Category Archives: Travel

Venturing to Squamish As The Endless Honeymoon Continues

Eats, Drinks, And Culture Feature Large in Today’s Squamish

It seems this summer is one endless honeymoon as Michael and I have been venturing around BC having a series of fantastic adventures. We’d journeyed through Squamish, perhaps stopping for lunch or a refuel on the way to or from Whistler, but hadn’t actually spent the night there until just last month. This town is well worth putting  a night or two aside for it’s got everything from a Distillery to First Nations Cultural Tours.

Sea To Sky Gondola

On the way up we stopped at the Sea to Sky Gondola and ventured up for lunch and one of their new tours, the “Talking Trees” Aboriginal Cultural Experience. On this jaunt, First Nations guides accompany guests through the alpine while they share stories of the natural and historical significance of the alpine forests and Squamish area.

Sea To Sky Gondola

Our guide made us feel as if we were taking a walk with a good friend, she was very personable and we could tell that each walk would be completely different as her talks were so completely authentic. Talking Trees tours are 1.5 hours and depart the Summit Plaza at noon, lots of great stories were told!

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Onto Squamish we checked into the Executive Suites. This gem is tucked off the road, but not far, and worth taking a few turns to get to, even if just for a meal in the newly opened Norman Rudy’s. We ran into our chef pal Darren Brown, he’s been working on the menu here and was helping man a pig roast on the balcony. Definitely some good food on this menu.

executive inn

The Hotel Suites include fully equipped kitchens and private balconies, and our suite had a fireplace and washer and dryer. Very much like a condo with lots of space, but also with the benefits of housekeeping and room service. The Executive in is set among the mountains and our room overlooked the golf course. We wish we could have stayed longer.

Gillespies

Before dinner we stopped in at Gillespie’s Spirits, where we sampled through their artisan imbibements. Plan to do the flight and then stay for at least one cocktail. If you are lucky you might even get a sneak peak into the back distilling room for a visit with the distiller. He was working on the new whisky on this day.

The Salted Vine

The Salted Vine

The Salted Vine

Dinner at Salted Vine is a must, this spot is just killing it with their cocktail program, stellar wine list and creative menu. It’s right downtown Squamish and is a collaboration between Chef Jeff Park and Pat Allan, who met at the well-accoladed  Araxi Restaurant in Whistler. The room is ultra comfy and service beyond attentive. You’ll find lots of small plates for sharing and delightful mains, the Don’t miss the Wagyu Beef with grilled broccolini, chimichurri, and smoked salt, or the Scallop Crudo with confit tomatoes, aji amarillo, yuzu, olives and potato crisps  and you absolutely need to sample the charcuterie. Find Salted Vine at 37991 Second Ave., Squamish, BC Open Wed– Sun; Happy Hour 3–5:30 p.m.;  Dinner 5–10 p.m.

Norman Rudy's

In the morning we fortified ourselves with breakfast and proceeded to check out and explore the area more.

Norman Rudy's

Westcoast Railway Heritage Park

First up we checked out the West Coast Railway Heritage Park. We took the mini train ride and peaked in and out of the many historic trains in the park. Quite fascinating, lots of Canada’s history revealed in these old iron horses!

Beer was next up as there’s three breweries to check out now, A Frame, Back Country (where their pizza was certainly tempting) and Howe Sound.

Howe Sound Brewery also has a great restaurant where we grabbed lunch before our trek homeward, both agreeing that this was one of our favourite fun-packed adventures!

Tripping To Okanagan Wine Country With Apple D’Or

Okanagan Wine Country – Naramata and a Bit Beyond

Thanks to the ever-charming Chef Victor Bongo, the ever-ready to travel Tess G. and I got an invite to the Naramata Bench for the launch of the chefs new menu and the wines Bongo created in conjunction with Serendipity Winery. We live in delicious times I tell you! You can check out the full story on the launch right here. While we were there we managed to sneak a little bit more into this Okanagan Wine Country visit.

Honda Canada CRV

The Honda CRV was perfect for cruising up from Vancouver with a ton of room for our wine purchases.  More on that ride soon!

Okanagan Wine Country

We checked into the Apple d’Or Bed and Breakfast, an absolutely stunning property overlooking the lake. They’ve spent a great deal of time created this gem, it looks like a large, luxurious log cabin from the outside, and is equally impressive once you open the door. There’s a special feeling at Apple d’Or, and each detail has been well thought out. The hosts are readily available should you need anything, but you’d hardly know they, or any other guests, are there as the rooms are spaced out, walls well insulated and privacy never was an issue.

The beds are super comfortable, I should know as I had to spend far too long there the night I first arrived as I was super-ill with some sort of insane food poisoning I picked up in Vancouver.

apple d'or

A stroll around the property reveals well-attended yards, unique sculptures and the spacious swimming pool which is now open for the summer.

apple d'or

Tea and coffee are available in the common area; they use a local tea company and there’s freshly roasted coffee, with real cream and milk of course.

apple d'or

Breakfast is served each morning and as we were there two days we were treated to something different each day I particularly enjoyed the smoked salmon, perfectly poached eggs, and the caramelized grapefruit.

apple d'or

The rooms are decked out with air conditioning, a music system, heated bathroom floor, small kitchen, flat screen TV, DVD player, telephone, high speed internet and individual private patios adjacent to the garden with a barbecue. Not a place we were eager to check out of at all! Highly recommend, especially for a romantic escape.

After my hellish night being deathly ill, I somehow made it out of bed that morning and was eager to get up to some fun. Total #fomo as I’d missed out on dinner the night before at Hillside Winery. Tess had really enjoyed it and I’ll have to get there next time.

Penticton Farmers Market

A delicious breakfast was enjoyed and we headed out to the farmers market where I purchased a much needed sun-hat. Then we were on to Victor Bongo’s Serendipity wine launch. The kids pictured were eating the craziest item and strongly suggested we indulge, but I don’t think my stomach will ever be ready for this insane combo.

Check out this post for details on the wine launch and luncheon, and here’s a few shots to give you a hint of what you might expect if you dined at the Naramata Inn under Chef Bongo’s watch; delish!

Legend Distilling

There was time to check out Legend Distilling between lunch and dinner, so of course we had to sample a few cocktails made with the local gin and vodka.

Serendipity Wine

That night dinner at the Inn was a delight, Bongo and his team of chefs created an exceptional meal, paired with great Serendipity Wines and the service was spot on. After a bit of entertainment we called it a night.

The next morning another great breakfast appeared from Apple D’Or and we then packed our bags and got ready to slowly head back to Vancouver, thinking a few stops were in order along the way.

Chef Victor Bongo

Back to the Inn, Chef Bongo had prepared a lovely buffet brunch; the frittata was delightful.

Urban Bench Winery

We almost cleaned out the cheese display at Urban Bench Winery. Shana Miller’s artisan cheeses are my favourite local cheese, each and every one of them. The winery’s Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are exceptional and I grabbed a couple bottles of Chard for another night or day. They’ve just installed a pizza oven, and from what I’ve observed from photos posted, the breads look delightful; we’ve added it to the to do list for next time.

8th Generation Vineyards

Tess had just had the 8th Generation Vineyards bubble at Chef Meets Grape, and was eager to repeat the experience so we stopped in to do a tasting and grab a few in Summerland. Their Rieslings are also exceptional.

Fitzpatrick

Ideally we would have had time for lunch at Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards,  but, one can only eat so much

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

The building is stunning, and they are making some excellent bubble as well as aromatic whites, Chardonnay and Rose and the food looked amazing. This gem will certainly elevate the profile of Okanagan Wine Country, and you may have remembered its previous incarnation as Greata Ranch.

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

The name Fitzpatrick’s refers to the well-known family that owned Cedarcreek Winery until the recent sale. They’ve been making stellar wine in the valley for decades. Take some time to visit this one and plan to stay a while in Okanagan Wine Country.

My Bachelorette – A Day at Spa Utopia and An Overnight at The Pan Pacific Hotel

Checking out the Pan Pacific Club Floor Rooms With My Ladies

It’s been so much about the wedding lately that I still have to catch up on writing about lots of adventures I had before the big day. I was sick with a terrible flu just before what was supposed to be the girls weekend at Whistler, so had to cancel that journey, and we had to rethink how to celebrate my last days of being single (not that I was heading into some sort of terrible married life or anything!). Thanks to the Pan Pacific Hotel I had a gift cert for a night’s stay, so Tess and I booked one of the newly renovated rooms on the Pacific Club floor, which had plenty of room to invite a few other pals for pre-dinner wine sipping and appies in our room.

The Pan Pacific Hotel bills the club floors as a “hotel within a hotel”, as they have access to the Pacific Club Lounge, complete with stunning views, a private check-in and check-out, personalized concierge services, complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres, an honour bar and many other amenities!

pacific club city suite parlour

The rooms are modern and spacious, ours had a King bed and a pull out couch, a little bar and sink area where we laid out our wine, some cheese and crackers we brought from home and also a couple of the the tasty bites from the lounge’s complimentary appie selection. They are designed with an elegant feel with hues of blues and grey, with warm sandy tones against a dark maple.  Wish we could have stayed longer, but I actually was eager to get home to Michael in the morning. I miss that man when I’m away, big sap, I know.

pacific club city suite king bedroom

We met up at Spa Utopia, the spa conveniently located right in the hotel, in the early afternoon to fully prepare and pamper for the evening ahead. I signed up for the Skin Regimen Body Scrub,  an anti-aging body treatment the is designed to oxygenate and nourish the skin, stimulate circulation and collagen production. The scrub left my skin velvety smooth and it definitely feeling tighter. I need all the anti-aging I can get these days. The treatment was so relaxing I almost fell asleep several times.

spa utopiaSpa Utopia

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I also got a blow out and a make up application and I really felt my best when I was done. The hairdresser was so quick taming my unruly curls (I really hate when I have to sit still forever) and the make up artist really did some magical things with contouring and accentuating my eyes. Why can’t have these ladies visit me daily? Some of my friends got pedi’s and others also went for the massage I did and were equally pleased. I wish I’d arrived earlier to thoroughly enjoy the lounge, steam room and pools, but I was rushing through life once again so missed this. Make sure you don’t! They even serve wine after your treatment.

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Looks it’s me with Rosana, Nanci and Maria!

Hy's

We headed up to our room at the Pan Pacific Hotel for some pre-dinner fun and then out to Hy’s Steakhouse for dinner, meeting up with a few more ladies. Great food and service here, I hope we weren’t too loud as there were a few of us and we were seated in the middle of the room! Yikes.Hy's

I had to have the steak tartare, as it’s one of the best in the city and love the wine list here, going for a bottle of the La Frenz Chardonnay, right from the Naramata Bench.

pacific club lounge pan pacific vancouver1

pacclub brkfst

I got back to the room a little before Tess and unfortunately star-fished the bed, so thank god for the couch, as I can’t be moved apparently! We had a nice breakfast before checking out even met some interesting people over coffee in the lounge. A most excellent adventure indeed.

Fly, Stay and Play in Comox

Comox is Just a Quick Flight Away

I am so very fond of traveling to Vancouver Island and do so at least several times a year. One of my favourite reasons to go is always the BC Shellfish Festival and I am looking very forward to it again this year. Last year I flew over for a day for quick visit as well, and managed to get in a whale watching tour, dinner at Locals an overnight and even a tasting and tour at Shelter Point Distillery. With Harbour Air you are there in less than an hour, so I may just have to repeat this this season!

Harbour Air

Easy peasy to jump on Harbour Air from Coal Harbour and it’s a gorgeous journey even on a cloudy day.

The Old House Hotel and Spa

We were picked up and transported to the Old House Hotel & Spa provided by Ambassador Shuttle Service. The hotel offers roomy accommodations with kitchens, fireplaces, soaker tubs and has Oh Spa on the property, as well as an outdoor heated pool, hot tub and lush historic gardens, all at a reasonable price.

After a quick freshen up we wandered over to Locals Restaurant, right on the property where Chef Ronald Pierre prepares uber local foods from Vancouver Island producers. Love the local Tannadice Farms pork and super fresh seafood here.

That next day we headed out on the Big Animal Encounter Tour with Pacific Pro Dive & Marine Adventures  and cruised the waters in search of marine animals in Desolation Sound. We immediately saw whales and then stopped for a BBQ and cruised the day away in style, running into several more whales, seals and wildlife; truly a special adventure.

Heading back to shore we were just in time for the Happy Hour Tour and Tasting at Shelter Point Distillery. Shelter Point Distillery, is the second single malt distillery in Canada and one of only a handful of distilleries that grow their own barley and distill on the same site. We ripped out into the fields and did a tasting outside.

Shelter Point Distillery

I even had to pick up a bottle for Michael before we headed back to the float plan and back home to Vancouver.

Don’t miss this year’s BC Shellfish Festival…..

Melting Moments in Morocco

Touring Morocco – A Taste of Moroccan Cuisine

Last year my parents were on the road a fair bit and one of their trips took them to Moroccan. My mother, Suzanne Anderton, was kind enough to contribute this article to GLV!

Morocco

Aching for the exotic? Willing to explore sights and foods you’ve only read about? Then go to Morocco-a well-spring of antiquity about to propel itself into the 21st Century.

In this amazing country  the true meaning of Moroccan food hits you. A blend of French, Berber and Arabian cuisine is cheaply available at in local street side cafes, elegant hotels, kitchens where the women chefs (Dadas) prepare traditional dishes, and  the market food stalls where you may not eat unless you have an iron constitution.

Morocco

With eyes wide open and an accepting mind, travel the expanses of sand, rock and stone deserts, the High Atlas Mountains, and rolling coastines, where you’ll witness the nomads tending  goats and sheep while a donkey stands patiently by. There’ll be a cluster of beehives among native herbs or mimosa trees and that same honey will be at your hotel table to be poured on spongy pancakes,  or fried bread made from delicious squares of folded dough.

Morocco

Traditional tagines of chicken, lamb, fish and beef are loaded with local vegetables – always the onions at the base where they burn a little and give a smoky flavour to the whole dish.

Morocco

Casablanca  was our jumping off point for a three week circuit of the country.    Bargain for some loose clothing in the market,or just buy a scarf or two and you’ll feel like, and be welcomed like, a local.

You may not eat a severed camel’s head, cow’s brains, or chew on a goat leg at the souk in Fez, but the couscous and tagines will wow you with their intense spices and regional variations.

Morocco

Fez is the gourmet centre of the country.  Espresso is divine, Nos Nos –a latte served in a small glass is addictive and any place in the middle of nowhere will serve an excellent coffee.  Iced mint lemonade  replaces a cold beer which is sadly hard to come by.  Mint and green teas are a traditional welcome – ask for the non sweet version if you don’t like to drink sugar disguised as tea!  Morocco has an emerging wine industry and reasonable reds are offered at more expensive restaurants. Olives red, green and black are served at every meal.

Morocco

Watch women peel shrimp at the docks of Essaouira where sardines are the largest export fish or sit in the shade and witness  this fascinating mix of Berber/ Arabian/ French/old and new ,tastes and social mores go by.

Don’t miss Morocco!

Travel with tour guides Denys James of www.DiscoveryArtTravel.com, or arrange a personal  tour with Experience It Toursaaron@experienceittours.com

Sun Peaks Resort Holiday Kick Off – A Resort For All Seasons

Sun Peaks – Way More Than Snow

I’ve been up to Sun Peaks a few times over the years, twice for the Wine Festival, once for a harvest dinner in the fall, another for a summer visit and recently, just before Christmas, for the Holiday Kick Off Weekend. Each time the resort gets better, with more to do and see, and with the new management at the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel and Conference Centre, the accommodation and cuisine is now top notch too.

Just before Christmas we checked in and checked out the resort and there’s was certainly a lot going on that weekend as they launched their holiday season.

Sun Peaks Resort

As we arrived, we heard the sounds of Rusty the Ice Carver carving the ice patio and sculptures on the Mantles patio. He then went on to place second in the International Ice Sculpting Competition in Russia! It was very cool to chat with him about his self-taught carving skills and hear about the restaurant and Brew Pub he runs in Cranbrook, The Heid Out. We plan on a visit this year. On Saturday it warmed up a bit and the Ice Bar on Mantles Lounge Patio served up apple cider, mulled wine, and hosted a Martini Luge!

Sun Peaks Resort

Sun Peaks Brew Pub

Speaking of brews, Sun Peaks Brew Pub, owned by BC Brewing Co. launched that weekend with two stellar beers, a cream ale and a brown ale and we’ve got the hats and growlers to prove we were there. There’s no actual brew pub (yet) in Sun Peaks, just to be clear; the beer is currently brewed in Kelowna, with all ingredients coming from British Columbia.

Sun Peaks Brew Pub

Sun Peaks Resort

The Artisan Market in the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel Lower Lobby provided us the opportunity to shop for some holiday gifts and we were on hand to witness Santa arriving by sleigh at Morrisey’s Pub, where they served up complimentary coffee and hot chocolate to fend off the cold.

Sun Peaks Resort

The Gingerbread Unveiling in the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel Upper Lobby was well attended. The creation was made by the hotel’s pastry chef, Samantha Rosen, and took a month from start to finish. There were ten houses and even she can’t count the candies. Apparently the trees were the hardest part to get correct and although I suggested perhaps she hire a helper, she commented that the symmetry might not be there with alternative hands and simply wished she had far more time to complete. Nevertheless, it was beautifully done.

Sun Peaks Resort

Rum and Blackwell Dairy Eggnog was served up along with a delicious Christmas cake in the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel Upper Lobby and we went back for two pieces they were so good, and we usually really hate Christmas Cake!

Sun Peaks Resort

Sun Peaks Resort

 

The hospitality at the hotel is genuine and we had several stellar meals and a couple cocktail hour visits. The chicken with pita was delightful and was a perfect meal for two when served up with a side salad and flatbread and a sandwich for lunch, shared, held us both over til dinner.

Another night we dined in the restaurant at the Sun Peaks Grand and had a bit of a fancier dinner, another great locally-sourced pork chop and the surf and turf with the steak perfectly medium rare.

Sun Peaks Resort

Breakfast could be the buffet, which we did do once, but the second day I went for the pancakes which did not disappoint!

Sun Peaks Resort

The rooms are spacious and comfortable, our only regret was that in the minus 8-21 temperatures we were too chicken to get out and actually enjoy the mountain! Let’s hope in March, when we return for the Culinary Weekend with Vikram Vij, that it’s warmed up! Thankfully the hotels gym kept the calories burning while we were there.

 

Escape to Victoria – Christmas in Victoria with the Magnolia Hotel and Helijet

Magnolia Hotel Celebrates the Holidays with a Festive Trail

It couldn’t be easier to get over to the Island with Helijet, and that’s exactly what you should do to capture Victoria’s holiday magic this December. With over a dozen flights a day, right from downtown Vancouver, you are easily on your way on your holiday journey and quickly back to the mainland when you’re ready.

helijet

Book ahead for the Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s ‘Christmas in Victoria’, starting at just $249 per night until December 31, 2016 and you’ll receive all the special holiday touches the hotel has to offer.

magnolia lobby christmas

Start the day with muffins and coffee in the lobby, or return later in the afternoon and warm up with a hot cup of mulled apple cider and cookies.

magnolia suite bed sweets

Special Christmas treats such as Bailey’s and hot chocolate are delivered to each guest’s door as part of the hotel’s nightly turndown service and the ‘Christmas in Victoria’ package also includes a $25 daily voucher for a hotel service of choice.

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ferris3

While in town I’d suggest checking out Ferris Oyster Bar, where I recently had fresh oysters and a spectacular cocktail, the Spanish Negroni with olorosso sherry, campari, cinzano, orange and cava, and a tasty salad after some shopping along Fort Street.

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The hotel’s restaurant, Catalano, is also great for happy hour, lunch and dinner; I dined on a perfectly cooked duck paired with a glass of Burrowing Owl Syrah and I’d recommend you do too!

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The rooms are gorgeous, many have views of the harbour and you’ll have a hard time rising from their super comfortable beds.

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Breakfast at the hotel is also lovely. I went for the healthy start (for a change).

Be sure to check out “The Festive Trail”, part of the hotel’s Curated Trails program,  and see the festive sights of Victoria.  The Annual Festival of Trees, at the Bay Centre will get you in the holiday mood and the Gingerbread Showcase is a must at The Inn at Laurel Point. Festive Trail highlights also include Christmas in Old Town at the Royal BC Museum and a holiday Ferris Wheel, and horse-drawn carriage rides.

To book, visit www.magnoliahotel.com or call 1-877-624-6654.

*Helijet and Hotel Magnolia covered my charges, but, as always, I only write about what I truly loved.

Oakland’s Urban Wine Trail

Visit Oakland Where Wines Aren’t Always Among the Vines

Heading to California and looking for some wine tasting? There’s no need to venture right into the vineyards of Napa or Sonoma, (although we wouldn’t frown upon that) instead hit the new urban wine trail right around Oakland. Oakland’s a quick jaunt from the San Francisco Airport and the trail is even easily bike-able! I ventured down to California this spring and have the scoop on this hip destination.

Oakland

Stay

You’ll want to check yourself into the Waterfront Hotel Oakland in Jack London Square, the only publicly accessible mixed-use waterfront in the East Bay. The hotel has a nostalgic nautical theme and is right on the water with views of passing boats and kayaks. The Square is home to excellent restaurants and retail as well as the weekly farmers market which I was lucky enough to catch.

Oakland

Tour

Book ahead to ensure you’ve got a spot on the East Bay Winery Bike Tours, the experts in the area. They arrived at the hotel with bikes in tow and guided us through the streets to three very different tasting rooms. The tour owner’s wife had even baked some fresh Foccacia for us to enjoy along the way; first class treatment.

Oakland

First up was Dashe, Oakland’s largest working winery where winemaker Michael Dashe showed off their impressive Grencahe Blanc, Carignane and  and Zinfandel in a rather spacious winery room.

Oakland

Next we ventured to Urban Legends Cellar Door, a bustling barrel-filled space where owners Marilee and Steve Shaffer greeted us with sensational Rhone varieties, and a stellar Pinot Noir and Italian Dolcetto.

Oakland

Cycling on to Rosenblum back at Jack London Square we delved further into their food-friendly Zinfandels served up with a lovely cheese and charcuterie plate. And this, all is one afternoon.

Oakand

Oakland

Dine

We arrived in time for lunch in the Square and choose Bocanova, a seaside spot with an excellent patio and Latin-inspired Fare. The ceviches were superb, duck tacos divine and the Pork Cubano sandwich crunchy, moist and chock full of chorizo, pork, emmentaler and pickled peppers. We had some issues over ownership of the warm croissant bread pudding with Mexican Chocolate ice cream, but we resolved them by ordering a second.

Oakland

Dinner was also in the square at Haven, a more formal spot with prixe fixe menus that began with a bread, veggie and charcuterie plate that haunts me with its greatness to this day. With pickled veggies, chicken liver mousse, pastrami, a pork terrine, fava-bean fritters and more, this “Breaking Bread” course, as they called it, set the stage for a superb meal.

Oakland

Continuing on the meat theme, we shared a foie gras dish strewn with pickled green strawberries, a delightful pork belly, asparagus complete with a decadent sauce, a prime-aged rib-eye, a deliciously moist fish dish with with it’ perfectly crisp skin and even managed a chocolate dessert served with ice cream. Had we had another night in town we would have returned. Excellent service, wonderful wine list and cozy but sleek atmosphere all bonuses.

Oakland Farmers MarketOakland Farmers MarketOakland Farmers Market

Farmers Market

The following day my flight back to Vancouver wasn’t until late afternoon so I lingered aboutand caught the farmers market, complete with a chicken roaster, fresh oranges and plenty of sweet treats.

Shrimp N Grits

Brunch was a plate of shrimp at Grits at Brix 581, a spot that looked like it would be hopping at night, and showed signs of action at brunch.

Oakland

The rain started just as I was leaving so my farewell to California was less painful, but as I write this I am already planning my next adventure there.

Cultus Lake Park and Marina

Summer’s Not Quite Over Yet at Cultus Lake Park and Marina

One hour east of Vancouver BC, just south of Chilliwack you’ll find a ton of outdoor activities, camping and watersports and it’s still not too late to have some fun in the sun this season . Cultus Lake offers restaurants, golfing, sport fishery, water sports and more!

cultus lake

While our crew ventured out a little earlier in the year, the Cultus Lake Marina is still open for boat and jet ski rentals, and the camp grounds are busy with shoulder season campers. In fact it’s better in the Fall as the crowds have died down and you get the lake almost to yourself.

cultus lake

Book on line to reserve your rental and get out there a little early to fill in your forms and get a safety lesson on the equipment and how to use it. The crew is super friendly and be sure to ask all the questions and get comfortable before hitting the water.

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Remember that to turn a boat you have to accelerate; I forgot this and the first thing I did was cruise into another boat. Don’t make that mistake. Other than that it was a super fun ride and a few of us even jumped into the lake for a swim. Back at the marina I even jumped aboard jet ski for a ride!

cultus lake

We enjoyed a great BBQ at the marina, but there’s also restaurants in the area and the amusement parks can keep kids of any age busy.

Sooke Harbour House

Staying in Sooke – Fall at Sooke Harbour House

I adore fall and find there’s nothing better than a stroll on a  coolish day when the sun is still shining, yet there’s a crispness in the air and a need for an extra layer to insulate one from the impending chill. This is the best time to get away in British Columbia and really take the time to watch the foliage turn colour and the land claim back what’s left in the fields to refurbish its soil.

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Vancouver Island often calls me and I feel so at ease there as I sync/sink into the slower pace almost right off the ferry I take from Tsawassen. It’s a 90 minute  ferry ride to the other side, and another half hour or so until the road brings you to Sooke, and then the trail to Sooke Harbour House, where I recently had a most memorable stay.

Sooke Harbour Hous was built in 1929 as a simple  two-story farmhouse inn with a dining room for visitors. In 1979 Frederique and Sinclair Philip, purchased the, it five small guestrooms, but no private guest bathrooms, and only a small dining room. The couple continued to renovate though to 1986 when they built ten additional far larger guestrooms, then renovated the initial five in 1988 and added 13 rooms in 1998, bringing the total to the current 28. The hotel is known for its luxurious, spacious rooms, superb hospitality, top notch dining and gorgeous gardens, all which are maintained to this day, attracting locals and visitors from all around the globe.

Sooke Harbour House

I stayed in a most spacious room, which was a bit wasted on me as I was solo, but I did my best to use up the most welcoming space, taking a bath in the mid-room tub, sprawling out on the couch to read and occupying the majority of the king bed throughout the night. It was almost too much, but I managed.

Sooke Harbour House

I had met Frederique Philip at a Feast of Fields in Duncan a few year’s back and was thrilled she was joining me for dinner. One could not hope for a more entertaining and knowledgeable dinner companion. While the food was foremost, she unveiled stories of her journeys and the history of Sooke, acting as a fitting backdrop for a remarkable evening.

My photos do not convey Chef Jonas Stadtländer talents properly as the lighting was getting trying as the evening went on and we sampled leisurely through the pairing menu. Stadtlander’s father, Michael Stadlander, led the kitchen at Sooke in the 80’s and it’s quite special to see his son come up the ranks and join this highly regarded resort, with his own approach to the area’s local cuisine.

Local is an absolute that stands out at Sooke, and always has. While farm to table, field to table, foraged and free range are words that are now splattered on menus as often as drinks are splashed on them, Sooke Harbour House always had this mandate. The restaurant followed the seasons and the chefs that came and went from their took this style of cooking with them. Frederique and Sinclair were pioneers in this field, and did not just influence those on the Island, and throughout British Columbia, but created practices that shaped the local movement throughout North America and beyond.

Sooke Harbour House

Highlights of the dinner included the Roasted Pork Belly, balanced with mustard-braised lentils, lovage pork jus, asparagus and morels; these wild mushrooms had just come into season and were superbly dense with earthy flavours.

Sooke Harbour House

Grilled Albacore Tuna came with a Sooke-grown wasabi (held by Fredrique above), a strawberry ginger glaze, tempura radish greens, and radish and foraged sea asparagus, another example of exquisite local ingredients enhanced by international techniques. A Kettle Valley Riesling balanced out the mild spiciness in the dish.

Sooke Harbour House

Cowichan Valley is not far up Island from Sooke and a Pekin Duck had been brought for the next dish, duck breast dish with a savoury jus, buttered spring leeks, tortellini and red and golden beets. Perfectly cooked, quite tender and a stellar pairing for the Pinot Noir from Tantalus Vineyards.

The meal was fulfilling on so many levels and as I drifted back to my room for a final hour or so before that king size bed called, I thought of all the memories that had been created in this very space over the last century and how rare a place this still is to this day.

Sooke Harbour House

In the morning I strolled the property and peaked into some of the other guest rooms (the empty ones of course) and had a breakfast before I had to venture out. A wedding was to take place that day and the prep was well under way. Many more memories were being made as I looked on, and I absorbed many of my very own.