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The Comforts and Pleasures of Staying Put

REGION/COUNTRY: Westcoast, British Columbia, Canada
COMMENT: One of my fondest childhood memories is staying in winter with my parents, brother, aunt and uncle and cousins at Pinewoods Lodge in Manning Park


Manning Provincial Park. Photo: Terry Webb
Manning Provincial Park. Photo: Terry Webb

by Alison Appelbe


In my mind, our adjacent cabins were the epitome of comfort, and family meals in the lodge dining room a big deal. I can recall a night-time horse-drawn sleigh ride; some (shoddy) snowmen; and a ski hill that was little more than a few rope tows.


Today the Manning Park Resort—still set in a vast provincial park of rainforest and alpine Ponderosa pine, with good snowfall and frozen ponds in winter, and summer hiking on trails through meadows flooded with wildflowers—is an up-to-date place.


It’s (now) an easy two-and-a-half hour drive from Vancouver; the Manning Ski resort boasts two chair lifts, a tube park, terrain park and a T bar with 1500 vertical feet of skiing; and the deluxe cabins are outfitted with gas fireplaces and TV. An indoor swimming pool, hot tub and saunas have even been added since my day.


But the principle remains unchanged. Manning Park is one of innumerable BC destinations where a family, couple or city-stressed single can hole up for a rest, recreation and other pleasures. Whatever you call it —cocooning or escape—it speaks to a growing interest in “slow travel,” the idea that rather than spending your holiday time racing from place to place, just stay put and enjoy a peaceable location.


Cozying up on a Storm


When we landed in October on the Tofino airfield, on Vancouver Island’s west coast, the sun was shining. From my second-story bedroom in a villa at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort, I could see a dozen wet-suited surfers wrestling the waves.


That night, from the restaurant of the Long Beach Lodge—a five minute walk along the sands of Cox Bay (we used flashlights for the return walk)—we watched the sun set, the surfers straggle up the beach at dusk, and stars appear in a clean, black sky.


Mornings started with a laze in the soaker tub (with a view of the ocean), and a late-morning walk on the beach. We studied the 12-metre-long bull kelp, and mussel shells the size of a man’s fist. On a rocky outcrop at the end of Cox Bay, we ambled through a sun-dappled setting of cedar, salal, frothy ferns and bracken fungus.


On the second day, a storm blew in. Rains lashed the windows; the ocean looked quite out of control. Tofino chef Mark Wrigley was hired to come to our villa with a catered meal: while the weather played havoc, we sat down to a dinner that started with a fruit-and-cheese plate, included smoked salmon and several wines, and concluded with a hand-crafted dessert from a local chocolatier.

Villas onthe beach at Pacific Sands / Photo: Bob Herger
Villas onthe beach at Pacific Sands / Photo: Bob Herger

Outings included the Tofino Botanical Gardens, a massage at the Sacred Stone Wellness Studio in Tofino, and an hour spent poking around the village shops. But we never lost sight of the trip’s purpose: slowing down together in the comfort of a gorgeous coastal resort.


Sticking close to The Empress


For more than a century, Canada’s grand railway hotels have welcomed extended families, newly-weds, couples and friends into their considerable bosoms. Many stay close to the resort; some return year after year. The Fairmont Empress in Victoria is no exception.


My Empress room, with a view of the Inner Harbour, was large and comfortable. I loved the hotel’s turn-of-the-century décor and explored the lounges filled with period yet practical furniture, and hallways lined with historic photos of visiting British royalty.


I spent an evening over cocktails in the evocative Bengal Lounge with a journalist friend, and dined in the admittedly indulgent Empress Room, gushing over the regionally-sourced cuisine, quality wines, live harp music, and pampering service.


The farthest I ventured was to Victoria’s streets beyond the old city centre—from Johnson to Herald streets, and up Fort Street to Cook—with chic eateries and funky shops. Victoria’s looking pretty young these days. But the stately Empress, lively and Zen-like, kept drawing me back.


Settling in for the Ice Wines


Last winter, I booked, with like-minded imbibers, into the Delta Sun Peaks Resort (hotel) at the larger Sun Peaks Resort, north of Kamloops. In summer, Sun Peaks is about golf, biking, hiking and exploring the landscape. In mid-January, most guests are skiing. But we were there for the Icewine Festival, the winter Okanagan Wine Festival, with an emphasis on late-harvest wines and ice wines (the festival runs each January).


Events take place throughout the village, offering an opportunity to check out the differing hotels. We made our way to the tastings and seminars, via outdoor pathways connecting each locale.


A few of my friends took an afternoon off for skiing or dog-sledding. I devoted myself pretty entirely to the wine, learning to appreciate “the fruit notes,” and the reason for pairing, say, a Naramata Bench blue cheese with a St. Hubertus pinot blanc.


If I over-indulged, I could retreat to my room for a nap. When a sensible bowl of soup was called for, I ventured down to Delta’s inviting Mantles Restaurant.


At the Wine Masters dinner in the Delta ballroom all the stops came out. Servings of Nova Scotia lobster salad, grilled beef tenderloin with sweet-potato gratin, and a Stilton brulée followed by a dark chocolate ginger terrine, were each paired with one or two wines. Bless the hotel. A taxi was unnecessary.


Vegging in the Okanagan Heat


There’s nothing like the intense, dry heat of an Okanagan summer, and I soaked it up at the lakeside Manteo Resort, situated in Kelowna on the east side of Okanagan Lake.


I took to the lakeside pool, and warmed to the resort’s trendy Wild Apple Grill.


Manteo is nearby some of my favourite wineries—so I scooted with a fellow wine-seeker north to Gray Monk Estate Winery for a cheese-and-meat platter on the serene veranda, and south to CedarCreek winery for an award-winning gewürztraminer.


Kelowna’s nearly 16 km Mission Creek Greenway walking and cycling path wends from the lakeshore, near Manteo, past the Father Pandosy Mission and along the ravine below the Kelowna Land and Orchard site (with wagon rides through the orchards) all the way to Layer Cake Mountain.


However, during my Manteo stay, I didn’t walk further than the Pandosy Mission. In the interest of slow travel, I had to get back to my chaise lounge.


For more on British Columbia’s destinations and travel information, call 1-800 HELLO BC® (North America) or visit www.HelloBC.com

Manning Park Lodge, www.manningpark.com
Pacific Sands Beach Resort, www.pacificsands.com
Fairmont Empress, www.fairmont.com
Delta Sun Peaks Resort, www.deltahotels.com
Manteo Resort, www.manteo.com

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