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Holiday

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The beautiful summer weather has finally arrived here in BC just in time for us to entertain long standing friends from the UK. I have seized the opportunity to take a short break to bring them up island for a visit to Tofino.

First – however – from Port Alberni a trip on the much loved ‘Frances Barkley’ down to Bamfield and back. The ‘Frances Barkley’ is a working ship and makes stops all down the Alberni inlet to deliver the post and all manner of other essentials to communities that have little or no road access.

Here be photographs…


Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

This is one cool way to collect a delivery…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

No fisherman’s tales here. This guy looks pretty proud of his catch…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

…and here is the ‘Frances Barkley at Bamfield.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Pender Island provides splendid opportunities for walking and trails may be found to suit those of all abilities – many such offering spectacular views.

The trail to Oaks Bluff, on the west coast of North Pender, is a mere 0.4 kilometers in length (about a quarter of a mile) but in that short distance it climbs some 66 metres (more than 200 feet). The effort is well worth-while, as these images surely attest.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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…as promised.

In need of a brief break from the hurley-burley we retreated to a rented cottage on North Pender for three nights over the Easter weekend. Though perhaps slightly less ‘artsy’ than neighbouring Saltspring, Pender still has a very particular ‘island life’ feel about it, the which we liked very much.

Pender – incidentally – was once a single island, with the two current entities connected by a narrow isthmus. To save locals and visitors from having to sail all the way round to reach the settlements on the other side a canal was dredged in 1903, with a narrow road bridge above to maintain land-based access.

Though we set out from Swartz Bay under lowering skies the weather subsequently smiled upon us – improving day by day.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid
On our first full day on the island we followed the inescapably circuitous route to Poet’s Cove on the south island – the which lies scarcely a few hundred yards (though on the other side of Bedwell Harbour) from the point at which we started. Poet’s Cove – though diminutive – is a major(ish) entry port for yachting folk arriving from the US – the reason for which would become clearer should one consult a map of the southern Gulf Islands. To this end it hosts a small customs dock, which does the great majority of its business in the summer months.

Poet’s Cove also hosts a rather wonderful resort and spa, in which the Girl and I duly submitted ourselves to ninety minute relaxation massages, spells in the ocean-vista’d hot tub and a visit to the steam cave!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Even as my brother and his SO wound their weary way back across a continent and an ocean to the United Kingdom (currently enjoying – by all accounts – much the same sweltering incalescence as are we here in Victoria) I thought I might have one last rummage through the picture box to see what further delights I might be able to muster, with a view to weaving a final gentle evocation of these few weeks past.

In other words – here are some more photos!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid20160813_172344_002Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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Wine…

“…because no great story ever started with someone eating a salad!”

Unattributed

There are those – and I very much count myself amongst their number – who hold that chief amongst the many attractions of the Okanagan valley is its burgeoning viticultural industry. Certainly – to my mind at least – no sojourn there is complete without taking the time to visit a winery or two (or more!) for a tasting.

Though wines have been made in the region since the 1850s the current boom dates back only to the 1980s when the provincial government – in the face of competition from the Californian wine trade triggered by the North American Free Trade Agreement – started to offer grants to landowners to plant vitus vinifera. There are now more than two hundred wineries along the Okanagan valley and the industry is booming.

Though the wineries are small and their produce often not available outside the province – let alone outside Canada – the quality of the wines is astonishing and they have garnered an ever growing number of awards both in the Americas and internationally. Some of my favourite wines come from the aptly named ‘Golden Mile’ between Oliver and Osoyoos.

Here be some pictures from our recent visit:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Steam!

I know not whether it was because neither of my parents could drive a car – with the result that the very great majority of our travel during my childhood and adolescent years took place upon the railways – or because my brother and I experienced during our first decade the last gasp of steam traction on what was at that time British Rail… but both he and I have a considerable fondness for the beauty and power of the steam locomotive.

In a way my first introduction to Canada came through the railway magazines that my father collected from his early life right up until he passed away. I gazed in awe at the black and white photographs of enormous North American steam engines hauling trains of apparently endless length through the staggering Rocky Mountains. I recall also being astonished that there could be a place on this earth called ‘Hope’ – and when it came to spiral tunnels and avalanche sheds… my eyes bulged and my jaw dropped in disbelief! Could I ever hope(!) to see such wonders?

Well here I am – of course – and the opportunity during our trip to the interior to visit the Kettle Valley Steam Railway – all that remains of the Kettle Valley Railway – was too good to pass up. Images by means of the usual agency…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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A day with my brother in Wells Gray Provincial Park.

The park was created in 1939 by – and subsequently named for – Arthur Wellesley Gray, the then BC Minister of Lands. Gray’s nickname – ‘Wells’ – was adopted as part of the name.

The park contains many impressive waterfalls, including the Helmcken Falls, Dawson Falls and Spahats Falls.

Herewith some snaps. My apologies should you encounter any problems accessing them. I did not really bring with me all of the equipment required to guarantee the successful uploading of everything that I captured.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWomen and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

Robert A. Heinlein

Day two of our sojourn in Vancouver found us proceeding hot foot to the Arts Club Theatre for a matinee performance of the musical, ‘Billy Elliot‘.

The Girl had wanted to see the show before we left London but – what with one thing and another – the chance so to do had passed us by. Discovering that it was on in Vancouver at a time that coincided with the Canada/Japan rugby international seemed an opportunity too good to miss and we duly turned the occasion into a spiffing long weekend.

We enjoyed the show greatly… in my case considerably more than I expected to. The acting, singing and dancing were to a high standard and if some of the cast struggled a little with the County Durham accents then we were mindful of the fact that many Brits also find it a tough one to crack.

After the show there was just time to scamper back to the hotel to change for dinner. We had made reservations at one of Vancouver’s premier seafood restaurants – the Blue Water Cafe. A quick search on the InterWebNet will reveal just how highly thought of is this Yaletown eatery and it will be of little surprise that the Girl and I now think of it equally highly. The food is utterly splendid and the service exemplary – carried out by a team that clearly loves its work. Should you find your good-selves in Vancouver you really should not hesitate to make a reservation.

The wine cellar alone – curated by young Texan, William Mulholland – has won a basket of awards and features quite the best selection of fine French wines that I have encountered in Canada. We reluctantly eschewed the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Richebourg Grand Cru for somewhere north of $4,000 and settled for Mr Mulholland’s recommended Pouilly-Fumé instead. At a fraction of the price this splendid Loire white – not that easy to come across in Canada – suited the scallops and halibut well, and a postprandial malt from the equally impressive range on offer left us feeling dangerously mellow.

Not so mellow, however, that we were unable to effect a visit to IKEA on the way back to the ferry the following morning! IKEA has much in common with the modern airport terminal in that it matters not where you are in the world – if you are in IKEA you could be anywhere! I am almost minded to suggest that a visit might be in order for the ex-pat suffering a mild case of homesickness… The Richmond branch is, for example, totally interchangeable with that at Brent Cross in North London!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidYour hair may be brushed, but your mind’s untidy.
You’ve had about seven hours of sleep since Friday.
No wonder you feel that lost sensation.
You’re sunk from a riot of relaxation.

Ogden Nash

To Vancouver for a weekend’s worth of hedonism!

The primary reason for the trip was the first of this year’s summer rugby internationals – between Canada and Japan. This match had the added interest of being the first ever game of XVs rugby at BC Place – a stadium more familiar with Canadian football and soccer.

We stayed in an old haunt – the YWCA Hotel – which is within a stone’s throw of the arena. As you can see from the accompanying photos (which were taken from our room on the ninth floor) it seemed almost possible to lean out and touch the ‘place’.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThere is nothing fancy about the ‘Y’ but it is a most effective place to rest one’s head at a very reasonable rate if the object of the exercise is to live lavishly out and about in Vancouver rather than to treat the accommodation itself as the destination.

As for the rugby, the game was most enjoyable – for the Kickass Canada Girl and I as well as for the other 10,250 odd who turned out to see the spectacle. Rugby is still only just starting to grow as a sport in Canada and as much of the attention is focused on the VIIs game – particularly with the Rio Olympics (now featuring, as it does, 7-a-side rugby) on the near horizon – this was a pretty good crowd.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidHere are Canada warming up before the masses arrive for the match.

Japan are considerably higher than Canada in the world rankings and – having registered a famous victory over South Africa in last year’s World Cup – they might have been expected to record a straightforward win. As things turned out Canada would have had them beaten had they within their ranks possessed a decent kicker. They succeeded, however, in only one out of six attempts at the posts and that is no-where near good enough at this level.

The final five minutes of the match provided a fitting climax and – regardless of what had gone before – almost led to a Canadian victory. Needing two scores to win they camped out on the Japanese line and finally drove over with about a minute left on the clock. They wasted no time with the attempted conversion but set about winning the ball from the restart. They then kept the final move alive deep into injury time, driving further and further into Japanese territory until the whitewash was within reach.

The crowd – cheering itself hoarse by this point – believed for a moment that a famous comeback had been effected and the match taken, but the referee judged that the ball had been held up over the line and Japan won by two points.Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Phew!

After the efforts of our vigorous supporting – and having had a post-match drink with a Kiwi rugby friend in an extremely noisy hostelry thereafter – our tender vocal chords needed soothing treatment from a nearby ‘nitro’ ice cream bar after the game.

At this fascinating establishment ice creams are made on demand on the spot, using copious quantities of liquid nitrogen. Sauces to top the resultant concoctions are presented in plastic syringes embedded into the ice cream.

Cool!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI promised a few posts back that I would write something about Saltspring (or Salt Spring as the locals apparently prefer it) Island, whence we scurried for a soothing lost weekend before our busy moving-in week.

The expanse of water that lies between Vancouver Island and the mainland – the Georgia Straight – is studded with an archipelago of islands of a diverse assortment of sizes. The more southerly group of these – the Juan de Fucas – lies across the border in the U.S. Those to the north comprise the Gulf Islands which are part of British Columbia. This range of islands is one of the big attractions of the area as far as I am concerned and I intend to spend a fair amount of my time therein upon my as yet unrealised boat – once is has been… er… realised!

The Gulf Islands have a somewhat other-worldly feel to them which is only exacerbated by their being smaller islands off the coast of a larger island – which in turn lies just off the coast of the Canadian mainland. The good inhabitants of Vancouver Island already see themselves as somehow different to British Columbians from the interior and the Gulf Islanders go a whole giant stride further. The closest parallels I can think of – for those who have absolutely no idea what I am blethering on about – are such mildly alternative settlements as St Ives or Glastonbury in the UK – or Tofino in BC. Hopefully you get the idea.

Salt Spring is the largest of the Gulf Islands and the closest to Vancouver Island. The ferry thence from Swartz Bay (but 10 minutes drive from our new abode) takes only 35 minutes and some of that is taken up by the usual jostling for position that is de rigueur in any ferry port before loading or unloading can begin.

Salt Spring has a higher than average population of creatives (including some really quite well known figures) in addition to what might best be described as a healthy cabal of new-ageists… You know – granola munchers, tofu tokers and suchlike! As a result the island positively vibrates with yoga retreaters, livers off the land and no end of artists and crafters. There is a massively popular Saturday market each week in the largest village – the delightful Ganges – at which all manner of home crafted delights may be purchased. The standard of goods on display is astonishing and it is little surprise to learn that Salt Spring has an international reputation across a fair range of fields.

Ganges – incidentally – was once called Admiralty Bay but was renamed in 1859, taking its name from HMS Ganges which was at the Pacific Station from 1857 – 1860 under the command of Captain John Fulford… after whom the small port on the south end of the island is named. Thus are the origins of many of the names of settlements and geological features on the west coast of Canada; a rich palette with surprisingly prosaic roots.

Should you feel that my tone regarding the Gulf Islands – and Salt Spring in particular – is a little too flip or cynical, I plead that I merely jest from affection. I quickly fell in love with Salt Spring but – as is also the case with St Ives and Glastonbury – I wouldn’t want to live there. (The same is not actually true of Tofino, but we all have our weaknesses!).

By way of recompense I will post some glorious images of Salt Spring in my next post.

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