Sunday, 24 July 2016

White Rock Beach

On Wednesday Matthew and I both had the day off work, and so we press-ganged Rachael into helping us return our left-over flooring to the floor shop in Surrey. Yep, Surrey. To combine chores with pleasures, we organised a beach day at White Rock, and invited Jessie along.

Despite being only 1 hour away from our home, we had never been to White Rock Beach. I feel like I have missed out on so much! This place is a small paradise.

We got there at lunchtime, and swanned into the Beach House rooftop patio. The views were spectacular, and the sun was hot.

Look at that blinding glare! Rachael, Matthew and me in front of the long flat beach.

Someone's excited.

That's not my beer, btw.

Whole gang.

After lunch we donned our bathing costumes and walked into the shallows. The shallows, incidentally, stretched for about 500 metres into the ocean. We only ever got up to the thigh. The water was bath-temperature, so perfect for a wuss like me. There were forests of weeds to wade through (ew ew ew) and a million jellies, fish, and crabs to spot. We spent a good hour wandering slowly across the bay with our eyes cast down to our feet, spotting marine life.

If you make this pic bigger, you can see Matthew and Jessie's head bobbing behind the flock of geese.

Jessie caught a fish with her bare bands!

Matthew snagged several little crabs which tickled our palms.


When Jessie and Matthew were swimming, Rachael and I noticed that the tide had come WAY IN. This dahsed our hopes for flaking out on a beach towel with a book. So we amused ourselves by played a game where we would dash to a quickly disappearing island of sand. The tide came in astonishingly fast.

You might be able to see the train approaching if you make this pic bigger.

A curious feature of the White Rock Beach is that the main street and the actual beach are separated by a serious train track. We were witness to one giant freight train rumbling through. It was apocalyptic and endless in approach. We waited on the beach side for it to pass... it took about 15 minutes.

We couldn't leave White Rock without sampling some local gelato. If it were just Matthew and I, we would (I would) dither about which of the ice cream shops to try out of the 5 we saw on the main street. However, since we were a crowd, we made an executive decision to go with the closest one. The gelato shop was magnificently interesting in its flavour selections. Matthew got rosewater and guava and I got baklava and cardamom/orange blossom. We each loved the other's selection better, so we swapped.

In summary, White Rock was a revelation. I would go there again in a heartbeat. Special thanks to Rachael for assisting us in our Surrey delivery!

Richmond Night Market

Jessie is visiting from Melbourne! On Friday night we met up with Eleanor and Bryerton and hit up the Richmond Night market. It was more fabulous than last visit, because there were dinosaurs everywhere!

The lineup for the market is always intense. I convinced Matthew to drive us from home (because public transit home from the night market is quite a journey, we know from past experience). Even so, we spent about half an hour just waiting to get in. Only the spectre of 100 food carts and several life-size dinosaurs could pacify our impatience. I also read our meet-up time wrong, so although I thought we go there 30 minutes late, we actually got there 30 minutes EARLY. Der, Zoe.

Between getting in and assessing the food situation, we had some serious business with the beauty stalls. Jessie was on the hunt for some fake lashes. I tell you, if you need fake lashes, RNM is the place to go. There were hundreds to choose from.

We met up with E & B, and sussed out the food sitch. I bee-lined for the takoyaki (octopus doughnuts). There were a winner. They even made cheese takoyaki for the non-seafood-eaters (read, actual vegetarians) among us. Thence, on the the meat-on-a-stick truck. Jessie spotted Seitan-on-a-stick, and elly and Bryerton got diverted by some bubble tea.

I discovered that no one in our company had ever had a bubble waffle. To be fair, I myself had not heard of these until last year. As with fake lashes, there is no better place to get a bubble waffle (or any other Asian-night-market-inspired novelty food). This is us waiting for bubble waffle:

The dinosaurs were animatronic, and pretty good at that! Here's the gang with T-Rex. It really roared.

Richmond Night Market has actually become a summer tradition for me, as I have now been there three years in a row. The food is strange and wonderful, the crowd is thick as a moshpit at all times, and the electric cherry blossom trees are charming. Can't wait to do this again next year!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Victoria Day Long Weekend in Penticton

On the Victoria Day long weekend, Matthew and I went to Penticton to visit our good friends, Corinne and Patrick. C & P used to live at Granville Island just down the road from us, until last year. Ever since they moved to the heart of the B.C. wine district, Matthew and I have been threatening to visit.

We left Vancouver on Friday after work, and it took all the powers of our combined organization to get in the car before 7pm. There was beautiful sunlight to guide us up the freeway, and the traffic wasn’t too bad. But it still took us until after midnight to arrive in Penticton (up the Coquihala). We stopped only for 30 minutes in Merritt, for a quick burger at 10pm.

View of Mount Baker when we were driving through Surrey

Full moon at the summit of the Coquihala freeway

We awoke in the countryside (the best feeling after a long week at work followed by a long drive), and enjoyed the glorious hospitality of Corinne and Patrick all weekend… including home-cooked meals, interesting local wines, and a relaxed atmosphere in their new country home.

After hitting up the Saturday Farmer’s Market (this is HUGE and takes up the whole Main Street of Penticton), where we ran into literally dozens of C & P’s neighbours and friends, we then headed to Orofino Winery in Cawston (a majestic geological dot on the map between Naramata and Keremeos). C & P belong to several wine clubs, and this particular winery was hosting a “pick-up party” with fresh-cooked pizza in the wood-fired oven, made right before our eyes, under the dappled sunshine of the almond grove. Yes, it really was that beautiful. We met lots of lovely local and travelling folk, and stayed for several hours, tasting their Spring Releases.

The charming Orofino winery, nestled in the Similkimeen Valley

Clos du Soleil, also in the Similkimeen Valley

Make this image larger... the hills were rivuletted.

On the way home, we stopped in at Clos du Soleil, a kilometer down the road, which in my very humble opinion had the best wine we tasted all weekend. We then headed home for a cup of tea around the fire with mutual friends Judith and Richard (I volunteer with Judith at Friends of the VPL), who were also staying with C & P that weekend. Truly their hospitality is unparalleled!

After dinner Patrick attempted to teach us to play Bridge. I am not much of a gamer (as you know), but I followed along well enough, and as I was partnered with Patrick, who is a card shark, we managed to win a few rounds. Matthew held his own!

Sunday morning Matthew and I were treated to another hot breakfast before we all bundled in the car at 10am to a barrel tasting at Black Widow on the Naramata Bench. We had never been to a barrel tasting before, and C & P kindly explained that this was (like the pizza party) yet another perk of belonging to a wine club. We had an advanced sample of several of their fall releases (straight from the barrel, and not yet ready to bottle). Although everywhere we went featured Rieslings, it was the Syrahs that really stole our hearts. (Matthew is a Pinot man, and I recently discovered an appreciation for Chardonnay after a lifetime of loyalty to Shiraz.)

Patrick and Corinne on the terrace overlooking the lake, at Black Widow

As we were already on “The Bench” as they call that side of the Kettle Valley, we stopped in at a couple of other wineries, including Terravista (imposing concrete architecture, set into the side of the hill, with a truly spectacular view of the Lake), and Upper Bench (also a Cheesery!! Like a birthday and Christmas at the same time, we were so excited).

Corinne, Patrick, and the vintner at Terravista
View from Terravista, with Ben the ginger retriever

By this time our palates were overcome, so we headed home for a reviving cup of tea. Matthew and I then walked from C & P’s house to Main Street along the pretty river, and grabbed a snack at a hippie café (the only open café in town). Downtown was dead in true Sunday country style. It was also threatening rain. But the secondhand bookstore was open (and enormous! Worth a visit – it is a treasure trove in there!) and we lucked upon a vintage clothing store in which I found a supreme pair of brown oily-leather Boulet cowboy boots, perfectly worn-in and with a seductive patina of age…

It started to rain in earnest so we walked back to the house and cozied up with Corinne in their newly landscaped backyard, under a protective awning, around the roaring fire-pit. After dinner we sat around the inside fire with pie and chocolate and yet more tea before hitting the hay nice and early (after, you remember, a quite long day of winetasting and adventuring!). In fact the whole weekend was a perfect mix of getting out and tasting wine, and staying in and being treated to beautiful home cooking. Corinne and Patrick are generous and practiced hosts, and their new home was so tranquil and luxurious in every way. We really could not have had a more relaxing time, and we are so grateful for their warm and easygoing hospitality.

Corinne and her pristine new vegetable garden

On Monday morning we got up in time to see Patrick off on a misty morning walk with his hiking club. Corinne, Matthew and I lounged around the house for a couple more hours, and Corinne gave us a guided tour of their new garden and landscaping. Then Matthew and I (regretfully, after such a glorious and tranquil weekend away) packed up the car for the long drive home on the number Hope-Princeton highway. (Side note: I have only very recently become licensed to drive in Canada, so this was my first long freeway driving experience in some years – Matthew bless his soul was very patient with me as we wended our way up hill and down dale all the way home, over the course of 9 hours.)

We had planned on visiting just a couple of other wineries on our way home. We very fortunately took a little wrong turn in Summerland just before Silkscarf winery, and ended up at a cul de sac with the best 360 views of the whole valley. The homeowner who lived on the cul de sac (and a winery dog) came over the meet us, and pointed out some notable sights. He was in the process of stonescaping down the side of the hill, in spectacular granite terraces. It was a sight to behold. We also pulled into 8th Generation winery for a quick tasting. Over the entire weekend we came away with 15 bottles (not all for ourselves), which was quite restrained given the number of delicious wines we sampled.

The cul de sac with the best view of the Kettle Valley

Giant Head, viewed from the cul de sac

View of the Lake

View of the Kettle Valley Rail Bridge, with another charming winery dog

Matthew on the terrace at Silkscarf, overlooking the cherry orchard

We stopped in Princeton for lunch at Thomasina’s bakery café (converted from an old movie theatre from the 1920s!) and in Hope for a coffee at the Blue Moose café. Despite these picturesque pauses, the drive was long and very tiring. It was with relief that we arrived home (still in daylight!) at 8:30pm to our crying little cat.
Hope is a small town filled with large wood-carved statues.

Actual proof that I can drive in Canada

Our haul, displayed upon homecoming

Farewell, Corinne and Patrick! Thank you for your magnificent hospitality! We loved seeing you and we are so grateful for the relaxing country escape!