Everyday brings grim news about exponentially growing COVUD-19 cases, added on top juggling work, family, other responsibilities. Let's be honest, it is hard.
We feel like we need a long nice vacation. In current circumstances vacation means being outside more often, enjoying our own backyard. Luckily, Okanagan has many beautiful provincial parks, offering refuge from grey reality. Literally, there is green grass, orange, yellow and red foliage. There is fresh and crisp air, enough for everyone.
Back to the nature we go! Scientists proven that regular walks among evergreen trees (pine, fir) strengthens immune system. Even 2 hours a week in a place that has pine trees boosts immune system. Everyone can do this!
North Vancouver is a settled neighborhood with gorgeous running/biking trails, parks, restaurants. It is missing the hustle and bustle of downtown Vancouver, but still has all the amenities of a big megapolis.
Since local tourism is the only option in the next little while it is worth to explore hidden gems in Beautiful British Columbia.
The positive thing is that prices for hotel stay definitely went down in Vancouver area, additionally we entered into low season.
As we officially are taken by a second wave of COVID-19, we would not recommend to travel till mid December 2020. It was predicted that peak of pandemic and panic associated with it will happen around November 20, 2020.
However it is important to keep positive outlook, build plans, do the research, look at various places for future visits.
North Vancouver has beautiful Burrard Dry Dock Pier to visit, Waterfront Park, Polygon Art Gallery. If you follow along the walking path from Shipyards to Lonsdale-Quay Market and further to Waterfront Park, next will be the waterfront community pictured above.
Tap and Barrel restaurant offers remarkable service and tasty food. It was nice to see how they adopted to COVID-19 reality, still maintaining the atmosphere and full menu.
North Vancouver has many flavors to offer- Yaas Grill House, located 1629 Lonsdale Ave is a family owned restaurant offering Persian style meals.
As someone who enjoys kebabs and travelled enough to know the difference between a good kebab and never again kebab, truly enjoyed Yaas Grill House Saffron Kebab and Chicken Kebab.
Saffron kebab dish - juicy tender meat grilled to perfection, basmati rice with saffron, charred tomato, onions and cucumber yogurt to balance out the flavors. This was amazing dining experience.
Chicken Kebab dish- freshly marinated chicken pieces charred to perfection, so flavorful and juicy! I want to eat these dishes every day.
Summer is officially over, kids went back to school despite rising COVID-19 cases, days are getting shorter and colder. It seems like too much to take in after the slow spring and sunny mellow summer. We had to learn how to live and cope with new environment, adjusting the way we handle things on a day to day basis in a short period of time. It is just normal to feel like we all need a break.
Instead we are getting into next adjusting period - fall. It becomes super important to stay positive and engage in activities that help us to stay positive. That includes staying socially and physically active, eat well, drink enough water.
I wanted to share my favorite desert: Tres Leches. It is a Mexican desert that translates as three milk cake. It is nutritious, as it has good amount of milk and eggs.
120 g sugar
120 g flour
1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
200 ml 3.25% milk
200 ml coconut milk
150 ml boiled 2 hours sweet condensed milk
300 ml 30% cream
150 g mascarpone
Preheat oven to 350F, line cake form. Using mixer beat eggs with sugar for 8 min. till doubled in size. Slowly add flour, baking powder, zest, vanilla and mix with spatula. The key word- gently, to keep the volume. Bake for 35-40 min.
My version of the cake is served in tall glasses-see picture above, so I let the cake cool down and tear apart in bite size pieces.
Milk soak-mix three milk ingredients in a saucepan and bring almost to boil. Boiled condensed milk aka dulche leche gives the soak burnt toffee note.
Next we prepare cream by beating together mascarpone with fatty cream.
Now it is time to combine ingredients: soak cake pieces in milk mixture and layer them in a glass (or if you have serving size glass jars) with cream.
The dessert would need to cool off in the fridge for about one hour, the cake will completely absorb milk soak and some cream.
The only problem with Tres Leches- it does not last more than a day.
If you have not visited Victoria, BC at least once, you have no idea what "Beautiful British Columbia" motto published on each BC licence plate really means. Our trip to Victoria started from Tsawwassen terminal via BC Ferries.
It was a pleasure to see how well organized traffic was within the ferry. Sitting was taped off to allow for physical distancing, washrooms were marked for entry-exit routs, kid's playground was closed. All passengers were asked to wear a mask while on the boat.
Ferries arrive and depart on time and there is something magical about a ferry ride.
We stayed at Delta Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria: nice hotel, conveniently located alongside inner harbour, close to downtown.
What is different during pandemic situation: everyone is required to wear a mask in the hotel hallways and there is no room service during stay. We have requested fresh towels and those were dropped off by our room door.
First place we visited upon arrival: Fisherman's Wharf. It is located across the Harbour from Delta hotel and we took a water taxi (it was fun!). There are many interesting places to eat and visit at Fisherman's Wharf, but we love Barb's Fish and Chips. This is a treat once in a few years, so tastes delicious. There was a pet seagull asking for food walking between tables. Sometimes there are sea lions asking for attention on a wharf, but there was none when we were there.
Next place we visited was Chinatown with famous Fan Tan Alley and souvenir shops. Always intriguing and mysterious.
We did a lot of walking around downtown and found interesting places:
1. Dutch Bakery-traditional bakery with roots going back 100 years ago. They make super delicious cakes, cookies, chocolate. I can honestly say their baking is the best in British Columbia. They also serve breakfast for dine in. Highly recommend for a visit.
2. The DOTS- interesting store for a visit.
3. Royal British Columbia Museum- you can no longer walk in, buy tickets and go for a guided/non-guided tour. Due to COVID-19 it is recommended to purchase tickets online in advance. Due to spacing requirements the amount of tickets is limited.
4. Butterfly garden- there is quite a drive from Victoria downtown, but totally worth it.
Character houses are charming, couldn't stop myself from taking a picture.
I am enchanted by Victoria and want to visit again. There are more reviews under Reviews Tab.
Okanagan has everything for happy summer - beaches, lake, wineries, golf courses, hiking. However it is good to get away for a couple of days just to change perspective, hit the refresh button.
North Vancouver is a great place to visit : so many dining options, beautiful sunsets on a pier, endless shopping opportunities. Things are a little bit different due to COVID-19 measures in place everywhere. Some places either remain closed or have reduced hours. However local tourists are enjoying North Vancouver attractions.
Place to stay in North Vancouver: Pinnacle Hotel, Seaside Hotel (both 4 star hotels). Both have limited room service, but you can always request towels or trash removal. Service is good.
Next to hotel is Tap and Barrel Shipyards, where you can eat with a great view. The pier has many benches for people to enjoy the sunset and a view of Vancouver downtown. The Vancouver downtown is exactly on the opposite shore and sea bus goes there every 20 minutes.
Vancouver is the most green city in the world and the best way to experience it- going into the park. Parks in the summer become attractions to families with children, yoga classes, bikers, runners, social circles (people sitting in circle, literally).
Vancouver offers so many dining options- it is hard to decide where to go.
Park Royal is a home to various stores. Unfortunately some stores will be closing indefinitely due to COVID-19 economic impact on sales, such as Loft, Macy's, Nygard. Tsawassen Mills is a huge shopping ground. It is easier to maintain distance from other shoppers, as this shopping mall is massive.
Naramata Bench deserved accolades for it's wine, picturesque country side soothing eyes with green grape aisles and blue water of Okanagan Lake. There are many wineries to visit and it is worth it to split in several visits.
The roads are easy to navigate with signs on both sides of the road, where to turn. Speed limit on Naramata bench road is 50 km/h.
Good news- all wineries are open for tasting, although some available through reservation only. The best thing is to plan your visit by checking their website/phoning in advance.
Red Rooster winery has tasting room open by reservation, but they might take in walk-ins if not busy.
They currently charge $15 tasting fee per person, waived with $30 wine purchase.
Winery follows COVID-19 safety protocols, safe distancing in place, employees wear PPE.
Moraine Winery tasting open air terrace is open by reservation, but they might take walk-ins as well. Tasting is free, there are discounts if you purchase a box of wine.
Township 7 winery has great classic wines to offer - walk- ins welcome. Tasting fee is $5, waived with wine purchase. It is difficult to leave without wine purchase though.
Elephant Island Winery - fruit wines and this year they added traditional grape wines to their repertoire. Elephant Island Winery tasting open by reservation only, so please book ahead. If you never tried fruit wines before it is worth it to taste all of them first.
We could recommend blackberry wine- it is perfect with summer salad, grilled meats, corn on the cob. Their fortified raspberry wine is savory and burst with flavor- best way to intake vitamins.
Elephant Island winery grows it's own cherries. I like cherry wine, it taste different each year, depending on fire season/rain/sun conditions. Naramata bench is very sunny place which is perfect for fruit and grape growing.
The summer weather is perfect for the beach, especially if you have so many clean and free beaches like Okanagan.
Spending time on the beach is by far the most popular summer activity in the Okanagan, check for yourself. The picture below was taken 10:40 AM, before everyone made it to the Boyce-Gyro beach. However it is already busy.
The beach has washroom/change room/shower facility, multiple tables with benches, 2 volleyball fields, kids playground, boat/flotation devices rental. It also has water/snack stand. There is a new restaurant open in the area, which seems to be very popular "Diner Deluxe". You can see on my picture a waiting line to get in.
Marble Slub Creamery also opened their doors near Boyce-Gyro beach, offering freshly made ice-cream and various treats. We are so happy to see Marble Slub to return to Kelowna, as they have tasty treats.
The sign below got vandalized -some people doubt the restrictions are being followed.
Summer is here to stay for a next little while, time off booked with employer, it is time to plan stay-cation in beautiful British Columbia and Okanagan area. Okanagan offers plenty recreational activities: boating, hiking, golfing, biking, swimming, playing beach volleyball and tennis. And of course, it is very well known and deserved wine tasting destination.
It is up to you choose the activity you like.
In this blog I wanted to mention Predator Ridge Resort and golf. One resort features several activities: hiking, biking, golfing, tennis, pickleball, yoga classes, fitness classes, swimming, dining.
They are located 301 Village Center, Vernon, BC. They are currently open to public, bookings at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 1-888-578-6688.e.com
As resort is located away from HWY 97 and nestled between rocky mountains it has fresh air filled with grass and flowers aroma, beautiful nature, some wildlife to watch. It is suitable for all ages from babies to adults and the resort is pet friendly.
I encourage everyone to visit, whether for a couple hours or a couple nights.
Meats and the variety of sausage from Helmuts Kitchen can't leave meat lovers indifferent.
They have beef, bison, turkey meats raw and seasoned. Variety of cheeses is sold here as well, if you need to assemble a charcuterie board.
Sausage ranges from smokies of all sorts to apple whiskey salami with black forest ham in between. This is a must visit place in Kelowna for a protein treat.
What is different about Helmuts Sausage and Kitchen is that they are transparent: you can trace where meats are coming from. They offer custom meat processing to hunters as well.
Bilga farm is well-known for their juicy strawberries. The taste of strawberries you remember since childhood, before big-box stores started pumping out tasteless, crunchy strawberries with a texture of an onion year-around.
The strawberries at Bilga farm are hand-picked fresh daily and sold the same day. This is a cash only operation: 1 lb. box costs $5, 2 lb. box $10, 3 lb. box $15, 4 lb. box $20, 5 lb. box $25, large flat $35. The customer gets to pick which box they like, so I am pretty happy with what I got! The strawberry season is expected to last for another five weeks this year, so help yourself to fresh strawberries!
Their address is Rutland Road North, which is behind MacDonald's.