Return Trip

Return Trip

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday morning we started our trip back to Toronto. We left Victoria, B.C. earlier than expected because the house we had rented turned out to be a bust even though it had a wonderful location and terrific views. This was our first error in renting houses out of perhaps fifty over the years. The change, however, meant that we could travel back to Toronto in a more leisurely way. As if it was symbolic, our last restaurant meal proved to be equally disastrous. This was my review of Vic’s Steakhouse in Victoria BC.

This was the worst steakhouse at which my wife and I have eaten. My wife’s crab cakes were inedible (they were returned to the kitchen) and the lettuce in her salad was gritty and presumably had not been washed properly. My medium rare steak was properly cooked but was mediocre, but the seared potatoes were lukewarm rather than hot. The broccoli was mushy. The service by Victor was very friendly and accommodating, but when my wife asked for bread and was served six slices of doughy white bread with a pot of butter, we were insulted that they wanted to charge extra for the order. [I am not eating bread during Passover.] Either this was an off night for the restaurant with a substitute cook or the restaurant should close. After questioning our bill, the charges for the crab cakes and the bread were graciously removed and explained as an error.

This bad experience was not typical of Victoria. For example, the Aura Restaurant was superb. But it did spoil our last evening. Yesterday morning we planned to take the 11:00 a.m. ferry to the mainland but were lucky and got on the 10:00 a.m. one which had been put on as an extra for Easter Monday. The ferry trip from Victoria to Vancouver, if you have never taken it, should not be missed. The hour and a half trip through the islands between Victoria and Vancouver is simply great.

However, the road trip until east of Abbotsford could easily be skipped if possible, but we were soon into the beautiful mountains en route to Hope, B.C. We did not stop there but pressed on and were quite shocked as the mountains became almost barren. At first I thought the mountainside had been just massively cleared of trees, but it soon became obvious that trees had never been in abundance. Only last evening did I read that we had passed through a desert area of the mountains that received relatively little rain. As we approached Osoyoos, the fruit farms were in full blossom and we passed many vineyards, but they grew and were prolific, much as in California, because of irrigation. Unfortunately, all the fruit stands seemed closed, understandable for this time of year.

We did pass six places where a kind of Muskoka chair with a higher back was raised up carrying a sign advertising Osoyoos cabins. At first, I made the mistake of thinking the sign was for a place that built something called “Osoyoos cabins”.  The signs provided a humorous interlude, and we needed some type of relief.

We had been told that the trip through southern B.C. was exquisitely beautiful compared to traveling through Washington State. Until we reached Osoyoos, we were deeply disappointed. The towns of Princeton, Hedley and Cawston seemed little more than shack towns littered with RV camps and the odd old car dump. Had we made another mistake? Had our luck in traveling run out beginning with that terrible meal in the steakhouse in Victoria? Were we being punished for leaving our grandchild for months before we would see him again? Perhaps the accommodation I had booked in Osoyoos would also be terrible.

As it turned out, the Watermark Beach Resort was a lovely place. Because we were traveling in the shoulder season between winter and summer recreation, we had a suite and not just a room and at a very good price. But what was most surprising was the small tapas bar in the hotel that did not even have its own name. We were served by a high spirited ex-Liverpudlian who had been raised in Dublin. Though he was the only one serving – there were not that many tables occupied – the service was superb. But the meal was even greater. I was surprised subsequently to learn that not all the reviews were raves, but ours certainly was. The beef vegetable soup I had was hot, tasty and very hearty with excellent meat and firm rather than mushy vegetables, The carpaccio with the extra garnishes was terrific. My chicken curry was not too spicy, but very tasty with excellent locally-made yogurt and a cherry condiment.

Our stay has been great. This morning we will visit three local wineries and then drive to Bonners Ferry in northern Idaho taking the slightly longer but reputedly exceptionally beautiful route on highway 3A rather than 3 from Castlegar around Lake Kootenay and through the Kootenay Pass. I have even identified a small café – Dawn’s Early Rising Sunshine Café and Bistro – in Castlegar for our one stop en route – other than for taking pictures. I hope it is a success.

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