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Thursday, December 18, 2008


One wintery day a week ago I visited the Bloedel Conservatory, the second largest domed conservatory in the world (43 m - 140 ft in diameter, 2 1m - 70 ft high at the centre). The triodetic dome design covers a large ground area without supporting columns. Inside, the Conservatory has three simulated climates: a tropical rain forest, sub-tropical and desert zones. I walked among tall clustering palms from South East Asia, Benjamin Figs from Malaysia as well as trees from Africa and South America.
There are 1500 varieties of trees within the Arboretum.

A suspended bridge crosses a pool where varied coloured Japanese koi swim. As well, you'll see multi-colored tropical birds such as Maria and Carmen, a pair of Macaws from the Amazon.
Some of the parrots ride around on the shoulders to gardening staff. Charlie is a talkative cockatoo from an endangered species found on an Indonesian island. There's also a dwarf Macaw, Nelson, from Venezuela; Rose, an African Grey parrot, Art, a blue and gold Macaw from Panama, and alot of smaller birds that flit about in the dense jungle-like foliage.
As well as the palms and figs, are Mexican breadfruit vines, yellow flowering Showy Cassia, Century plants and Peruvian cacti. A beautiful display of orchids lines the pathway as well as brilliant poinsettias that gave the Conservatory a real Christmas decor. I bought a curly-leafed scarlet poinsettia to bring home for my own Christmas decoration.

The day I went, it was a free day. The usual admission is: Adult: $4.60
Senior: $3.20
Child: $2.30
pre-schoolers free accompanied by adult
Family: at child rate
The Conservatory is open: 10 am to 5 pm seven days a week
It's located in Queen Elizabeth Park at 37th and Cambie St. There is parking available in the park. Take the #15 Cambie St. bus.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008


Just a few miles east of Craigellachie, B.C. where the last spike of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in 1885, we round the curve of the Trans-Canada Highway and before us is an impressive 200-room chateau overlooking the shimmering water of Three Valley Lake.

Once this was only a marsh until 1956 when Gordon Bell bought the property and built a small motel and restaurant. Over the years the Bell family has developed this remarkable resort and chateau which now includes a chunk of B.C.’s history.

Gold rush mystique and railway history had always intrigued Gordon Bell. When he was just 16, working with a pick and shovel at a site 60 miles north of Revelstoke, he discovered the remains of a gold-rush town dating from 1862. Some of the equipment had been left behind when the town was abandoned in the early 1900’s. So Mr. Bell, decided to preserve the remains of the historic old town and began to collect artifacts and reconstruct buildings which are now on display at the Ghost Town, part of the Three Valley Gap Chateau complex.

Located 12 miles west of Revelstoke, the Chateau is nestled in the beautiful Monashee Mountains. Besides the Ghost Town, the resort offers many other activities for guests and visitors. Surrounded by pleasant gardens, there is a sandy beach for swimmers and water sports on the lake. You can also take a helicopter tour of the area. Nearby Revelstoke, a quiet picturesque town, is the gateway to the Rockies and home of two national parks, Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, where you can hike and ski. Revelstoke is also rich in history and many of the buildings here are restored to their original Victorian era splendor. Five km. north of Revelstoke, the Revelstoke Dam offers self-guided tours. The lakes around the area provide opportunities for boating and fishing. Or you can take a helicopter tour over the mountains and around the Valley

The Three Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town has guided tours daily from mid-April to mid-October. It is built near the site of the original town of Three Valley, which flourished in the 1880’s. The Gold Wheel Saloon features an authentic 19th century bar. There’s also a historic three-story Hotel Bellevue originally from Sicamous, plus many other buildings such as a general store, school, trappers cabin and jail. It’s not hard to imagine what it must have been like to live in that era as you stroll the streets and peek into the shops.

The Railway Roundhouse where old railway memorabilia is stored is Canada’s largest display of railcars and equipment. I was excited to step onto a coach like the one my family traveled in across Canada to B.C. in the 1940’s. And what a thrill to visit the exclusive rail car once occupied by our Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau when he traveled across Canada by train in 1972. I stood on the back deck of the railcar exactly where he stood giving the famous Salmon Arm Salute to protesters that greeted him as he passed through that community. This is the same car that carried Queen Elizabeth II on her royal visit across the country in the 1970’s.

Among the collection of antique automobiles I found an old Model T Ford just like the one my mother used to drive when we lived on the prairies. And in the museum there were old church organs like the ones that provided music in the churches I used to attend as a child when my father was a Prairie minister.

A visit to the Ghost Town at Three Valley Gap is sure to evoke many memories as well as provide an insight into the past with it’s many displays of Canadian history.

The Chateau itself is a pleasant retreat where you can relax and enjoy spectacular scenery and the fresh mountain air.

Three Valley Lake Chateau
Tel.: 1-250--837-2109
Fax: 1-250-837-5220
Toll Free: 1-888-667-2109
Open mid-April through mid-October.
(Sorry, no pets allowed on the property)

Three Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town

Helicopter Sightseeing

Transportation links from Vancouver:

Air: Air service is offered from Vancouver to Kelowna with links to Kamloops (196 km from 3 Valley Gap) and Calgary.
Bus: Greyhound buses serve Revelstoke from Vancouver and the Okanagan and Calgary on a frequent daily basis. Arrangements can be made for getting off the bus at Three Valley Gap.
Rental Cars: Available from Revelstoke.

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Monday, September 22, 2008


In all the years I've lived here in Vancouver, it took me until this week to make a trip up Grouse Mountain on the gondola. The last time I remember going up the mountain was years ago, when I was 14, accompanied by some young German students who teased me when I tried out my German language skills on them. This time, I was with another German friend, my young travel companion, Patrick. It was a good opportunity for me to finally make the trip up the mountain.

The gondola Skyride starts at the base of Grouse Mountain at about 300 metres and climbs to 1100 meters in twelve minutes. Quite thrilling as you sway above the treetops, and except the day was a bit hazy, a great way to see the panoramic view of the city and Georgia Straight.
After you arrive at the top of the mountain, there are several activities that you can enjoy although a couple of them, such as the Born to Fly movie at the Theatre in the Sky and the falconry demonstrations were finished for the season. We did enjoy the amusing lumberjack show where two loggers demonstrate various skills.
At the Refuge for Endagngered Wildlife exhibit we saw the two resident grizzly bears roaming around in their natural habitat. Once we went down the mountain again, we stopped to see the timber wolves in the Wolf Habitat near the parking lot.

We roamed around the mountain, enjoyed the glorious scenery and had a picnic. There are several restaurants on the mountain and a souvenier shop. But we had come mainy for the
thrill of the gondola ride and the lovely mountain scenery. There are trails you can hike, and for the hardy fit hikers, you can come up via the famous Grouse Grind rather than take the skyride to the top. Of course, in winter there are plenty of sports to participate in: skiing, snowboarding, skating, and sleigh rides.

You can also go on guided nature walks, helicopter rides or zoom over the treetops on the zip-line.

Your admission to the gondola includes some of the activities on the top.
For more information visit their website at
Be sure and take your camera because there are plenty of photo ops!

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An old camp song kept going through my mind as my kayaking tour guide and I paddled across the serene water of the Indian Arm.
"My paddle's keen and bright,
flashing with silver,
swift as the wild bird flies,
dip, dip and swing..."

It's actually a canoing song, but it helped me keep the rhythm as we glided through the water.

Before we had set off for our adventure at the old heritage settlement of Woodlands, near Deep Cove on the Indian Arm inlet, Peter, the guide, gave us the basic instruction for paddling and kayak safety. Kayaking was a first for me. I'd so often watched kayakers plying the waters around Vancouver but had never imagined myself out there exploring the coastline.

I was given the opportunity by Peter Loppe, who guides nature adventures around Vancouver with his Lotus Land Tours. We're lucky here on the coast to live in such a nature lover's paradise. Lotus Land offers personalized guided tours for nature lovers of all ages, even if you're inexperienced like me. Besides kayaking, you can also go on whale watching safaris, floatplane adventures, wildlife viewing excursion and guided tours around the city.

From our starting point at Woodlands, we paddled across the Arm and along the shoreline while Peter explained the eco-system and sea-life. A few curious seals popped up around us checkiing us out but not coming too close. We had a little lesson about the various types of star-fish that clung on the rocks, and the types of algae and sea growth. It was a beautiful, sunny September day. There was hardly a ripple on the water which made for a pleasant kayak journey up the Arm.
We came ashore on one of the tiny Twin Islands. A lot of other kayakers were there, some of them splashing in the water enjoying the mild day for a last of the season swim in the sea. We beached the kayaks along with all the others that were there, and hiked to a secluded spot where our guide prepared us a delicious salmon barbecue.
I can't think of a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon. This kayak adventure was one of my most memorable experiences and now I've tried it once I'm sure I'll go again.

You can book tours with Lotus Land Tours by checking their on-line site at or email

You'll be picked up from your hotel or residence iin Vancouver and on your way to your adventure destination your guide will give you a guided tour of the region. In all the years I've lived in Vancouver I hadn't heard of Woodlands, one of the earliest settlments on the Indian Arm. There's always something new to learn and plenty of exciting adventures await you here on the Pacific Coast.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


Produce at Granville Market

There are three large indoor markets in the Greater Vancouver area as well as a number of summer-time outdoor markets that are well worth visiting.

The most popular of the indoor markets is the Granville Island Market located on the south shore of False Creek. In this thriving warren of shops, artist's studios, restaurants, theatres and galleries you can find almost anything. There is not only a produce area where you can buy everything from fish to fresh cut herbs and bakery products, but various food stalls and hand-craft booths.

Once a declining 37 acre industrial park, today Granville Island is one of Vancouver’s most popular spots for shopping and browsing. Enjoy an afternoon in the sun sitting outdoors with a lunch bought at one of the varieties of food booths while you take in the scenery of False Creek and listen to the music of a street performer. Watch the kayaks, sculls and sailboats cruise by. Or enjoy a cold beer at the Granville Island Brewing Co. There’s entertainment for kids too, at the Kids Only Market and the nearby water park.

You’re advised not to bring your cars to the Island. Take public transit instead. #50 False Creek bus from downtown Vancouver (Gastown) or treat yourself to a ride on the little False Creek ferries. The Aquabus ferry runs from the foot of Hornby St. or from Science World, operating daily from the south foot of Thurlow St. downtown behind the aquatic Centre. There’s a bike trail along the south side of False Creek and a Cyquabus operating from the foot of Hornby St, for bikers who pay an extra 50cents for bikes. There are plenty of bike racks available on the Island.

Edible B.C. Culinary Experiences Corp. offers a Granville Island Market Tour every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday at 8.30 a.m.
Meeting place: La Baguette (Triangle Sq.)
Time 8.30 a.m. - 11.30 a.m
Price: $65 per person plus G.S.T. (tickets must be purchased in advance.)
The tour includes a focus on cuisine and history, sampling of foods, tips on foods and preparation, recipes and other goodies.
Phone: 604--812-9660
email: events

Fish, Lonsdale Quay
Across on the North Shore, you can take the sea bus over to Lonsdale Quay and visit the Lonsdale Farmers Market where you can buy fresh fish as well as home-grown veggies.
The Quay began as a boat yard in 1926 and later expanded to the Pacific Dry Dock yard which later became part of the Burrard Dry Dock. Cates Towing has been towing and building ships here since before WW1. Nearby is the historical landmark Hotel North Vancouver built in 1905. Enjoy the panoramic view of the Vancouver skyline from the quay before hopping back on the sea bus for your return trip to Waterfront Station.

Paddlewheeler, New Westminster Quay

I spent a morning in New Westminster at the New Westminster Public Market but found it quite disappointing with many of the booths and shops closed and not much variety of fresh produce or other products. A popular aspect of the Quay seems to be the Casino next door. The most interesting part of the visit was viewing the historical aspects of the quay where the paddle wheelers are docked that take you on tours of the Fraser River. Once steam driven paddle wheelers were the main form of transportation on the river. Back in the 1800’s when there was gold rush fever, the river was a busy water-way taking thousands of miners up the Fraser. In 1858 Col. Richard Clement Moody and a party of Royal Engineers stepped ashore here to survey the site for the future city of New Westminster -- the proposed capital of B.C. Within a year 300 lots were auctioned off at an average price of $200 and the forest was cleared. Soon a town of tents and wooden stakes sprang up which included a church, hospital, jail and government house. Unfortunately most of the city was destroyed in a great fire of 1898.

In addition to the indoor markets, during the summer months there are several outdoor farmer’s markets around the city, open until the end of October. These are at Trout Lake Community Centre, (Sat. 9 - 2) Riley Park Community Centre, ( Wed. 12.30 - 5.30) Kitsilano Community Centre (Sun. 10 - 2) and Nelson Park in the West End (Sat. 9 - 2)
Info: 604-879-3276

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The Ten-Thousand-Hand-Ten-Thousand-Eye Avalokitsvara Bodhisattva

You may not be able to afford a trip to Thailand or Beijing, but for the price of a transit pass or a gallon of gasoline you can experience Asia right here in Richmond.

I started my Asian adventure in a meditative mood with a visit to the Buddhist Temple on #5 Road in Richmond. From the moment you enter the gates into the grounds you are transported into a serene world far from the bustling city. The grounds resemble a scholar’s meditation park with stone carvings and statues among beds of flowers and ornamental trees. Beyond the fences and bordering stand of trees, the temple’s golden-tiled curved roof rises heavenward. You pass through the gates and are transported into the old China of the past.

Inside the temple the awe-inspiring golden Ten-Thousand-Hand-Ten-Thousand-Eye Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva sits before an impressive 85 ft. long Seven Buddha Mural, the largest of its kind in the world. The temple is a masterpiece of meticulous Chinese workmanship, displaying sculptures, painting, calligraphies and carpentry. I heard one man who had been recently to China exclaim, “This is even more beautiful than the temple in Beijing!”

A highlight of my visit was having my oracle read in the room of the One Thousand Buddha Hall. With the scent of incense swirling around me I knelt at each of the stations and contemplated my question to the universe. After the ritual, an old woman holds out a bundle of sticks and I chose my fortune which is interpreted on a yellow paper.

I was on a culinary tour of Richmond that began at the Shanghai River Restaurant specializing in traditional shanghai pork dumplings, 1800 dumplings a day to be exact.
We sat at a round table and tea was poured for each guest then the pot is placed carefully, the spout facing an empty space as it’s bad luck for it to point toward a person. Traditionally, the serving chopsticks are coloured on communal tables, with plain chopsticks for each individual. The oldest male is the host of the table and the eldest person at the table is served first by the youngest female grandchild. You never serve yourself first.

The ‘little dragon dumplings’ (su lung bow) were tantalizingly delicious, filled with soup and pork. Chef Lee, was brought from China to oversee the kitchen. The menu is medium priced at $48 for a five course meal for two including handmade noodles and rice with shrimp as well as other delicacies.

At the POSH Charcoal Collaboration, a trendy bistro-style restaurant, we sampled a different menu which included a Japanese Sukiyaki Hotpot. This is one of Richmond’s newer eateries representing a change in Asian dining. POSH serves authentic Japanese sukiyaki; it’s not a fusion restaurant. The name derives from the British traveler's saying “Port Out, Starboard Home” For the diner watching their calories it’s an excellent chance to fill your plate without guilt as each plate of the fresh home-grown veggies and slender slices of meat tally up to no more than 450 calories!

Richmond has over 400 Asian restaurants and most of them have chefs imported from their home countries, thus there are more authentically Asian foods served here.

Vogue, another restaurant managed by Peter, the young restaurateur from POSH, offers 128 dishes of Taiwanese cuisine. At Jade Seafood, Cantonese-style cuisine is served including hand-made dim sums and fresh seafood that are the specialties of the house.

The young Chinese residents of Richmond enjoy gathering at the Tapioca Express Bubble Tea on Capstan Way. Here they can meet with friends and sip on a variety of tapioca milk teas or snack on crispy chicken or fried fish cakes among the other 200 kinds of tasty snacks served here. There are many different varieties of bubble tea to chose from, (the ‘bubbles” are the tapioca). The Bubble Tea provides cards for kids to play and a safe place for them to hang out with their friends.

Chicken Satay

In between this eating extravaganza I took time to browse around the Aberdeen Mall and the Yaohan Centre shopping malls. I recommend an afternoon at the posh Aberdeen Mall which has a wide range of stores. It’s the first Asian mall of its kind. They even sell Porches there!

Our culinary adventure ended at the Thai House Restaurant where the chefs had prepared a full-course Thai meal that included chicken satay, artistically served salads, a seafood combo, coconut chicken and pineapple fried rice. Try the lichee and coconut drinks. They’re delicious! And for dessert: deep fried bananas with mango icecream.Yum!

Summer Night Market Dragon Dancers
We ended the day at the grand opening of the Summer Night Market where there are over 200 booths selling every sort of merchandise you can imagine from fake designer handbags to electronics. I usually love to snack my way down the row of food stalls that offer authentic Asian cuisine. This evening, after my day-long feast, I passed it up in favour of watching the stage show with the dancing dragons and pretty Chinese girls performing for the crowds. The market is open every weekend from 7 - 11 through to September and there’s ample parking nearby. It’s worth a visit though it tends to be very crowded. The atmosphere reminds me of the P.N.E. so you’ll have lots of fun there.

International Buddhist Temple
9160 Steveston Hwy

Shanghai River
110-7831 Westminster Hwy

POSH Charcoal Collaboration
1123-3779 Sexsmith Rd.

Jade Seafood
8511 Alexandra Rd.

Tapioca Express Bubble Tea
1438-8388 Capstan Way

Yaohan Centre
3700 No. 3 Rd.

Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way

Thai House Restaurant
129-4940 No. 3 Rd

Summer Night Market
12631 Vulcan Way
Weekends through to October 5..

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

ROAMING THE RIVER: A History and Culinary Trip Around Steveston B.C.

Early on a weekday morning I met with a small group of travel writers on a culinary tour of Steveston B.C. Our extraordinary journey began at the Steveston Seabreeze Adventures where we borrowed bikes for a ride along the Fraser River. Cycling the river paths and dykes of Richmond has always been something I’ve wanted to experience, and for just $7 an hour you can pick up a cruiser bike at Seabreeze and set off on an interesting scene and historical tour of this old fishing village. The paths are well travelled and flat so it’s an easy ride. You can also book trips here for whale watching and charter boats for deep sea fishing.

We set off to visit one of Steveston’s famous heritage attractions, London Farms, pedalling along the river path to the farm, just fifteen minutes from the town.

Richmond has been a farming area since 1862 and although today most of this rich farmland has been developed into residential areas, there are still some hardy farmers growing produce. You can tour some the this agricultural area by car (1 1/2 hrs) or by bicycle (2 1/2 hrs).

The London Farm overlooks the south arm of the Fraser River The original owners of the London Farm, were William and Thomas McNeely who first arrived in 1865. Charles and William London purchased 200 acres of McNeely’s farm in 1880. The present farmhouse was constructed in two parts from 188 - 1906. Charles London also built a small wharf known as London’s Landing where he shipped farm products and received supplies. The municipality of Richmond purchased the house and 4 acres farm in 1978 and it is now a designated heritage site.

The farm has a park-like setting with flower gardens, farm equipment, and even chickens. Weddings and other special events are held in the gardens. In the farm shop we were greeted by the delicious aroma of fresh baking coming from the kitchen. We were welcomed into the house and treated to tea in the dining room, and fresh scones and dainty goodies served by the gracious lady who is the volunteer baker.

Cycling back, we stopped to view eagles nesting in trees across the river, and views of the old heritage buildings. Steveston was once a thriving fishing village and a Japanese settlement. There is little left of the residences except one small house once the home of the Murakami family who lived at Britannia and operated boatworks from the late 1920’s until their internment in 1942. The house and boatworks have been restored and Mrs Murakami’s garden is still lovingly tended.

Just next door is the historic Britannia Shipyards and a guide toured us through explaining the various functions and tasks of the ship builders. There are still volunteers working alongside profession boat-builders at the Shipyards. The Britannia Shipyards is all that survives of a mix of canneries, boatyards and residences with some of the oldest heritage buildings found along the river. It began as a cannery in 1888 and later was converted to a shipyard repairing boats for the ABC. Packing fleet. There were originally over 90 structures. The Richmond Boat Builders, now used for boat construction and repair, built in 1933 still has its original steambox and a cradle to move boats onto and out of the water. The remains of walkways and wharves are all around the old cannery buildings. Each ethnic group had its own accommodations: First Peoples houses, Chinese bunkhouses, Japanese duplexes and these are displayed by pictures although some of the old buildings may still be restored.
We returned our bikes and had a look at the whale watching boats for hire at SeaBreeze Adventures. Then it was time for fish at chips at one of the most notable of Steveston’s chip shops, Pajo’s an award winning outside restaurant at the Government dock. The name originates from Pat and her former partner Joan who began the business in 1985. Pajos is a thriving family operated business. The halibut and chips there were the best I’ve tasted, all fresh products.

Next door is the big Gulf of Georgia Cannery, a National Historic site and museum with fascinating displays explaining the early canning processes. Built atop wooden pilings over the river, it is one of the few remaining 19th century salmon canneries on the B.C. coast. It commemorates the development of Canada’s West Coast fishing industry from the 1870’s to the present.

Our guide, Rob Hart, took us on a fascinating tour. The main building was built in 1894 and was one of the largest plants along the lower Fraser River. Described as a ‘monster cannery,’ by 1902 it was the largest cannery in B.C. Unfortunately the Depression brought a halt to the cannery’s operations in 1930, but during W.W. II it was reactivated for the canning of herring. The cannery also processed fish oil and meal up until 1979.

In the last few years, Steveston has become a thriving community of boutiques, fine restaurants, condo developments. The fishers still arrive at the dock each morning with their catches providing the local restaurants with fresh fish. Nowadays the restaurants, shops and cultural/historical and recreational tourism seem to be the main attraction here.

If an exclusive dining experience is what you want, I’d highly recommend Papis Italian restaurant. The restaurant has recently opened after a devastating fire in 2007 and there was another small crisis that day as a truck had backed into their gas line. In the true spirit of ‘the show must go on’, executive Chef/owner Ken Iaci prepared a delicious array of savory sea food delicacies and offered us a taste of the imported Italian wines.

Then it was off to the “River Queen”, where we were to take a narrated nature and historical tour of the Fraser River and Cannery Channel. Unfortunately the wind prevented us from sailing.

An artistically served meal at the Blue Canoe

One of the Steveston’s newest restaurants is the Blue Canoe located right by the river

on Bayview St. It has the ambience of a lakeside summer cottage. We were welcomed there by one of the new proprietors, Jim Van der Tas who generous offered an exquisite lunch prepared by executive chef Vincente Mabanta, truly a memorable dining experience which we enjoyed on the patio with a view of the fisher boats on the river.

During the afternoon we visited the Richmond Oval site, the venue for the long track speed skating events during the 1010 Olympics and Para Olympics Winter games. Then it was time for some leisure wine tasting at one of the Lower Mainland’s wineries, Sanduz Estate Winery, where were tasted the delicious wines made from grapes and local berries.

Our day of touring and dining ended at the Tapenade Mediterranean Bistro where we were served a full-course meal of their fresh Mediterranean cuisine including appetizers of chicken liver parfait, Tapeande and crostinis followed by mushroom soup made with truffle croutons and enoki mushrooms and a finally choice of braised beef short ribs or Queen Charlotte Halibut as an entree.

My day of roaming the river over and thoroughly sated, I headed back to the City again. I felt as though I’d been on a vacation. What a grand way to spend a day so close to home!


Steveston Seabreeze Adventures:
12551 #1 Road, Bldg 42

London Heritage Farms:
6511 Dyke Rd.

Britannia Heritage Shipyard
5180 Westwater Dr.

Pajos (There are also Pajos located at Gary Park Steveston and Rocky Point Park, Port Moody.) Season is early Spring to late Fall depending on the weather.

Papis Italian Restaurant
12251 No 1 Road

“River Queen” (and whale watching adventures)
Blue Canoe Restaurant
#140- 3866 Bayview St.
604-275-7811 or 604-271-5404

Sanduz Estate Winery
12791 Blundell Rd.

Tapenade Mediterranean Bistro
3711 Bayview St.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008


When I was given the generous offer of a night’s stay at a heritage guest house and a dinner for two with wine and beer pairings at the Spinnaker’s Gastro Brew Pub and Guest House in Victoria, I knew who I’d invite to go along with me. As I don’t have a partner, I decided to ask my long-time pal and party buddy, Cheryl, a single parent who doesn’t have many opportunities to spend a ‘romantic’ weekend away.

We set off early on Saturday morning aboard B.C. Ferries and enjoyed a leisurely cruise, then drove from Swartz Bay to Victoria. It was still early morning so we parked and walked all around the shore-front trail, stopping for photo ops and a visit to the Ross Bay Cemetery. By noon we were hungry and headed across the Johnson St. bridge to West Victoria where Spinnakers is located. It was still too early to check into the guest house, so we sat out on the deck enjoying the harbor view and ordered a delicious lunch which included Cortez Island oysters on the shell. Little did we realize as we munched away at our burgers and chips that the dinner we were about to indulge in would far surpass any dining experience we could imagine.

By mid afternoon we checked into the lovely heritage guest house. Guests can stay at either the 1884 restored heritage house or the contemporary Garden Suites. Our Victorian style room with it’s large bathroom (that had likely once served as a sun porch), was graciously endowed with antique furniture and decor. A little card “Welcome Ruth and Cheryl” was set on the table along with truffles and two bottles of Spinnaker’s own
artesian mineral water.

Never having indulged in a wine and beer pairing dinner, we had no idea of what to expect. In fact, when we first arrived at the reception we were mistakenly ushered upstairs to the pub area. Then, someone came to inform us they were ‘waiting for us downstairs’ where we were seated by a window overlooking the Inner Harbor and a view of the Provincial Parliament Buildings across the bay. All our questions were soon answered though, when we were introduced to Brian Storen, Spinnaker’s award-winning sommelier. Congenial and gracious, Brian led us through the entire experience with stories and anecdotes and explanations of each beer and wine and the dishes that were presented, prepared by chefs Alison Ryan and Nigel Taylor

Dinner started with demi point whaletown oysters sprinkled with house brewed malt vinegar and yellow beet mignonette, paired with a glass of classic Wassail Mead, sweet as nectar. A taste of Spinnaker’s handcrafted India Pale Ale followed while we dined on a delicious salad composed of tomatoes and feta cushioned in a bed of organic field greens. This was accompanied by wine from Giordano Venturi wineries in Cobble Hill, locally harvested grapes , refreshing to the taste. Then there was Spinnaker’s Iceberg Ale, specially brewed during the Royal B.C. Museum Titanic Exhibition. This went well with the fresh Sablefish swimming in a stew of tomato and olive oil.

The artistically decorated plates kept coming, and so did the little glasses of beer and tastes of wine. All the ingredients are harvested locally including the 2006 Pinot Gris crafted from grapes of Naramata’s Kettle Valley Winery. The Cowichan Bay Farm duck accompanied by chef Alison’s special Dragon Fly Farms Spinach, Port Alberni pecorino cheese and Saanich Organics squash gnocchi.breast went down well with Spinnaker’s Belgian style Saison. All Spinnakers beers and ales are hand crafted and brewed with the finest imported hops and grain, and local ingredients in season such as farm fresh raspberries.

Were our appetites sated yet? Still several more courses to go, and our taste buds were dancing with excitement over all these savory and delicious delicacies. Averill Creek Vineyards 2006 Pino Noir was a perfect compliment to the braised pork tenderloin resting on fingerling potatoes and apples with rinds of Salt Spring Island Boerenkaas cheese along with cherry jus.

There was one more entree to go but we were stalled, and concluded our feast with a heavenly selection of dark chocolate truffles paired with camembert, along with Spinnakers’s Belgian Dubble, a mildly hopped, malty beer with a spicy dark fruit aroma. There were four selections on the dessert tray. A ‘hop scotch’ truffle was accompanied by Comox Wasabi Verdelait and a satiny Scottish ale; ‘just a little stout’ dark chocolate went well with the Titanic stout. And for the grand finale a nugget of Blossom’s blue cheese accompanied by a desert wine. Venturi Schulze’s beautiful Brandenburg #3 sent our palates into ecstasy with it’s nugatine, fig and citrus viscosity.

We didn’t need to have romantic partners for this memorable evening. Thanks to our attentive librettist, Brian Storen, and the creations of Spinnaker’s talented chefs, this was about as exotic and romantic as it gets. Never before (and perhaps we never will again) had we experienced such a lavish, exotic dining experience. Thank you, Spinnakers’ Publican, Paul Hadfield, for offering this opportunity for a truly memorable weekend!

Learn more about Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub and Guest House at
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Sunday, June 08, 2008


As my blog readers know, I also edit/publish a new Travel e-zine TRAVEL THRU HISTORY
I'm thrilled with the response I'm getting from this site, including the excellent contributions of travel writing from all around the world.

One of my contributors, Paolo Fornari, has some of her photos in a contest and would appreciate you having a look. It's an interesting concept, this collection of photos. Here's a little blurb that Paola sent me to explain it:

Come and share how expat women see their itinerant lives!

Voting is open in the photography competition of the Italian section of The aim of the competition is to build bridges between Italian women abroad, to communicate our life experiences outside our borders, to observe our host country and share it with our friends scattered around the world, and to transmit through images the feelings which surround expatriate living.

In order to vote, you need to register: it’s a simple procedure, and your data will be protected. You will receive no spam. It’s simply to avoid people submitting multiple votes: you can vote for up to three photos.

Simply go to: then click on ‘registrati’. After that you can login, click on Il termine per l'invio delle foto รจ scaduto. Sono aperte le votazioni’, and vote!

Take a look. There's some wonderful photos on display there!

On the new travel plans news: I'm leaving on Tuesday for a road trip, by Greyhound, to California. It's been several years since I was there except for passing through LAX. The main purpose of the journey is to attend the graduation of my grandson Mike from the U. of Santa Barbara. But I decided to make it a real 'family reunion' trip, so I opted on taking the bus so I could stop first at San Francisco to visit my cousin Harold who I haven't seen in 30 years, and after the grad at Santa Barbara, I'll go on to Bakersfield to visit my Auntie. While I'm down there of course I'll keep my eye open for good travel stories, and I'll try to post on this blog so you can share in my adventures. Stay tuned! I'm anxious to get out of this cold, wet weather and I hear it's 80 in S.F. So I've packed my swim suit and sun-block and away I go, riding into the California sunshine!

Monday, June 02, 2008


In the heart of Stanley Park is a small lake known as Beaver Lake. The lake began as a shallow lagoon cut off from the ocean by the land and eventually turned into a barren and dry bog, then a forested bog and finally, about 10,000 years ago, a freshwater pond that we know today as Beaver Lake. Today the 'lake' is truning back to a bog which is covered with a lovely blanket of yellow water lilies. There are trails in the surrounding forest, one of them "The Beaver Lake Interpretive Trail. Along this interesting route you will experience the various ecosystems of Stanley Park. On Sunday, when my friend and I paid our first visit in years, there were dozens of ducks with their fluffy little ducklings providing entertainment for the visitors. A long-legged heron waded among the water-lilies searching for a snack. Red-wing blackbirds chirrped from the tall reeds. There couldn't have been a more appropriate or lovely setting for the event which we had come there to attend.
"Shafer on the Lake" was an afternoon concert performed by the lakeside by a vocalist, flautist, clarinet and trumper player celebrating the 75th birthday of eminent Canadian composer/librettist/artistic direct and environmentalist R. Murray Shafer. We took along a little picnic lunch and sat on a bench enjoying the strains of the music as it echoed back and forth across the still pond enhanced by the bird sounds. Quite an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.
A little black squirrel came to join our picnic. He refused the carrot we offered him but chowed down on the scraps of chicken wings and kept coming back, standing up on his little hind legs begging for more.

After the concert ended we walked back along the trail, through the tall Douglas firs. There were wild flowers blooming along the path
and the tall ferns uncurling their fronds. It's certainly worth a visit to Beaver Lake and perhaps the next time I'll take along the "Interpretive Trail" brochure I picked up so I can follow along and see more of the flora and fauna that surround it.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008


It's been years since I last hiked in the Lynn Valley Canyon in North Vancouver. My friends were visiting from Germany this week and we decided, in spite of a steady drizzle of rain, to visit the famous canyon and suspension bridge.

The Lynn Canyon officially opened way back in 1912 once a streecr line was completed in North Vancouver. At that time, the canyon was officially designated as a municipal park. The suspension bridge also officially opened that year and became a popular visiting destination. It cost 10 cents to cross it back then and people would inch their way cross the wobbyly structure grasping the hawser, just as they do today, although the bridge has been reconstructed and is now a free attraction.

The narrow wooden bridge sways precariously 166 feet above the gushing white water of Lynn Creek. If you have a fear of heights, it's not recommended you cross, but if you want a small thrill, it's worth the experience. The more people using the bridge, the more it jiggles and sways, so hang on tight as you cross, and don't run! The bridge is 100% safe, but in the past there's always been some fool who attempts to jump from it or from the rocks above the Creek and ends up losing their life.

The view from the bridge is spectacular, especially at this time of year with a spate of gushing water coming down the canyon from the snow-melt on the mountains.

Once you cross there are various interesting hiking trails through the lush rain forest. The one we took was to Twin Falls, about a twenty minute hike through the forest at the canyon's edge to a wooden bridge that takes you back to the other side. Be aware that there are several flights of wooden steps to climb up and down, so if you're not in good shape, don't attempt it. There's also the famous 30 ft. deep pool where over the years people come to swim in the summer. I can recall doing so myself. But be careful and obey the safety rules or you could get swept away by the fierce currents when the water is moving fast.
The park is a total of 250 hectares. There are some guided tours starting from the Ecology Centre at the Park's entrance. The Ecology Centre opened in 1971 and has an informative display of flora and fauna and a Kid's Exploratorium.

In spite of the drizzle, we picniced along the way (I wish they had covered picnic areas where we could have taken shelter). You had to watch your step because of the slippery paths due to the rain. But in all, it was a refreshingly pleasant day's hike. I'll definitely go back another day during the summer when it's not so wet! There are always plenty of people on the paths, even in the rain, so you'll never be alone in the forest and so long as you keep to the designated trails it should make for a pleasant day's outing.

It's free to go into the park, and parking is free. The Ecology Centre is open 10 a.m - 5 pm daily (closed weekends December to January)
For information call 604-981-3103

Buses run from the Londsdale Quay. A short walk into the park is required.
Driving: take Upper Levels Highway (Highway 1) to Lynn Valley Road exit (19) Follow Lynn Valley Road NE past the Mountain Highway intersection, then continue to Lynn Valley Road to sign for Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre.
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