Wednesday 29 August 2018

Touchdown in London Town

It's time to take a trip down memory lane and revisit our European cruise from last year. It was hard to write about this trip because we had a family medical emergency on our way home. We ended up staying behind in Montreal for an extra week.

But our wedding festivities have come to an end and everything is back to normal now, so I thought it was a good idea to look back on our trip. The incident may come up later on, and I may or may not choose to address it then. For now, let's focus on our happy moments during our vacation.

To refresh your memory, our trip started in Southampton, England. From there, we set sail on a two week cruise across the Atlantic stopping in Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands. We then sailed back through the Bay of Biscayne returning to France, where we disembarked early for three days in the wondrous city of Paris.

We flew into London on a red-eye, and took a car to Southampton. Southampton is about an hour and a half away from London, and it was exactly as I had imagined it... Cold and dreary, much like Vancouver, to my dismay. We stayed at the Holiday Inn directly outside of the port for one night. It was a great location! From our hotel room, we could see the Navigator of the Seas.

The hotel was also about two blocks away from the West Quay Shopping Centre, so we decided to check it out. We took the long way there through Old Town as tourists. We passed by the Titanic Restaurant, a pub that paid tribute to the Titanic as Southampton was the port of its ill-fated maiden voyage. We explored the area around Bargate, which is a medieval gatehouse. Today, it serves as a historic monument for the city of Southampton.

Since it was pretty late when we arrived at West Quay, we decided to have dinner there as well. There are a strip of restaurants outside by the movie theatre, and we wanted something filling so we chose L'Osteria, the Italian restaurant. I recommend sharing a pizza. It's huge! The pasta, on the other hand, was not great. It had gotten very cold and windy by the time we finished dinner, so we rushed back to our hotel.

It was raining the next morning, so we ran to Primark to get myself some water-resistant shoes. I was worried it would rain at the ports and all I had packed were espadrilles, sandals and heels. Luckily, I was able to buy a pair of loafers for £5. Why don't we have Primark in Canada?! When we returned to the hotel, we set out to the cruise terminal. There were two entrances to the cruise terminal, unfortunately, the one closest to our hotel (which was literally a two minute walk) was closed due to a boat show. That meant we had to walk all the way around the port to the other entrance. With six pieces of luggage and unfavourable weather, it made more sense to take a cab instead. It was about £12. Once we were there, security and check-in was a breeze. Because we were Platinum cruisers, we had a large window for check-in - between 11 AM to 3 PM. We were in no hurry and ended up going at 2 PM.

Once onboard, we headed straight to our cabin to put down our carry-on luggage.

Immediately after, we headed up to the Windjammer for a late lunch. Nothing like a hot meal to start your cruise! Afterwards, we attended our muster drill before the sail away. Goodbye Southampton!

We had dinner in the dining room that evening. As it was the first day of the cruise, the menu wasn't very exciting. We did have to put in a request for our own table. Out of our many family cruises, this was the first time our party of four was seated with two other groups. I wasn't full from dinner, so we grabbed a few slices of pizza from the Promenade Cafe. The Promenade Cafe is opened 24 hours, and it serves pizza, sandwiches, sweets and other hot food. It's also the place to grab a hot cup of tea after a show. We found ourselves sneaking in a midnight snack at the cafe nightly throughout the cruise.

Age is finally catching up with me! I was still pretty jet lagged so we turned in early that evening. The next day is our first sea day. Stay tuned...

Tuesday 7 August 2018

City Girl in a Small Town

Three and a half months ago, we got married! We had a beautiful ceremony on the Oasis of the Seas, and spent a week celebrating with our closest family and friends. A month later, we hosted a local wedding reception for our friends and family. It's been a hectic couple of months, but we are settling into married life and looking forward to being travel partners for life.

I'm way behind on our travel diaries! I still have to catch up on our Navigator of the Seas cruise and Paris. It's hard to believe that trip was nine months ago. But I will definitely get to them, and get to our Oasis of the Seas wedding cruise. In the meantime, while this is fresh on my mind, I'm going to jump right into our little mini-moon trip last month. We won't be going on a real honeymoon, so this is as close as it will get!

The husband goes to the Okanagan for work twice a year in the summer. The Coquihalla highway is notorious for its steep, mountainous terrain. It's especially dangerous in the winter, which is why he visits in the summer. I've never been the Okanagan so we thought it would be a good idea for me to join him for the weekend. It was also a chance for me to explore my own province!

I flew up late after work one night to rendezvous with the husband. The flight was over an hour delayed, and it was via a small, little propeller jet. For a girl who flies often, I was nervous about this tiny little plane. It honestly felt like it didn't have enough power to take off. Thank God it was a short plane ride. We were only in the air for about 40 minutes.

Kelowna definitely had a small-town charm vibe. It was very quiet, and the air was still. It's hard to describe, but in the city, you always feel rushed like there's always a sense of urgency. There is always honking and people talking in the background. It's different in small towns.

We had lunch at Old Vines Restaurant at Quails' Gate Estate Winery. I visited my first vineyard, and boy, do I love being in the vineyard. I just wanted to run up and down the rows for days (actually, I am majorly out of shape so I didn't.) It's an awestruck feeling though, and the views are beyond gorgeous.

I'm not big on wine, unfortunately, I haven't quite acquired the taste of wine yet. I know, I was in wine country and everything is dry! I will have the odd Riesling, but I am totally guilty for being a Moscato fan.

For lunch, we had oysters to start. I had the cod (pictured), he had the steak (not pictured).

After lunch, we drove to La Frenz in Penticton to pick up a few bottles of wine. Penticton is about fifty minutes away from Kelowna. While we were there, we stopped by Tickleberry's, a local favourite ice cream shop. Here, two scoops was the minimum!

The next day, we drove Oliver, which is about an hour and twenty minutes south of Kelowna. We stopped at Terrafina at Hester Creek Estate Winery for lunch. I had a squid-pea sprout salad, and the husband had pasta. Both dishes were very unique and delicious!

Oliver was where we started to see cherry trees everywhere. Being in the produce industry, I knew that cherry season had just started. I had never seen a cherry orchard before, so I was pretty excited to see them. Unfortunately, U-Pick doesn't start until July, so we missed out on cherry picking.

We also made a pitstop at LaStella, the only winery in the Okanagan that makes a Moscato! LaStella is a smaller winery, but it was the end of the day, so we were able to sample a couple of wines while we were there. Wine tastings at LaStella are to be pre-booked, so the sommelier was very nice to let us sample a few.

From there, we continued our drive to Osoyoos, another twenty minutes west. Osoyoos is a border town to the US. It is also the most southern town in the valley, so it was pretty hot and humid. We stayed at Spirit Ridge at NK'IP Resort. It is a unique area with lush vineyards for miles. While the resort overlooked Lake Osoyoos, behind it was the Cascade Mountains. It was also a desert, home to rattlesnakes and gophersnakes, both of which are "at-risk" species in BC. The resort is on the Osoyoos Indian Band's reserve. There was a cultural centre in the resort, but we didn't have time to visit.

It was raining and the weather was cool when we checked in, so that meant we had to skip the pool.

We visited the NK'MIP Cellars and had our first wine tasting. I didn't try anything I liked, but the husband really enjoyed their Merlot, and ended up buying a bottle for himself, and a few bottles of Meritage for our family. Afterwards, we walked around the vineyards and the desert trail to take in the surroundings and the gorgeous view.

We took advantage of our full kitchen, and cooked dinner. We had cedar plank salmon, sweet corn and grilled mushrooms. We watched the sun set and enjoyed a glass of Moscato on our balcony.

Isn't that a cool sunset picture on the right? I read about this trick online - using your iPhone as a mirror to photograph a "live" reflection with your SLR. I really liked how it turned out!

The next day, we checked out and had lunch in the resort restaurant, Mica. It was Father's Day, but it was a very quiet day. Maybe it's just like this all the time in the Okanagan?

Before we set off on our way home, we had three more wineries to stop at. We stopped at Platinum Bench Estate Winery. Funnily enough, Platinum Bench is known for their artisan bread. We had pre-ordered three loaves. It was so good. Next stop was Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, a very well-known BC winery. Burrowing Owl had an observation deck for viewing. The climb up the tower was well worth it - the view was breathtaking.

Lastly, we mad a quick pit stop at LaStella to pick up a couple more bottles of wine! It was much busier than it was the day before. But we were in and out in no time.
On our way out of the Okanagan, we stopped at many fruit stands, buying cherries for our families. We took Highway-1 home. It was a four hour drive, a shorter route than the Coquihalla.

Even thought I am from this province, BC is uncharted territory for me, and I love being able to explore it like my own backyard. We had a wonderful time in the Okanagan and I would love to go back for a longer visit next time! And whether you like wine or not, I highly recommend a visit to the Okanagan!