Our short flight (59 minutes) from Vancouver landed right on time in Kelowna at 12.30 pm, and I made my way to the rental car agency. However, I was soon reminded of
Robert Burns, Scotland's national bard, and the ironic lines towards the end of his poem,
To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough. If the gloomy Gaelic intonations are forgotten, they read: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men/Gang aft agley." When one travels, as with life in general, plans do not unfold quite as planned.
With a disability, I had ordered a car outfitted with hand controls. Apparently, no one informed the Kelowna office until that morning, and adhering to bureaucratic ineffectiveness, an automobile was sent all the way from Vancouver, which we could have driven! I asked the local folks, "Wouldn't a set of hand controls (worth a few hundred dollars) be prudent to have on hand?" They shrugged their collective shoulders and paid a driver to take my spouse and me to the
Manteo Resort Waterfront Hotel & Villas, on Lakeshore Rd. along beautiful
Okanagan Lake, quite large at 135 km long and 4-5 km wide, situated in the picturesque Okanagan Valley.
The airport is well north of the city near the UBC campus, and the resort, well south of the city intersected by highway 97 (Harvey Ave.), easily 30+ minutes away. The rental car didn't arrive until 5.30 pm, so we made the best of it, and enjoyed the hotel's engaging gorgeous scenery, trying to keep our collective blood pressure beneath a boil.
Our driver, Steve, was a retired jet pilot with the Canadian Forces, based in Winnipeg. (We quickly assessed that we would arrive in record time.) Along the way, we discovered that Steve and his wife retired here a year ago "because of the climate." He advised, "There is little if any snow, but it can get hot in the summer, sometimes up to 35C. The real estate prices are good, and so is the cost of living." Upon arrival. he and his wife were greeted by a terrific support group for newbie's, and they quickly discovered "plenty to do" from golf to wineries to fine dining.
Kelowna was the genuine birthplace of BC's wine industry, started by
Father Pandosy's Mission, first to plant a vineyard in 1859. Wineries now spread throughout the valley. As Steve drove and talked, gazing out at the pastoral, picture postcard-like setting, I was reminded of the dramatic scenery from the
"Sound of Music," imagining Julie Andrews cavorting somewhere on one of the steep slopes.
At the Manteo Resort, we enjoyed an attractive
balcony view of the waterfront, and watched a variety of recreational aquatic sports from sailing to stand-up paddling, with children at the nearby Rotary Beach Park, outfitted with plastic shovels and pails, enjoying the sun-drenched sand, and reminding me of Steve's departing words, "It's sure better here than in Winnipeg!" Actually, the gorgeous panoramic vistas brought back memories of the "Sound of Music," and I peered longingly at the slopes searching in vain for Julie Andrews.
Once a car was delivered, we had scant time to drive through the city, park and head for the
RauDZ Regional Table located in a 106-year-old heritage building, a trendy restaurant that was highly recommended, the name supposedly an amalgamation of the owners' names, chef Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao. Here, Robert Burn's dire dictum surfaced yet again. The eatery was packed, centred around a long reclaimed heartwood pine table sitting on a trestle base; they do not take reservations. We left our names, walked around downtown for a half hour, found a terrific book store, returned, waited in queue at the door for another half hour, and finally agreed to dine at the crowded 28-foot solid fir bar. It was worth the wait! The food (we opted for Arctic char and salmon with a crab cake appetizer) was delicious, the menu focused on fresh, regional cuisine with striking presentations.
The next morning, we drove dutifully through the downtown Waterfront Park, took compulsory pictures of the
Ogopogo sea monster statue, a 12-15 m creature purported to live in Okanagan Lake and allegedly observed by First Nations people since the 19th century. We discovered a casino, checked out the impressive Delta for a future hotel visit, and sadly, sticking to our schedule, hit the road, heading south, but driving a tad slower than Steve.
Kelownais the largest inland city in British Columbia, located in the heart of BC's wine country. It has a metropolitan population of about 165,000. Okanagan Lake is the main draw in the summer. This 135 km long jewel is a big draw for boaters (power and sail), swimmers and kite-boarders. In winter thousands of tourists come from all parts of the world to ski at Big White resort, located 55 km from the city. Tourists also come in the fall (mostly) to experience and taste the Okanagan's world class wines from various wineries throughout the valley.
Visit Kelowna BC in the Okanagan Valley
Farm To Table - Kelowna Restaurants
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune, Niagara Falls Review and Seniors Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.