Sirens of the Sea – Part 2

A year ago I wrote a less than flattering blog on a dining experience at Sirens of the Sea in Davis Bay. As you can imagine, living in a small community, I took a bit of heat for my criticism, both in person and through comments left on my blog.

But I was simply stating the facts.  This blog is all about providing an honest guide for visitors to the Sunshine Coast. The dining experience didn’t measure up to my expectations and I wasn’t about to cover it up for fear of offending someone.

 I was back there today and I’m pleased to say that “up” is the operative word, as in they have definitely picked things up. First off, their Bennies … now made with freshly prepared Hollandaise and two perfectly poached eggs, cooked exactly as ordered. This one, called an ABC came with a fresh, sliced Avocado, some crisp Bacon, and delicately sprinkled with Chives.  It was accompanied with, as you can see from the image, a very, very generous helping of roasted potatoes. Tasty indeed, but far too many for my waistline… some more fresh fruit would have been my preference.

It was just a bit before noon and while my dining partner ordered breakfast I was more interested in exploring other parts of the menu. The chicken wrap was one of the specials for the day so I gave it a try and as the saying goes “I wasn’t disappointed.” The chicken had been seasoned, battered and deepfried giving it a flavourful crunch which paired off nicely with a healthy portion of crisp lettuce. A tangy, creamy sauce brought these two elements together quite nicely. It also came with the requisite generous portion of hand cut fries, of which I was only able to eat less than half. But I confess, I could have ordered a more healthy salad instead.

So having come back to the Sea, I can now honestly say that I will return again. The food was well prepared, the service prompt and friendly, and the cost of our brunch quite reasonable… two thumbs up!!

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The return of the rolling bistro to the Davis Bay Seawall

Two years ago I was featured on the Food Network, filling my face with a delicious crab cake. They were filming “Eat Street,” a new series on international food carts and I had been invited by the owners of Feastro the Rolling Bistro to stop by to add a little local colour. The publicity from that series landed the Feastro a coveted food cart licence in Vancouver, where they have now been operating for two years,  and while that was good for them, I felt a little like a bride abandoned at the alter.

But all that has changed. There’s a new rolling bistro in my life and I’m lovin’ it. The Lighthouse Pub, recently named as one of the best places in BC to watch the Canucks, have cloned their creative kitchen into Lighthouse on Location and have set up their rolling food cart on the Davis Bay Seawall.

Location, location, location is a large part of the success of any business and  the Davis Bay Seawall is one of the finest on the planet. With mind-blowing views looking across Georgia Strait to the mountains of Vancouver Island, and plenty of inviting driftwood logs to lean up against while enjoying the sun, it’s a pretty cool place to enjoy some fine cooked food.

This magnificent location has inspired the menu and seafood is a big part of their offerings. The small menu includes Baha Fish Tacos, Smoked Salmon Chowder, Fish & Chips, and for the carnivores, a choice of either Philly Cheesesteak or Pulled Pork Tacos. I ordered the Fish Tacos and was not disappointed… a perfectly cooked piece of fish with a crisp slaw and freshly prepared salsa.

I’m already planning my next lunch and I know I’ll work my way through the menu many times throughout the summer. Mmmm… I wonder if I can get them to add fish cakes to the menu? Stay posted.

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Coracle Cove – hot tub offers more than a great view

A recent Trip Advisor review for Coracle Cove was headlined “Best view from a hot tub in BC!”  We’ll let you look at the accompanying picture and you can judge for yourself, but as you read this blog, we hope that you’ll learn that there’s more to a good hot tub than a great view.

We brought our hot tub in by a barge and used a crane to set it up on our waterside deck, just a few feet from the briny ocean.  There is an incredible view throughout the day and well into the night - a variety of work boats, sail boats, motor boats and kayaks pass by during the day; the water changes from flat calm in the early morning to gentle ripples as the first sun strikes the water; lights from the distant shore twinkle across the water as the evening sky darkens.

We know that our hot tub is an important part of the Coracle Cove experience and we take extra steps to ensure that the water is professionally managed to ensure that it is a completely pleasant experience.

Typically, hot tubs are treated with a mix of harsh chemicals which can irritate sensitive skin. Instead, we use Spa Solution, an enzyme based spa conditioner which is an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-allergenic compound . An ozonator is used to naturally oxidize any contaminants. Each week, we take a water sample into Watermaster  where it is computer analyzed to ensure that it is sanitary and properly balanced.

We want our guests to have a completely enjoyable experience at Coracle Cove and we understand that a hot tub should offer much more than a great view.

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Sechelt Market – new location, great ambience

The Sechelt Market re-opened last weekend and I wanted to check out their new location.  They’ve moved to a quiet little area of downtown with lots of nearby parking. Both ends of the street are blocked off,  adding to a great ambience that just lends itself to a leisurely Saturday morning stroll to check out the products offered by over 80 vendors.

The Market is a great place to find fresh, locally grown food products as well as some of the work of our large population of local Artists. Jon Bell, shown below was one of the leaders  who worked to facilitate the new location.  In addition to keeping me supplied with rhubarb and arugula, he makes a fantastic slow-cooked Highland Marmalade and if you ask nicely, he’ll tell you the secret ingredient in his recipe.

Many of the food vendors have jams and preserves for sale and I was most interested in a little jar of wild nettle pesto offered next door to Jon. Further down the line, local beekeeper Martin Cook had a variety of honeys for sale .

Next door to the beekeeper I found this wonderful collection of aromatic hand made soaps and lotions… mmm, I wonder whose birthday is coming up?

… and if you’re in the need for a new coffee cup for that early morning java fix there are several talented potters to choose from. I love the warm natural colours.

© Getty Images

 There are also three or four very talented photographers at the Market and one of my favourites is Peggy Collins. I get a lot of inspiration from Peggy’s work and always make a point of stopping to talk with her. Peggy has just produced her first e-book and has it listed on Amazon.  Her macro image of the fern below is a promising reminder that we’re approaching fiddle head fern season… now what did I do with that recipe??

© Getty Images

The Sechelt Market is always an enjoyable and relaxing Saturday morning activity, as well as a place to pick up a special food item which can often inspire an entire menu for an evening dinner. Check out this recent blog for such a dinner.

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Back to Sedona for more Photography

I confess… I’ve fallen off schedule with my blogging these past few months… just been having too much fun, I guess - Kauai last month and now just back from ten days in Sedona. But I did work pretty hard at getting some great pictures and that’s what this blog’s all about.

We used Photographing the Southwest as our guide book for an intensive ten days of hiking and photography and it was a great resource for planning the best locations for the best shots. The above image was taken just 15 minutes into West Fork a beautiful trail that crosses back and forth over a small creek.

The next day we followed a scenic and well maintained gravel road for about 45 minutes to Palatki Heritage Site. This approach from the east was a wise choice, affording us spectacular views of the red rocks which surround Sedona.

Palataki is a cliff-dwelling site believed to have been settled 800-1000 years earlier, although some of the petroglyphs are estimated to be 5,000 to 6,000 years old.

We were a week or two early to see much in the way of desert flowers, but I did manage to capture these little purple fellows on a short hike in Marg’s Draw, just ten minutes from Uptown Sedona.

Of course no set of images from Sedona would be complete without this iconic shot of Cathedral Rock. This is one of the most famous images of the Southwest and I had to have it, even if it meant  standing in an ankle deep, glacier fed creek for almost an hour waiting for the late afteernoon sun to dip down low enough to paint the rocks with a rusty-red hue.

But the real bonus of the trip was this final shot as I was heading back to the car. I think it’s my favourite.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – # 5 – The Sechelt Sea Wall

The seawall in front of Sechelt is one of my favourite walks and I visit it throughout the year. I captured this image during a set of repeated early morning visits a few years ago. I love the intense colours of a winter sunrise and the sun was rising just far enough to the south-east to light up the entire sky over Trail Bay. The winter sun rises a little later in the morning so it wasn’t too much of a struggle to get to the seawall, each morning with enough time to get set up and watch this magical light show take place.

More often than not, however, the real attraction of the Sechelt Seawall for me is the opportunity to get in a very pleasant half-hour’s exercise with an interesting and incredibly scenic walk. My walk usually starts at Snickett Park with its beautiful large-rock outcroppings and views of the Trail Islands.  There are a few heritage cottages at this end of the seawall. Killarney Cottage and Kwitcherkicken were built almost a century ago when Sechelt was a stopping point for the old Union Steamships that travelled up and down the coast

photo courtesy of Sunshine Coast Tourism

Halfway along the seawall is the grand Tori Gate, built in 2002 by the Timber Framers Guild of North America as a gift to the community. The Tori Gate serves as an entrance to the Sechelt Pier which provides a great vantage point to look back at Sechelt. There’s an interesting set of pictures depicting how the shoreline looked during the Union Steamship days, and includes a historical description of the various buildings.  The seawall continues along through the Sechelt Indian Band Lands, where you’ll often see fishing nets hanging up to be repaired. There are a few small totem carvings along the way but the real treat can be found at the end of the seawall. There you’ll find  five majestic totems staring resolutely out to the ocean.  The totems were carved in the mid 1980′s to honour each of the four tribes which came together to form the Sechelt Nation, and the fifth to celebrate their achievement of self-government status, one of the first Indian Bands in Canada to do so. The Sechelts have carved over 25 totems over the past few decades and these five are fine examples of this beautiful west coast art form.Follow this link to learn more about our B&B www.coraclecove.com

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – The Birding signs of Spring on the Sunshine Coast

We’re hearing lots of old familiar sounds these days, more signs that the winter season is giving way to Spring. This Song Sparrow is one of the earliest singers and also one of my favourites. He has a beautiful song, with several bright notes followed by a sequence of warbles and trills . Listen to this recording - you may recognize it as one you’ve been hearing recently.

In nearby Sargeant Bay, the red-wing Blackbirds have been singing for a month. It is the males who sing in the birding world,  to both announce territory and attract their mate. The blackbird not only has a distinctive song but also flashes its brightly coloured shoulder markings while issuing its territorial call.  Red-wing Blackbirds can be found in marshy areas and often perched upon the furry seed heads of long cattails.

The Woodpecker family doesn’t sing but that doesn’t stop the males from drawing attention to themselves as they seek their mating partner. Instead, they drum upon trees and snags in the early Spring to announce their presence.

The most obvious is the drumming of the Northern Flicker with its impressive red slash across its cheeks. This common species inhabits our gardens and has discovered that drumming on chimneys and metal flashing produces a louder sound.

While homeowners ofter worry that these birds are drilling into the wood of their houses, this is not the case, but rather an ageless courting ritual that does no damage.  One way to get a closer view of these colourful and interesting birds is to hang a feeder filled with a suet mixture, as we’ve done here. Be sure to have your camera ready.

Special thanks to Tony Greenfield for the inspiration behind this blog and the opportunity to share some of my birding images (click on images for a larger view.) Tony has been birding on the Sunshine Coast for over 30 years and leads birding groups on the first Sunday of each month. Contact us for more details.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #4 – Homesite Creek Waterfalls

My B&B guests hiked into the waterfalls at Homesite Creek this past weekend and gave it a definite two thumbs up.  So the next day we set off with our backpack loaded with camera and a picnic lunch to check it out.

Homesite Creek is located north of Sechelt in Halfmoon Bay. Follow Highway 101 about 3km past the north end of Redroffs Road and watch for the small sign on the left of the highway. Take the trail to the left and follow the small arrows. You’ll  reach the falls in about 20 minutes.

The hike is best in the late Winter/early Spring when there’s lots of water flowing in the creek, and there was a pretty strong flow when we were there.  We could feel a definite force of air when we were down beside the falls, and it was a bit of a challenge creating these images without too much mist fogging up my lens.

We followed an easy trail up to the top of the falls where I was able to compose this third image using a very slow shutter speed to exaggerate the movement of the water. This was also a  good place for us to stop for our picnic lunch. We could enjoy the both the sight and sounds of the moving water as well as the verdant green of the moss-draped cedars in the mist-filled air above the falls.

This was another great hike and met all of the criteria to be included in the Sunshine Coast Walking Holidays Collection - it’s just a short drive away; it can be done in under an hour; and you’ll enjoy some magnificent scenery. Follow this link to read about some of our suggested walking experiences.

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Tripping through Indonesia with Trip Advisor – Yogyakarta, Java

Arriving in Yogyakarta, after three weeks in the rural landscapes of Bali and Lombok was definitely a change and this busy street scene speaks volumes to what we found. Scooters and motorcycles are the main form of transportation, together with bicycles, often laden with goods going to market.  Together they manage to weave in and out of traffic, like a carefully choreographed ballet. Indonesia also has the largest population of all the Muslim countries, and the five scheduled calls to prayer throughout the day were a comforting backdrop to the busyness of this large city.

Yogykarta has been described as the soul of Java. As the rest of this powerhouse island continues to modernize, Yogya maintains a careful balancing act between old and new, sustaining a slower, more conservative way of life in the quiet kampung that thrive only a stone’s throw from the throbbing main streets. And this is where our Trip Advisor research led us in our search for accommodation.

The Ministry of Coffee Guest House, located in the Prawirotaman kampung, is just a five minute bacek ride from the bustle of the Maliaboro area. The rooms were clean and reasonably priced, the staff extremely attentive, and we looked forward to our lattes each morning. Less than 100m down the road is Via Via Cafe, and with its ever changing menu, this friendly little restuarant quickly became our go-to choice for both lunch and dinner.

Via Via in Yogya is actually one of twelve planned gathering spots throughout the world, created to actively promote the concept of sustainable tourism. They also offer a number of small guided tours and we took advantage of several of these, including a tour of the magnificent Buddhist temple of Borobodur.

As a westerner, I must admit that I had little knowledge of the history and culture of the eastern world. I found myself repeatedly impressed with the architecture and detailed stone carvings of this 1300 year old temple, built at a time when western Europe was still in the dark ages. Equally impressive was another temple complex we visited. Pranbanan is one of the largest Hindu temples in the world and coincidentally was also built over 1300 years ago. What I found most interesting, however, was the coexistence in Indonesia of three of the world’s major religions, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. We have much to learn.

Our Trip Advisor Best Picks for Yogykarta, Java  -  Accommodation & Eating

  • Ministry of Coffee – quiet neighbourhood; clean and reasonably priced
  • Via Via Cafe – good selection of great food items; friendly staff
  • Via Via Tours – Borobodur; Pranbanan; Jamu Herbal Medicines

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Tripping through Indonesia on Trip Advisor – Gili Air & Lombok

   While Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, its population is spread across 17,508 islands, both large and small, and strung like a 7000km pearl necklace around the neck of the equator.  After two weeks in Bali, we were ready to see more and we headed off to Padang Bai  Harbour, where we boarded a high speed boat, to explore one of the smallest of the Indonesian archipelago.

    Three tiny islands lie off the east coast of Lombok, and Gili Air, like the story of the Three Bears was just right for us. As you can see from the picture above, no cars or motorbikes, and the fewest visitors of the three, it is the quintessential, deserted tropical island, set in an emerald sea and fringed by white sandy beaches. Easily accessible coral reefs, teaming with sea life, lay just offshore. We lazed our way through three relaxing days, reading, walking and snorkeling. Our accommodations at Sejuk Cottages were also just right - basic, but pleasant and the breakfasts each morning were more than adequate.

    The larger island of Lombok was a shorter, more relaxing boat trip from Gili, and while we were initially attracted to the pottery of Lombok, we found one of the most beautiful, white, sandy beaches that we’ve ever experienced. Kuta Beach is sheltered from the strong forces of the open ocean by two large headlands, flanking each side of the beach and creating a crescent of powdery, white sand. To our continued good fortune, we found this jewel all but deserted, on each of the three days we were there.

    This beautiful beach came with a price… our luxurious accommodations at the Novatel Resort were slightly over $100/nt, so this 4-star resort was a tad above our Indonesian travel budget. But it was a nice little splurge, and definitely well worth the extra rupiahs.  The grounds were beautiful, including this hidden garden pool which I had completely to myself.

The resort has two restaurants offering good menu choices and generous portions, but… it’s a resort – you’re a captive audience, and resort prices are typically on the higher side. Fortunately, it’s easy to escape from their clutches. We hired a driver take us into town and do a return pick-up. Our Indonesian meal at the Ketapang Cafe in Kuta was certainly more reasonably priced, but even better, we got to explore another little town before our 9:30 pick-up arrived to whisk us back to the resort.

Lombok has just opened an International Airport and there are many other signs that it is being groomed as the next Bali. I asked many on Lombok, how did they felt about this; was this development going to be good or bad for their island?  Their answers were always the same – it will provide jobs for our people and we will have a better life.  We must be careful, therefore, from our own lofty lifestyles, not to judge too harshly.

Our Trip Advisor Best Picks for Gili Air & Lombok  -  Accommodation & Eating

  • Sejuk Cottages, Gili Air -  basic with air-con; great breakfasts
  • Novatel Resort, Kuta, Lombok – worth the splurge; a great beach
  • Ketapang Cafe, Kuta  - a reasonably priced alternative to resort food

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