It’s that most beautiful time of year again in Vancouver: Cherry Blossom Season, a brief lull through the soaking rain, grey skies and all-round blahs of the first few months of the year. The West End of Vancouver where I live has exploded with spring blossoms: vivid pink magnolia trees, the white and pretty pale pink pom poms of the cherry and plum trees –you can learn which is which in this handy guide – and everywhere flowers are bursting their buds.The beauty of the blossoms has been celebrated in Japan for centuries, their appreciation of the flowers stemming from the knowledge that this dazzling display is just fleeting; a few weeks if we’re lucky, or blown to the winds in minutes by a storm if we’re not. Continue reading →
In the darkness and gloom of February in Vancouver there is one bright spot to look forward to: the Vancouver International Wine Festival. One of North America’s biggest wine fests, VIWF brings a head-spinning variety of wines from around the world –and from right here in B.C.– to sample along with seminars, winery dinners and plenty of fun events.
I was inspired this year to try something new after talking to David Smyth at the Fešta Croatian Dinner Party, at YEW, a fantastic multi-course feast from one of my favourite chefs in the city, Ned Bell, paired with wines from Stina of Dalmatia and Coronica of Istria. I’d never heard of any of the wines that we drank– Croatia has 64 indigenous grape varieties – and David told me that Italy has hundreds more. Over dinner I began to fall for Croatia’s wines, especially Stina’s 2013 Posip Majstor, a fresh white wine with a deliciously sea salt-y minerality with a creamy finish, which Ned served with a roasted sablefish, and and their 2011 Plavac Mali Barrique, a gloriously dry red which somehow managed to be juicy and fresh at the same time. Continue reading →
I slid down into the warm pool, lying on my back, my ears pop-pop-popping as they filled with water… And then music.
I pushed back and floated across the pool, the bass reverberating in my chest and belly. I’d read about the mineral pool at the Tigh-Na-Mara resort before and assumed I’d love it purely for the sheer joy of bobbing happily in the water, but no one had told me there’d be music too. I closed my eyes and tried to stay still, floating in the silky mineral-rich waters, focussing on my breathing; breathing in and feeling my body rise up, breathing out and sinking back down again. I felt myself moving across the pool and opened my eyes, watching the sparkling sunlight dancing on the ceiling reflected back from the water.
I turned over and swam a few strokes to the waterfall and stood beneath it, enjoying the sensation of the water pounding my neck and shoulders, any stress melting away under the water’s rhythmic force. Continue reading →
Ever since I moved to British Columbia I’ve become quite the ‘nature cryer’. Movies about scattered families or lost love tend to leave me dry-eyed. Those Christmas ads that have everyone else reaching for the Kleenex all tear-stained and heart-warmed do nothing for me. But show me an eagle wheeling overhead or a deserted lake ringed by towering trees and I’m bawling like a baby.
In the purest sense of the word, I am in awe of the beauty of B.C.
While I was researching the B.C. chapters of the 2016 Rough Guide to Canada I was fortunate enough to spend several long weeks out on the road, driving long distances each day along solitary roads, with my dog Freddie snoozing at my side. It was exhausting. It was hard. I was in heaven! The chapters are now finally done. The maps adjusted to reflect new recommendations. The copy edited down and on its way to the printer. I looked through the photos of my trips and picked out ten of my favourite moments which had me reaching for my camera whilst wailing with pure joy. Continue reading →
My heart sank when I saw it on the tour itinerary; a themed costume dinner, where you have to dress up too. My basic nightmare, in fact. But what I hadn’t counted on was the sheer joie de vivre of the Beggars Banquet experience which had me whooping for more by the end of the night, completely won over.
I’ll admit it: I kind of hate costume parties but I think I’ve found my new go-to for any dress-up in the future. Turns out I can rock the hell out of an 18th century wench outfit. It was a packed house at the Point of View Suites‘s dining room, and by the time we’d all been outfitted –and realized we all looked pretty cool in the gear– we went from the changing area into the dining hall and got ready to party like its the 1700s. Continue reading →
I’m ashamed to admit it but this is the first time I’ve been up to Grouse Mountain in the winter; I don’t ski and charming though a trip on Santa’s sleigh sounds, I just hadn’t made it up there. But whereas I’m a take it or leave it girl when it comes to sleigh rides, when it comes to a light show you can count on me to be there. Continue reading →
Maybe the W stands for ‘wow’, because that was certainly my reaction when I walked into my suite at the W Hotel Montreal. I’m not much given to hotel hyperbole but sometimes you open a door and all you can do is whoop with delight. Spread elegantly across two stories with a swooping view across Victoria Square, if you’re visiting the city for a special occasion –or if you want to feel thoroughly special yourself– then book this right now. Continue reading →
I never used to get into the festive spirit: the sound of sleigh bells and carols on the radio left me cold, those supposedly-heart tugging Christmas adverts made me feel even more Grinch-like than usual and really, it just seemed so… ugh. Not for me. No thanks.
But all that changed when I arrived in Canada.
It felt less commercial here and really just more about being joyful and enjoying the season. There are special foods and flavours, and fun events which ring in the holidays, and I’ve grown to love them all. For me the festivities begin the moment that Avalon’s eggnog goes on sale. Avalon is a local organic family-run dairy who’ve been in business since 1906. They use ethical animal husbandry, no GMOs, no pesticides and they make the best damn chocolate milk ever! Once their creamy ‘nog arrives, it’s time to crack open the Kraken run, break out the Moose Mug and get merry… Continue reading →
It’s one of my favourite events in Vancouver’s culinary calendar, the Vancouver International Wine festival; a blizzard of fun wine-based events, tastings, and special winery dinners which takes place each February, just in time to give us all a boozy lift in those grey winter days. Each year the festival’s focus shifts to a different country –last year celebrated Australia – this year it’s all about Italy with 60 wineries from nine regions representing the country and offering visitors to the festival a chance to sample some 50 varieties in the tasting room.
I love this event for so many reasons; I’m just starting to learn more about wine and each year I come away with a little more knowledge and a whole lot more favourites, thanks to the fascinating seminars and winemaker dinners. Last year I was lucky enough to attend an incredible event showcasing rare wines from California winery legend Robert Mondavi. A gloriously Vancouver-ish event, it took place at the Observatory restaurant, a the tope of Grouse Mountain. I got to watch the bright winter sun set over the city and then learn more about Mondavi’s divine wines in the company of their winemaker Nova Cadamatre, all paired with Observatory’s Chef Dennis Peckham’s inspired cooking.
If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver now’s a great time to snap up discounted tickets on tasting room events until December 31 (or until quantities last). Or, for an excellent bargain, you can score a free ticket to the tasting room, which, this year along with Italy, will showcase 156 wineries from 14 countries by booking a hotel via beVancouver.com. Best paired with a ski holiday to Whistler or maybe a city trip to Victoria, start planning your wine break to Vancouver now…
Further booking info:
Phone: 604-873-3311, toll free 1-877-321-3121 (Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
In person: 305–456 West Broadway, Vancouver (Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
I guess it makes sense that the prairies are so utterly cycle-friendly: flat, wide open spaces and oh, those endless skies. I got to spend some time in Alberta recently on trips to Calgary and Edmonton, both cities that I’d always associated with gleaming high rises and traffic-packed downtown cores. Turns out I was wrong: there’s plenty of green space and winding rivers in both cities and good cycling to be found in both.
I took a tour around Calgary, freewheeling across bridges and pedalling through the recently opened St Patrick’s Island Park, a gorgeous newly renovated leafy space in the middle of the Bow River, with hiking and biking trails and killer views across the city’s skyline.
in Edmonton I cycled the River Valley Trails and had to stop a dozen or more times to take photographs of the lush parkland all around me. It was the start of fall; the seasons were sliding from one to the next and the trees blazed with their autumn finest. I love it when I’m genuinely surprised by a city –and to have two such similar experiences in a matter of days delighted me. It always reminds me: forget what you think you know – go find out for sure what things are really like.