what i did on my summer blogging vacation
Hard to believe we’re in the first week of fall. The weather is turning crisper, the colours of autumn are starting to emerge. And regular routines are slowly falling back into place. Where did summer go?
I’m feeling refreshed and reset, it was a good summer. The blogging break was just what I needed. Although I love to write, sometimes I just want to ‘be’, to ‘do’, to ‘experience’ without the thought ‘oooh, this would make a good blog post’ entering my psyche. But rest assured I took enough photos of my travels to share ‘what I did on my summer blogging vacation’. And I therefore apologize for this long, travel-photo-album of a post of summer’s summary and highlights.
I visited the only walled city in North America north of Mexico…
Travelling to and from in relaxing comfort by train, on this visit to Quebec City in June I had the treat of staying within the walls at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. I highly recommend the Tours Voir Quebec Grand Tour for a thorough and detailed guide through the history, development, architecture, and present-day perspective of the city.
I got out into nature…
I have many very good friends with lakeside summer retreats and countryside abodes, who welcomed me during the first week of August. The end of this dock on Lake Bernard (the world’s largest fresh water lake without an island) is one of my perennial happy places.
This almost surreal scene is Warsaw Caves, a perfect spot to explore on an overcast day or otherwise, located not so far from my friends’ hobby farm in Grafton, ON.
I finally saw the inside of the Foster Memorial…
Having passed this unexpected byzantine-revival architectural gem just north of Uxbridge, ON a few times now (read my post about my first visit), on this summer’s drive up to cottage country was the first time the doors were open on my drive past. Beautiful.
I soaked in the natural and urban allure of Vancouver…
Every summertime trip to this gorgeous city to visit with my very hospitable friends includes a beach barbeque with sunset views at Locarno Beach. And this visit at the end of August was no different.
Vancouver has become an incredible food city, including the established and enviable food truck scene. This oyster po’boy from The Kaboom Box was delicious.
Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives has ventured north of the border, making a stop at Save On Meats. So did I. This once shuttered vintage meat shop and diner was slated for redevelopment before a restauranteur reopened it just over a year ago, a gamble that seems to have paid off and is the basis of Gastown Gamble on Oprah’s OWN channel.
The $3 cakes slice is a delicious deal, just a small (or rather large) sample of the value-for-money-home-cooking-menu.
I sampled much wine and stunning scenery in the Okanagan Valley…
I have visited Vancouver many times, each time saying I should venture to the Okanagan Valley wineries. And this time I finally did. But before we got there, en route along 0 Avenue in Langley, BC I just had to stop and take a picture. I’m standing in Canada, the road to the left is the United States – Washington to be exact. Coming from southern Ontario where one can’t enter the US unless one crosses a river or a lake first, having the States just a few feet across an invisible ditch of a border (save for the obelisk markers) is novel.
Now while the Okanagan Valley wineries are fantastic, what makes this my new favourite place in BC in the desert terrain. Yes, in Canada. And travelling south to Osoyoos, the dryer it gets, and there are cacti growing. Yes, in Canada.
Lake Okanagan contrasts the rough, dry mountainsides, with grapevines planted on the benches offering lush green hits of colour.
Another stunning site is Spotted Lake, just outside of Osoyoos. Spotted Lake is very highly concentrated with over a dozen different minerals, giving it its unique look. It contains some of the highest quantities in the world of magnesium sulfate, calcium and sodium sulphates.
Here are my top pics of the Okanagan Valley:
The Village Motel, Naramata, BC – small and kitschy, but clean and the owners are extremely friendly.
Real Things Pizza, Naramata, BC – so seriously good, we had it for both dinners of the two-night stay.
Hammer’s House of Hog, Oliver, BC – a food truck with a limited menu but really what more do you need than pulled pork sandwiches?
Favourite wineries – all were quite wonderful, but standouts for me include River Stone (family run – the owner served the tastings!), Township 7 (loved the Syrah so much we had it both nights, and brought back two bottles), and Stoneboat (small but elegant tasting room, delicious wines).
Fruit – the area is known for its fruit, not just grapes. We picked up huge 500gr peaches the size of softballs in Peachland, BC. Phenomenal.
I experienced VIA Rail’s ‘The Canadian’…
This epic train ride from Vancouver to Toronto was the perfect finale to my summer. Having already travelled to and from Quebec City by train just a couple of months earlier, I thought I might go mad being on a train for four nights, save for a few ‘stretch-your-legs’ stops. However, it was quite the opposite. Thinking that I’d have much downtime especially with no wi-fi on board, I was surprised to realize at the end of the trip that I had read not a single page of a single book. I was too busy enjoying the scenery, the delicious food, and chatting with my fellow passengers, from all walks of life yet with the common thread of being on this unique journey together. Here are a few photo samples. More photos to come in a future post, to truly do this trip and our gorgeous, vast country justice.