Mildly Tipsy Hiking, or, A Salt Spring Island Weekend

If I had to summarize Salt Spring Island in a word or two, I’d use “delightfully kooky.” We were greeted at the Fulford ferry by our B&B host with a warm smile, and as we dragged our suitcases towards a dusty van she hollered, “I hope you don’t mind the back – I didn’t bother to put the seats back in.” What was in the van instead was about eight pounds of dirt and stone remnants, plus Steve, always the good sport.

Our host was kind and shared recommendations as we drove of places we should visit during our weekend stay on the island. We had planned to rent bikes and toodle around, but upon arrival at the B&B she insisted we take her van instead as we pleased. Being from Toronto and generally the type to insist on locking absolutely everything immediately, I was skeptical enough when she hopped out of the van and left the keys in the ignition. To hand over her only mode of transportation to two strangers she’d just met seemed ludicrous. But this was Salt Spring, home to some of the most laid-back and generous people I’ve met in my travels. So off we went in the van, after Steve dusted himself off and moved up front.

It was a warm Saturday and we had a hankering for wine. Once in Ganges we wandered the market and picked up picnic supplies – cheese, bread and apples. It was tasty and the views of the harbour with mountains nestled in the distance made for the perfect backdrop. But armed with a car and a limited window of time, we knew we had to get moving. Our first stop was Mistaken Identity Vineyards.

Glasses of wine on picnic table

After we sampled three red wines, we opted for a full bodied merlot and cracked it open on a picnic bench in the vineyard. In the warm sun I nursed a generous pour, savouring the flavours on my tongue as I soaked in the surroundings. I probably could have laid down on the bench and napped, but I’m sure the vineyard owners would have raised a few eyebrows and ushered me off the premises. Instead, we opted to drive over to the trailhead for Mount Erskine, which was standing guard over the vineyard and surrounding fields. Our host had recommended climbing the trail to the summit. “I think it’s a short climb,” she had said. Uh huh. I reluctantly left the bottle of merlot in the cup holder and off we went.

Never one to shy away from a mountain climb, Steve soldiered ahead like a machine as I huffed and puffed along. Three thoughts crossed my mind during those initial few minutes:

  1. “Damn girl, you’re out of shape. There’s hardly an incline here!”
  2. “Wait, this is at a higher altitude. Maybe you’re just winded from that.”
  3. “Maybe don’t knock back such a large glass of vino before hiking a mountain next time, champ.”

I’d like to say things got better, but damn that hike was long. And that mountain was actually high, who knew. It’s about a 400 m elevation game and a really steep climb. A pair of hikers making their descent gave us false hope with the ol’ “You’re almost there! Just a few more minutes!” Liars. By now I was concerned that I should have just brought the wine with me, for the van was very hot and the wine was probably uncomfortable. Then I remembered that the wine was not people and likely didn’t have feelings, and perhaps I should focus more on where my feet were moving.

Somehow I made it to the top. The views were well worth the effort:

Back of girl at top of mountain

Views from summit

Anxious to return the van, we hoofed it back down the mountain and I reunited with the merlot and promised to never leave it in a hot car again.

The rest of the weekend was spent being nice and lazy with books in the park, and eating more good food at the Tree House Café and El Loco Taco, a tasty Mexican food cart located right next to the Ganges marina. Time moves slowly on Salt Spring, and it’s well worth the visit to recharge your batteries.

Also the wine is excellent.

And the food.

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72 Hours in: Washington

Almost three years to the day we first met, Steve and I went back to Washington for a long weekend in April. This time, I didn’t make him carry (most of) my boxes and drive my ass around (how kind of me). It was rather surreal to retrace our steps and reflect on how we randomly crossed paths – for once, my lack of preparedness really paid off quite nicely. While we were saddened to see that the piano bar where we’d first chatted had unfortunately moved, the rest of the weekend was pretty swell. Here are six things I’d recommend checking out if you have some time to putter about in this gem of a city/if you’re mulling over the possibility of striking up a conversation with the attractive individual standing across from you at a work event and want stuff to do after.

Nationals Stadium and the Bullpen
Live music, cheap(ish) beers, food trucks and a great atmosphere – the Bullpen was a grand spot to pre-game before the Nationals clobbered the Phillies. While the beer and food wasn’t as great as Safeco Field, it was still a fun stadium and our cheap seats turned out to have pretty good views of not only the game, but also DC. Look at me reviewing baseball stadiums, who’d have thunk it.

Founding Farmers
This turned out to be a nice surprise – a restaurant dedicated to local, healthy and simple ingredients. Steve had what may have been the most Steve-est of menu items – grilled cheese and tomato soup – with a side of fries. I devoured cauliflower steak risotto. There were no leftovers. We also enjoyed a delicious bottle of Oregon pinot noir which we were delighted to be able to take home and enjoy when we were less exhausted. All in all, great service and delicious food, and nicely located near the White House should you feel inclined to check that out.

Cherry Blossoms
FINALLY (also hello, 32-for-32 item). I’ve missed these every time I’ve visited, so it was nice to catch the last blast before they got scorched in the April heatwave. Head’s up – every visitor to DC wants to look at these suckers. Allow for extra time, pack a lunch (or at least a snack) and practice your best friendly smile as you will accidentally photobomb a lot of people.

Eastern Market
After a sombre visit to the Holocaust Museum, I needed a bit of a pick-me-up and wandered over to the Eastern Market. It’s the city’s oldest continually operated fresh food market, and also has a flea market which was full of doilies. Seriously. Doilie-to-antique ratio was off the charts. If doilies are your thing, beeline here. If tacos are your jam (coughs), you will also find delicious ones just around the corner. Following a wander of the market where I smelled fresh flowers and sampled cheese, I strolled around the Capitol Hill neighbourhood and popped into the quaint shops. There’s some great graffiti to be spotted if you hunt out The Fridge DC, a neat little gallery (wander the alleys near Matchbox Pizza and you’ll find it). When you’re full of graffiti and ready for a snack, be sure to pick up some delicious cupcakes at the Sweet Lobby. Unfortunately, said cupcakes don’t travel well if you’re planning to be all fancy and surprise your manfriend with a sweet treat after a long workday. Instead, you’ll give him a delicious cupcake with a glob of half-melted icing slowly sliding off the side. Ta da…

Duke’s Grocery
Full English breakfasts, simple foods and bottomless mimosas with footie on the TV. A small neighbourhood joint near Dupont Circle, this was an absolute gem with an East London vibe, and a lovely spot to kick off our last day in DC. While the patio gets jammed early, the inside is bright and airy if you don’t mind sliding up to the bar. The coffee was also A+.

Hirshhorn Museum
I thought I’d be museum and gallery’d-out, but the Hirshhorn proved me wrong. Initially I was drawn to it because of the quirky nature of the building itself – it looks a bit like a spaceship plunked down in the middle of the National Mall. Admittedly I didn’t spend a lot of time inside (tacos were calling my name, and I was getting a bit hangry), but I was very impressed with the sculpture garden surrounding the museum (hello Rodin!). Next time I’m in DC I’ll ensure I make a stop here to fully appreciate it.

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Do you have a favourite DC recommendation? Leave a comment below!

In the City: Toronto Fringe Festival

An Evening in July

What: An Evening in July, a dark comedy now playing as part of Toronto Fringe Festival.

Where: St. George the Martyr Anglican Church, near Queen and John Streets in Toronto

When: Various times over the next three days; check Fringe Fest online for details

Good to Know: Tickets are $12 online, or $10 at the door (but you take your chances). Also, you’ll be moving around as the audience is “part” of the play. And you might become an active participant, although all in good fun.

The Scene: An Evening in July stars Gwynne Phillips and Briana Templeton from The Templeton Philharmonic as two reclusive sisters throwing a party. One part Grey Gardens, a dash of Toronto humour and improv, and some surprisingly heartfelt moments make for a very enjoyable experience.

Play time with parachutes!

Audience members become part of the action as party guests and wander in and out of the church and its beautiful gardens. And as a nice bonus, there’s a bar open throughout the performance, should you decide to join in and raise a glass to these kooky sisters. You’re also free to wander the set prior to the start of the show and check out the fun props – set aside some time to peruse the diary for a few chuckles.

This was my first Fringe performance (crazy, yes) and I thoroughly enjoyed it – get outside and enjoy the nice weather this weekend and some local talent!

Have you checked out a Fringe performance this year?