Chemainus: small town; big charm

It’s easy to see why this open-air art gallery draws visitors from all over the world. 

This is only a splattering of photos taken with my Samsung phone camera a few days ago.  See story below.

Like many others right now during this pandemic craze, I’m tending to stick closer to home.  Well maybe not always too too close; but close enough.  At the very least I’ve been discovering places in the province where I live that I have either never been to and wanted to visit, or haven’t visited in such a long time, that I can’t even remember when I was there last.

Such was the case a few days ago when I took the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island with my boyfriend Paul and Layla, my sheltie.  The reason I decided to go in the first place was to look at the possibility of getting a companion dog for Layla.  I was very interested in getting another male sheltie who lives on the island. However, without going into detail it sadly was not meant to be, at least for now…so we decided to make a little holiday out of the situation.

We took the ferry boat one way going there and another way coming back with stopovers in some quaint little towns…Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan and finally ending up in Victoria to take the ferry back to Vancouver.  The weather for November was excellent and the scenery very picturesque.

And speaking of picturesque…I was aware of an abundance of story-telling murals in Chemainus as I had been there once before, but I had no idea that it is known as Canada’s Mural Capital. And I don’t remember seeing nearly as many as I did this time around.

I was blown away by how this proud seaside community shares its heritage and celebrates its history through art on the sides of stores, restaurants and private homes. The creation of one mural and sculpture after another which began in 1982, has turned this tiny town into Canada’s largest permanent outdoor art gallery.  And might I add… when was the last time you stood in front of a “Subway” sandwich shop or “Canada Post Office” in admiration?.

You can follow the yellow footsteps (like the yellow brick road) on the sidewalks to locate all the murals.  Although we did it by chance and decided to spend the night in a hotel there so we could enjoy the town the next day.

Town History:

When Chemainus was established in 1858, forestry was the principal industry, and it is still central to its life.  The townspeople were concerned about the future of their one-industry town so looked to economic diversification as a way to thrive.  As it has a natural beauty setting to begin with, it made sense to expand as a tourist spot so The Chemainus Murals Program was born. 

The subject from the beginning has been the community’s heritage, reflecting the history of the First Nations people and their life here, and the unfolding story of settlement by the families and individuals who built the community. 

World renowned Vancouver Island artist Emily Carr’s legacy is depicted in a special Emily Carr Mural Series.  It’s really beautiful.

The name Chemainus is believed to have come from a legendary First Nations shaman and prophet who survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief.  Tsa-meeun-is (Broken Chest).

If you’re looking for The Mural of the Story…

Going by the official mural guide I can look through and tell you by number what each mural means, however I think it best you go there and discover for yourself… if only because it really is worthwhile.

Sunshine Coast, BC.

As summer sadly slips away...we decided to soak up the remaining rays with a perfect little getaway to Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast.  As their website says, Sechelt is as laid-back as it is scenic, full of artists, and surrounded by mountains.  That it is!

Coming into Gibsons from the ferry.  A short drive to Sechelt from here.  Photo:  d. king

 September tries its best to have us forget summer. – Bernard Williams, Philosopher.

Layla and I were kindly invited by a Vancouver friend, who along with her husband, just finished building a second home in the area.

With Janice & Layla at Davis Bay where we walked along the shore.

It’s all scenic from here. Even though it’s a short drive from Vancouver to the ferry in Horseshoe Bay, then a short ferry ride over to the coast, it had been a long time since my last visit.  Long overdue actually.

Horseshoe Bay. Photo: d. king

Since covid it appears that many people are exploring regions closer to where they live and re-discovering places they’ve not visited for some time.

In British Columbia we’re surrounded by beauty with a surplus of outdoor activities to take advantage of.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

 In Sechelt we walked along the rugged coast, visited a sandy beach, did two hikes, went to a local pub on the water for dinner, met some artists, hung out at home and laughed a lot.  We also visited a longtime friend of mine who relocated there recently and lives with a talented artist.  The vibe they made in their home is splendid.

Watching the boats & float planes at Lighthouse Pub. Photo: d. king
All Decked Out. Photo: d. king

On the last day we drove to Pender Harbour and hiked Skookumchuck Narrows, a popular attraction where the powerful rapids and whirlpools of the changing tidal waters can be seen that flow between two inlets –  Jervis Inlet and Sechelt Inlet. Layla did the hike with us as it was not very hilly.The trail is about 8km roundtrip and passes through a scenic west coast rainforest before reaching the viewpoints at either North Point or Roland Point. These rapids are a fairly unique occurrence as the water flow can reach speeds of 30km/h as about 200 billion gallons of water passes through the narrows during a tide change.  

Sechelt Rapids – the reversing tidal rapids, famous for their spectacular whirlpools and whitewater, are considered among the fastest in the world.  Current speeds during large tidal exchanges can exceed 16 knots (30 kph).

On the advice of a friend/photographer we had to stop and eat a cinnamon bun from the local Skookumchuk Bakery & Café.  You cannot help but notice the bakery either at the beginning or end of your hike.  Everything at the bakery is made from scratch using fresh local ingredients.  The bun came fresh out of the oven and it was to die for.

Outside the Bakery. Photo: d. king
A stopover at Ruby Lake Resort , Madeira Park. Photo: d. king

If you want to know more, the following was taken from the Sunshine Coast official website:

Getting to Sechelt is just a 40-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver, followed by a 27km/17mi drive up Highway 101.  Sechelt is the name of a town, a peninsula, an inlet, and a people. The town is a small community sitting on a sandbar; the narrow Sechelt isthmus which separates Sechelt Inlet from the Salish Sea. Named after the original First Nations people of the region – the shíshálh.

This charming seaside town serves as a central hub for exploring the southern Sunshine Coast, where it’s easy to go sightseeing and take day trips to the neighboring communities of Halfmoon Bay, Roberts Creek, Pender Harbour, or Egmont.  It’s also the perfect launching point for boating & paddling excursions to the surrounding fjords, including Narrows, Salmon, and Sechelt Inlet.

If you want to visit a true water-centric community, Pender Harbour is a must.

This unique harbour community is all about the water. Experience the true Pender Harbour Spirit, or just enjoy the 5 freshwater lakes scattered around the ocean harbour.

One day you turn around and it’s summer
Next day you turn around and it’s fall
And all the winters and the springs of a lifetime
Whatever happened to them all? – Lyrics from “September of my Years” sung by Frank Sinatra

 

getaway British Columbia

We’re back from a little holiday with friends in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Lake Country/wine region and

View from the lake house on Lake Okanagan, B.C.  Photo: d. king

Castlegar…

Castlegar, B.C. Photo: d. king

…which is a city situated at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers in the southwestern corner of the Kootenay Rockies. Along with a day jaunt to Nelson to have breakfast and walk around, this trip reminded me of all the beauty that super, natural British Columbia has to offer and how lucky we are to make this province our home.  The road trip/staycation with friends was quality time well spent.

With my longtime bestie Margeaux in Castlegar.    Photo: Paul LeMay

Lake Okanagan, British Columbia:

If you spot Ogopogo, the legendary lake monster said to inhabit these waters, you’ll make headline news, but other than that, this 82-mile lake has many recreational activities to offer: swimming, boating, parasailing and all types of water sports.  It’s within a short driving distance from several amazing wineries.

Paul in Lake Okanagan, B.C.          Photo: d. king

Layla lounging on a watermelon slice. Lake Okanagan, B.C.    Photo: d. king

After Layla’s very first swim. She preferred staying afloat.  This photo was taken on someone’s cellphone.

On Lake Okanagan we stayed at the home of our wonderful hosts Stephen Cipes and his wife Rie.  Stephen is the owner of award winning Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the most visited winery in Canada.  The winery offers tours & tastings of organic/biodynamic wines, plus a bistro & an aboriginal gallery. The food is excellent and I brought back a few cases of outstanding wine. I got to drink and sample ones I hadn’t tried before. I’ll blog about this on a separate post next week.

I hitched a ride back to the house with Stephen.  Photo: d. king

In Castlegar. One of the bottles we opened with Margeaux, Mike (her boyfriend), Lorene (her friend & next door neighbour) and my boyfriend Paul.  Photo: d. king

Castlegar, British Columbia:

View of the Columbia River from the house. Photo: d. king

Incorporated in 1966, this relatively new mill town sits in a valley that has a rich and diverse history, steeped in the heritage and culture of the Doukhobors, who migrated here in the early 20th century.

People flock to Castlegar for many reasons – its diverse art scene, its world-class recreational activities, its rich culture, and its ideal location in the mountainous Kootenay Region of beautiful British Columbia.

One of Castlegar’s many sculptures. Photo: d. king

We stayed with my amazing friend Margeaux in her resort home overlooking the spectacular *Columbia River and swam in her saltwater pool. While in the pool we saw three eagles fly directly above our heads.  I was not quick enough to capture all three but was able to get one as it flew away.

Castlegar. Photo: Paul LeMay

Photo: d. king

Margeaux owns Kootenay Valley Water Company, providing premium bottled water and water dispensers for home and business owners throughout the West Kootenays. The company have added Arctic Spas® to their family, quickly becoming the authorized dealer in Castlegar and for the West Kootenay region. They provide full service for hot tubs and pools and some fun extras like luxurious egyptian cotton bathrobes and outdoor glassware.

*The Columbia River offers excellent fishing for multiple numbers of species from Rainbow Trout, Walleye, Bass and Whitefish.

Pool overlooks the magnificent Columbia River. Photo: d. king

Nelson, British Columbia is located in the Selkirk mountains and along the shores of Kootenay Lake. Only a half hour drive from Castlegar, it’s known as “The Queen City“, and acknowledged for its impressive collection of restored heritage buildings from its glory days in a regional silver rush. Nelson is a treat.  It’s an inspirational mecca for foodies, art-goers, music lovers, history buffs and adventure seekers.  Little local shops offer a multitude of goodies you might otherwise not find elsewhere.  It’s an old hippee hangout.

Nelson, B.C. Photo: d. king

Kootenay Valley Water & Spas:
Header Photo: Beach in Nelson, B.C.  d. king

Anywhere?

It’s that time again…

*Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies
It’s time to leave this town it’s time to steal away
Let’s go get lost anywhere except in the U.S.A.

Kelowna to Osoyoos

Whether it be the road less traveled, the road more traveled or the road not taken…just hit the road!  It will always be a journey of discovery.

You never know how it’s gonna go…

I SEE MY PATH, BUT I DON’T KNOW WHERE IT LEADS. NOT KNOWING WHERE I’M GOING IS WHAT INSPIRES ME TO TRAVEL IT.” – ROSALIA DE CASTRO

A few cinematic favorites:

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) – a super funny disastrous family vacation amongst breathtaking scenery.

“SOMETIMES ALL YOU NEED IS A GREAT FRIEND AND A TANK OF GAS.” – UNKNOWN

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Yes please!*Road trippin’ a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Vineyard Vibes

I heard it through the grapevine

Trying to replicate the appearance of an outdoor area like this at home can be challenging.

Dirty Laundry Vineyard Patio, Summerland.  In B.C.’s beautiful Okanagan region.

When I had the desire to create the look and feel of a real vineyard patio I looked to photos and my imagination. Like the ones here, but not exactly.  As you will see.

The familiarity of having visited many wineries in British Columbia’s Okanagan wine region, Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Willamette Valley in Oregon, Napa, Sonoma, Lodi & Temecula Valley in California and Tuscany, Italy may have helped.  

A little decadence mixed with naturalness and something to take you away and remind you of vacation.  Remember vacation?  How about stay-cation? That’s the idea I was going for.  I want to enjoy the wine regions of my home.  Specifically the outdoors.  After all, I’m an outdoorsy person!

So sitting in the courtyard area with a glass of wine overlooking my vineyard mural under the ivy instead of actual grape vines felt very relaxing and the next best thing to being at the real deal. 

Although over the years, we discovered the ivy started to slowly get out of hand, growing more and more unruly.  What once appeared striking started to take over the whole area and brought some undesirable pests along the way.  So recently I was bummed to have to remove it away from the beams completely.  A dirty task.

My cozy courtyard – Summer 2019.

It took a little while to get used to the bareness on top of the cross beams where the ivy once was, but on the bright side literally, there’s a lot more light to an area where there was no light for quite some time.  So now I’m re-creating the space once more.

It will still have a vineyard feel but without the vines.  Once it’s finished I’ll take a photo and share it. A new potential and a realization that sometimes doing something out of necessity gives you a chance to create something else. Learning to let go of the familiar in any given area takes courage but it can turn out to be a positive thing. Not necessarily better, just different.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, B.C. They offer some amazing organic vegan wines.  “ALIVE” is a new favorite.

Doing so makes me want to modify a few more areas around my home, inside and out.

Maybe modify is a metaphor for simplifying life in general.  A tiny transformation to keeping it fresh.

Anyone else feel this way?

Next: making the most out of smaller spaces

Palm Springs Places: Casa Cody

Casa Cody is the oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs. All of the buildings at Casa Cody tell a story.  I explored the now designated historic preservation site the other day.

On the grounds. Photo: d. king

The property was founded in the 1920’s by Hollywood pioneer, Harriet Cody, cousin to the legendary, Buffalo Bill. The hotel is nestled against the spectacular San Jacinto mountains, in the heart of Palm Springs.

Photo: d. king

History of the hotel: In the early 1900’s, Harriet and Harold Bryant Cody came by wagon from Hollywood to Palm Springs. They settled on land that was to become Casa Cody and built a home. By the 1920’s, Harriet established the property as a hotel and it became the stomping grounds for legends of the arts community, visiting the desert. Charlie Chaplin, American Opera Singer Lawrence Tibbett and AnaÏs Nin spent time here, particularly in the Adobe House, where a stage was built and Tibbett’s piano was kept below the House for performances and parties. Charlie Chaplin was rumored to have performed on the stage in the living room.

Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king

Outside the Adobe House

Inside the boudoir of the Adobe House where Charlie Chaplin resided.  Photo: d. king

Casa Cody combines glamour, history and just plain breathtaking beauty at every glance.

https://casacody.com/

 

Palm Springs Places: The Monkey Tree Hotel

This week on an unusually windy day, I had the pleasure of checking out another unique hotel.

I was told that the vista looks much more inviting when the umbrellas are opened up, however how lovely is this?  Photo: d. king

Kathy, the gracious owner, escorted me around her delightfully large one-acre property and filled me in on the history surrounding the private 16 room boutique hotel nestled against the backdrop of the dramatic San Jacinto Mountains.   After all, what’s a good hotel here without a story?

Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king

A bathroom in one of the rooms. btw, all the rooms are different.   Photo: Jake Holt Photography

Originally designed by renowned modernist architect Albert Frey and built in 1960, the hotel re-opened in 2016, after a restoration by its current owners, Kathy and Gary Friedle, to its original mid-century modern design.  The space is very charming and makes you feel at home.  I think you might want to stay for more than one night. The outdoor space includes a lovely heated saltwater pool, the only Scandinavian Spa in the area including dry sauna, hot tub, seating areas and a Smeg retro fridge where guests are welcome to help themselves to the contents. A complimentary continental breakfast and sangria happy hour every day for guests.  What’s not to love?

Bonus: I love that Gary concocts his own teas which guests also have the privilege of sampling from the cart. There’s even a Palm Springs blend which smells heavenly.

Make your selection.  Just a few samples here.  All teas are carefully created in the property kitchen by Gary.  Photo: Jake Holt

The Monkey Tree is located less than a mile from the hustle and bustle Charlie Farrel’s famed Racquet Club. The hotel is a classic example of mid-century modern design and was a get-away for the celebrities who wanted to have some time away from the public.  Palm Springs lore has it that celebrity guests at The Monkey Tree Hotel have included: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Eric Clapton, Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder, and even a JFK and Marilyn visit (guarded at the private entrance of their suite by the secret service).

Entrance to the boutique.

Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king

In 1995, Albert Frey contacted the then owners of the hotel to ask if he could come by for a visit.  At the time, Frey was 92 years old and said that he had not visited the property since it was built.  He rode his bike the four miles from Frey House II where he was living to the hotel in a white polyester pantsuit and burnt orange shirt, arriving dapper as always.  As he toured the property, he shared his inspiration for the layout and design of the hotel with the current owners.  Frey was fascinated by the San Jacinto Mountains and found great inspiration in them. He intended the dramatic slanting roof lines to be in harmony and pay homage to the mountains and the Indians.

Photo: Kathy Friedle

ABOUT THE OWNERS (Kathy & Gary):

After obtaining her Master of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis in 1992, Kathy began her architecture career in New York City.  She worked for Gensler for 20 years in both design and management roles.  Her clients in New York included many prestigious law firms, a well-known California based talent agency and numerous advertising agencies.

Gary has been in the field of financial management for 25 years. He started his career working on a trading desk in New York City then worked with private wealth clients and most recently was the Chief Operating  Officer of a private wealth management firm.  Gary has a passion for long distance running and has participated in several (100-mile) ultra-marathons.

In 2015 an opportunity arose to purchase a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, and the timing and career change seemed right for them and their two teenage sons to try a new adventure on the west coast.  After seeing the great architectural bones of The Monkey Tree hotel they dove in to the restoration of the mid-century modern property which had been largely closed to the public since 1988.  Their first decision was to re-establish the original 1960 name of the hotel and to re-brand, and re-invigorate the property.

Outside the entrance.  Photo: Kathy Friedle

They did just that. I would definitely recommend this hotel.

For bookings:

https://www.themonkeytreehotel.com/

 

Palm Springs Places – Sparrows Lodge

Here’s another hidden gem I came across while out riding my bike.  I’ve seen the sign many times and now I’ve gone beyond the simple hand painted sign into what is a completely restored 1950’s style modern rustic retreat.  It’s warm, it’s simple and it’s very inviting.

Photo: d. king

History of the Lodge:

Originally built as Castle’s Red Barn in 1952 by MGM actor Don Castle and his wife Zetta, it was one of the original resort getaways for Hollywood elite. Legend has it that iconic actress Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) had her first marriage at the Red Barn. The property has also had incarnations as Catalina Palms, El Rancho Lodge and now Sparrows Lodge. The Lodge was fully restored in 2013 and many of the original buildings are still in use with modern updates retaining the charm of the original Red Barn.

The original Red Barn with kitchen exposed. Photo: d. king

The lodge has a communal barn, outdoor fire pit and vegetable garden, accented by a collection of fine art including works by Ruscha, Kelly, Katz & Baldessari. The 20 rooms feature exposed beam ceilings, russet red walls, concrete floors with inlaid pebbles and butterfly chairs. Swiss army blankets top plush mattresses, and instead of closets you’ll find a metal footlocker along with hooks and hangers. Bathrooms feature rain showers, and many include horse troughs as bathtubs. Most rooms have private patios. All rooms have AC/Heat and ceiling fans. With no televisions or phones in the rooms, there is an environment of ease and simplicity.

Photo: d. king

The Barn Kitchen

The kitchen is open daily for lunch from 11am – 6pm, serving delicious sandwiches, salads and small bites.

On “Chicken” Wednesdays and “Steak” Saturdays, the kitchen serves a family style supper for a select number of guests. The menu changes for each dinner. No substitutions or alterations. Reservations are required.

Chef Gabriel Woo has received accolades from the Wall Street Journal to Conde Nast Traveller. He was recently invited to cook at the James Beard House in 2019.

The bar remains open until 11pm everyday, serving a selection of microbrews, wine, champagne, specialty drinks and sodas. In the evening, gather around the fire-pit and meet new friends.

Photo: d. king

https://sparrowslodge.com/          Photo: d. king

1330 East Palm Canyon Drive (across from Koffi).
For reservations tel: 760 327 2300

History + Food taken from their website

Monday Mood: Mission Inn

HISTORY AND BEAUTY AROUND EVERY CORNER

I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting the unique and magnificent Mission Inn Hotel and Spa during this holiday season along with a splendid Festival of Lights that light up the hotel and surrounding areas.  Located in Riverside, California (about a 90-minute drive from Palm Springs with little traffic) and with only two more days until Christmas, let’s just say that this helped get me into the spirit. These photos barely do it justice.

Photo: d. king

The Cornerstone of Downtown Riverside

It is the most unique hotel in America. It’s a monastery, a museum, a fine hotel, a home, a boardinghouse, a mission, an art gallery and an aviator’s shrine. It combines the best features of all of the above. If you are ever in any part of California, don’t miss the famous Mission Inn of Riverside.” – Will Rogers

Photo: d. king

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, is a historic landmark hotel in downtown Riverside, California.  Many presidents (including President Kennedy) stayed there and Richard Nixon married Pat at this hotel.

Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king

The story of the Mission Inn stretches over more than a century and began with the Miller family, migrants to California from Tomah, Wisconsin.  In 1874, civil engineer C.C. Miller arrived in Riverside, began work on a water system, and with his family, began a small boarding house in the center of town.

The Mission Inn’s rise to greatness began in the late 1800’s when wealthy Easterners and Europeans flocked to Riverside in search of both a warmer winter climate and also a way to invest in the area’s profitable citrus industry. By the 1890’s, Riverside was the richest city per capita in the United States. The consistent influx of tourists to Riverside made Frank Miller, the Master of the Inn, recognize the dire need for a grand resort hotel.

It was in that moment that the evolution of The Mission Inn began. Frank Miller opened the first wing, The Mission, of his new hotel in 1903, which was built in Mission-Revival style architecture and incorporated different structural elements of the 21 California Missions. Mr. Miller went on to add three more wings to his hotel: the Cloister, the Spanish and the final addition, the Rotunda wing, in 1931.

Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1996, dates back to 1876.

Horse drawn carriages for a fairytale ride. Where’s my Prince?  Photo: d. king

 

Happy Holidays!

References:

https://www.missioninn.com/

https://missioninnmuseum.org/contact/careers/history-mission-inn-hotel-spa/

Header Photo (red ribbon on building) – d. king