The August Report Chapter Two - Whistler and beyond - food · 10.08.12 by colin newell
In previous trips to Whistler, British Columbia, I distinctly remember there being a surfeit of places to get pints or jugs of beer, burgers and fries, deep fried fatty foods, pizza and stuff that would appeal to folks who have spent the previous 7 hours of their day skiing or plummeting downhill on a back breaking mountain bike trail.
And nary a decent cup of good strong coffee to be found.
And a giant gap between salt laden junk food fry ups and the super fancy gourmet stuff you find at some of the high end hotels… and places like Araxia
(which by the way gets some pretty mixed reviews…)
Some exceptions include La Bocca which we did breakfast at one morning – and it was wonderful. The La Bocca patio was always hopping into the evening on their spacious patio area.
And 21-Steps which was very family friendly, upscale, affordable and tasty. And (please note) if you are not child friendly, come by 21 steps after 8 PM or so – because it can get loud- it becomes more of an adult date place later in the evening. Nice to have both options.
Our group had a wonderful meal for 270 at the Whistler Roundhouse Great food, really, really good coffee (!) and desserts – super professional and well presented staff and at 6000+ feet above sea level and 3500+ feet above Whistler village… very dramatic!
Pubs: Honestly, if it can be deep fried in Whistler, it is being done – I was surprised they did not figure out a way to deep dry coffee and serve it on a stick. There was a place that was better than expected: Blacks Pub in the Sundial Boutique Hotel had better than expected pizzas and great staff and service. In a past visit we went to the Dubh Linn Gate (at the Pan Pacific) and that was a hoot – no surprise there.
Back in the village of Whistler there is one thing that has not changed much – the coffee. “The Lift” coffee shop across the entrance to our hotel served tasty and competent JJ Bean drip and espresso based beverages and really, really good baked goodies. I think if someone could find a decent space that was affordable (that is the thing – the rents in Whistler must be unreal) there could be an incredible cafe. Truth be told, such an entity would not likely survive just selling coffee.
There are several Starbucks in Whistler and all of them had regular long line-ups.
Truth be told, my coffee experience was improved by bringing my own Aeropress and a Hario manual burr grinder and a supply of Drumroaster Coffee from Vancouver Island’s best coffee roasting joint.
Overall, Whistler has a lot on the ball – and a little tip here: If you are staying at one of many “affordable” hotels or lodges – prepare to be nickel and dimed. Our room rate for a suite was around $170/night but the parking was almost $40/day – which is absurd. We had a loyalty card which eliminated the $15/day charge for the most basic WiFi connectivity. The secret is: There is lots and lots of free 72 hour parking in Whistler – in the “big lots” – just ask anyone – they are easy to find. And over the course of your stay, you can save hundreds of dollars on parking.
So. Summary: Whistler is definitely not a winter only destination – if you love the outdoors during nice warm weather, then this could be your place.
The August Report Chapter One - Whistler and beyond · 9.08.12 by colin newell
OK so the blog has been running a little dry lately. Alright, the oil pan is completely dry and the engine has seized. It happens.
Heck, I imagine that Stephen King freezes up for a moment or two now and again.
I am back.
Let’s see if we can kick start things a bit by talking about a recent visit to Whistler, British Columbia a few weeks ago.
Whistler: 96 km North/North East of Vancouver on a pretty cerebral piece of 2 to 4 lane highway called the Sea to Sky.
It is an improvement over the wish-for-death falling rock scar encrusted piece of tarmac that it used to be less than 10 years ago. A successful bid for the Olympics and an infusion of around 1 billion dollars tidied it up some.
And on our most recent visit to this pricey get-away for rich folks, I did not even recognize the drive.
I have been up to Whistler a few times starting in the early 90’s and the twists and turns alone give you a gripping sense of your mortality.
And of all the trips I have made to Whistler have been in the spring or summer. I do not ski. Never have. Likely never will. Not that I do not like the cold or enjoy a festive mosaic of white. Not at all. I just fear injury to my hands, arms or legs… which I value dearly the way they are right now – thank you very much.
Anyway – Andrea and I went up to Whistler so she could attend a conference/summit. And I got to play for 3 or 4 days.
This time of the year, Whistler is known for legendary hiking, biking, climbing, walking and even a little late season skiing.
I did a fair bit of hiking around Lost Lake – Lost Lake is part of an very impressive system of shared biking and hiking trails that are as easy as they are challenging. With names like “Tin Pants”, “Vimy Ridge” and “Shit Happens”, you know that there are trails and obstacle strewn pathways that could hurdle a grown man into a life of paraplegia in a heartbeats worth of inattention.
Which exactly why I stayed on trails named “Girly Man” and “Nancy Drew”…
Ain’t to proud to weep at the first oak twig that falls across my pristine hard pan trail folks.
Anyway, once I figured out the trail system and the signage (only used my GPS once in 3 days!) I spent several hours every day making my way through cougar and black bear infested bush trails. In reality, I was generally more in danger of colliding with any number of mountain bikers sailing passed me every few minutes. I walked with determination, generally off to one side of the trail – wore colorful shirts and was often engaged in a conversation of my VHF Ham Radio (more on that later…)
Clearly there is lots to do in Whistler for the outdoorsy type person. Especially this time of the year. Whistler-Blackcomb is a fabulous facility for downhill cycling – likely World class I imagine. At any given moment there were 50 to 70 mountain bikers (all ages and genders) queued up for the T-bar lifts and a continuous stream of bikers flying down the trails coming out of the trail end chutes only to queue up again for the 15 minute ride to the trail head area some 2700 feet higher!
In the next chapter we will talk about the food and drink of Whistler – some surprises and a few disappointments.
Growing it for Men's Health - Movember · 20.11.11 by colin newell
Hey! If you enjoy this blog, are male or have a male in your life – please consider supporting Men’s health in November!
It is Movember and I have tossed my razor for the month of November 2011.
Please consider a small donation to my Movember team at the University of Victoria.
If you are a dude or there is a dude in your life, please remind him to take care of himself and get “checked” at least once a year.
Prostate cancer is a battle that you can win – if you stay on top of it. So say “I love you” to the ones you love by looking after yourself.
Feel free to click here for a small donation to my Movember team.
Leaving your heart in San Francisco - part 1 - 2011 · 30.08.11 by colin newell
San Francisco, California – established as a Spanish fort in 1776, experienced a gold rush in 1849, a devastating earthquake in 1906 – has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in North America and, arguably, the world.
Picture at left – Street Cars – they are historic and you should learn the basics of the San Francisco transit system if you are going to maximize your experience – click on photo for bigger view.
We had the great pleasure of visiting San Francisco for 7 days in August 2011. And as it turns out, many people that we know are either heading to San Francisco or planning on going there in the near future. Fact is, it is a readily accessible city – and it’s close… a mere 740 miles or 1200km – we flew via West Jet but there are other options like United and Air Canada.
What was important, leading up to the trip, was a bit of planning – based on our personal preferences.
Whether you are going for 1 day, 3 days, a week or a month… it is very important to get some books in your pocket, some online resources bookmarked and a few key things purchased (apart from air fare of course!)
The Ferry Building (photo left) – great food, water access, farmers market and Blue Bottle Coffee!
Here is the thing: Unless someone is driving you and yours around in a limo all day long you might want to get acquainted with the transportation infrastructure – and it’s a great and efficient one.
As cities go, San Francisco is eminently walkable – but mind bogglingly hilly. Nob Hill, where we stayed, is 402 feet above sea level – and only 1.3 km away from the water! If that sounds like “straight up”, it seems like it. Thank heavens for cable cars! More on those later.
Photo left – The Golden Gate. If you are going to San Francisco, get over it or go under it. Andrea and I did both! All photos on my Panasonic Lumix.
Hot Tip! Before we went we bought a couple of things online. And I will classify these as very important – must have items if you are staying more than 3 days.
Number 1 item! San Francisco City Pass – Do not leave home without it!
For starters, you are going to want to ride the cable cars. And you are going to want to ride the historic electric street cars along the “F” line that start at Fisherman’s Wharf and zip through the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building and onto the terminus in the Castro district.
Photo left – Ritual Coffee! We went to this place, Sight Glass, Blue Bottle, 4-Barrel and the Tartine Bakery… All amazing!
And if, like us, you are staying at any hotel on Nob or Russian Hill, you are going to need a cable car pass – because individual rides are $5 (according to the website – I think they may be $6 a ride now – which is amazing even to the cable-car grips.) With the city pass, you have “all access” – so you do not need to carry change or dollar bills. You can buy the MUNI-Cable Car pass separately, but this represents great value (more on that subject later too!)
The City Pass, in addition to giving you hop on / hop off access to the cable cars, and the MUNI and the classic electric rail in the city, you get a 1 hour water tour into San Francisco Bay (under the Bay bridge and around Alcatraz Island) – called the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise It is a fun filled and informative guided tour of some of San Francisco’s colorful history. The boats are big, safe, fast and equipped with a bar and food items… Yes, a booze cruise. It’s San Francisco after all!
With the City Pass, we also took in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) – yea, not everyone is an art fan – but while we were there, there was a comprehensive Picasso exhibit and some great photo galleries + plus a lot of contemporary American art. Check the gallery schedule of course.
Consider the city pass – for $69 for adults and $39 for children (San Francisco is a very child friendly and pet friendly place)
Hot Tip #2 – Buy a couple of travel books on this city a minimum of 30 days in advance to absorb some of the things you might want to do.
Farmers Bakers Market at the Ferry Building three days a week!
We got Frommers San Francisco A very good read with good sections and apparently some fairly honest and bias free reporting. The Frommers San Francisco Day by day was also a very useful resource – especially for carrying around.
Jump to chapter two – The planning phase!
Victoria Spring 2011 - Good bye to the Salmon Kings · 6.04.11 by colin newell
Here is how my post read six months ago…
But through a strange twist of hockey club management, my favorite Captain… Wes Goldie, has been replaced with, by the looks of it, a guy who spends more time in the penalty box – than on the ice or on the bench…
Say hello to the new captain of the Victoria Salmon Kings – Pete Vandermeer – third on the all-time American Hockey League penalty minutes list.
“Our barn, Save-on-Foods Memorial will not be a place other teams will want to return to,” threatened Vandermeer…
“Even if the other guys leave with a win, it’s important they leave missing some blood and teeth when limping out of here.”
OK. The Salmon Kings management started to screw up at the beginning of the 2010-2011 Season with the hire of this Vandermeer thug – who only lasted about a half season before he vanished. We gave up Wes Goldie who turned out to be the high scorer for the entire season… for the Alaska Aces.
And now the Kings may leave Victoria – or be dissolved.., and their place taken by a Junior team – of teenagers… the former Chilliwack Bruins… to become the Victoria Bruins… how imaginative.
So get this. People are unhappy in Chilliwack, B.C. and we are unhappy in Victoria B.C. – The owners of the Kings have totally misread their audience and are marching blithely into yet another screw up with these changes.
Yes, it is a business.
But I am a customer. And I am not buying it.