Whistler


21
Mar 14

Challenge #4: Go to Whistler and Zipline Down a Mountain at Night

I’m trying to be brave and try new things—truly I am. But as I hang in my harness, my teeth chattering in the sub-zero cold, swinging in a cradle as helpless as a baby, I began to think, ‘hey – what was so wrong with the old ways?’. It’s pitch black ahead of me on the mountain, just a small twinkling light, god knows how far away – that’s where I’m heading on this insane zipline and god help me, if they’re not about to release the brakes

Ready to swing off into the dark void. Squint and you'll see the lights below.

Ready to swing off into the dark void. Squint and you’ll see the lights below.

A curse on this whole ‘try something Canadian and new’  plan. I’ve given ziplining at night a whirl and decided that, nope, it is absolutely not for me. Was it the screaming through the darkness god knows how high up – just attached by a wire – that made me turn my stomach? Or perhaps it was the fatal-crash feeling every time I ‘zipped’ into the end of each line? Or maybe it was the weird sensation of being horribly scared as I flew in darkness across the mountain and yet at the same time - feeling weirdly bored because I couldn’t see anything? Whatever, as fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, this girl has gotta never do this again. And yet… I could see that if you liked it (and I was with a crew who clearly adored it) then this would be all kinds of fun.

Making tracks up the mountain

Making tracks up the mountain

It all started rather nicely with a heated snowcat ride up Rainbow Mountain. I loved this! The snow was deep, it felt like the most delicious sort of rufty-tufty Canadian fun inside the ‘Cat; blankets-over-the-knees and the rumble of the engine as we climbed at a thrilling angle up, up the mountain. The light was on in the cabin and my fellow zippers-to-be were excited. I peered out into the night: nothing. Sadly the fun bit was over too soon – we got dropped at a yurt half-way up the isolated mountain for dinner.

Normally I’d have been dancing with excitement over this; it had been catered by the Bearfoot Bistro – one of my favourite Whistler restaurants – but as I sat down and sipped on water (never have I wanted a glass of wine more) and watched the flames dance in the log fire, I realised I was genuinely nervous about what lay ahead. I pushed my perfect short rib around the plate, forcing down a few mouthfuls of whipped buttery mash and savoury gravy before giving up. Bad enough to scream, but how much worse if I threw up later?

See - how perfect and lovely is this adorable yurt?

See – how perfect and lovely is this adorable yurt?

When you dread what lies ahead, there comes a point when you don’t want to delay – you just want it to be over. Make the dinner, end, let’s just get this done, I wished to the gods of bad decisions and perilous ideas. Who knows – I was not letting the tiny flame of optimism burn out at this point – maybe I would love this. But every minute we spent in that gorgeous little wooden yurt made me doubt it more and more. For those familiar with the drill, you know what lies ahead – you carry your own kit from line to line over your shoulder. I wasn’t expecting this and as I slid around on the narrow trail in the half-light on the ice and snow, I wondered if I wasn’t about to find a far, far faster way down.

The two staff with us on the mountain with us were fantastic – friendly, helpful, fun and – kind – when it was clear that I was struggling to stay upright one of them shouldered my load and I was never made to feel like I was making a fuss. One of the group after one line decided that was enough; and they were kind to her too. Idiot that I am, I decided to stick with it. Maybe I’d grow to love it? (I didn’t.)

Not everyone hated this. OK - so ONLY I hated this...

Not everyone hated this. OK – so ONLY I hated this…

There were only 4 ziplines but it felt like oh, so much more; one was the longest in Canada, 600 feet above the ground and over a kilometer long. The part of me that wasn’t hating it all, was wondering what it would be like in the daytime? Maybe if I had all that stunning scenery to distract me from me grinding terror, I’d have had more fun?

It was very cool hanging out in the trees.

It was very cool hanging out in the trees.

Not so my companions, who whooped their way through the evening. They flew down the mountain, their helmet lights like little halos, and whooped like bad angels as they went. Apologies for this most anaemic of phrases but really: if you like this kind of thing, you’d love this. It’s well organised, if you could stomach the food it was delicious, the yurt and snowcat were a lot of fun and yes, if hurtling through the night is your bag then have at it.
I plan to keep my feet on the ground for now.

God bless them for having me – I was a guest of Superfly – who were so nice to me even though I clearly loathed it.

Also thank you to my chateau home away from home, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler who gave me somewhere beautiful and serene to rest my very achey bones after all this crazy. Oh, how I wished I’d have been able to stow away one of their special mustard-spiked cocktails with me on the line – maybe that would have helped?

As ever – my words though are 100% my own.


12
Nov 13

24 Hours in Whistler

I’m falling a bit in love with Whistler; every time I go there something new and rather lovely happens and I start to ponder how I can sort out some kind of weekend cottage there; tucked away with a view of those beautiful mountains and within easy reach of all the great bars and restaurants.

This time it was a trip up with two friends who’d come to stay from Brighton. It’s ridiculous how fast you become blasé about breath-taking scenery, I remember the first time that I made the journey from Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway and it reduced me to a state of slack-jawed, tearful nature worship. It was great to see it through fresh eyes again and be reminder that yes; this one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

Breakfast with a perfect view

Breakfast with a perfect view

I usually head to the Galileo cafe on the way up but this time tried somewhere new and definitely off the beaten track. Up in Squamish, Fergie’s cafe was tucked away at the end of a trail that left us wondering if we’d made a wrong turn off the highway. Eagles winged overhead and we could hear the rushing of a river. We found Fergie’s – a small slice of paradise in a woody grove. In the summer they have glamping and white water rafting trips: we sat outside under blazing blue skies and devoured one of the best breakfasts I can remember eating. The bacon was free-range; juicy and crisp and the eggs had the kind of golden yolk that told you the hens got to scratch and peck and run outside and my cheesy-buttery biscuits were carb-heaven on a plate. All that with a view that made me long to give everything up and just live in the woods.

Our home for the night was at the Westin; we had a two bedroom suite right in the heart of town. Whistler hotels seem to have the rather canny knack of being the exact opposite of inner-city hotels; flooded with light and space they feel like a home from home (if you’re lucky enough to live in a home that boasts a fireplace and a balcony that looks out over a mesmerising mountain range, that is). There is a small kitchenette so you can whip up a late-night snack or breakfast, in short, plenty of room to lounge and chat.

Fall in Whistler

Fall in Whistler

We headed to the village and I left them to shop while I curled up in the October sunshine in a cheerful yellow-painted Adirondack chair overlooking one of the squares and I watched the scarlet and russet leaves fall. Vancouver had been wreathed in dense fog for days and I knew the rain season would soon be here: it felt like the most precious gift of all to lie in the sunshine just a few hours away from home.

I’m a huge fan of the Scandinave spa just outside of Whistler and was excited to take my friends there for a treat. I’d never visited after dusk and the usually meditative atmosphere that comes from being able to unwind amongst stunning nature took on a magical shape at night with those mountains and trees cloaked in velvety darkness. I lay back in one of the hot pools and watched the stars twinkle through the drifts of steam. I’ve finally mastered the art of just ducking under the icy plunge pools without shrieking and learned to love the feeling of being so cold your skin pulses and tingles… then slowly warming up again as you lie curled up on a beanbag or wrapped in a towel in a solarium.

Meditative magic at night

Meditative magic at night

I’d got great plans for a night at my favourite Whistler restaurant, the Bearfoot – a session in the Belvedere Vodka Ice Room perhaps or a lesson in Champagne sabering in the basement? But we were all sleepy and just a bit too relaxed, so headed back to the hotel. I dreamed of mountains and woke to a sunrise which had turned the peaks an blushing apricot-pink. That ‘Whistler effect’ of leaving you feeling quite changed within just a short time had happened again: just 24 hours left us feeling like we’d had a few days holiday. In the months ahead through the rain and the snow and biting cold, I’ll close my eyes and think of that yellow chair and that blue, blue sky and of those wonderful eggs eaten outdoors, my appetite sharpened by the soaring peaks and the sunshine on my face. 

 I was hosted by Westin Whistler and the Scandinave Spa – but as ever – my words are 100% my own. 

Thanks also to B.C. Ford who loaned us a C-Max Energi hybrid for the trip. I’d never driven a hybrid before, it was pleasingly quiet and I genuinely loved it. I’m lucky to live by one of the charging stations and it felt ridiculously cool to just plug my car in to charge. Best of all? A trip to Whistler and back only came to just under $40 in gas. Impressive. 


17
Jul 13

Weekend in Whistler: Summer fun at the Bearfoot Bistro

Six bloody Caesars - only one can win

Six bloody Caesars – only one can win

There’s something about Whistler that reminds me of my home town Brighton; oh, not in appearance, it couldn’t be different. Pristine and shiny, thoroughly modern Whistler is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, its inhabitants all seem to be like the girl or boy from Ipanema, all tall and tan and young and lovely. Whereas my beloved Brighton, in the words of Keith Waterhouse, “… looks as though it is a town helping the police with their enquiries.” But there is something in that ‘determined to have a good time even though it’s clearly hours past your bed time’ Brighton spirit that burns in Whistler too.

I recognised it the second I clapped eyes on the Bearfoot Bistro’s Chief Bad Decision Enabler, Andre Saint-Jacques, so no surprise at all that some of the best fun to be had in BC is always at his restaurant. The Bearfoot World Oyster Invitational and Bloody Caesar Battle took place this Sunday. A charity fund raiser for Playground Builders, an excellent Canadian charity who build playgrounds in areas of the world affected by wars. By the end of the afternoon enough money had been raised to construct three playgrounds in Afghanistan. So I’m not going to feel a jot of guilt about anything that happens here.

Judges Chefs Robert Clark and Pino Posteraro deliberate

Judges Chefs Robert Clark and Pino Posteraro get serious

Two contests were in play – six mixologists battling it out for the honour of the best Bloody Caesar (it’s a much-beloved Canadian drink – essentially a Bloody Mary with clam juice added) as well as the fastest oyster shucker contest. I couldn’t wait to see the shuckers in action, 13 competed from as far afield as Sweden, Denmark and Japan. Before the doors opened the judges got stuck into the cocktails, everyone else got to sample the six different kinds from booths set up around the restaurant and downstairs in its famous champagne cellar – which is usually where you’ll find M. Saint Jaques merrily sabering a champagne bottle or two. Along with the caesars, wine flowed freely and we were kept from slumping to the ground by a stream of bite-sized goodies from Chef Melissa Craig’s kitchen.

Delicious vanilla nitro ices

Delicious vanilla nitro ices

By the time the shucking contest came around it’s fair to say that everyone was feeling at their most Whistler-ish and the cheers were deafening. The rules are strict in these contests and closely adhered to. Each shucker is presented with a tray of three varieties of oyster, they have to shuck 30 and present them “upright, free from shell and blood in a whole top shell.” They are scored not only on time but also the appearance, presence of shell, grit and the cut of the meat. I was fascinated: each shucker had such a different technique, from the sorting at the start – some piled them like legos, others lined them up neatly – some wore gloves, others went in bare-handed (one was bare-footed) and others wound tape around their fingers. Each shucker has a timer and each heat must begin with the shuckers hands in the air above their oysters and the one to finish first must raise their hands again.

Adored Noriko, she seemed to be having such a great time

Adored Noriko, she seemed to be having such a great time

The first heat was over in a matter of minutes. It was shockingly fast. They tore through those shells like hot knives through butter; it was fantastic to watch. There were four heats in all and then a final round. My two favourites, Noriko Kamashima from Japan who shucked in a gloriously calm fashion with a beatific smille on her face and the looks-a-bit-like-Eric-off-True-Blood Dane, Simon Toensager didn’t make it, so I had to pick a new favourite from the finalists. I went with the only shucker to have cleaned the shells from his station to save the Bearfoot staff the trouble, the beaming bearded Eamon Clark from Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto who was the 2011 champion.

Eamon Clark: this is what winning looks like

Eamon Clark: this is what winning looks like

Turns out I can pick a winner. Eamon finished fastest and also – after a l-o-n-g deliberation by the judges – came out top on points. He scored a $5000 prize, a huge trophy that I wouldn’t have liked to try and take back on the plane and a whole year of bragging rights. I didn’t do so well guessing the best caesar. I liked Justin Taylor’s from Yew at the Four Seasons in Vancouver best, but local lad Scot Curry from the Alta Bistro scooped the $5000 instead. Full of nitro vanilla ice cream, awash with caesars and feeling like a girl who should go lie down somewhere, I sat on the stairs outside and waited for the Pacific Coach to pick me up. I’d stare out of the window on the two-hour trip back to Vancouver at the dazzling sea and mountain scenery on the lyrically-named ‘Sea to Sky’ highway, I might have been far from Brighton but oh – that town is starting to feel like home.

You can see why it's called the Sea to Sky highway

You can see why it’s called the Sea to Sky highway

I travelled as a guest of the Bearfoot Bistro  - thanks for that! Also thanks to Pacific Coach for the return ticket. As ever – my opinions are 100% my own.

More info:

Pacific Coach Lines

Whistler Hilton Resort

The Bearfoot Bistro 

Tourism Whistler

 


3
Jan 13

Whistler dining from A(raxi) to B(earfoot Bistro)

They know how to have a good time, those Whistler folk. If they’re not ski-ing, boarding, or snow shoeing across the stunning slopes, they’re throwing a party. On my last trip the film festival was in full swing and the town buzzing with excitement over celebrity visitors, Channing Tatum and Rashida Jones. Daniel Radcliffe was in town, staying at the gorgeous Fairmont Hotel – so was I! And I still missed seeing him.

Feel close to nature in gorgeous Whistler

Clearly my celeb-spotting skills are a little rusty, but even I was able to spot that Whistler has some of BC’s best restaurants. I’ve wanted to eat at Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro for a few years and on this trip, I finally got round to it. I’m starting to see that there’s perhaps something of a West Coast connection  - inspired after a long discussion with my East Coast friend, Alyssa: that if you live in such extreme beauty, you feel connected to nature in a way that you probably don’t if you live in a huge urban sprawl. Seeing the mountains every day and living seasonally makes you appreciate the world of nature and want to protect it. That’s the theory anyway and as Whistler has summer and winter food and wine festival events I reckon this belief in keeping food as fresh, seasonal and local as possible shines through with menus that feel perfectly in harmony with nature.

Beautifully briny oysters and delicate pearly-pops of flavour

Araxi is probably one of the most technically-proficient and artfully flavourful restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Everything from the ice-wine cocktail I began my meal with to the hidden treasures within the oh-so-innocent looking chocolate dessert (which spilled over with cream and fruit after the first spoonful) delighted me. Briny oysters came topped with pearls of cucumber, flawlessly seared tuna also came dressed in pearls – this time of soy – which delivered a perfect umami pop of flavour with each bite.

Almost (but not quite) too beautiful to eat

One of my new favourite things is beet salad and the one here came topped with a candy-striped variety that made me beam with pleasure. A wonderful wine list, superb service and pleasingly-intimate room made this probably one of the best ‘date’ restaurants you could ever visit.

Come on in, the vodka’s just right!

In contrast, the Bearfoot Bistro also has an exciting menu, but with a double-portion of fun on the side. Its owner, Andre Saint-Jacques, has created an atmosphere of pure decadent devilry here, from the champagne room in the cellar, where you can learn to saber a bottle of Moet according to Napoleonic tradition, (exciting fun and you get to keep the top that you chop off!) to the Belvedere ice room where you wrap up in polar parkas and knock back frozen vodka shots. The theatrics don’t stop with the drinks, where else would you get ice cream made at your table with billowing dry ice? My stand-out dish here was a rich risotto topped with perfect scallops. Oh – and more beets! This time served multi-coloured and cubed in a shot glass of creamy whipped goat’s cheese. I tried my first sparkling ice cider here and fell in love on the spot.

Why open champagne by popping the cork when you can simple CHOP ITS HEAD OFF!

I was trying to think afterwards, which did I prefer and I honestly couldn’t decide. Both were perfect for completely different reasons. I’d want a party with friends and endless bottles over wonderful seafood at Bearfoot, and I’d pick Araxi as my go-to place for any occasion that demanded something just a little bit special. Lucky Whistler people having those choices right on their doorstep.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Whistler – however, my views are 100% my own.

Find out more: Visit Whistler and Keep Exploring Canada


27
Dec 12

Powder and Pamper in Whistler Part Two: The Pamper

I love to visit a spa on pretty much any occasion, but that afternoon as I creakily got into a cab at the Westin to the Scandinave spa, my thighs already beginning to ache after my first morning on the slopes, I felt for once that I really deserved what lay ahead. The Scandinave specialise in Nordic spa-ing, a traditional form of relaxation through heat and bathing. Located just a mile or so out of Whistler village, the Scandinave could not be any prettier; from the car park you get to it via a winding pathway through the trees (dusted with that powdery snow!) which seems to set the mood that you’re about to enter a different world.

Relax in natural beauty at the Scandinave

The reception area is cosy with a roaring fire and small cafe area. I checked in and got two towels and a key for the lockers. Once showered, changed and in my bathing suit, I padded outside into the cold air and tip-toed towards the large heated pool. The spa space is silent which lends a positively dream-like atmosphere to the experience. Steam rises from the heated pools and the only sound is of the pool’s waterfall. I sank into the hot water and felt incredibly sleepy and happy. Hydrotherapy jets are stationed around the pool to pummel tight muscles into relaxed submission. I spent 20 minutes soaking up the heat before braving the next part of the Nordic spa experience: the cold plunge.

A waterfall massage surrounded by the mountains? Yes please!

I am a coward when it comes to this. I creep rather leap into the cold. I know that it does marvellous things to help cleanse my pores and remove toxins but I am a wimp. However, I think I finally found the secret, instead of stepping in, I just sat on the side and fell in. I stayed with my head under the freezing water, feeling my heart pounding and the blood racing to my skin’s surface. I bobbed around for a minute, trying hard not to shriek, then leapt out, grabbing my towel and scurried off to the next part of the Nordic spa experience; resting.

No, not me, but seriously, I was too chilled to take a camera!

I lay down in a heated solarium overlooking the beautiful mountains and trees. Close to sleep, I felt positively drugged. My achey legs ached no more. My body felt positively boneless. I repeated this cycle twice more and by the third time I was feeling invigorated and alert again. In the space of a few hours I’d gone from physical exhaustion to feeling like I’d had a restful night’s sleep. Those Nordic types knew what they were doing…

Find out more at Tourism Whistler.

I travelled as the guest of Enjoy Whistler however my views are 100% my own.

 


14
Dec 12

Powder and Pamper in Whistler

Terrified. That’s how I feel as I trudge towards the ski school check-in at Whistler village. I’m going to have my first ski lesson and I am absolutely bricking it. I should explain, a few years ago I had surgery on my spine. It took 18 months to get back to being OK again and I’ve just been too scared to try anything even slightly risky ever since. But I figured that it was time to stop being scared and start taking a few chances. After all, moving half way around the world seems to be working out OK, so why not learning how to do that swishy-snow-thing on one of the world’s best mountains too?

I signed up with a ‘Powder and Pamper’ package through Enjoy Whistler, so I can get a taste of whether hurtling at speed strapped to a couple of high-tech planks is my thing or not  – with a side helping of relaxing in the Scandinave Spa‘s outdoor hot pools and cold plunges afterwards. Earlier, I’d checked into the Westin, right in the heart of the village and decided that I’d get in some quality ‘relaxing in front of the fireplace’ time before I head out later. If, indeed, I can still still walk…

Radiating waves of confidence: meet Dave, my instructor

After nervously signing in, I’m despatched to the equipment hire area, which is when I start to feel seriously out of my depth. Everyone seems to know what they are doing except me. I get strapped into a pair of ski boots and rapidly discover that I cannot walk in them.
At all.
I’ll never even get to the gondola to get up to my lesson…  I sit sadly on a bench and wonder whether I should really do this when Dave appears. Dave is my instructor, a man of some 50 years experience who is a cross between santa and a cheerleader. He shows me how to walk (heel, toe), swiftly organises the right skis and poles for me, fits me with a helmet and confidently leads me out towards the gondola.

As we ascend the mountain in flurries of snow (Whistler was having record amounts of snow ‘dumping’ that day), Dave explains how to correctly hold my skis, where to put the poles while we’re in the lift and tells me a little about himself. By the time we arrive I am feeling completely relaxed and ready to learn. We take it slowly; first walking around the nursery slope learning the moves that I’ll be making once the skis go on. Next, learning how to actually put the skis on. We get joined at this point, by two late arrivals. There’s never more than four in the classes and even with the two extras, I feel like I get enough attention to be able to learn. I’ve snapped on one of my skis (“Toe in, heel down, stamp the bug!”) and we practice sliding around in circles on one ski. I like it! I feel excited; maybe this could be fun? We take a while to learn that there is no left or right ski and practice putting them on and taking them off.

One-legged skiiing? Whatever you say, Dave.

Just when I’m feeling all confident, Dave raises the stakes. We’re going to go down the slope and learn how to stop. On two skis. Dave wants me to do this by adopting a wide-legged stance and making the toes of my skis make a V shape. I show Dave just how well I can do this by falling over. It’s nice, flat on my back in the snow. Soft. The snow cooling on my already-achey muscles.

It feels tough, trudging sideways up the hill with baby-steps, I’m scarlet-faced and hot. This feels hard. Again I try doing what I’m told, but again, I just don’t get it. It’s only when Dave suggests that I imagine I’m carrying a tray that things start to fall into place. Add an imaginary basketball between my knees and whaddya know? I can stop! “Atta girl, Nikki! Whooo!” enthuses Dave as I wobble down the briefest incline on the hill and  successfully grind to a halt. I feel like something clicked. Amazingly, not my back. I’m getting this! I stomp up the hill again. Higher this time, then go back down, pointing skis in, bend aaaand stop, then rise, look forward, (holding my imaginary tray) and swoop forward. It feels great, I’ve a huge grin plastered over my face, I love this!

Soaking wet, bruised and completely delighted

Dave beams with pride and tells me that I’m graduating to level 2. We get to go over to the moving walkway that’s been installed on the slopes a little further up which takes us to what seems like a dizzyingly distant slope. My last task before we break for lunch is to zig-zag down the slope. I get 4 straight runs in, gaining more control each time I do it. It’s taken two hours and I am hooked. I’m soaked to the skin from the blizzard, covered in bruises, but could not be happier. I’ve conquered the ‘powder’ part of this package and am more than ready for my ‘pamper’.

First time I managed to stop without falling over. Whooo!

Find out more at Tourism Whistler.

Nikki travelled as the guest of Enjoy Whistler 


25
Nov 12

Whistler Weekend

One Mile Lake, just past Whistler

Winter takes on a different feeling when you have one of the world’s most beautiful mountain playgrounds on your doorstep. When it rains in Vancouver, you know that it’s probably snowing just 90 minutes away in Whistler, making perfect powder to play in. Whistler is less than two hours away from Vancouver and the drive there on the Sea to Sky Highway is simply breathtaking. The road twists and turns as you hug the coast and venture higher into the mountains. Each turn brings a fresh and gorgeous perspective. Take it slow though; it’s also one of Canada’s most dangerous roads. So stick to the speed limit and don’t try out any F1 moves.

I stayed at Nita Lake Lodge, a little distance from Whistler village and for me, if you’re looking to soak up the relaxing side of the mountains, the perfect place to chill. I loved my room on the top floor; huge ceiling and a gorgeous fireplace. I curled up on the sofa, reading a book and got lost watching the flames. I have to mention the staff here; the brilliant receptionist who went the extra mile for me as I’d forgotten my adaptor plug and she found a mac cable for me so I could re-charge and the friendly driver of the hotel’s shuttle bus who cheerily drove me back and forth into the village.

Nita Lake – the perfect view for breakfast

There’s a spa at Nita Lake – which unfortunately I didn’t get to try out – especially as it has those gorgeous Ila treatments which I love. No matter, I spent time in the spa’s yoga studio doing some Pilates and then padded out in the minus six chill to the outdoor hot tubs, slipped off my robe and hopped into the bubbling warmth. There is something magical about your sore muscles getting massaged by bubbles as you lie back under a blue sky and look at the snow on the mountains. I was lost in nature worship again!

Starving after all that beaming at the mountains I wanted to check out the Southside Diner at the end of the road. I’m so glad I did. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, this was the only place that didn’t hike its prices and the queue for Sunday brunch told me just how good the food was. I sat at the bar and lost a battle against the biggest and fluffiest pancake I’d ever seen. I loved watching the staff plate the food – it would not have been out of place at a Michelin-starred restaurant – but this was diner food made with love and care. I’ll be back next time I visit for sure. I want to try the cornflakes-and-Baileys…

Drinky Brunch at the Southside Diner

I’d read about a spa in town that used the 100-mile principle in its treatments. I’m a huge fan of this idea – using only ingredients from a 100-mile radius to keep the carbon footprint low and truly support local, sustainable living. Eco Chic is tucked away in the village, it’s small but spotlessly clean and had a real sanctuary-like atmosphere. The treatment rooms were compact but attractively-decorated. My therapist Michelle has won herself a place in my Top Five Massages of All-Time. I was meant to be having a full-body treatment with hot stones. The linens and oil used were locally-sourced and the stones were from the nearby Sunshine Coast. About 20 minutes into the massage, Michelle stopped and started quizzing me about my sore shoulders and horribly stiff leg. She decided that what my body needed was intense trigger point therapy instead and that’s what she gave me, focussing on my back. I stayed face-down for the whole treatment and yes, it was painful at times but oh wow, that loose muscular-release stayed with me for days. I left the spa and had to go and sit in a cafe for an hour or so before I could drive, I was so relaxed. Go and see her when you visit! An amazing intuitive therapist.

I’ll be back to Whistler soon to check out some of its famous restaurants and, SCREAM!, to try a skiing lesson. I’m nervous but I can’t wait to try it out. Any tips for first-timers… let me know.

I stayed as a guest of Tourism Whistler and was hosted by the Eco Chic spa. My views are 100% my own.

Keep Exploring Canada  and find out more about Whistler

 


15
Nov 12

Five Things We Learned At Cornucopia

Whistler Village

First things first – Whistler is beautiful.

1: Wine dinners are good dinners
And no, not just because you get to try many different wines (although, yes – that is a bit of a bonus too) but because of how much you get to learn in a fun way. I went to the Tinhorn Creek winery dinner at Nita Lake Lodge‘s Aura restaurant. Over four mouthwatering courses, plus dessert, we sipped our way through Tinhorn Creek’s Oldfield series of wines and heard from their Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager, Andrew Moon on the fascinating process of what goes into creating the wines. Just two years ago I tried my first wine from the Okanagan in British Columbia, now I try hard not to drink anything else (did you even know that Canada made wine?! Alas, due to the industry’s current boutique size, they barely export at all. I suspect that in ten years time, Canada will be where Australian wines are now – everywhere and beloved). Tinhorn Creek was new to me, but I’ll be looking out for their wonderfully strawberry-ish Series 2 Bench Rosé  and ambrosial Kerner Ice Wine from now on. Fact of the night for me, was learning how the Rosé was made, I had no idea that in cold seasons you can make great rose from Cabernet Franc grapes, so in colder years, you are likely to have more Rosé being made.

2: It’s called Crush for a reason
The Crush tasting gala takes place in Whistler’s Sea to Sky ballroom in the conference centre in the village. It’s a chance for dozens of wineries to show off what they do and it’s a great opportunity to work your way through a dream of a wine list, one sniff, swirl and sip at a time. Of course the key part to managing that without needing to be carried out is the all-important ‘spit’ bit at the end. If you swallow down dozens of different wines, well – you can guess the rest… I’ve come to the conclusion that either Whistler folk are just very polite and fear causing offense by spitting in public or they really like to drink… I got there on Saturday evening and didn’t see one ‘spit’ all night! Everyone was awfully happy though. The room was heaving, men in suits accompanied women in thigh-grazing minis and vertiginous heels as they clomped from table to table. Earnest conversations took place over swirling glasses between winemakers and wine-lovers. I tried a few wines, sticking as always to my Canada-only policy, I loved Inniskillin’s Pinot Grigiot – I’d only tried their ice wine from the Niagara peninsular in the east of Canada so was delighted to see that they had west coast Okanagan vines too. Pineapple-y and fresh this is another for my To Drink list

Glamour meets wine tasting at Cornucopia’s Crush.

3: Cooking demos always have great food
The Viking Stage Series of demos in the main foyer of the conference centre were great. If you love cooking shows then you’d love this. Chatty chefs cooking up a storm in front of you, explaining tips and tricks of the trade and then lovely, tasty samples coming out to the gathered crowd. Yum! I watched the Street Meet food truck chefs whip up heavenly sausage Arancini and pumpkin canollis which they paired with Vancouver’s Granville Island beers. Definitely a hot ticket and at $30 a great price to try something new.

4: When you put twenty champagnes in one room, people gon’ go cray-cray
Araxi‘s Bubbles and Oceans party is legendary in Cornucopia circles. One price, twenty different champagnes and sparkling wines and freshly shucked oysters and seafood canapes. “Go to the back room” everyone advised me. “The back is where it’s at”. So after queueing for 20 minutes in the minus 6 degrees chill, I tottered on frozen legs to the back room and found some rather delicious cavas and champagnes. The pours were generous and there was absolutely no question that there would be any spitting here at all! I wandered as best as I could through the packed restaurant to watch the live entertainment, Kytami, a new age “violinistextremist”, she was amazing and I’d love to see her in concert as it was tricky to thoroughly soak up her music over the cheery roar of the crowd. My advice on this is to come with friends and wear steel-toe capped boots. I have a bruised foot from some gal’s spindly heel who clobbered me in her rampage to grab some of the (admittedly delicious) shrimp!

Love this. These ladies had made their own hats. Too cute!

5: Everything is more fun in a hat
Oh wow, how I love a tea party. And how much do I love tea-infused cocktails! So the blend of the two at the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Whistler in its Mallard lounge was my idea of heaven. It was a sold-out event and I loved the effort that everyone had made. All the women had feathery fascinators or smart cocktail hats. The triple-layered tea tray made me so homesick for Brighton and tea at the Grand! Gorgeous little ham and cheese puffs, pink-hued sweet scones with just-right clotted cream and oh! The cocktails were great too. I tried a green-tea infused Martini which was perfect. Loved this event. It was the first time it has happened at Cornucopia and it’s definitely going to be coming back next year.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Whistler, but my views are 100% my own.

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