Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A weekend on Quadra Island

Taking Monday as a vacation day for me and an earned day off for John, we planned a trip back to Quadra Island and the Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge for a long weekend on the second to last September weekend. Our first trip can be found at our kayaking blog Kayak Yak: Quadra Island and our adventures kayaking on the island.

We spent Saturday driving the 3.5 hours from Victoria to Campbell River, stopping for gas and a stretch of the legs in Parksville.  One day we will take the time to explore Parksville with a longer stay than just a pit stop.  

This trip we arrived in time for a quick lunch at the White Spot before heading to the ferry.  Yes, sometimes I do eat at a local fast food place and White Spot is a British Columbia legend.  Back to  the ferry to Quadra Island which takes a mere 7 to 8 minutes to ride. Loading the ferry takes longer than travelling to the island.  

We arrived, unpacked and went down to the beach.  After scrabbling around on the rocks and taking some photographs, we headed back inside for dinner. 

 Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge does have gluten free offerings but is sparse on the dairy free.  Most of the meals are in cream sauces or butter.  I had the soup and salad, a nice green salad with lots of vegetables and a vegetable minestrone while John had a chicken Caesar salad.  Then we headed back to our room to read.  There are no TVs in the rooms. WiFi is available for a fee.  In the grand lobby there are tables for playing the available board games and using the free WiFi.  Other activities include archery, horseshoes and bocce.  

We woke to the morning rain. Had breakfast in our room as we'd packed the Nutribullet, some fruit and protein powder.  Then we decided that we'd drive to Kamelon to see if it would be open for lunch.  Once that was established as our lunch spot, we stopped at Aroma Coffee for a tea and snack. I had a licorice spice tea from Stonehouse Teas  a tea house and supplier located in Campbell River. As we sat in the coffee shop the sky opened up and sheet rain came pouring down.  When it finally stopped we dashed to the car and took a drive around the island.  We ended up on a logging road to Granite Cove where we saw a cascading waterfall on both sides of the road and a few houses, one with a private lake.  We arrived at Granite Cove in a space between rain showers and did a quick leg stretch before the next downpour.  We also drove around Rebecca Spit and would have gone for a walk except it was pouring again.  We did take a few photographs at Rebecca Spit before the rain started.  

Heading back to Quathiaski Cove we had lunch at Kameleon Restaurant

John had the Thai chicken wrap with the Kameleon salad.  The wrap was panini grilled to make it crunchy which he said was a nice touch.  I had the Budda Burger served with the Kameleon salad.  The mango chutney with the curried chickpea patty was a delicious combination. I forgot to ask if the bun was dairy free but ate it anyway and drank lots of water.  I didn't feel any ill effects.  After lunch, with not much open, we drove to the end of Cape Mudge Road.  After passing the winery twice, we decided it actually was open and turned around to investigate.  

SouthEnd Farm & Vineyards is located at 319 Sutil Road with varying hours all year round for wine tasting.  The farm is a small pastured meat chicken farm selling directly from the farm or at the Quadra Island Farmer's Market (10:00 am to 2:00 pm Saturdays). 

 As we were there in September the winery was open Thur/Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. We parked at the main entrance, and were met by a sweet black and white dog who shook her paw with me, but would only sniff John.  Inside the winery we met Jennifer, the main tasting hostess, who would introduced us to three of the wines, the Ortega, the Bara and the Virga. 

 My preference is for white or a rose. Luckily there were two whites and one rose on offer. I did like the Bara which was a lovely rose with a beautiful pink blush, except I really wanted a wine that was completely local.  I choose the Virga, a lovely petit milo with lemon-lime and pepper tastes on the tongue and using 100% Quadra Island grown grapes. 

 Virga is a streak or shaft of precipitation that falls from a cloud but evaporates before reaching the ground and is common in temperate climates like Vancouver Island. It was appropriate to buy a wine named after rain since our time on the island was full of drizzle to sheet rain.  By the time we finished tasting the wine, and chatting with Jennifer, it had cleared up and the promised sunshine had finally arrived.   

We also met Griswald, tasting room watch dog.  He loved having John take his photograph.

After another dinner of the exact same meal we'd had the night before we returned to our room to pack up and sit in front of the gas fireplace reading our books.  

Up early, breakfast in the lodge, packing up the car and heading to the ferry.  We got on the 9:00 ferry as one of the last cars.  It being Monday there is a guarantee loading for vehicles coming from Cortes Island which meant we had to wait for all of them to be loaded. Back on the mainland we drove around Campbell River for a bit.  We were planning on going to see the suspension bridge until we decided we could make it home earlier than we planned.  Back to Parksville for gas and leg stretching then onward home with a plan to stop for lunch in Nanaimo, Chemainus or Duncan depending on when we arrived and if we were hungry.  Lunch was in Chemainus at Odika Cafe, our favourite Chemainus restaurant, where the food and service is always excellent.  We arrived home at around 2:00 pm, unpacked and got ready for another work week.  

Looking forward to sipping the Virga on our deck in the Fall sunshine.  Thank you to all the people on Quadra Island who help make the west coast such an amazing place to live and travel.  

Monday, 21 September 2015

Tofino - September Vacation

Going on vacation in September, especially the first week of school starting, is perfect.  Hotels and resorts are lacking school age children and off-season is just beginning.  Not that I don't like children, I do like off-season though.  Six of us headed to Tofino this year to celebrate Karl and Stephanie Johanson's 30 years of happily wedded bliss at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay. While Stephanie, Karl, Stephanie's sister Wendy and niece Emily, along with Isaac the dog, stayed in a beach house, John and I stayed in one of the Lighthouse suites.  All of the suites and houses have full kitchenettes, with varying other amenities.  Having a kitchenette meant we ate out less at the amazing dining options available in Tofino and spent more time on the beach.  As a foodie this was at first a bit disappointing.  My disappointmdnt soon changed to delight at spending hours on the beach boogie boarding in the surf.  Being able to run back to the room and grab a bite was perfect. 

On the drive up to Tofino and on the way back to Victoria we stopped at Trees Diner in Parksville for lunch on a recommendation from two people we know.   The drive up we had burgers as we weren't sure what time we'd be eating dinner and boogie boarding was on the schedule when we arrived in Tofino. On the way back, John had a burger and I had the BLT.  The dairy and gluten free bun wasn't dry as some are, it was soft inside with a nice crust.  Our burgers were delicious.  There is a bakery attached to the diner and if we weren't full we would have purchased some of the homemade baked goods.

John and I arrived on the Tuesday after the Labour Day Monday, finding everyone else in the surf boogie boarding.  Dinner that night was individual pizzas made with Stephanie's homemade pizza crusts.  John and I had brought up local meat and vegetables from The Root Cellar creating the best homemade pizza I've had.  Wednesday we headed into Tofino for lunch at the Schooner Restaurant which has been around since 1949.  I had the Tom Yum soup with chicken which was warming and filling.  Being famous for seafood others ordered fish and chips or fish dishes, while others had a simple salad.  We then roamed around Tofino.  John and I purchased a loaf of dill sourdough from the Common Loaf for Wednesday night's dinner of Wendy's delicious spaghetti.  We also went to Rhino Coffee House to get doughnuts, there is only one Vegan variety - jelly - which has never been my favourite, I was fine with passing on a treat.  Wendy and Emily went for the Boston Cream and Coconut Cream which they enjoyed.  Thursday we went to Long Beach for a long walk along the beach.  The plan was to go to the bog trail and have lunch after the hike, except with six of us some of us ate early and some of us ate late.  John and I were feeling rather hungry and decided to head back to our suite to have lunch catching up with the others later for the Thursday night BBQ.  By 7:00 pm at night we went to find the others, still boogie boarding in the surf, and decided we needed to eat.  We had a lovely BBQ of chicken with vegetables I'd packed in tin foil with some Earth Balance non-soy spread.  We used the community BBQ area at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort, sharing our BBQ with a family from Britain.  Another group had built up the fire pit making for a lovely warm area to sit and enjoy the evening.  Sitting in the dark eating by fire pit was rather romantic. 

Friday was our last full day for all of us except Wendy and Emily who were heading back to Victoria.  We decided to go to Ucluelet to hike the Wild Pacific Trail a beautiful scenic trail along the coastline from the lighthouse to parking lot or vis versa.  After the hike we went into Ucluelet for lunch at Ukee Dogs Cafe & Eatery. Ukee Dogs Cafe & Eatery serves ethical beef hot dogs and is run by a lovely couple. John and I have eaten here before when we stayed at the Black Rock Resort.  John had the Mac&Cheese dog, Wendy, Emily and I had hotdogs. Stephanie and Karl had the beef tacos. I had the Imperial hotdog with teriyaki carmelized onions, wasbi mayo and nori on top which I find a taste experience worth every bite!!!

We also stopped into a bakery across the street from Ukee Dogs with yummy goodies that tempted us.  Zoe's Bakery and Cafe. You can find both Ukee Dogs and Zoe's Bakery on Facebook.  

While the rest of the women in our group went shopping at the gift shop, and the men along with Isaac found shade, I went into the tea shop.  Thay Tea is at 250 Main Street in Ucluelet and offers tea for purchasing as well as making hot or cold cups of tea.  I had a tiger tea made with black licorice tea, vanilla syrup and a bit of sweetner over ice.  It was so good that I went back to purchase the tea.  I haven't had black tea for a year since eating clean and cutting out all but herbal tea from my diet. I found this tea really nice, not too strong and didn't cause me any horrible symptoms from caffeine or taste.  

John and I headed back into Tofino since I really wanted to go to the natural food store and he wanted to try a doughnut from Rhino Coffee House.  Of course John had the bacon maple doughnut, one happy man pictured here. 

I tried the tumeric mylk from the health food store. The mylk is homemade nut milk with tumeric, ginger and cinnamon. I've been wanting to try tumeric milk for sometime and have several recipes pinned.  Definately something I'm going to learn to make.  This was so comforting and was perfect after boogie boarding and hiking the last three days.  I was a bit sore and bruised, along with muscles protesting that haven't been used in some time.  This was so good that on Saturday morning before we left I bought myself another one in a larger size.  Recommend this store for health food items as well as smoothies and hot drinks.  

Of course we stopped at Chocolate Tofino where we purchased Hot Chocolate Elixir Orbs for family who watched over our house, plus two chocolates for my friend/co-worker, one wild blackberry cream with blackberries picked in Ucluelet and basil ganache with the basil from a local garden.  Founded in 2003 Chocolate Tofino makes hand-crafted chocolates with the highest quality ingredients.  Some of the local specialties are the Organic Lavender Truffle, the Wild Honey Ganache and the Wild Blackberry Cream.  If you can't make it to Tofino, ordering online is available.  

I wasn't able to partake of Wendy's amazing baking as she didn't make it dairy free. We did have the chocolate wacky cake I made iced with paleo icing with her spaghetti dinner.  I stopped at Swell Juice Bar where I found dairy free cookies loaded with seeds and oats and a hemp seed ball with dark chocolate on top. The hemp seed ball with the dark chocolate made it back to Victoria where I had it with a large cup of herbal tea. Treat quota filled 100% with yummy healthy food.  

We are so fortunate to live on the west coast and I am grateful to those people who participate in making local food amazing.  Thank you to my loving partner for introducing me to Cox Bay and the Pacific Sands Beach Resort.  I want to go back and make more memories with you.  There are still places I want to eat at in Tofino that we missed this trip and I want to boogie board again.