Sunday, 26 January 2014

Harrison Hot Springs

Matthew took me to Harrison Hot Springs this weekend, for my birthday, but also because it's so nice to escape the city once in a while. We left on Friday night, from our place (avoiding tolls) to Harrison it took about 2 and a half hours. To be honest, the first 45 minutes of that was getting from 16th Avenue to 70th Avenue!! Friday night traffic...

It was pitch black when we rolled into Harrison, and we were tickled to discover that there were still town Christmas lights up, and a Christmas tree in the main square! So picturesque, if a bit inappropriate. Because we didn't check in to the hotel until 8:30pm, we were keen to explore dinner options asap, as there is not a lot of night life in the countryside. We located the famed Black Forest Schnitzel Haus at exactly 8:50pm, which was a stroke of luck, as the place closes at 9pm! Matthew had a German beer, pork schnitzel and bratwurst, and I had a vegetarian schnitzel. Yes, such things exist.

Random life-size bear.

Matthew and a hard-earned thirst.

Me with a very large Bavarian-inspired meal.
We stayed at the Ramada, because it was very cheap, cheerful, and central. It was not fancy, but it was comfy enough. In the morning we awoke (late) to the most glorious streaming sunshine. It was warm (an almost-tropical 10 degrees celsius), sunny and not very windy the whole time we were there.We got breakfast at a diner which was like pretty crumby but we didn't get food poisoning so that's a plus. And they toasted my bagel so it was warm, and that's also a plus. After breakfast we did some gift-shop 'sploring in and out of the sunshine.

The view from our hotel room.
By far the most magical shop was the nut shop. It was more like an open produce stand. Out front were lawn chairs, fruit boxes, and large carved garden ornaments. Inside were roasted hazelnuts, flavoured honeys, and nut butters. The shopkeeper gave us free samples of everything and in return, we bought most things. Harrison and surrounds is a hazelnut farming area, so on the drive back out of town today, we noticed field upon field planted with large, naked (it's winter time), hazelnut trees. They were very tasty, especially the twice-roasted nuts, and the homemade hazelnut brittle. Actually we didn't have lunch on Saturday, we were too busy eating hazelnuts.

We retired to the hotel at about 2pm, lounged until 3, and then hit the hot-tub and steam-room. It wasn't very busy, so we mostly had the place to ourselves. The view from the hot-tub was lovely: blue sky and pine-forested mountainside. We parboiled and steamed ourselves for approximately an hour, and when I had achieved a singular lobster shade, we hopped out and cooled off.

By that time, it was cocktail hour, so we fined-up (dress and shirt, but not much more effort than that), and located the bar in the fancy hotel around the corner (the one we couldn't actually afford to stay at). We had some very delicious martinis, and stayed a goodly distance away from the unromance of the hockey screens. It was civilised.

Then we arrived at dinner, on The Esplanade, at Morgan's Bistro. It was really delightful. The service was attentive, the food was interesting, and the atmosphere was clean and cozy. I had the only vegetarian option on the menue, eggplant, for which I am eternally grateful. It was silken heaven. Matthew had Duck Two Ways. Yep. And we both had a lovely local pinot noir/merlot.

Sorry about the demonic red eyes.
Because it is the countryside, we were all done with dinner by 9pm. There wasn't much to do, since we had already been to the bar before dinner, so we returned to the hotel room, and ate ginger chocolates straight from the box (a very welcome birthday gift from Gramma). (We also explored the hotel's cable TV, however it was across-the-board appalling, so I'm just including this info in here to remind myself to avoid in all futures.)

This morning (Sunday), we buffet-breakfasted overlooking Harrison Lake, a most splendid view. We then went for a walk the beach and out to the end of the pier (into the Sea Plane Zone! but there were no landings).

"Matthew, there's a plug in the lake!" (I'm a moron, as Matthew gently informed me, this is to stabalise the jetty...)
 After our walk, we zero'd in on the only antique shop in Harrison. The owner was an Australian gent who had experienced great woes. We couldn't stay long because we had to check out of the hotel, and we received the best of all recommendations from the hotel staff to check out a local cheese factory! It was brilliant. There was a large window into the cheesemaking room, and we got some yoghurt, a stilton-like blue, and a fragrant and rind-y gruyere.

 On the quiet road to the cheese shop we passed an open field with two huge bald eagles, just chillin'. One was eating a carcas, and the other was looking on. They were a good distance from the road, but they were so large. It was a very special sight.

We had intended to explore the neighbouring village of Agassiz, but it was all closed on a Sunday (Boooo Agassiz. Shame on you!!) so instead we antiques our little hearts out. Rusty's antiques, at the junction between Harrison and Agassiz, was named after a petite ginger cat. She let us pat her, and we bought two wine glasses and a curiosity cabinet (for select pieces in Matthew's Warhammer collection). 

New bff.
We headed to Mission, and likewise it was pretty closed and sleepy. We got to the end of the main street, and were just about to drive off into the sunset, when we noticed an antique shop. We pulled over hastily, and made a thorough exploration. We narrowly avoided buying a large Venetian(-style) tapestry and some pastel-coloured pyrex kitchenware. It was very tempting.

Looking down the main street of Mission.

Yet more antiques. (Note little chihuahua seated on the antique chair out front. Very friendly.)
 The drive between Harrison and Maple Ridge was breathtakingly beautiful, but sadly too difficult to capture with the camera. There were local green hills and further-away snow-covered mountains in every direction, and the most picturesque winding rivers full of logs, swans, and rippling wavelets. It is really quality countryside.

At Maple Ridge we decided it was coffee-time, so out of desperation we pulled into a mall Starbucks. We were then inspired to do our shopping, because you know when you've been away and you get home and all you have left is a piece of moldy bread and some off cheese?

At home this evening we got stuck into the new cheese with a generously proportioned ploughman's platter for dinner (read: neither of us could be bothered cooking).

I am proud of the modest success of our weekend away. We didn't go far, and we didn't spend much, and yet we had a really relaxing time, saw some brilliant countryside and tasted some interesting food. My warmest and most heartfelt gratitude to Matthew, who so always instinctively knows how to show me a good time, for driving, antiquing, and spoiling me all weekend. I love you.

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