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This year our trip to the Okanagan was like no other. We were here to get away and relax. No planned excursions, no big dinners, just quite days and solitary nights. We didn’t even drink a drop of wine, even though we were surrounded by wineries left and right. Everyday it was a new scene and everyday there was new scenery to take in.

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During this trip I took a true vacation, an escape from my 9-5 and my from blogging. So I warn you all, there will not be much on food. Our meals mostly consistent of beach concession, pre-made grocery store take-out, and fast food from the popular chains. Going anywhere new and interesting forces to me blog about it, and my blogging is not a quick affair. So I took a hiatus and did not dare tempt myself.

So without further ado, this is the 2015 account of our annual trip to the Okanagan. Seeing as tourists spend hundreds and travel great distances to visit one of the best wine areas in the world, it would be a shame if we didn’t take advantage of it ourselves. Especially it being in our backyard and all. So here we are again, Penticton 2015.

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It is about a four hour drive from Vancouver to the Okanagan. The journey starts with a trip through our newest toll bridge, the Port Mann. Though I guess, if we have to pay to cross it, I am glad they make it an enjoyable drive.

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We came back to the “Rodack guest house”, an air B&B, that we stayed at last year. This is our second year here and we are already planning for our third the following year. Our first time was for only two nights, this year we stayed four, and next year we are looking forward to seven nights. I like the idea of feeling homey away from home. Peace and quiet away from other tourists and the formality of a hotel.

To our delight, the suite now came with some new upgrades. This year there was a shared BBQ, a patio set for two, and curtains on the deck for some seclusion. Though at the same time, this year we found ourselves watch a lot more television late at night. Sort of a waste considering what was right outside and how the sun rises early.

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Our stay with owners Rod and Jack, included a complimentary bottle of wine and some fresh Okanagan grown fruit. It was very nice welcome package, best enjoyed while taking in the view through the bedroom.

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The view from the patio includes the Okanagan lake in the distance and many acres of farm land below. The way the houses are built, on elevated ground, creates several breathtaking view points. Each home sat on its own, raised layers ascending towards the water. Like a movie theatre built with unobstructed views in mind. We would spent all our mornings having bagels and orange juice here, and our nights drinking beers and playing with our electronic devices.

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For essentially a home spun operation, “Rodack” really go the distance to give you that hotel feel. The washroom aloe speaks to this professionalism. Fresh and fluffy hotel quality towels, little bottles of shampoo and matching bottles of body lotion, wrapped individual rounds of soap, and toilet paper pointed at their ends; even the toilet seat is sealed to insure you that it has been fully sanitized for your personal use. Our favourite feature was the rubber soled shower stall, it is one of the most comfortable stand up showering experience you can have out here.

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Many homes such as the one we were staying at, rent out their guest bedrooms to visitors for some extra money. Our suite wa very reasonable, $420 for four nights. They also have lower suite available for rent. It is two bedrooms and two baths, a large living area, and a full kitchen for more.

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The best part about this guest house is its location. It is close to town, but far enough to not have the loud music and bright lights of the city take away from the country calm. It is also adjacent to the “Penticton” sign on Muncton Mountain. It makes for a great hike. You can literally climb and sit on the sign. But from afar you are no more than a speck of dirt on the spay painted, white block letters spelling out “P-E-N-T-I-C-T-I-O-N” across the mountains.

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Our trip usually coincides with Peachfest, a festival that includes a large gathering of tourist and events planned around the beach. Though ironically we usually avoid such gatherings. We do appreciate all the energy and the liveliness that the tourists visiting bring. But not necessarily the crowds and the attractions that bring them in. This includes the amusement rides, the tented vendors, and the outdoor concerts. Though if you really listened, you could hear instruments sounding from the heart of down town to our guest house high above.

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The only thing we did in line with the fest, was to stop at Skaha Beach to check out the sandcastle competition. We were disappointed that it was an amateur competition, and not many of the sculptures were actually of castles. The noteworthy ones was the city scape of Penticton, including its “Hollywood” style “Penticton” sign. A homage to the popular fictional characters, the minions. And my favourite, a octopus with perfectly raised suction cups on each of its eight tentacles.

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We always make an effort to view and appreciate all the local wildlife. My partner particularly appreciates water fowl, so can’t miss an opportunity to bond with ducks.

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I prefer the more exotic quails with their cute chirps and sculpted head piece. They are everywhere and if you can’t see them, you can at least hear their distinct call.

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Having seen many deers in years past, and even one roaming the busy streets of downtown on a Friday night; we were disappointed to not see any deers our first fill day here. But finally, in broad daylight, we eventually drove past our first deer spotting, in the Penticton community garden. They typically travel in groups, a mother and her young, sometimes a buck is included too.

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Locals with gardens or farmers with crops may find these deer pests. We on the other hand consider them a wanted neighbour when we visit. A perk for visiting the area.

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Though the easiest and most effective way to spot deers is by driving up the valley late at night. When the dark is upon the roads and the sounds of crickets chirping rises that’s when the deers come out with no fear.
There are also signs warn of moose, mountain goats, and rattlesnakes crossing, but we saw none of the above this time around. In the past, wee only saw goats once, and let me tell you: they sure can run up a steep hill fast.
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Penticton is known as the city between two lakes. Skaha lake has Penticton on one end and the town of OK Falls on the other. Similarly Okanagan lake has Penticton on one end and Vernon on the other. Majority of our days were spent at Skaha lake, in Penticton. The red sand beaches of Skaha was our favourite. Here it gets so hot that it burns to walk across it barefoot. We lay in the sun until we start to sweat, then head to the water to cool off, only to start the process again and again. The two days we were at the beach were not the sunniest, but even with the slight cloud cover the weather was hot enough to burn backs and shoulder. Playing in the cooling and reflective water, thinking it is not hot enough to need sunscreen is what gets you.

If you are willing to move about, you can eventually find a quite patch of sand to plant your towel or blanket on. Our trick is to avoid other set ups that include children playing, anything that is close to the water’s edge; or any space directly in front of the floating platform. A small dock that kids like to climb up and jump off of repeatedly. The goal is to find somewhere peaceful to be able to fall asleep in.

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There are no life guards at this beach, but with no currents to wash you under, you are pretty safe. Just stay behind the row of orange buoys, anchored to indicate extreme drop off zones. The calm waters are perfect for stand up paddle boarding, kite surfing and Flyboarding. The last two were offered as rentals, but I guess stand up paddle boarding is more of a “Vancouver” thing. Flyboarding is like propulsion skateboarding on and in the water. It is done using a type of water jetpack attached to a board that you strap on.

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We spent our entire morning and afternoon here, so when we got hungry we also ate here. The beach had a lot to offer between roaming food trucks, stationary carts, or the classic concession stand. We choose the latter as ordering from it definitely adds to the beach vibe.

The concession ran under “Tickleberry’s”, the local ice cream specialists. They also owned a few snack shops in the area, all under the same banner. All their ice cream flavours were home made. They did classics like chocolate and vanilla, and dabbled in the unique like a monkey peanut butter and a neon yellow banana. Sadly there were no samples on the beach, and the line up dissuaded me from even asking for one. Their ice cream was good on its own, but having it while on vacation, in beautiful weather made it all the more better.

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My first cone is of their “Tiger Tiger” flavour, a sweet orange and spicy liquorice mix spun together to this desired colour. In the spirit of honest and full disclosure, my two scoops treat fell into the water. I didn’t think to bring my phone to the concession stand, and wouldn’t dare of eating ice cream without first taking a photo of it. So found myself briskly waking across the beach in my bikini. With my feet starting to sting from the heat of the sand I darted in and out of the water. Whist speedily walking to decrease melting and excessive exposure in a two piece (because even though we look good, no one wants to be stared at wearing barely nothing). Enroute my ice cream fell out of its waffle cone cradle and right into the water. Not knowing what to do, I quickly picked up the dissolving blob of milk and cream and plopped it right back onto the cone. You can’t litter on the beach or in the water, especially with so many people watching, right? I made eye contact with a few beach goers who laughed at my misfortune. This photo commemorates what was left of my treat. In the end I shook the ice cream out and ate the waffle cone as is. I had to pay 50 cents more for a waffle cone, so I was going to eat it. I definitely got some sand in there as well.

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Less dramatic is my second cone on the second day. Learning my lesson from the first attempt, here is the photo taken at the concession stand. It was so hot that the ice cream was immediately runny.

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From the concession stand we also had a “specialty poutine”. What made them so special was that the fries were double battered. Each fry was coated in a KFC-like crispy breading, then covered in gravy, and sprinkled over with cheese curds. Not very traditional, but hence forth this will be one of my favourite poutines.

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Hot dog and fries are also a staple of outdoor eating. I find them the best enjoyed on a beach.

 

Would I come back? -Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I cherish my annual trip and always look forward to many returns. But first there is more, to be continued in “Part 2 – Kelowna”.