Cascade Falls, Mission

5 03 2017

Due to reasons beyond my control, I was persuaded to succumb to a Facebook account. One of the feeds I subscribe to is “Destination British Columbia” which often have some lovely photos of my home province and occasionally introduce me to places I haven’t heard of.

They ran a little puzzle asking people to identify where a photo was taken, and the answer – as the more quick witted amongst you will already surmise – was Cascade Falls near Mission, BC. I’d never heard of it, so off we went to explore a little corner of our province we’d never visited. It’s about an hour’s trip from White Rock, but the petrol is so cheap in the valley, I think we still came out ahead!

We stopped off for an almost Yorkshire lunch at Clayburn on the way, complete with gallons of Taylor’s tea, and easily found the provincial park just beyond Mission. The waterfall is certainly spectacular, and it’s only a 5 minute walk from the car-park. Disappointingly though – that’s it. No longer walking options; no trails through the forests. There’s a picnic area to be fair, but nothing more strenuous than the wooden stairs up to the viewing platform. If you’re passing though – a lovely stop-off, but don’t make a day trip of it on its own.





Dubbel Dutch

5 03 2017

So I recently returned from a week or so in The Netherlands. It was a business trip to Venlo, but as I was there for a little while (including a weekend) I got to see a bit more of the place. “Océ – a Canon Company” has its headquarters in Venlo, just over the border from Dusseldorf, the nearest airport. I learnt that Venlo is actually from the dutch “ven” meaning fen or marsh – indicative of the typical dutch geography.

I won’t bore you with the work-related reasons for my trip, but allow me to indulge myself with the more culinary and cultural elements of the visit. I arrived on the Thursday and met up with a colleague who introduced me to an app called “untappd“.

Phone discover crop right

Basically this is like a boozy version of Pokemon Go or geocaching or I-Spy or something. Essentially you log each beer you imbibe and it allows you to discover similar beers you may enjoy, or nearby hostelries selling your favourite tipple. The Netherlands, like nearby Belgium has a long history in beer brewing and it was an easy excuse to try and “bag” as many different tipples as I could. And by tipple I mean “Tripel“.

I was a bit jet-lagged on the Thursday so just had a swift pint in the hotel and a burger with my Romanian colleagues who’d flown in a little earlier.

Friday, I went to work, and got confused by the tea machine. The options were “black” or “with sugar”. Not black/white or with/without sugar you understand… I found my inner calm and went with black.

The red Océ sign out of the hotel window.

The red Océ sign out of the hotel window.

Your options are black or sugar. That is all.

Your options are black or sugar. That is all.

One of my colleagues is a bit of a fitness addict so we didn’t get any other offers to join us for a brisk walk into town. It’s about 35 minutes each way, but I needed the leg-stretch, and it helped build up an appetite. We settled on Alde Mert and were not disappointed with the victuals. The menu included “game courses” and though these did not include such favourites as “Monopoly” they admitted the pricing was a tad rich by referring to “dear steaks”.

The steaks were "dear" it seems.

The steaks were “dear” it seems.

Bambi's mum did not die in vain.

Bambi’s mum did not die in vain.

And then came the beer…

We walked a little further to Cafe de Klep (“the valve” or “the tap”) with its beer menu of over 100 offerings.

logo_deklep1

Westmalle, Karmeliet and Kwak seemed appropriate. Small 300ml litre bottles, but with a ~9-10% punch. That’s like drinking wine in beer quantities. No wonder the Belgians and Dutch are so mellow!

Kwak is always amusing. I first came across it when I travelled to Antwerpen a lot with Agfa. It comes in a glass with a round bottom and is supported in a wooden frame. Some bars insist you trade a shoe for the glass to ensure you don’t leave the establishment with one of their unusual glasses. A quick walk back to the hotel through the sleepy streets of Venlo and a sound night’s sleep ready for the weekend.

Rush Hour in Venlo

Rush Hour in Venlo

After a little debate, we decided we’d spend Saturday sight-seeing and opted for a trip to Arnhem famous for Operation Market Garden, immortalised in Cornelius Ryan’s A Bridge Too Far, turned into a film in the 70s. I had a personal connection as my grandfather had fought there and survived the ordeal. The airborne museum at Hartenstein in Oosterbeek was very well done and had a solemn but informative air.


Next we went to pay our respects at the nearby airborne cemetery. I was surprised to see several Canadian graves and all the ones I found were glider pilots – none over their mid-twenties.

They came from the skies. Operation Market Garden was the largest airborne assault in history.

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Somewhat subdued, we headed back into Oosterbeek for lunch. After walking the length and breadth of the little town we settled on The Grand Cafe Schoornoord. As with so many places around here, it had its own links to the battle and had been used as a field hospital. First opened in 1882 it saw 500 wounded British soldiers treated inside during the battle of 1944. It’s now affectionately known as “Airborne pub No. 1”, and seems very proud of the small part it played in events.

Regular readers will know of my affection for Audrey Hepburn, and though the museum did have a temporary exhibition of some of her early life, I actually found this street advert in Oosterbeek to be more powerful. The eyes and cheekbones are unmistakable, even at such a young age. Note the pegasus symbol of the British Airborne Division on the lower/right of the poster.

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After the drive back to Venlo and a while to regroup, we headed into Brasserie Alt Arce in Arcen (yes that’s really its name, and you say it like you’d think!). The food was excellent and beer was most naturally drunk.

Sunday was quiet and we headed off to the Hertog Jan brewery to sample their wares at lunchtime. I love the unfussy dutch food in this region and had a lovely “blood pudding” for my lunch. Essentially “Black Pudding” as it would have been in Yorkshire, but lightly fried.

By evening time we were looking for something a little closer and headed for the short walk from the hotel to Taurus. More beer – it was almost becoming habitual, but still easy to try different brews.

By Monday I was on a mission, and even though we ate in the hotel, I managed to add a few more different beers to the tally.

The main event began on Tuesday and I was now swept up in the formal mass dining of the group. This severely limited my options and Tuesday only added one new beer – Jupiler. Another Belgian mainstay.

Jupiler - a Belgian introduced in 1966

Jupiler – a Belgian introduced in 1966

Wednesday saw us back in the hotel “en masse” and I added one more Trappe to the total before being part of the winning team in the “team building” event.


By Thursday evening everything was done, and a few of us grabbed a taxi down town and ate at the Cafe Central. We finished off at the Klep again and then headed for the train station to grab a taxi back to the hotel. The Klep had some interesting urinals of the type first tried at Schiphol. The psychology goes that if men are given something to aim at, they’re less likely to pee on the floor, and so help keep things a little less smelly and icky.





Dog Mountain Days

5 12 2016

Yesterday I took my son and one of his mates snow-shoeing up Mount Seymour. Dog Mountain specifically.

We were a bit late getting there so we were treated to a lovely sunset when we got back. I love it when the snow is still fresh and forming unspoilt mounds on rocks and trees.

Reflections of First Lake

Shadows of the Forest

Shadows of the Forest

Sunset from Seymour

Sunset from Seymour

And now for a touch of Florence…





Of Omens, the Interior and Defeat

21 11 2016

It was Mrs E’s birthday this last week and as a little treat I took her for a wine tour in BC’s interior. Summerland, on the west bank of Okanagan Lake to be specific.

We set off good and early. The tour was scheduled to start at 2:45pm, and if we missed the bus, we were in trouble. It’s about a 4 hour drive, depending whether you go North then East or East then North. I took the precaution of checking the BC highway webcams and was shocked to see “The Connector” (the northern East/West option) was not only snowy… but it hadn’t been ploughed yet! Now in fairness, it was still a bit early and being the most busy route I’m sure it would have been totally fine by the time we got there. However, not wishing to risk anything, we opted to head East first and took the lower route on Highway 3 – the Crow’s Nest. This was such a quiet drive, it was a real pleasure. There were no big trucks trying to push us to go faster, and there was lots of time to enjoy this great province. We paused briefly in Hedley – little more than a kink in the road and a heavily tattooed pop band. We hastily moved past Princeton which gives me the willies. It always feels like one of those places that have been taken over by aliens. Everyone looks at you a bit weird.

At one point we slowed briefly to let an injured coyote cross the four lanes without further harm and later saw quite a large stag looking at us from the side of the highway like we were the first car he’d ever seen.

As we drove through Penticton, we could see the Skaha bluffs on the opposite shore of the Skaha Lake, and shortly after that we were driving close to the Okanagan lake and into Summerland. The hotel (Summerland Waterfront Resort) was easy to find (as most things are with a GPS), and we were comfortably early for checking in. The jolly receptionist was happy to let us check in early and we had a little while to familiarise ourselves with the locale.

Summerland Waterfront Resort

Summerland Waterfront Resort

We’d paid a little extra and got a top floor suite with a balcony and almost a view of the lake. The low building in the picture is a bar/restaurant, and if it hadn’t been so windy it would have been nice to walk out on the floating dock.

The room was very light and airy and there was a reception gift of a bottle of wine and cheese plates.

Wine and cheese awaits us.

Wine and cheese awaits us.

We’d just nicely explored the suite and it was time for offsky!

We joined the group of ne’er do wells by the front door and before long a shuttle bus arrived. This one however was “Merlot”, and we were waiting for “Kerner”. Kerner is a grape variety I’d never heard of, so I was already feeling like this would be an educational afternoon. Soon after, our driver arrived and 21 of us piled on to the adventure. One bloke loudly declared that “I’ll be asked to sit at the front soon. I always am…” Oh great – we’d got the piss-head!

A quick ride down the highway and we were at “8th Generation“. I’d seen the winery’s sign on the way into town earlier. The winery was run by a German family who had been making the grape juice sing for… surprise!… 8 generations. In 1757 Christian Schales started it all with 3 acres and in 2003 Berndt Heinrich Schales emigrated to BC as the 8th generation and started his own winery in 2007.

Vines of the 8th Generation

Vines of the 8th Generation

It was our first stop of the tour, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We were apologetically told that several wines were sold out, and given three wines I honestly can’t remember much about. One of the ladies seemed to be part of the family and was very passionate about the wines. This was a theme throughout the tour – if you could engage with “the principal” you learnt a lot about their wines and their winery. Here though I just felt like we were being thrown from pillar to post and was almost glad to be back on the bus. Mr SitAtThe Front and his wife had bought a bottle of ice wine and it was almost gone by the time we arrived at the second winery – Lunessence. Lunessence (NOT Luminescence as several people insisted on calling it) is a new winery, only 18 months or so in the making. They were quirky to say the least, but their Reserve Chardonnay was lovely! They use the phases and essence of the moon (hence Lunessence) to guide their routine and – I shit you not – they play opera to their vines. Raucous tragedies to the reds and gentle romance to the whites. The guide was Slovakian and once more exuded passion for her wines and the process of making them.

Back on the bus, and next stop was Sumac Ridge. Now this is a well known winery and I was expecting a brusque, dismissive experience. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I applaud the company for the care they took in offering an excellent experience. We sampled no less than 5 wines including both the Sumac Ridge and Black Sage brands. The Shiraz was great, and I was told that the Black Sage vineyard was actually further south and gave bolder reds than those here in Summerland – hence they branded them differently. They also had a port-style wine called Pipe… and we made our first purchase of the evening.

Sumac Ridge

Sumac Ridge

Each of the five tasters was paired with a little food to really set it off, and again – I applaud Sumac Ridge for the attention to detail. By now, I was feeling decidedly mellow, but we weren’t done yet!

Although it was included in our tour fee, the last stop at Crush Pad usually charges a $5 fee for their tasting. This is more than offset by the experience they offer and the excellent food. Everything from whiskey chocolate truffles to a hearty stew or bread and cheese dip. All of it gorgeous and all of it paired well with the wines on offer. Our favourite here was the “Narrative Fortified Small Batch”. According to their web site, this wine is a combination of Merlot and Syrah, fermented in concrete, fortified with their own grape spirits distilled on site, and aged for two years in neutral oak. Like port… but not quite.

 

Narrative Fortified

Narrative Fortified

The venue was itself interesting and I took a couple of photos of the wine currently in process of being made.

Yup - 2.1 degrees Celsius!

Yup – 2.1 degrees Celsius!

Magic happens here

Magic happens here

By now, “Front Seat Guy” and his wife were very well oiled (and loud). This led to her losing grip on an expensive bottle they’d purchased and its demise was mourned by all. the winery wouldn’t hear of her buying a new one and insisted on replacing it at their own cost. Amazing service.

Back on the bus for the trip back to the hotel and we were very happy with the evening indeed! After a spot to eat in the nearby restaurant we had to sit through the Canucks snatching a 4-3 defeat from the jaws of a 3-0 victory as only they can.

Sunday we had to head home, but not before we fit in one last visit. First though… breakfast! We asked Uncle Google for suggestions of local cafés and we selected “Good Omens” for no particular reason at all. The GPS took us straight to the location… where we found anything but good omens!

Not so Good Omens

Not so Good Omens

We chose Saxon for our last visit as it had been recommended by the shuttle driver. The GPS took us straight to it, and we were relieved to see a sign by the entrance saying “Open for Tasting”. It wasn’t a given on a Sunday morning. As we approached, the owner bid us a welcome, but told us they weren’t actually open. They’d just forgotten to bring the sign in. We were already there though… we could certainly still have a look. The owner – Jayne Graydon – was a lovely person and spent a good half hour telling us all about the winery and their products. Since they weren’t open for tasting, she went as far as letting us sample the in-progress wines being made at the moment, as well as a sample of their port style. We were enamoured by the taste of half-made Gewürztraminer and though I would not have naturally been a fan of German grapes, we were moved to purchase a bottle for the fridge.

Saxon Winery: 2015 Organic Gewürztraminer VQA

So – if you find yourself with the opportunity to go to the Okanagan, I thoroughly recommend taking a wine tour along the Bottleneck Drive.

Bottleneck Drive

Bottleneck Drive





The North is dripping with history

13 11 2016

I subscribe to the print version of the BBC’s most excellent History Magazine. As is often the case with magazines, the letters page is usually quite entertaining and informative – if only for the occasional ill-informed vitriol from a reader. Being in one of the distant reaches of empire commonwealth, I receive the magazine a little later than most, but it’s a history magazine anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

As I mentioned, the letters page was interesting, and one contributor was making the point that “collective memory” can be extremely localised. He recounted the history of the Leeds Dripping Riot of 1865 – an event I was totally unaware of, despite growing up less than 20 miles away (to be fair – significantly later than 1865, despite what my kids may think).

For those not educated in the culinary arts, “dripping” is the collected fat drippings from roast meat – particularly beef or pork. Though much less common now because it’s allegedly “not good for you”, the best tasting fish and chips of my youth were from shops who deep fried their offerings in beef dripping. As a youth, a quick snack at home would be a knife-full of dripping (collected over several sunday roasts) on a slice of white bread. A pinch of salt would just top off the snack and make sure you were hitting all the right food groups. :S

Dripping (Source: Wikipedia)

Dripping (Image source: Wikipedia)

It’s actually sold in Germany, if you go to places selling “authentic rustic food” and ask for Schweinshaxe, it’ll often come with a starter of crusty bread and a little pot of dripping.

The Yorkshire stuff – as illustrated in the Wikipedia image above – would be left to separate, and you’d get this meaty jelly at the bottom, under the thick crust of solid (at room temperature) fat. Anyway, there’s no argument that it is pretty hard (pun intended) on the arteries, but a wonderful taste sensation. It is also laden with class implications. Having read out the magazine letter to my dear wife, she commented about her family “not sinking to eating bread and dripping”. Being of English origin, and therefore not communicating often anyway, she’s still not realised I’m not talking to her. (I expect this to become more apparent as the month wears on.)

I jest of course, but the comment about sinking to eating bread and dripping was true enough. It remains one of the pointed North/South divide issues, though is making a slow comeback as we learn more about nutrition and the importance of fat in our diet. The Daily Mail valiantly tried to rehabilitate it a couple of years ago too.

Bread and dripping (Image source: Daily Mail)

Bread and dripping (Image source: Daily Mail)

So anyway – getting back to the point: I paraphrase the Wikipedia entry of the events…

In January 1865, Eliza Stafford was a cook employed by Henry Chorley, a well to do surgeon and local magistrate in Leeds, Yorkshire. He apparently discovered that Stafford had disposed of about 1kg of dripping to a local dressmaker and took umbrage and had her arrested. Being well connected, he pressed for her to be prosecuted for theft.

Stafford’s defence was that although she admitted disposing of the dripping, it was a perk of the job. (We’re not talking about stealing the meat remember… just the fatty waste that comes off it during cooking and which might simply be disposed of immediately today, without comment.) Chorley claimed that this was one of several similar incidents but that this was the only one he had any direct evidence of. The magistrates convicted Stafford of the theft and sentenced her to one month’s imprisonment in Armley Jail.

Armley Jail (Image source: Wikipedia)

Armley Jail, Leeds (Image source: Wikipedia)

The local populace were upset and many people considered the prosecution petty and the punishment harsh. Attention was also drawn to the circumstances of the trial which for reasons unexplained had been heard in private rather than in public as normal, and before magistrates known personally to Chorley. The protests culminated in a demonstration, estimated at being between 12,000 and 15,000 people, outside the prison on the Saturday before Stafford was due to be released. A smaller number of people, about 700, went on to protest outside Chorley’s house. Apart from some snowballs being thrown (how very English), these protests all passed off peacefully.

The riot itself occurred on the day of her release. She’d been let out earlier than scheduled and missed all the fun. The crowd, disappointed they’d missed her, largely dispersed but about a thousand people marched from the prison to Chorley’s house and threw stones that broke several windows in the house. The Chief Constable of Leeds, William Bell, and some police officers managed to form a cordon round the house and withstood several attempts by the protesters to break through to the house.

During lunch the numbers of people in the square increased as workers came to view the affair. (There was no telly in those days). The Mayor of Leeds, John Darnton Luccock, called for assistance from Bradford police and from the army at York. At 1 pm, lunch break over, many people left, and the police decided to try and clear the square. After issuing a notice ordering the crowd to disperse, the police charged and drove everyone out of Park Square. During the charge one man, George Hudson, was trampled and severely injured – injuries so severe that he subsequently died – and a number of men were arrested for “riotous conduct”. This effectively ended the riot and reinforced by the Bradford Police with two troops of the 8th Hussars from York on standby, the Leeds police prevented any further attempts at disturbance despite a sizable number of people assembling nearby in the evening and attempting to march upon Leeds Town Hall.

The men arrested were tried for riotous conduct but the magistrates took a lenient view and only one was imprisoned and then only for a week. The sentencing magistrate described the incident as “very silly excitement” and the other four defendants were bound over in the sum of £10. Henry Chorley died in 1878, of Eliza Stafford there is no subsequent history.





Another Day Being Grateful I Live in BC

6 08 2016

The weather was fine but not overly sunny today. Perfect hiking weather!

It’s the weekend, so I can’t pretend we got up especially early. We’ve got a visitor at the moment, so that’s always a good excuse for lying in too.

Anyway, comfortably before noon we were on the West Canyon Trail in Golden Ears Provincial Park. It was surprisingly busy and there were signs up telling folks that the camp sites were totally full. There’s plenty of other entertainment for the masses though. Several large motorboats were being towed up and there were even a few motor-homes and caravans descending the hill. Either they ignored the sign and tried their luck anyway, or – perhaps more likely – they were simply leaving after spending the night and were leaving a few spaces for those who were in fact trying their luck and ignoring the signs.

Around April-time Mrs E had seen a posting on the BC Provincial Park FaceBook page letting folks know that they had recently opened a bridge in Golden Ears linking the West Canyon and East Canyon trails. We’ve hiked the Gold Creek trail many times over our 15 years living in BC, but we’d never tried either of these trails and it seemed like it was about time to put that right.

The round trip is about 12km and basically goes up either side of Gold Creek towards the North. We had a great day out, got some exercise and the weather was perfect. I have to say though… not in the top 10 hikes. It’s two very different experiences. We went clockwise and the West Canyon trail starts off very gently as a very wide track easily suitable for bikes. After a while though it changes from “easy dog walk path” to “proper hike” with some trivial scrambles and a few steep bits. Nothing major but more enjoyable than trudging up what was effectively a logging road. We actually saw some remnants of the past logging history, and I suspect much of the trail had originally been built to support the logging activities.

After about 4km there is a lookout over the creek and the new bridge could clearly be seen in the distance. We stopped a little further on, just before the trail splits and offers an alternative route for those wishing to ascend Golden Ears itself or perhaps camp on Alder Flats. Here the path disappointingly becomes VERY “improved” – hard wearing crushed rock laid very neatly and evenly through the forest. This led inexorably towards the new bridge, which is actually bent. There’s a central pier in the river which implies some earlier bridge once performed its duty here. The new bridge is actually two bridges from each bank meeting at the pier at a jaunty angle. Standing mid span gave some lovely views, and the rock was noticeably orangy here. Perhaps mineral-bearing. On the Eastern side of the bridge was a sign forbidding horses to cross (apparently BC horses can read), and it was soon apparent that the Eastern trail was indeed suitable for horses… and good for rose growers with the foresight to bring a bucket and shovel. There were a few slight rises in the trail, but essentially it was a wide smooth path all the way back South to the car-park. Uninspiring, but fast to hike. Definitely do it clockwise – the near-boring Eastern trail is OK if you’re just making a dash back to the car, but it might turn you off if it was the start of your hike, before you got to the more interesting Western Trail.

Mustn’t complain though – it’s another 12km on the odometer, and I’m happy I can do it in such lovely surroundings.

West Canyon and East Canyon Trails

West Canyon and East Canyon Trails

Elevation

Elevation Profile of the hike





Post-Brexit

9 07 2016

So it’s suddenly become very cheap to go to Britain (which as mentioned previously elsewhere is NOT the same as England).

If you’d like to take advantage and visit England, you might find the following video useful to make sure you don’t make any faux pas’… or perhaps not.