Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Peachland, British Columbia

As we journey around the United States and Canada many people ask "What is your favourite part of the trip so far?". That is a lot like asking which is your favourite child. And it is true. We loved every place equally. Until now. We love, love the Okanagan Valley.

We've visited many valleys on this trip - the Mississippi River Valley, the Rio Grande Valley, The Yuma Valley, The Valley of the Sun, The Imperial Valley and The Napa Valley, to name a few. But the Okanagan Valley is special.

It is the first to be comprised mostly of lakes. Six actually: Kalamalka, Wood, Okanagan, Skaha, Vaseaux, and Osoyoos. The lakes are surrounded by mountains with orchards and vineyards crawling up their lower reaches. Small towns and cities encompass the lakes, wherever the terrain permits and act as service areas for the wineries, farms and other businesses (including lots of golf clubs) supported by the unique surroundings.

Our original plan was to go to Osoyoos for two weeks but a short drive along the route between Chilliwack and Osoyoos convinced us that it was not the most suitable road for a gas motorhome towing a car. So we decided to come to Peachland. Not that the road was much better. It was four lane but consisted mainly of the 1728 metre (approx. 5500 ft) high Pennask Pass through the mountains. The trip up was slow. The trip down terrifying. Made even more so later when our neighbour in the RV park told us he lost his brakes on the way down.
The view at the top of the pass
But Peachland and the Okanagan Valley are worth the trip
Lake Okanagan
Peachland is the perfect little town. Snuggled into the side of the mountain and with a population of about 5,000 it was a cozy spot from which to explore the mid-Okanagan Valley.

Most activity in town centres on the several kilometre long beachfront. All of which is a public park.

There are waterfront homes but they are across Beach Ave. from the water. That fact does not seem to affect the price of the homes:
2 bedroom, 2 bathroom - $950,000 
There is an inviting and well used path from one end of the beach to the other used by walkers, runners, inline skaters and cautious cyclists, (like me)
The sign you see here is the sign that greets you as you enter the town.
No billboards. Simply what you need to know.
The town (and the whole area) is very bike-friendly.
Drivers are considerate and quite willing to share the road.
There is a small shopping centre supplying all the necessities
The grocery store, gas station, bank, fitness centre, etc.
But my favourite is a 1.5 km trail that wound through the village across from the lake.
The entrance from Beach Avenue
It is a fitness trail with lots of activities for all levels of ability.
Lots of  funders involved here
With different pieces of exercise equipment along the way:
Most designed for two people so you and your walking partner can work out together
A skate board park:
With a viewing stand
And a very polite sign outlining the rules:
How many "pleases" can you count
Dog walkers welcome

And at the end a bakery and coffee shop. Where you can relax, enjoy a great view of the lake and regain all the calories you worked off.
Notice the apartments over the shopping area. We saw this a lot in BC.
Such a great idea for St Margaret's Bay development.. 
Also seen in Peachland
Pedal bikes, paddle board, canoes and kayaks for rent.

This picnic area is across from the coffee shop.
There are no walls around homes here. This beautiful patio was part of a condo looking over the lake.
I love the colour combination.
The legend of Ogopogo, believed to live in Okanagan

I could not find and promotion of Ogopogo in the shops - not even a postcard. But this home used his likeness as lawn decor:

Most importantly Peachland, and every other town we visited in the Okanagan, has easily found, extremely clean public washrooms:
Wouldn't it be wonderful if all towns were this thoughtful?
All of these wonderful facilities are maintained by a staff of 7, employed by the town. We saw them out working in the park and its gardens everyday. 

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Okanagan Valley - Wine Country

We don't usually go to wine tasting events. Been there, done that. And it is no fun for the designated driver, especially when it is only the two of us. as one misses out on the tasting.

Also, we don't want to elevate our taste in wine above the level of our budget. Which generally runs in the "three buck Chuck" range. My US readers will know what that is.

Never-the-less, here we are in the heart of British Columbia wine country, and when in Rome.... And on Mother's Day many of the wineries in the Kelowna area were holding special open houses so off we went.

We chose to visit a group of small wineries that billed themselves as the "Fab Five". And, although we only got to three of them, fabulous they were.

Our first stop was at Vibrant Vines. Beside a bright yellow building, at the end of the lane lined with blooming apple trees, was this little truck:
Wow! That's vibrant
Then we turned the corner to the entrance to the tasting room:
This is going to be a good experience - you know how I love colour, yellow in particular
As we entered we were greeted by this incredible painting:
Which is the winery's logo
And this charming woman who turned out to be the mother of Phil, the artist who designed the logo. I believe she and her husband own the winery.
I was so busy chatting that I forgot to ask if I could photograph her - this picture is "borrowed" from the winery's Flickr page
So this turned out to be a winery and an art gallery. Both the art and the wine lived up to the "fabulous" billing.

We were each given a pair of 3-D glasses as Phil uses a very unique combination of pen and ink drawing and computer work (I am at a loss to describe this) to create 3-D effect in his art. Amazing. He has a good description of what he does on his website.

I was very impressed with his art but even more impressed with his ability to use his artistic skills to create what I will call usable and wearable art. All of which is for sale on his website and some of which was for sale at the winery.
The boxes contain wine, and also on the table are "big kid" colouring books which allow you to create your own art from pen and ink drawings he created when doing the paintings.
Aren't these hoodies beautiful?  And very well made of soft fabric and hand warmers in the pockets.
My favourite are these jigsaw puzzles.  In the frame is a completed puzzle.
They are made with 1/4" maple plywood and the finest archival paper and inks. No two pieces in any puzzle are alike, and each puzzle features dozens of intricate, charming whimsy pieces. Each puzzle has it's own special cut-pattern with shapes that contribute to the theme of the puzzle.

All the above items and much more are for sale on his website.

But I digress, lets get back to the winery.

All the wines have shrink-wrapped labels of Phil's design:

And are excellent. In 2013 their white wine blend - called OOPS (it is a long story) won the "best wine in the world" - out of 10,000 entries - in the 2014 World Beverage Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. This wine was sold out, of course, but we tasted the new version - called WOOPS - which was excellent, and purchased two bottles to share with our gourmet dining group when we get home.

Because of the tremendous success of this mistake the winery just opened an expanded tasting room the weekend we visited and were in the process of expanding their picnic area out front. So we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the orchard behind the tasting room
A lovely and peaceful area 
After the vibrancy of the wine and the art it was lovely to sit in this area and enjoy the scent of the apple blossoms while having a late lunch.

Then it was on to the House of Rose Winery. Home to the "world's largest rose".
Here we tasted some lovely wines,and enjoyed a bit of cheese with a glass of wine in their picnic area. The tasting room was very busy and the winery owners were rushing about serving up tastes and glasses of wine, putting out cheese platters, etc. 
Tasting room and picnic area
Help yourself cheese and crackers were served

So no time to chat on this busy day. But a lovely atmosphere.

Time was running short by now so we chose one last winery to visit. 
The SpierHead Winery
Which was very picturesquely set high on a hill, among the vineyards, overlooking Okanagan Lake. All day long we saw a lot of cyclists riding up and down the steep hills going from winery to winery. This woman was enjoying a well earned rest in the picnic area at SpierHead.

I liked their shopping cart/wine transport system
A little Red Wagon re-purposed
The small tasting room was very busy but the gentleman overseeing everything made sure everyone got a chance to try the wines and so we were able to taste the offered selections and make a purchase from their selecttion of very excellent wines.
 Our "basement" is getting pretty full of wine :).

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Tale of Two Markets - Part Two - The Granville Island Public Market

On April 22 we crossed the US/Canadian Border at Abbotsford, BC. It is good to be home. I know we are still a long way from home, home, and I am not sure what it is, but Canada does feel different from the US. It started with the friendly, but efficient, customs officer who welcomed us home, wished us safe journey and waved us through. Although you could tell she was assessing the situation and examining us carefully as she did so.

And nowhere was the change more evident than the difference between the Pike Place Market in Seattle, a busy, chaotic, every-man-for-himself kind of place and the Granville Island Public Market, an equally as busy, but orderly, would-you-like-to-get-in line-here, that will be $2 please and thank you kind of place.

We loved the Granville Island Public Market. Beyond everything else I guess it appealed to our Canadian sense of order and good manners.

The entrance was attractive but very unassuming:
But what food choices were behind it
Berries Galore
I counted 5 veggie and fruit vendors, there may be more.
Including one that specialized exclusively in Thai veggies, spices and herbs
Fresh pasta made while you watch.
Several seafood vendors. We bought some beautiful fresh salmon.
Pastries galore
And pie
Including these wonderful pot pies
Which you can enjoy in the indoor dining area or outside on the patio
Where you can enjoy a marvelous view of Vancouver's downtown condos.
People living in these condos (and other areas along False Cheek) can travel to the market via these cute little Aqua Buses which dock right in front of the patio.:
Wouldn't these be great in Halifax Harbor and Bedford Basin.
As you may have assumed the market is located on Granville Island and is linked to the rest of Vancouver by a bridge. Our original intention was to spend two hours at the market then spend the rest of our day exploring tourism spots in the city. But the island was so interesting we stayed there for the day.

Granville Island was originally an industrial area and many of the buildings have been converted to house small shops, art galleries and studios, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and much, much more. But one industrial operation has remained - Ocean Cement. They have gone to great effort to fit in by having an annual open house, installing an art piece that explains the cement making process with animated clods and wheels, etc.
And decorating their trucks with a market theme:
I could not get a good photo of the other two trucks but one was a strawberry and the other a beet or turnip (I think)
Two other highlights of our visit to the Island:
This great little hammock shop
And these Smart Cars (called zip cars) which are used in Vancouver's car share program.
I owned a Smart Car before we started this adventure and they hold a special place in my heart.
The campground where we stayed during this part of our trip was Cultus Lake Thousand Trails RV. Our final stay with the TT organization. This was a great spot located about 100 km (60 miles) from Vancouver, beside the Cultus Lake Provincial park, near several golf courses and just minutes from Chilliwack, BC.

We planned to spend a couple more days in Vancouver exploring and visiting friends but unfortunately it rained (and I mean RAINED - as it buckets full!!) for most of our stay so we finally gave up an moved to Peachland BC. Where we are now. We love it here and will stay until the snow leaves Jasper - hopefully next week.

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