July 18, 2013

Lakeside Gardens Resort on Salt Spring Island ~ The gate and more...

Lakeside Gardens is a magical place. It is also a quirky place with a sense of humour. This is not a high tech resort. While wi-fi is available, the signal isn't always strong, which is as it should be: this is a place to get away from phones and tablets.

About twenty years ago, Deb and Mark Toole bought what was then primarily a campground.The campground is gone, cabanas have been been added, and as Mark says, they have "tweaked" things over the years. Many customers have been coming here each summer for years.

St Mary Lake is stocked with trout and bass and some people come for that reason alone. No power boats are allowed on the lake; paddles, oars, sails and small electric motors are the only form of propulsion on the lake. That and swimming.

Nearby are other "resorts" and the home of famous CBC Radio personality Randy Bachman, who always seems to be mowing his lawn (or perhaps that is someone else, one never knows with radio celebrities).

Mark shares a humorous moment with Sherry. Did I say something?

Lakeside Gardens has a website, but it's always best to phone or email for information and reservations. That personal touch is part of the charm of the place too.

July 17, 2013

Lakeside Gardens Resort at St Mary Lake on Salt Spring

Four years ago I began to visit a place on Salt Spring Island called Lakeside Gardens. Sherry has been coming here for ten years and she introduced me to its charm and beauty.

Lakeside Gardens Resort sits on a narrow property on the east side of St Mary Lake about 6 km from Ganges. To call it a resort conjures up all sorts of images, at least it did for me before I arrived four years ago. In fact, it is rustic and one-step above camping. If camping isn't your thing, and if going up to the big house to use the facilities isn't a lifestyle choice you care to make, this probably isn't for you, and that would be unfortunate because you will be missing out on something truly wonderful.

There are two self-contained cabins each featuring facilities and a fire place, but they are removed from the lakefront. The dozen or so cabanas are mostly at the water's edge and offer a loft type of bed (a mattress on boards would be a better description), outdoor cooking, lights and power, and apart from your own food and towels, most everything you will need (sheets, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, etc.).

Some of the cabanas are fairly private, secluded behind trees and tall grasses. Our favourite cabana, number seven, is literally on the lake and the view offered at sunrise is breathtaking. In fact the changing views through the entire day are fantastic, as are the sounds of the lake.

Through the day the light dances on the lake in a myriad different ways, eagles soar overhead, ducks and geese glide past. Early in the morning the song birds delight and in the cool of the evening the frogs celebrate the first stars.

The resort offers several grassy knolls, fishing, boating and swimming. It is the kind of place where a kid can be a kid. It is also a place for quiet and peace, to get lost in a book or in yourself.

St Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island, and Lakeside Gardens. I love it here.

July 13, 2013

Vancouver Coffee Shops ~ Part 5: Trafiq

Trafiq Cafe & Bakery has two locations, one in West Vancouver and the one we visit on Main Street

The coffee is always first rate, consistently strong and nicely served by friendly staff. Freshly squeezed orange juice is a plus and highly recommended. The place has an orderliness about itself. This is an efficient operation and it shows.

Trafiq hosts a terrific bakery featuring all kinds on cakes, pies, pastries and more. Eat in, or take it home, it's all good stuff.

July 12, 2013

Odd Society Spirits ~ a local craft distiller

New legislation from the provincial government has opened the door to small batch, craft distilleries. These small businesses can now operate without the excessive taxation and red tape of the Liquor Distribution Branch. To make the circumstance even better, these new craft distillers can provide on-site tasting rooms, possibly even offer tours of their operations, and become part of the fabric of neighbourhoods, offering drinks as one might expect on a visit to Scotland or other civilized nations.

Odd Society Spirits is one such craft distiller. It's located at the very end of Commercial Drive and one block east  along Powell Street. Not particularly a pedestrian venue, this is a destination,and so it should be, though at present, the Odd Society is in early days.

The stills, three distinctly different stills, are in, and the tasting bar is being readied, as is just about every thing else. It is all a labour of passion from Gordon Glanz and his partner, Miriam Karp.

Gordon is passionate about what he is doing, and it shows. Several years ago Gordon and Miriam went to Scotland where Gordon earned a Masters degree in distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He then studied under the masters at Springbank in Campbeltown. Gordon termed it a mid-life crisis of sorts, but this is truly serious vision. Gordon loves talking about the stills, the process and the marvel that is in the spirits. There is both excitement and just a wee bit of transcendental panic in his voice as he shares his passion.

And the vision, his vision: small batches of spirits made entirely from natural ingredients, sourced in British Columbia, fermented and distilled on-site. Coming soon: whisky, vodka and gin. Visit the Odd Society website, sign up for their newsletter and join me, in the tasting room, sometime in August!

July 03, 2013

Touch Wood at VanDusen Garden

One of our favourite backyards is VanDusen Garden. This summer the Garden is celebrating the culture of wood with over twenty sculptures and installations by ten BC artists. The exhibition is called Touch Wood and encourages the actual touching of wood, though there are a number of signs suggesting otherwise.

The installations vary considerably, from bird houses to flying sea creatures.

There are several variations on the theme of community and gatherings of human-like creatures.

Amidst the beauty of the gardens the perception and experience of the art changes with the light and the weather, and with the vegetation itself.