Category Archives: Travel

Brookside Inn – Escape to Abbotsford

Boutique Hotel in Abbotsford Offers Welcoming Retreat

Over the holiday season we drove up to Kelowna to visit the Anderton clan and decided a stop in Abbotsford on the way back to Vancouver would be in order. We could catch up with some good friends and take a break from the rather stressful highway driving. We booked into a recommended local bed and breakfast, the Brookside Inn Boutique Hotel. The Inn is not far off the highway, but in a country setting, with particularly festive decor and the biggest Christmas tree we’d seen; at least this year.

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Situated in Pepin Brook Vineyard Estates, Brookside Inn is run by Chris and Sandi Buis, a charming couple who were readily available when needed and completely out of site when not. Will a views to the local mountains, this area is known for great hiking and bird-watching. Who knew?

Brookside Inn

The bedrooms have a movie theme (ours was Midnight in Paris) and they are then styled around that. The suites are spacious with a sitting area and television, a soaker tub and uber comfy beds where a good nights sleep comes easy.

The Buis’ were having an open house and invited us to join in, so we of course obliged and got to know a few of the neighbours.

Hana Sushi

Hana Sushi

Craving sushi, we went to Hana Sushi nearby for a couple rolls with our pals Summer and Patrick, who are also recently engaged. Lots to celebrate these days!

Brookside Inn

In the morning breakfast is served in the dining area, we had a deliciuous plate of fruit atop French Toast and a few good cups of coffee before we departed.

Brookside Inn

While your in the area we’d recommend:

Dining at Restaurant 62

flight of beer old abbey ales

A visit to Old Abbey Ales for some Belgian-Styled Brew.

 Circle Farm Tour Abbotsford – Don’t miss Taves Family Farm

Mount Lehman Wines

Tanglebank Gardens

Lepp Farm Market

Winter Escape – Rowena’s Inn Harrison Mills

We love getting out from the city, especially during bland winter days; often just for a night. We’ll take an easy drive out to Harrison Mills head to Pretty Estate’s and check in to Rowena’s Inn on the River.

The Pretty Family still runs this majestic estate, their history in the area dates back to the 1800s. The family’s manor has been converted into a bed and breakfast and several cabins are scattered throughout the property.  In the summer golf is popular, as the property is home to Sandpiper Golf Course, but we prefer to go when it gets a bit cooler and the eagles are flying in full force during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. We were out in 2013 and were thrilled to return this fall. See our last trip coverage here.

Honda HRV

Thanks to Honda Canada, we were able to travel in style with the Honda HRV (more on the SUV here).

We got to Rowena’s just in time for dinner at the River’s Edge. The Chef featured a salmon menu with the local salmon coming from the nearby Sts’ailes nation.

The French Onion Soup is one of our must haves here and the escargot and the lamb chops are also a favourite. From the salmon menu, we ordered the salmon & chic pea curry with grilled salmon, peppers,  carrots and spinach in a tomato curry, and a delightful pastry-encrusted wild salmon Wellington. There’s a good selection of BC wine and beer, and we were walking home, so sipped a few.

rowena

The cabins have a fireplace so luckily Michael’s boyscout skills came in handy as I don’t think I could start a fire to save my life. Actually, I best remedy this in case I have to!

Rowena's Inn

The bathrooms heated floors and a jacuzzi tub are an excellent addition to the package.

rowena'd breakfast

Breakfast is included in the stay, so we took advantage of the omelettes and fresh coffee before heading out.

Harrison Hot Springs

We journeyed to Harrison Lake for an Eagle Tour but the water was too rough for us to feel safe in the rather small boat that pulled up, so we opted out. Instead took a leisurely drive home, stopping at Hopcott Farms to stock our freezer with their excellent meat selections.

Holiday Season Getaway at Victoria’s Magnolia Hotel

While there’s much to do in Vancouver during the holiday season, there’s a certain special vibe across the straight, in Victoria. I nipped over for a few night’s in November for a sneak peak of the Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s Christmas in Victoria package, available until January 2.

helijet

Why not leave the car at home and fly over on the Helijet as flights start at $159 this time of year and they’ll drop you off at the hotel if you ask nicely (kids under 12 yrs fly for free)! There’s so much to do downtown this time of year, and you can do it all on foot.

The Magnolia is right in the heart of downtown Victoria, minutes from the harbour, shopping, holiday lights and sites and fab dining experiences.

Book a Diamond room and you’ll find oversized beds, soaker tubs, cozy gas fireplaces and lots of indulgent treats such as the hot chocolate and baileys for before bed.

There’s two very cool routes that the hotel has put together for this time of year; one is the Tapa Trail and the other the Festive Trail.

The Tapa Trail includes the following. I have have been to a few that I have starred and therefore can give them thumbs up, but I’ve heard good things about all.

*The Magnolia’s Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar – Mediterranean inspired. Enoy Venetian style cicchetti (Italian for small bites) at the bar.  619 Courtney Street Twitter @cicchettibar

*Chorizo & Co – Love love love this spot! Great chorizo sausage from a family recipe, tapas and paella parties. 807 Fort Street Twitter @ChorizoandCo

Bodega Bar Spanish cuisine from pinchos to a Barcelona board featuring Spanish charcuterie. 1210 Broad Street

Tapa Bar – Meat and seafood and veggie dishes to share. 620 Trounce Alley

Northern Quarter Bar – live performances – meat or cheese boards. 1724 Douglas Street

The Drake Eatery – British pub style and local craft beer. 517 Pandora Avenue

Perro Negro – Located above Ferris Grill. wide range of cocktails, sherry and wine from Spain. 536 Yates Street Twitter @perronegrotapas

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*Little Jumbo Restaurant – Stellar cocktail list an inventive Canadian cuisine. Do not miss the duck fat fried frites! 506 Fort Street – photo from their website.

*10 Acres Bistro Smaller plates made with loacal, seasonal ingredients 611 Courtney Street Twitter @10acresbistro

nutcracker

Additionally through the holiday season the Magnolia Hotel’s Festive Trail captures the town’s spirit. Take in a performance of Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker, try outdoor ice-skating, a Ferris Wheel ride in Centennial Square, free horse-drawn trolley ride, visit the Festival of Trees at The Bay Centre, head to the Inn at Laurel Point for Gingerbread displays or check out the IMAX Polar Express adventure at the Royal BC Museum. Check in with the hotel’s concierge for more. The Hotel’s Catalano Restaurant and Cicchetti Bar will do a holiday feast on December 25 as well.

magnolia suite bed sweets

Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s Christmas in Victoria package starts from $189 per night, and includes a special gift of a $25 voucher, per day, to use towards in-room dining, Spa Magnolia, Catalano Restaurant, mini-bar treats or parking. The price includes a continental breakfast as well.

To book Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s Christmas package call 1-877-624-6654 or visit www.magnoliahotel.com.

Salt Spring Island Apple Festival

Get to know your Millionaires from your Lord Derby’s at the Annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival

Before apple trees were planted in the Okanagan Valley, Salt Spring Island was growing an assortment of the fruit as early as 1860. To celebrate, the Island holds a festival  celebrating the apple with apple displays, pie sales and apple orchard visits each harvest. There are now over 350 varieties grown on the Island, all organicallly. We joined the celebrations on Salt Spring Island this fall as it was a great opportunity to fully test drive another vehicle, stay at one of our favourite hotels and, of course, eat our share of apples.Honda HR-V

We tested the Honda HR-V, a subcompact SUV with plenty of cool feaures. The vehicle model is new for this year and has an attractive and sporty design. It is super roomy inside, has top of the line safety features and zips in and out of parking spots easily. For all the specs on the car and more check out our full review here.BC Ferries

October is generally a good month to visit Salt Spring Island as the sun is out most days and the air is crisp but still fairly warm. It can rain, but luckily for us, it didn’t. The sail over on BC Ferries is easier if you take just one ferry, instead of changing over in Swartz Bay but you’ll have to plan and reserve ahead to get the best route.

I was traveling with my girlfriend Tess and it was her first time to the Island and the farmers market was at the top of her list, so we made sure we had some time to check it out and sampled some apples, apple fritters and apple tarts to get us in the festive mood. The cheeses on the Island are unbelievable, both Salt Spring Island Cheese and Moonstruck Organic, so don’t leave the market or the Island without trying and buying a few types.
James Beard
We also went for a quick shop in the stores around the small town, and I even found an vintage James Beard book and a punch bowl at the charity store!

Hastings House

We were staying at Hastings House, which is a gorgeous ocean front

country hotel with a restaurant that grows much of it’s own produce. The property is Relais and Chateau and their standards are indeed set high; even the cot that Tess stayed on was insanely comfortable and there’s a daily complementary afternoon tea in the manor. We had dinner booked at the hotel as I’ve had some fantastic meals there and went for a pre-dinner drink just down the Hill Unfortunatley, the very moment we returned for dinner the power went out, and stayed out, so we had to quickly grab one of the few taxis on the Island and make other plans! A bit of drama, but we took it in stride!

Auntie Pestos

Fortunately there was only a brief wait at Auntie Pestos, a favourite of mine on the Island and the meal was fantastic. We went for the a spinach salad, Salt Spring Mussels, an incredibly butter-like tender steak that we are still talking about and headed back to Hastings House for bed.

Salt Spring Apple Festival

Apple PieSunday’s apple festival started at Fulford Hall with a display of endless apples and plenty of apple pie!

A little bit on the Honda HR-V and the festival in this “super” video!

Salt Spring Island Bread Lady

Salt Spring Island Apple FestivalFrom there the options of apple viewing were vast, but we plotted a route and hit some of the larger orchards and thankfully one where not only was lunch served, but where I purchased some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted.  We sat on the patio with a stellar view out across the Island and enjoyed some BBQ pork and chicken. I learned later that this was the home of Salt Springs famous Bread Lady and I am hooked on the garlic and cheese bread. Sadly, I had only bought one loaf!

While there’s several worthwhile wineries to visit, the newish Salt Spring Ales Brewery was right on the route and they’d even done an apple beer for the festival. When in need of gifts for my partner, Michael, I can always count on beer!

The ferry took the long route home, stopping at a few other Gulf Islands but we had plenty to read and it was a nice wind down to a rather special apple-filled weekend.

*Honda provided the HR-V for our test drive and supplemented our trip expenses.
*Thank you to Hastings House for the lovely accomodations.

Ann Arbor – Vitamin Daily

I journeyed to Ann Arbor, Michigan last winter and highly recommend you check this lovely city out during the holiday season. My full article published on Vitamin Daily. A snippet here.

ann arbor

Fly into Detroit and continue on to lovely Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a unique blend of Midwestern U.S. charm, including a lively theater scene, stellar art galleries, great boutique shopping, excellent restaurants and many many (many!) microbreweries.

stay: With free Wi-Fi, a fitness room and pool, a lobby bar that serves local craft beer and large, luxe rooms, the Courtyard Ann Arbor is a solid choice (with plenty of things-to-do-on-site-between-sightseeing options) for those who aren’t keen on a bed-and-breakfast experience. Courtyard Ann Arbor,  3205 Boardwalk, Ann Arbor, 734-995-5900, www.marriott.com

drink: Start sipping at one of two Arbor Brewing Company locations, where stellar ale and a great menu are served. Jolly Pumpkin is a must for lunchtime brews and chews, while nearby Chelsea boasts both the aptly named Chelsea Alehouse Brewery and, for those who prefer vodka, the Ugly Dog Distillery (where you can actually meet Ruger, the distillery’s namesake who’s more cute than uncouth). Grizzly Peak, Original Gravity and Wolverine State Brewing, which specializes in lager, are also musts for craft-beer lovers. Local wines are featured at VinBar on West Liberty, and tea lovers ought to visit TeaHaus for a different sort of brew—after all, you can’t live on alcohol alone … or can you?

 

Kamloops Wine Country – Vitamin Daily

We visited Kamloops Wine Country and reported our adventures on Vitamin Daily and the story got picked up by the Huffington Post.

Once home to fur traders, gold miners and infamous train robber Billy Miner, Kamloops, B.C., now boasts lush farms, a stunning riverfront and the recently created Kamloops Wine Trail. Not one to miss out on a day of wine tasting (not to mention exploring, shopping and spa-ing), we packed our bags and drove straight there.

Kamloops Wine Country

stay: The Plaza Hotel, Kamloops’ oldest tall building, is right in the thick of downtown, with spacious rooms and beds we were hard-pressed to leave in the morning (had it not been for the promise of wine). Check out the hotel’s Fireside Steakhouse & Bar for delicious, locally sourced beef. The Plaza Hotel, 405 Victoria St., Kamloops, 250-377-8075, www.theplazahotel.ca

explore: Downtown Kamloops exudes a cool “antique” feel, meaning every visit should include a stop at the Kamloops Museum & Archives, where you can currently catch a fascinating exhibit by Mary Spencer, one of Canada’s first female photographers. Kamloops Museum & Archives, 207 Seymour St., Kamloops, 250-828-3576, www.kamloops.ca/museum

Read the rest of the story here:

Discover Comox at the BC Shellfish Festival

Where’s your happy place? I always feel like I’m in a pretty damn happy place when I’m on Vancouver Island. While I love the Mainland, road trips to the Island feel like a true escape and I can actually sense the pace of my thoughts slowing down. Whether I’m roaming the streets of Victoria, the hills of the Cowichan Valley, the beaches of Qualicum or Tofino or biking through the Comox countryside, there’s most likely a big grin on my face. So, when Honda asked followers on twitter to name a happy place and enter to win $1,000 towards a trip to it, I tweeted just that and WOO HOO!!! I actually won the contest!

honda

With my new found winnings in hand, and also, very conveniently a 2015 Honda Fit (review here) to drive, I boarded BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay over to Nanaimo and then drove up to The Comox Valley for their annual BC Shellfish Festival! Check the BC Ferries website for fall specials and accommodation and travel packages! Lots of deals on.

The festival includes a full week and more of events, everything from oyster farm tours, to wine and shellfish dinners and champagne seafood brunch.

I checked into the Old House Village Hotel in Courtney and got ready for the evenings adventures. Super great spot with roomy rooms and en-suite laundry and kitchens should you need to stay a while.

First up was the Prime Chophouse Wine Bar‘s 40 Knots Winery and Seafood Dinner. Starting with some Comox Valley Hollie Wood oysters and 40 Knots Winery Spindrift Brut we sampled dishes showcasing the best of the region along with the estate wines from this very local winery.  I wrote more about 40 Knots in BC Wine Trails Magazine here.

The following day we hit the ocean to check out a Deep Water Oyster Farm Tour onboard Comox Harbour Charters. Cruising throught the Baynes Sound we ventured over to the shores of Denman Island to visit Hollie Wood Oysters oyster growing site. We sample oysters from the farm and then enjoyed there clams and oysters cooked right onboard. All washed down with an oyster stout made by Victoria’s Spinnakers Brewery and these same oysters, so perfect!

BC Shellfish Festival Salmon

The highlight of the festival, every year (I’ve been to two others) is the Gala Dinner held among the gardens of Filberg Park and Lodge, overlooking Comox Harbour and the Beaufort Mountain Range. Starting with oyster raw bars with a variety of oysters from different regions of the BC coast, the reception is then followed by six courses, each plate designed by a different chef along with a selection of BC wines.

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BC Shellfish Festival

The list of 2015 Featured Chefs included: James Walt, from Araxi, Whistler, Mariana Gabilondo, from Gowlland Harbour Resort, Quadra Island, Gabriel Fayerman-Hansen from Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa, Brentwood Bay, Nicholas Nutting, from Wolf in the Fog, Tofino, Trevor Bird, from Fable, Vancouver and Greg MacDonald, from The Waverley Hotel, Cumberland. Chef Aaron Rail, of The White Whale in Courtenay coordinated this feast and the chefs all banded together to assist in each others courses.

The setting, food and wines makes for a truly magical evening.

Saturday’s Comox by the Sea Celebration at Filberg  Park is all about roaming the park and sampling shellfish and seafood tastings prepared by chefs and seafood producers. And there’s a beer and wine garden and chowder competition to round things out.

Next year’s Shellfish Festival will be June 10-19, 2016 and I’ll certainly be posting about it well in advance, and, with any luck, will be there again.

Santa Monica: Where the City Meets the Sea – Darpan Magazine May 2015

LOVE Santa Monica and went this spring. The article below was published in Darpan Magazine print and online. More travel writing please!

Heading to Southern California has never been easier with many direct flights a day into Orange County, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. While the larger cities may sound tempting, we suggest that you take a true beach-side escape and head to Santa Monica, where you can experience a touch of Hollywood glamour in an outdoor paradise where the city meets the sea.

READ MORE ON DARPAN

Costa Mesa – South Coast Plaza #TravelCostaMesa

My second day in Costa Mesa I decided to do something I infrequently do, shop. Luckily for me  South Coast Plaza was a just steps away from my hotel, so after a bit of time in the gym, a hearty breakfast and a small prayer that I’d find something that fit, I was off.

You can win your own $2500 getaway to Costa Mesa until May 6, 2015 Just click this link to find out how.

South Coast Plaza Hermes Shopping Image Expires Aug 2015

South Coast Plaza has 250 stores and restaurants and is set in the heart of Orange County, it’s more like a shopping theme park than a mall. 23 million visitors have been through the plaza since it opened in 1967 and it boasts annual sales of $1.5 billion.

South Coast Plaza is recognized as one of “America’s Most Famous Streets to Stay, Shop and Dine,” a distinction shared by only a select few cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. Dolce and Gabana is about to open here and you’ll find a Bloomingdales, Macy’s and top dining options including Marche Moderne, The Capital Grill and Din Tai Fung.

 

I didn’t dare go into Louboutin in case a pair of those red soled shoes “accidentally” made it into my bag, but Macy’s had several things that I picked up without breaking my less than overflowing piggy bank. Thank god for the woman who helped me in Macy’s as I was almost trampled in the shoe sale. No shopper am I!

So what’s a gal to do when the stress of shopping gets too much? Lunch, of course. I am far better at that. Marche Moderne is amazing and I had several very well crafted cocktails there to calm my nerves. The three course is excellent, don’t miss the superb scallops, and the salad choc full of freshness and binded by goat cheese and avocado. There’s also a VIP Lounge in the plaza that you can visit if you are weary. Husbands can lounge while their wives shop and here is where you’d meet with your private shopper should you choose to go that route. Perhaps that would have saved me from the shoe department trample.

After an afternoon rest back at the hotel, I went back to the plaza. I avoided the shops but was ready for some more drinks and dinner. The Capital Grill is the way to go for steak lovers. Excellent beef and superb service here. You’ll want to stay a while and linger over a bottle from the wine list and dessert.

Chalked up over 20,000 steps on my Jawbone UP24 this day and had a very good night’s sleep.

More About South Coast Plaza from the Plaza

Renowned as a major global shopping destination, South Coast Plaza is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques, critically-acclaimed restaurants and the adjacent celebrated Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Its unparalleled collection of diverse retailers, from Balenciaga, Cartier and Hermès to Diane von Furstenberg, Gucci, Roger Vivier, J. Crew, Zara and more – along with its customized concierge services, makes it Southern California’s premier shopping experience. South Coast Plaza is located in Orange County, California, in the city of Costa Mesa. Information: www.southcoastplaza.com

*This trip was made possible by Travel Costa Mesa, John Wayne Airport and Avenue of the Arts Hotel. All thoughts on this site are always my very own. 

Costa Mesa – Avenue of the Arts Hotel #TravelCostaMesa

Whether you are heading to Costa Mesa to shop at South Coast Plaza, play at Disneyland, hit the nearby beaches, or attend an event at one of the city’s many art centers, you are going to want to spend a few days to explore the vibrant area. I suggest you book into the Wyndham Avenue of the Arts Hotel and stay a while. The hotel is on the “Avenue of the Arts,” just across the street from Segerstrom Center for the Arts and a quick 3 miles from the John Wayne Airport (Orange County).

You can win your own $2500 getaway to Costa Mesa until May 6, 2015 Just click that link! 

Wyndam

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The property is just steps from South Coast Plaza and set on a tranquil lakeside property. A full gym, onsite restaurant and bar,  granite baths and hardwood flooring, and an executive work desk with ergonomic chair, wireless internet, flat screen television, organic bath toiletries, complete the package, and all guestrooms offer charming views of the lake and private gardens, and full walk-out balconies. Here I am enjoying the warm weather and my view of the lake.

SilverTrumpet_Lounge

I checked into the hotel for my adventure and booked it to the bar for a local craft beer before dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, The Silver Trumpet. You will definitely want to put aside some time to linger in the comfortable lounge and dine on Chef Eddie Garcia’s tasty cuisine.

Lucky for us we did a menu sampling and my only complaint? So much food. Especially loved the scallops and the roast chicken.

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Spacious rooms and the comfy desk chair meant I could get some work done.

Breakfast Tacos

I took advantage of the in room dining and ordered up some hearty short rib breakfast tacos to prepare myself for a day of serious shopping at the nearby South Coast Plaza.

Win your own $2500 getaway to Costa Mesa until May 6, 2015.

*This trip was made possible by Travel Costa Mesa, John Wayne Airport and Avenue of the Arts Hotel. All thoughts on this site are always my very own.