May 30, 2013

On the road again!

For the next few weeks I'll be "out west" so, in addition to the occasional story about whisky, wine and food, I'll throw in some other travel related snippets. Don't despair if you're back in Ottawa and itching for a whisky or wine tasting. My trusty colleague, Geoff, is also leading GrapeScot events, so don't hesitate to email me if you have something in mind.
I'm in a place which I know to be beautiful, but so far a dreich (also spelled driech - go figure), damp misty rain has been falling pretty continuously, obscuring any geographical  beauty and attempting to dampen my spirits (not the whisky kind). If I hadn't given it away with the "out west" hint, you might have thought "she's in Scotland again", but no, I'm in another damp part of the world.

Vancouver claims about 47 inches of rain per annum, just slightly less than Paisley, near Glasgow. Now, I know that May can be a wet kind of month, so I'm very hopeful that things will pick up in the near future. Encouragement came from our landlady's request to add a cup of water to the balcony plants every couple of days. Right now, I'm wondering how to wring out the soil, so that the planters don't keel over in a saturated lump.
Lest I offend my new Vancouverite friends, not to mention my Scottish relatives, let me say immediately that this is a wonderful base for some BC discovery. Our 4th floor apartment, on West 10th Avenue, has occasionally offered up magnificent views of English Bay, Grouse mountain, Cypress mountain, many other mountains and downtown Vancouver. We're told that it will be a great place to be for July 1st fireworks.

The apartment is splendid although it comes with many rules and security features, involving numerous keys, fobs and instructions. It's only a matter of time before one of us gets locked in or out of someplace.
Those who followed my stories from Ain, in France,  seven years ago, will recall the infamous story of Gerald, locked for hours inside an unlit parking garage. Coincidentally, I came across the entire collection of my Ain stories last week, written in the days before I had a website, and sent by email to interested  friends. I'm thinking of posting them on this website, since they involve many wine musings.
When we arrived in Vancouver, last weekend, the weather was actually splendid for a day, so we did lots of walking and wandering around Vancouver's vast network of waterfront trails, including Stanley Park and Granville Island.

Later, we soaked up some gorgeous views from the aforementioned balcony, while sipping an obligatory and wonderful glass of BC wine. The Okanagan Valley is on the agenda, so there will be specific winespeak about that trip.
Craig's list produced two excellent and inexpensive bicycles. I rode mine back to the apartment in a steady rain and managed to get black oil all over my red Goretex jacket, while attempting and failing to lift it onto a bike rack designed for giants. Anyway, rain or shine, I have a huge bike trail map of Vancouver and a new helmet, which at $14.99 is certain to be super safe, so muscled hamstrings are in my future. Increased muscle power is generally unavoidable with all the wonderful hills and inclines in this city.
Yesterday, I set off on a slightly damp, but enjoyable morning run, only to realize 20 minutes into it that I had been steadily descending!
Exercise will be mightily important to offset all the great BC food and wine, waiting to be sampled.
Sandbar Restaurant Granville Island
BC Liquor Laws are a little more flexible than Ontario Liquor Laws, but only just. In addition to  BC liquor stores, there are 47 private liquor stores in Vancouver and hundreds more, across the Province. Apparently that's too many, as no new private liquor store applications will be considered until 2022. As in Ontario, liquor can't be sold in grocery or corner stores. Private liquor stores have to buy their products from authorized sources. They can't just go off and buy directly from a small chateau in France or a wee distillery in Scotland. So, between necessary markups to stay in business and impressive alcohol taxes, prices can be quite hefty.  Of course the whole point of private stores is that they generally stock different stuff and consumers enjoy greater choice.  Liberty Wine Merchants  in our neighbourhood, has a fine array of wines, both BC and international, and an impressive selection of whiskies. They're starting to recognize me. I'm only browsing!
Bruichladdich gin still
Hefty pricing is not exclusive to private stores. As an example, and with an unwitting shout-out to LCBO buying power, I noticed that Bruichladdich The Botanist Gin - a fine Islay product, which sells at near distillery pricing of around $45 at the LCBO, is close to $58 in BC liquor stores and $60 at our local private store.
All of that aside, we're heading off to Vancouver Island tomorrow for a bit of weekend walking, eating and whale watching.
Whales from another trip - guess where.
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One of the reasons we're here.
 Have a great weekend, wherever you are. Oh look, it's raining again!