Posts tagged ‘prince edward island’

January 2, 2014

Best of Canadian travel for 2013

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Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands is surrounded by pristine Pacific scenery. (Adrian Brijbassi photo)

[This is my look back at 2013 travels across Canada, as first published in Vacay.ca on December 30, 2013.]

When I think back to my 2013 travels, one day will dominate my reminiscences — September 21. The last day of summer, the first full day of my return to British Columbia as a resident, and the single most stunning photographic experience of my life. I wasn’t alone in that assessment. On a journey with a half-dozen well-travelled journalists and photographers, I witnessed grizzly bears snatching and chewing salmon within a few strides of where I stood, a school of 150 dolphins propelling through the north Pacific with a pair of full-span rainbows as a backdrop, and an inter-species dance between sea lions and some of those same dolphins in the gloaming of the night.

This experience that was fit for a cinema took place in the Discovery Islands, a place all travellers should endeavour to find themselves one day. That morning and afternoon were captured in an article and photo slideshow published this fall.

Except for a couple of sojourns to the Caribbean, I spent the entire year’s travels within Canada, exploring its abundance of wonders. Although my trip to Sonora Resort stands at the top, it was far from a singular highlight.

DINING

Best dinner: I can never name just one, so here are three: Le Laurie Raphaël in Quebec City presented a happy mix of elegance, playfulness and culinary creativity; Araxi in Whistler showcased chef James Walt’s brilliance and passion for local food; at Sonora Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property, chef Terry Pichor treats diners to a course called “pre-dessert” — one reason why its tasting menu is a must for culinary travellers.

Best dinner enjoyed at a bar: I pulled up a stool at Bar Isabel in Toronto and was wowed by a handful of zesty Spanish dishes that would fit suitably in Iberia. Oh, and the drinks are great, too.

Best dinner enjoyed with a sabre: At Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, the Champagne sabering ritual is something you have to do — read why.

Best lunch: At Annie’s Table in Prince Edward Island, chef Norm Zeledon taught me to shuck oysters (and how to douse them with a shot of the province’s moonshine) and introduced me to the wonders of black garlic. He then cooked up some delicious mussels that we enjoyed in the lovely property that is a converted church. (Runner-up: The Lobster Pound in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where chef Richard Moore isn’t stingy with the portion sizes.)

Best liquid lunch: I had a few of those at Chase, which has one of the premier patios in Toronto and a terrific rum selection.

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September 11, 2012

Charlottetown’s big-city appeal

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The penthouse suite of the Holman Grand Hotel offers wonderful views of the city and harbour. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

[I had the chance to visit beautiful Prince Edward Island last month and this story on the provincial capital was published in Vacay.ca in August 2012.]

CHARLOTTETOWN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND — Charlottetown is so immaculate it needed to invent its own mice population. Three years ago, miniature bronze mice began to appear throughout the downtown streets of this tidy provincial capital. Part of a scavenger hunt based on the character Eckhart the Mouse from author David Weale’s “The True Meaning of Crumbfest,” the mice are another cute aspect of a city that’s easy to adore for all of the reasons you might expect — Charlottetown is as friendly and attractive as its reputation — and for some reasons that will surprise you. Despite a population of less than 35,000, Charlottetown has a surprisingly upscale dining scene and lively bar atmosphere.

Victoria Row, a pedestrian-only block of Richmond Street that’s bracketed by iron gates on either end, is home to patio bars and a summertime stage that features local musicians performing during the day. You can hear the music, which is often very good, from blocks away, creating a festive atmosphere in a downtown core that might otherwise seem sleepy on first encounter.

A few blocks from Victoria Row is Lot 30, an outstanding eatery headed by chef Gordon Bailey (formerly of the Inn at Bay Fortune, PEI’s only entry in the 2012 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list). The Lot 30 menu changes daily, although you can expect lots of seafood choices and an excellent steak. It fits perfectly with the generation of modern restaurants that emphasizes flavours from natural, local ingredients rather than thick, heavy sauces. Not surprisingly, the succulent scallops were a highlight of a recent five-course tasting menu that also included baked scallops and a dessert trio with luscious Bailey’s ice cream and chocolate mousse. Just as impressive is the quality of service, which is decidedly big city in its professionalism, a contrast to many other parts of Atlantic Canada where wait staffs tend to be friendly and polite but below-par in performance.

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August 8, 2012

PEI’s Trailside Cafe and Nova Scotia’s Point of View Suites beckon

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Pat and Meghann Deighan have a good thing going with the Trailside Cafe. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)


[This article first appeared in Vacay.ca]

MOUNT STEWART, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND — Olympic moments happen across this country on a daily basis. The participants may not be going for gold medals like the competitors at the London 2012 Summer Games, but they are striving to achieve ultimate success. Although they do it in obscurity, the spirit with which these entrepreneurs pursue their goals is similar to the dedication elite athletes have for their disciplines.

I recently came across a couple of examples of Canadians in the travel and hospitality industry who are giving it their all as they chase their dreams. Pat and Meghann Deighan were married on December 30, 2011, about two weeks after they purchased the Trailside Inn and Café, a venue 30 minutes outside of Charlottetown that has been a reliable spot in Prince Edward Island for good music and good times. The Trailside was in need of rescue and the newlyweds have poured themselves into making it the coolest music venue in Canada east of Casa del Popolo in Montreal and the Dakota Tavern in Toronto.

Like the Dakota, the Trailside features clever decor, an intimate atmosphere that charms musicians, and a short menu that delivers big for diners. The Trailside Café only has four main dishes, one of which is a daily special from chef Chris Coupland and another is an order of the best fishcakes you’re likely to ever taste. They are loaded with salmon and haddock, and go for just $15. You’ll devour them on one of the café’s tables that Meghann Deighan has decorated in inventive ways. On one surface, she has lacquered decades-old receipts from the property’s previous incarnation as a community co-op store, on others are black-and-white images and old movie posters.

“We’re looking for low-cost solutions for improving the place and the property has an amazing history, so we figure why not use what we can that’s right here,” says Meghann Deighan while pointing out some of the old dusty bottles that are kept in the back of the store.

The Trailside is the kind of place where the headline performer can stand at a bar drinking a beer while taking in his own warm-up act. Such was the case last Wednesday night, when Matt Mays headlined on back-to-back nights while his friend Adam Baldwin opened up. Seeing a musician of the calibre of Mays — a Juno nominee whose latest album “Coyote” is due out on September 4 — in a setting that holds no more than 50 people is a rare treat.

It’s also good marketing for the Trailside, which is hopeful of attracting more people from Charlottetown and elsewhere in the Maritimes to its little spot on the side of the road in Mount Stewart, home to about 310 people. If reviews from customers during Mays’ show are an indication, the Deighans will do all right. Several attendees praised the café’s atmosphere and its menu.

“The Trailside always had a good music scene but it needed a little more upkeep and we wanted to focus on improving the food. I think we have. I think Chris has hit it out of the park,” Pat Deighan says of his chef.

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