May 31, 2014

Fernwood Road Cafe on Salt Spring Island

A few years ago we found a great cafe at the north end of the island. In operation since late 2011, the Fernwood Road Cafe is a short walk of about 20 minutes from our place on Salt Spring.

Up and down and around some hills, it is a great walk, listening to the birds along the way, and sometimes you can hear The Eagles as they reunite for one last tour.

Many of the food items are sourced locally (the cafe is open for breakfast and lunch) and the coffee is roasted on the island. Nicely done and consistent, served in a friendly and cozy sort of atmosphere with a fantastic view.

In truth, it's the view from the Fernwood Road Cafe that makes the walk, and the coffee, all the more worthwhile.

Photos by Jim Murray.
Copyright 2014.

May 30, 2014

Vancouver ~ Hedge City for the rich

James Surowieki writes regularly in The New Yorker. His "Financial Page" pieces are often the first or second thing I read in the magazine; always intelligent articles with a thoughtfulness and civic sensibility far beyond the typical business stories one finds in most publications.

In the May 26 issue of The New Yorker Surowiecki writes about the globalisation of real estate and reports that the "most expensive housing market in North America is not where you'd think." Those living in the most expensive real estate market on the continent are probably not surprised, though to read an analysis about their city in a leading American publication does catch attention.

The most expensive housing market is not New York City, though it certainly has the highest incomes. Nor is it the tech area around San Francisco, with lots of high earners there too. No, the costliest city in which to buy a home is Vancouver, Canada, and as Surowiecki points out, it shouldn't be.

"By all accounts, it is a wonderful place to live. But nothing about its economy explains why - in a city where the median income is only around seventy grand - single-family houses now sell for close to a million dollars apiece."

Much of the increase in house prices in Vancouver has been caused by wealthy foreigners buying property as a "hedge" against social and political instability at home. A significant number of these wealthy people don't even live in their "hedge city."

The rich are willing to pay a premium for the security cities like Vancouver offer, and prices will "float out of reach of the people who actually live and work there." Not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are a homeowner in one of the "hedge cities" of the world. However, not all of us own homes, and many more never will, especially in Vancouver.

The last line in Surowiecki's piece says it all: "As for the rest of us, we'd better get used to being tenants."

And for others, not.

James Surowiecki photo
 from The New Yorker.
Vancouver photos by Jim Murray.
Copyright 2014.

May 29, 2014

Lakeside Gardens on Salt Spring ~ and No. 7

We are back to a home away from home: Salt Spring Island and Lakeside Gardens Resort. This is nothing like the Upper East Side.

We arrived on Victoria Day and Mark, genial captain at Lakeside Gardens, had the No. 7 cabana ready for Sherry y Jeem. It's really a glorified version of camping, though no one I talk to seems to believe me; somehow they all seem to think this is something more... elaborate or exclusive perhaps.

The reality is much closer to camping and as someone who knows mentioned to us, this is camping with wooden tents. And it is wonderful.

Our cabana of choice is No. 7. It is slightly more secluded than most others at Lakeside Gardens. Surrounded by trees and right on the water's edge, this is a special place, and a great way to start a beautiful morning is a walk up to the big house for a hot shower.

Our view changes with the light and the sounds vary through the day and night too. The early birds sing before sunrise, then eagles are heard as they begin their morning hunt, followed by the talkative crows and then, ultimately more songbirds. By sunset the frogs have started their conversation and all is right with the world.

In spite of the sign, bikes are welcomed here at Lakeside Gardens, or their riders are welcomed to be sure. Many cyclists travel from the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island to enjoy the relatively easy riding roads of this Gulf Island.

As is our custom, we relaxed through our time here, often reading, while others seemingly walked on water.

Some took to the water in canoes. Fishing for bass for the most part, with the eagles looking for an easy theft at someone else's expense. It happens.

The elusive black birds are here and their plaintive call is heard throughout the entire day.

Lakeside Gardens is a great place for families, couples or fishers (which could be a variation on families or couples, or even singles); you won't be able to come here just once. Salt Spring Island, Saint Mary Lake and Lakeside Gardens and No. 7: a special place for Sherry y Jeem.

Other posts from The Murray Chronicles:

A final summer weekend at Lakeside Gardens

Lakeside Gardens Resort on Salt Spring Island

Lakeside Gardens Resort on St Mary Lake

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

Cafe Talia on Salt Spring Island

In downtown Ganges, in the old Salt Spring Telephone Exchange, resides an inviting coffee shop.

Cafe Talia has been here for four years and recently saw a change in ownership. The cafe's quality and customer service remain strong. As does the coffee.

There might be a few glitches apparent in the early days of new management. While Sherry's macchiato arrived in timely fashion, my doppio was initially forgotten. No worries, the situation was quickly remedied with its arrival and a complimentary chocolate croissant.

The coffee used at Cafe Talia is fair trade and organic from Ethical Bean on the mainland. It is a rich and strong brew and highly enjoyable.

Thus far the new ownership is offering excellent service, and good coffee, without the attitude one sometimes finds in other shops on Salt Spring. We had coffee here several times during our week on Salt Spring and we will return again.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

May 28, 2014

Back on Salt Spring Island ~ with the deer

Back on Salt Spring Island. It's the week after the Victoria Day weekend, which means fewer people and more of this wonderful space to enjoy to ourselves. After New York City, it's nice to be home and then away again, and to more space.

Wild deer are common on Salt Spring Island. In fact, without any natural predators on the island, the deer have become a wee bit of nuisance for some farmers and gardeners, and they pop up everywhere eating flowers and crops (the deer that is).

These young animals were visiting Vesuvius Bay, as were we on a bright early afternoon.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

May 27, 2014

Fire escapes and firehouses in New York

New York City, like any large city, has a mixture of old and new buildings. Some are high tech marvels, with all kinds of ways to limit fires and reduce the risk to occupants.

In some neighbourhoods the fire escapes are prominent fixtures, part of the design and appearance, and they alone provide the best potential for escape. Do these things get tested once in a while? Should we be concerned?

The Fire Department of New York is the largest municipal fire department in the US, and second largest in the world after Tokyo. FDNY employs over 11,000 fire fighters and over 3300 paramedics.

On September 11, 2001, 343 members of the FDNY were killed as they responded to the attacks on the World Trade Centre. There were 75 firehouses, like the two shown here, in which at least one member was killed.

There are 217 firehouses in the five boroughs of New York and like fire departments everywhere, they answer the call, no questions asked, every time. And if a fire fighter wants to park his or her car on the sidewalk in a fire zone, while it isn't right, no one seems to notice.

And not noticing doesn't make it right either.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

May 22, 2014

The rhodos of VanDusen Garden

While walking through VanDusen Garden earlier this week we took a path through the rhododendrons which were magnificent in colour.

The rhododendron, which apparently originated in the nation once called Rhodesia, is a genus of over 1000 species of woody plants in the Heath family. Some viewers will remember another notable member of the Heath family: Edward Heath, former prime minister of the UK during the early 1970s.

The smallest of the rhododendrons can be 10 to 100 cm in height, and the largest can reach 30 metres.

The rhododendron is the National Flower of Nepal, where it is considered edible and enjoyed for its sour taste. Sour indeed as it is served pickled. You can't make this stuff up.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.