Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Back on the wagon

If only the world were filled with wineries!  Or maybe I should just move to the Okanagan.  How long would it take the tasting rooms to recognise and ban me? 

Today we sadly had to say goodbye to this phenomenal region of the country, waving farewell to the crystal (if chilly) waters of the lake and its vine-covered banks.  Still, there are a couple of dozen bottles in the boot to make sure the emotional comedown isn't too severe.
Savouring the bouquet...before downing it.
It would be rude not to buy a few, wouldn't it.
Somerset kids. 

Unfortunately, "cider" in North America means apple juice.  Yes, there are some things that foreigners just get wrong, and you have to ask for "hard cider" to get actual cider.  Ugh.  That independence from the motherland isn't looking so good now, is it?
Only one person was brave enough to paddle.
Well, two; childhood and second childhood.
Proud parenting moments #274 on the journey home, but sometimes you just need a break from singing "The Wheels on the Bus".

We passed Ikea on the way back, and you have to stop at Ikea if you're passing.  If you've been wine tasting beforehand the experience is even more surreal than usual...

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Goats do roam

What do you do when you get tired of wine tasting?  That's a trick question - you never get tired of wine tasting!  But we fancied some variety with our varietals, so decided to go to a goat farm. 

Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan Inc. is the one-stop-shop for your goat-based needs in the Okanagan.  From a herd of only 40 they produce enough milk for around twelve different cheeses, various gelatos, and sundry other goat-related produce.

The domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the family Bovidae and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over 300 distinct breeds of goat. Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species and have been used for their milk, meat, hair, and skins over much of the world. In 2011, there were more than 924 million live goats around the globe, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The artisanal (is there another kind?) cheeses ran the gamut from mild and creamy to extreme goatiness, especially their "Goatgonzola" which, while delicious, left your mouth feeling a little like you'd licked a goat.  But at Carmelis you don't lick the goat, the goat licks you!  At least, the friendlier ones do, because most of the goats affected a detached manner, as you'd expect from the professionals they are.
Want to see some goats?  Of course!
Assessing the livestock.
Getting the feel for a good goat.
A literal goat smorgasbord.

Shortly afterwards we moved on, and normal service was resumed.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Fruity, spicy, and easy on the nose

Just when you think Canada offers you everything - maple syrup, universal healthcare, Celine Dion - it surprises you by offering even more: a wine region.  Yes, a few hours north-east of Vancouver is the Okanagan Valley, where grapes dangle from countless vines then get turned into booze, bottled, and sent around the world.

The Davieses bundled into a seven-seater hire car and off we set, over mountains where we were snowed upon, past Canada's only desert, and finally down into the lush valley of vineyards.  We stopped off at our first winery before buying food or going to our holiday cottage, because that's how we do things in this family.  No guesses for who the designated driver was.

We've been here a few days now and the area is rather fabulous.  We're staying on the edge of a huge lake surrounded by vineyards, and the daily list of tastings does much to calm Grandpa's nerves on the slightly treacherous winding roads.  When the sun comes out it's like Italy!  When it rains, when it's free to taste, and when everyone's just so damn friendly, it's definitely Canada.

Up and over the mountains.  That's real snow up there, and it fell on us as we drove.

Emily made the best of it.

That's a sign we like to see.

Before shelter and food: wine.

As the non-drinking family member, Pete demanded compensation in other ways.

He was quite interested in distilling, though.

Start with the Riesling or the Gewurtz?  Tricky questions.

One day son, all this will be yours.  If you buy a vineyard.

Contemplating the fantastic view.

But what's a big, flat lake for other than to skim stones across?

Proving that I'm just a chip off the old block.  We have high hopes for Pete.

More view contemplation.

And some fishing.

Right!  Back to the booze at Mission Hill Winery.

The designated driver, who is also the babysitter when someone is still sleeping when we get to the winery, returns.

Another view, just to illustrate how utterly amazing it is around here.

Emily's had a few... decides to have a few more.

Grandma and Pete enjoy the sculptures.

Chateau le Davies.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Family value pack

Why get your relatives to visit in dribs and drabs when you can get them all in at once?  Here at Davies Travel International we're all about the bulk buy discount, so arranged for Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunty Emily to arrive together.

Pete, as you may imagine, is somewhat beside himself with excitement, with an additional three people to do his bidding!  It will be a shock to all if we hear Grandma use the word "no" at any point...

Aunty Emily does the morning shift.

Grandpa educates.

But who does the heavy lifting?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

We're riding along on the crest of a wave

It was time for Pete to undergo one of the most important rites of passage - his first night under canvas!  The Cub Scouts made me the man I am today due to many a camping trip, and it never did me any harm, apart from now only being able to go to the toilet outside, and my morbid fear of fire, and insisting on calling Hannah "Brown Owl" in private.  Hannah was famously drummed out of the Brownies for laughing too much while country dancing.  It's true!

All of which is to say: Pete was always going to take to backwoodsmanship like a bear to the forest.  Indeed, he was extremely excited by the prospect of actually sleeping in a tent rather than just playing in the kid's one we got for half price in Ikea.  The fact that we were going to go on a ferry to get to the campsite almost made him explode with expectation.

We caught the boat from Horseshoe Bay over to the Sunshine Coast, and it was well-named, for this weekend at least.  Temperatures soared into the high-teens and many locals wandered around in a daze, it still being officially winter here.  Our campsite was in Sechelt, a short drive from the port, and we stopped on the way for fish and chips.  We weren't going to rough it too much.

The campground was large, spotless, and impressive, and shockingly there was only one other tent there.  The owner did look slightly surprised when we knocked on her locked office door, but there was a handful of RVs to keep us company.  I imagine they turn the water supply on in the summer, and we were warned that the bears hadn't hibernated this year but that they rarely come into the campground.  Canadian bears - so much more polite than their American counterparts.

In the end the whole thing was a massive success, with Pete sleeping through the night, no bear encounters (a bit of a disappointment to some), a tasty al fresco dinner and breakfast, beach trips, and then lunch in a cafĂ© on the way home.  Far more luxurious than when I was a Cub but there we go.  I also don't remember aching quite so much after sleeping on the ground back then.  Could I be getting too old for this?  That's not a good thought when Father and Son Camp isn't for a good few years yet.  Time to start taking that cod liver oil.
How much do we need for one night's camping?  Roughly the same as for a week, actually.
Did we remember to pack the baby?
How Hannah likes every camping trip to begin.
Fun on the ferry.
How Pete likes every camping trip to begin.
The 'Tent Mahal' is up again.  Pete got the east wing, we took the west.
One day, this will look as dated as all those family camping holidays to France...
Down on the beach.
Pete is ready for bed and/or boxing.
It's so much fun to wake up outdoors!
Possibly false advertising.
Leave only footprints, take only memories.  And the baby you arrived with.
Down on the Sunshine Coast.
First camping trip, and first kite flying!  Those power lines were a lot further away than they look, honest.
I'm #1 so why try harder?

Back on board, and sailing away from a rather fabulous weekend.