BACK TO CANADA 2021
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Victoria & Yellow Point Lodge December 18- January 7, 2022
2021 was year #2 of The Covid 19 Pandemic. The populace was beginning to absorb the vaccine enough to allow some of the world to open up again. That said, we still weren't comfortable with scheduling a trip to Europe. We would have run into considerable restrictions if we had done so. This summer we were able to visit our favorite Canadian hangout, Yellow Point Lodge. Much of the charming and comfortable ambiance there was necessarily changed to protect guests and staff in accordance with the public health ministry. These changes diminished the scene to a noticeable degree and stayed in place during our December visit.
In November 2021 we ran off to our haunts in Palm Desert to steal a few weeks of summery weather, pool time & reading for CK, and more tennis for Tim. By mid-December we were back at Yellow Point Lodge where we usually spend the solstice and New Year holidays. That is where this bloggish reporting picks up.
December 18, 2021
Last Train to Paris Hennessey Paradis rare cognac (about $800 US for 750ml) Grand Marnier Veuve Cliquot Champagne Armagnac reduction Lemon A modern take on a sidecar invented in the 1920's in Paris. Prepared with its own custom gold plated cocktail equipment served on a platter with gold dusted strawberries, crème brulee macaroons dipped in gold, on a tray featuring an engraved street map of Paris, in a fizz glass, topped with a gilded Eiffel Tower, and a bar spoon of honey pearls. $400 CA
We are at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC. We had just arrived on Vancouver Island about an hour earlier after a 1.5 hour ferry ride from the mainland. The Empress bar is about a 3 block walk from our hotel. We hadn't been there for a while so we decided a re-visit was overdue. Of course, it has been remodeled. The old Bengal Room, the bar we had visited for decades, is no more. The new bar at the Empress is an updated, sparkling beehive of mixology and credit card scanning. We are here on a Saturday night in December, a few days ahead of the Solstice. The place is packed but there are two seats at the bar just in front of the beer taps. Good enough. There are six bartenders racing madly, whipping up cocktails, waiting tables, running cards. Next to us, one seat down, is a fellow who looks like he has been here a while. He has a bottle of Cab Sav in front of him which he pours into a wide bottomed flask. He swirls the flask for a few moments, then fills his glass. He is also in possession of a golden tray with a golden miniature Eiffel Tower, a cocktail glass containing a mysterious liquid, and some strawberries and macaroons both dusted in gold. We order our drinks and keep a loose eye on this gentleman who seems to be enjoying his cups alone. I have a house martini and CK orders the Empress's version of a French 75, the Empress 75. This version contains a bit of elderflower liqueur. It has a lavender tint. Very scrumptious. We'll have to add this variation to our home-made version. Halfway through our cocktails, one of the bartenders moves in between me and the gentleman to my left. She is preparing another cocktail for him with a fresh set of gold plated tray, cocktail shaker, glass, and mini Eiffel Tower. I have to ask her which cocktail this is. “The Last Train to Paris”, she says, as the cap goes on the shaker. A few violent tosses of her right arm and a creamy liquid emerges into the gentleman's gleaming gold-rimmed cocktail glass. He sips his glass of Cab Sav as he admires his fresh cocktail, the second one of these we have seen him order. The macaroons from his first order remain untouched and now he has an additional set of them. He now has six gold dusted macaroons. The gold dusted strawberries go directly down the hatch. With the bartender's information, I refer instantly to the cocktail menu to find “The Last Train to Paris”. The recipe contains items I don't recognize directly together with a bit of a paragraph describing the experience (see above). The price tag of $400 CA gets my attention. Now I realize that this gentleman has spent $800 on this cocktail. I also realize that he had been sitting here for a good spell before we arrived. We now have a strong motive to put the side-eye on him and track his movements. He continues to drain his Cab while intermittently sipping his cocktail. This is the legendary two-fisted drinker in action.
We finish our drinks as our bar-menu food arrives, fish & chips with Pacific Cod. Yum. We are about to tuck in when the bartender arrives at my left again. She takes away the gentleman's gold tray. She returns a few moments later with another set-up. She is making him a third “Last Train”. We are as openly astonished as a couple of hicks from Lopez Island could be. He cannot miss the fact that we are watching him and he doesn't. He leans over toward me and offers us a plate of three of his untouched macaroons of which he how has nine. As I accept, I apologize for being so obvious as we have been admiring his taste in liquor (as well has his appetite but I left that unsaid). This set him into chat mode during which he explains a good deal about his business. He's a friendly fellow, self deprecating, outgoing and amusing. Nice guy. Rich as Croesus from his years as a hedge fund manager, now become CEO and Founder of a cryptocurrency, the value of which has gone north like a scalded ape in just two years. He shows off his gold plated VISA card. CK handles it and mistakenly takes it for his calling card. Luckily she doesn't put it in her purse. That could have been a sticky moment. Clearly he could buy all 125 people in that bar a “Last Train To Paris” and not feel a thing. We chat about stock market and cryptocurrency. I learn a little about his operation and his world-wide team of programmers and analysts. He's very excited to explain it in considerable detail. But then he also confesses to be astonished by his success. He explains that there is no way his crypto project is worth $620 per coin but that is where the market prices it. During interviews with media he warns people not to buy his crypto. But then they do it anyway and the price rockets again. He says that it even spooks him to the point where he cashes some of it in and buys the high quality Maple Leaf gold bullion coin in private transactions whenever he can, the object being to protect some of his gains from the crypto volatility. “It's a shit-show”, he says multiple times, giggling.
Here is a high functioning alcoholic with a seemingly natural affinity for accruing money, chain drinking $400 cocktails while absorbing a bottle of pricey Cab Sav talking shit about the Wild West World of cryptocurrency with a couple of Yankee pensioners. I only had two cocktails and I'm more potted than he is. He hands me his card telling me that I should call him whenever I want to discuss crypto. Happy holidays and a fist bump. I like him.
Tomorrow we go north to check into our very sedate resort where the action is simply eat, sleep, and read. We'll be back in Victoria in 5 days. I'll have to drop by the Q bar just to see if he's still there.
December 21, 2021 - Yellow Point Lodge
As promised we did our Solstice Beach Fire last night because the weather on the 21st promises to be heavy, wet, and possibly adorned with slush. It was a perfect call. We had no wind, no rain, and lots of light from a moon just shading off from full, beaming diamond sparklies off the water. The fire was blazing hot. Everyone was comfy. There was even a slight but steady zephyr that kept the fumes and sparks moving gently in one direction. I couldn't have dialed up a better night. We didn't see anyone we knew at the fire pit, all new faces. This made the chatter interesting in that certain cheerful rhythm that goes along with getting to know a person for the first time. We were all oldish fossils until a 30- something couple arrived, Cam & Melissa from Nelson BC. They are a salty pair and lots of fun. Cam's arrival guaranteed that the last drop of single malt would be shared out. That was the first time we've killed 750 ml of whisky at a Solstice Fire. And hey! No hangover!
Today at breakfast the owner came by our table to let us know that the BC Health Minister is scheduled to make an announcement at 1:30. There's a 50/50 chance that she'll impose a non-essential travel rule...again. If this happens, Dec 23 may, in all likelihood, be our last night at YPL.
We're booked until January 7 but Richard will have to close the lodge because he won't be allowed to take guests who aren't residents of Vancouver Island. We will then be forced to hatch out a new plan.
Meanwhile the wood stove is hot, there's plenty of fuel, and snow is likely. CK is already looking forward to the next meal which, tonight, is salmon.
And here's another of the several Covid induced changes at the Lodge: The Wednesday YPL lunch will be a sandwich and a couple of cookies in a paper sack instead of the normal soup, salad, and entree from the kitchen. Nope. I'll be wandering off campus to The Fox & Hounds in Ladysmith for some Irish style pub grub.
CK went for a massage today with the official YPL masseuse. "It was cold in there!" I had our cabin's wood stove stoked to sauna levels but it wasn't enough. She drew a hot bath. As she soaked I tuned the radio to a CBC station hoping to get the latest dope on the new BC lock down: Bars & gyms are closed, restaurants and theaters at 50% capacity. Inter-province travel is ok. That be good news. It means YPL can probably stay open for our entire tenure. CK is very happy about this.
I accomplished absolutely bugger all today. This is profoundly so unless managing my psycho character through a tricky sequence in Borderlands 2 counts as a worthy effort. Otherwise I did my crunches and stretches and shoveled food down my gullet. Idle squat, that's what it is, and it's what I can expect for 16 more days. Not complaining, mind you, but it represents a level of sloth that I dread if it ever becomes my official lifestyle.
The weather is the typical winter sog: gray, damp, and dark. Reading my book on the couch in front of the fire only puts me unconscious. I snort myself awake and surrender to staring at the churning salt chuck awaiting the next big event: supper.
CK scoots off to the lodge dining room an hour early. She grabs a bottle of wine, cutlery, napkins and sets up camp. I arrive at 6. That gives us 30 minutes to guzzle before they serve us. Our guzzling attracts another couple who settle across from us with their own bottle. Soon we learn that they brought other stuff. They introduce themselves, the two of them, and add one more. The lady produces a Sock Monkey, a stuffed doll upon which she has attached a tiny skirt. This hides her hand a bit as she clutches the legs. She is handling it like a puppet. "HI! I am Sock Monkey!", squeaks the lady in ultra soprano-falsetto, "I'm very happy to meet you. Isn't Yellow Point wonderful?" We experience an irresistible focus on the sock monkey. We suspect we are being stared at from around the dining room but don't dare look away from her puppet. Soon we learn that her husband has two 'catnip mouse toys'. He has named them Mario and Luigi after the video game.
Meanwhile, dinner is served. I shall provide a photo of the plate since my powers of description would require significant trimming to accomplish the required ennui. The best thing about it is the chunk of Sockeye flesh that most assuredly bid farewell to its moment of glory seconds before it was plated. The cold boiled potatoes and the cold boiled corn bits were accompanied by a tiny dab of butter sealed in a mini-plastic cup that was produced directly from the freezer. It sat on my potatoes defiantly not melting. The absence of salt and pepper launched a search of the room. Little paper packets were obtained. The butter chunks were waiting, unchanged. It's no good spending the day looking forward to a meal like this. The result will be weeping and regret. I can't wait until the changes that Covid invokes can be banished.
Wednesday, tomorrow, they will present us with chicken and rice. I've simply got to find the pepper sauce. That or go buy my own bottle. For lunch, the kitchen will not serve anything but a sandwich, a cookie, and an apple in a paper sack. I just can't. Missing the usual lunch buffet!!! This is my excuse to hit the Fox & Hound pub in Ladysmith.
The days here are beginning to run together like concepts in a Jackson Pollock canvas. Sometimes these all-inclusive resort deals are really just not quite the thing. I'd be happier to stir up my bean soup recipe and eat it all week. Yesterday we went to Ladysmith for a pub lunch. It was an effort to avoid the prospect of a sandwich in paper bag. Fail. Upon arrival at the pub we were asked for our vaccine documents. Mine were back at the cabin. CK had taken my wallet out of the car, burying it in the dresser for safety. I didn't remember she had done it. We could not be seated. Suddenly my vision of a pint of Guinness over a hot Shepherd's Pie became another Pollock-ish mess. I had a grumpy moment. Grrr. The next pub lunch opportunity will be Dec 29 & 31.
This would be an afternoon I might have spent boiling my blues away in the sauna. Nope. Closed. Banned. Instead I write a bit and bang away on my computer game. Soon it is tea time. In previous years this might have been the beginning of socializing and cocktails leading up to dinner. Virus says no. So we fast forward to dinner which was another piece of overcooked chicken. I decline. That leaves a small green salad, a scoop of rice, boiled beets, and a mouthful of squash. I gave CK the beets. Now I'm looking forward to breakfast, which is swiftly becoming the best meal they serve here. In fact I shall declare it so.
Last night there were 6 people at our table, the most so far. A Japanese lady, Akiko, was most charming and interesting. Her English is very careful, measured, and heavily accented but also very accurate. CK and I would have liked to chat more with her. We also had Glynn and Suzie. These are nice people, particularly Suzie. She is a sweetheart. I asked Akiko for recommendations to Japanese restaurants in Vancouver [you see, I'm starving here]. She says there's one on Oak St run by a family, super good and reasonable. I make notes. Next I ask for a language lesson. I want to learn the Japanese version of my magic phrase, the one I use when traveling. Here it is:
"Sumi masen. Nihongo hana shi masen."
"I apologize. I do not speak Japanese."
She was delighted to instruct me. I think we're friends now.
Richard serves the Saturday Roast
After dinner Lauren, retired from the Canadian Navy, and his wife Jacklin challenged us to 4 handed Cribbage. They beat us 2 out of 3. They seemed overly pleased by this. Apparently defeating some poxy Yanks in a card game is something to tell the grandkids about. I'm glad we didn't win. I want them to be happy.
Tonight is steak of some kind. Tragically there is no way to order it rare. Worse, I only give a 10% chance that the potato will be baked and not boiled. Wish me luck.
Tomorrow we pack up and hit the road to Victoria and Fairholme Manor B&B. They only serve breakfast, of course, but in the over-the-top manner of Martha Stewart. CK has reserved seats at a seafood restaurant at 6:30. And then there is snow in the forecast.
Good news. The Health Minister doesn't slam us with more restrictions so we get to stay. This means that we move out to the B&B in Victoria tomorrow. We do this for 3 days because YPL shuts down for the Xmas sequence and re-opens for us December 27.
Victoria B.C. is a pleasant place to spend the xmas holidays. Our B&B is spacious and Victorian from the early 20th century. It has wood floors that creak, tiny iron fireplaces, odd nooks and crannies, bay windows, and oak rails on the staircase. Sylvia Main is our host and expert hospitality person. Everything is tikkity-boo.
Our xmas day is spent with friends who invite us to join their family gathering for an afternoon of feasting. A fine day of conversation and delicious dinner with Yorkshire Pudding. In Canada a thing called Boxing Day happens on December 26. This is the day when shops put items on offer for much less than they were on December 24. We don't participate in this madness unless we need shoes. We didn't need shoes so we went to a matinee at the cinema instead.
Yellow Point Lodge allows us to return to our cabin where we resume enjoyment of the all-inclusive amenities thereof. The next few days are mostly spent holed up in our very nice digs. The lodge might be a hangout in this winter weather if it weren't for the Covid adjustments. It feels less comfortable there, so we stay in the cabin. This is the story through New Year and on to January 7, the end of our stay at Yellow Point this winter. We don't have a story to tell about the New Year's celebration because we slept through it. The Health Ministry has nixed the notion of a large gathering with dancing and the usual carrying-on. With this in mind, the management arranged for a nice jazz combo in the main salon after dinner. We were to remain seated (no dancing) and if we moved out of our seat a mask had to go on. We get it. That's how it goes. But this all really puts the stopper into any kind of New Year's Celebration. We went to bed early and the calendar turned over as we snored.
A very white Xmas this year at YPL
January 7, 2022
We are back on Lopez doing chores, garden projects, repairs, and sorting the mail. We are now in preparation mode for our next outing, a Snowbird escape to Southern California on January 22.