LOGOThis year we are running the show for 4 nights only in Rosseau (JULY 15-18) at the community hall then moving it to our new space in the above renovated Brunswick Bar & Grill (Formerly Don Cherry’s) in beautiful Downtown Parry Sound. 72 James St. (JULY 21-AUG 15).  Even if you have seen the show I promise you a few surprises.  HOWEVER…the biggest change is that we are offering DINNER THEATRE in both locations. In Rosseau, the spread will be catered by our wonderful new cafe “Cottage Law”.  In Parry Sound, the new Brunswick Sports Bar and Grill will be providing the dinner upstairs in the theatre. Tickets for just the show are also available.  For both locations tickets are only $60 (everything but booze included)  or $30 show only.  FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION CLICK  SCENES FROM MY DOCK!  

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And of course we couldn’t forget the success for last year’s comedy night! This year will be even more insane as we present “UP AGAINST THE WALL! COMEDY BASH”  July 31 -Aug 2 , in Parry Sound and Rosseau, featuring comics Mike Paterson and Tim Rabnett. HIGH-LAR-I-US! But you should come if you are a prude.  We are also presenting this in a dinner setting. Tickets are $65 dinner/show and $35 for the show only.  FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION CLICK GET ME COMEDY TICKETS! 

Then what a great way to top of the summer than by attending the second annual MUSKOKA INDEPENDENT FILM e small posterFESTIVAL.  Our featured genre this year is HUMOUR from around the planet. The weekend of flicks begins with a GALA DINNER/FILMS on Aug 27 with Dini Petty who once again returns as our guest host.  Then on Friday Night, Aug 28, we take a special look at humour and horror. All day Saturday and Sunday it’s more films and lectures! One special event is “He Shoots! He Scores!” a workshop on the importance of music to a film. FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION CLICK MOVIES! MOVIES! MOVIES!

To find out our full summer schedule visit www.DestinationRosseau.com or www.ParrySoundILoveYou.com

$20 off TICKETS for the new comedy “The AUDIT” at the Village of Rosseau Playhouse

 

 

 

 

Save $20 on a pair of tickets to performances (THIS WEEK ONLY) of “The Audit” a new comedy by Vince Grittani at THE VILLAGE OF ROSSEAU PLAYHOUSE , running July 8 -19.  Good for Tuesday July 8 through July 12 on PHONE ORDERS 705-224-3542 QUOTE “I’m a friend of the playwright” and save $20 off a pair of $60 tickets.  OR PRINT THIS PAGE and bring it to the box office any day between 11 AM to 5 PM.  FOR MORE INFORMATION visit www.destinationrosseau.com 

The Audit CAST with namesAUDIT POSTER

The Muskoka Independent Film Festival…The Village of Rosseau, a Perfect Setting!

ImageThis summer the tiny Village of Rosseau plays host to The Muskoka Independent Film Festival (MIFF). It is the final event to mark the end of a larger, 2-month, Destination Rosseau, a festival of live theatre, art, music and film.

Personally, I have been wanting to produce a film festival here in the area for years. Although there are a few events that call themselves film festivals in the region, I wanted MIFF to be more than just a series of screenings in one large venue. Plus, I did not want to bring in a prepackaged series either. I see MIFF as being “an event” on its own.

In the early days of the Toronto Film Festival, way before it went all Hollywood, each year I would receive a VIP pass that allowed me into everything. Those were the days when one did not have to pre-register to see a film. You just ran around from venue to venue with the catalogue tucked under your arm and got in line! (Although with the VIP pass you got to go to the front of the line. 🙂 ) . After or before a screening, you and fellow cinefiles would gather in coffee shops or bars, discuss the films you saw and listened for reviews of great flicks that had a second screening. There were parties and yes there were stars, but it was a more subtle display of fan adoration and no red carpet. There were also panel discussions where filmmakers would disclose the stories behind the makings of their projects. This is my vision for MIFF.

This year as my associates, members of the Rosseau Culture and Arts Project and fellow village residents, embark upon the launch of Destination Rosseau 2014, I was lucky enough to meet this wonderful woman Catherine Mondragon. Originally Catherine was going to assist me with grant writing, but I quickly realized that it was a waste of her talents. Catherine was a filmmaker and as I discovered, a film lecturer. And Bbesides film, Catherine has been a student of urban studies, a wonderful asset for my overall vision in this tiny hamlet of Rosseau as an arts destination. So I assigned her the position of coordinator of MIFF.

The great thing about Catherine is that she is from a generation a few below my own and so her contacts and view of the film world are different from my own. As a result, our programme for the first MIFF is forming into a “sweet celebration of the silver screen”.  Although at this point we are not ready to announce the final lineup, I can tell you that everything is going as planned.

The first Muskoka Independent Film Festival will take place from August 28 through 30th in three venues here in the Village of Rosseau. The Village of Rosseau is a quaint hub at the top of Lake Rosseau, part of the famous Muskoka Lakes system.  From Rosseau one has a choice of direct access to Huntsville, Bracebridge, Port Carling and Parry Sound. If there’s one word I hear over and over that describes the Village is “quaint”.  It boasts fine restaurants , a gourmet general store, LCBO, coffee shops, nursing station, churches, gift stores, art galleries and a few B&Bs. Just south of us one finds the JW Marriott Resort “The Rosseau” and Clevelands House with more restaurants and other facilities.  To the east there’s the famous Windermere House and to the west, the newly reopened Grand Tappattoo resort.

Our village is known as the place where it is not uncommon to find movie and sports stars, famous musicians or captains of industry casually having dinner, strolling through our Friday Farmer’s Market or haggling over the price at our Sunday antique market. All of this is located within a two block radius. Our venues, the new Rosseau Playhouse in the Agricultural Hall, The Memorial Hall and Frost Hall, part of the Anglican church, are within a two to three minute stroll of each other, as are the coffee shops and restaurants, the perfect location for pre and post viewing discussions.

Although we are not tapping into the local celebrities we have confirmed a few who are coming on board to kickstart MIFF. As informal discussions are very much part of our festival format, who better to lead them than my friend Dini Petty, who for years interviewed in depth, artists, “A” list movie stars and even over zealous cottage TV hosts like myself.  Catherine has and continues to bring on board a great variety of filmmakers and there’s more to come. We are accepting submissions up to the end of June. For details visit http://www.rosseaucultureandarts.com/Muskoka_Independent_Film_Festival.html  or email Catherine Mondragon at catherine@rosseaucultureandarts.com .

Day and festival passes are available now online at www.rosseaucultureandarts.com or after May 16th at the Destination Rosseau Box Office in the TWG Gallery in Rosseau. As our venues are “intimate,  passes are limited…and there will be parties.



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