It’s been a few weeks since I arrived in Kelowna, British Columbia from the United Kingdom via Vancouver. I had meant to compile a few observations about the old place before now. It’s certainly been interesting and fun in the meantime though.
After some (around) twelve visits to Canada – most of them reasonably protracted ones, some of the first observations I ever made years ago still come back to surprise me. The first one is the openness ad friendliness of the people. In this instance I talk of people in and around the Okanagan Valley but the same could be said for the majority of my Canadian destinations east to west. Sometimes Canadian folk are just surprisingly friendly.
I’d a small yet pointed example of this today. After completing four miles in 33c heat for my daily run. I was just collecting myself outside the gated community where I have been staying. A senior lady ambled up in her car and seeing my hot and bothered state offered to go to her home and fetch me a glass of water to cool down. Another example was after just arriving and popping in to the local pharmacy. The assistant upon hearing my ‘Brit’ accent insisted on taking me through to the back of the store to meet her co-worker who had visited the UK some time ago and had Scottish relatives. Half an hour later I was leaving the store.
Sometimes it appears to me that everyone in Kelowna falls in to one of two categories – older and comfortably off or young and blonde. This is of course a good humoured generalisation but contains a germ of truth. Just recently the local newspaper ran a story that the population of Kelowna will shortly evolve into having more ‘older’ than ‘younger’ people. I’m not sure my conception isn’t slanted though as the community I’m living in is full of seniors and the pubs and restaurants I visit are full of young blonde waitresses. (A special mention here for ‘Earls’ on Lakeshore and ‘Moxy’s’.)
The Okanagan climate is of course a magnificent one. It’s one of the factors that make Kelowna and other towns in the Valley such an attractive residential proposition and a popular area to visit. In my time here during late July and August temperatures have risen regularly into the mid-late thirties. It’s a comfortable dry heat too, as befits what is basically an arid desert area.
Some of my days here have been affected by forest fires from both north and south of the American border. Trails of black smoke have been seen circulating above, trapped in by the geological layout of the city, surrounded as it is by mountains. This has reportedly affected some local people who suffer from respiratory problems. In truth there is sometimes a slight haze in the air around Kelowna which is produced I understand by moisture from fir trees on the surrounding hills. When the sun burns it off it’s a mighty heat though
The weather here in Kelowna of course provides for its own style of clothing for the local folks. It’s important to remember that Kelowna is very much a resort as much as anything else and this is reflected by the dress of some of the locals. As previously mentioned Kelowna has more than it’s share of senior citizens. This may conjure up a sight of UK oldsters with tweeds, stout brogues, tank tops and the ubiquitous undershirt. It couldn’t be more different here as the respected seniors of Kelowna tend to live in substantially baggy beige shorts during the summer, complemented by pipe-cleaner thin legs three shades darker than mahogany. Atop the ensemble a hat is always worn. Usually with a fairly spectacularly wide brim that interferes with passers by on the sidewalk.
Kelowna women know they’re cool, or maybe they just don’t care. High cut denim shorts and long legs can often be spotted by the eagle eyed male in such places as Orchard Mall and most diners and pubs. The Kelowna woman will often wear a vest-type top exhibiting plenty of tanned flesh (and let’s be fair here, the temperatures are regularly in the thirties during the long Okanagan summers). Sun glasses are always worn on top of the head. Strappy sandals and lots of long blonde hair complete the look of Kelowna woman as she drives her accessory convertible around the city.
The third type.
Is sadly the many homeless people that wander around the city, particularly downtown. A mere block or two away from the prestigious Lakeshore are less salubrious streets where these unfortunate folk can be most often seen. Unlike the UK they’re more easily recognisable. The men nearly always have spectacular beards and worn baseball caps that have seen a few summers. Some sadly stand glumly in doorways and beg silently, others can be more pro-active. One or two women can sometimes be seen and certainly a certain block or two in town looks to be inhabited with an individual or two selling sex, most likely for the oft reason of acquiring drugs. It’s perhaps a strange anomaly at first – this dichotomy between wealthy Kelowna and its street people. One must always remember though that sleeping rough in many parts of Canada is not just dangerous, it’s a killer. Winter temperatures can dip down to -30 or so in the likes of Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal Kelowna’s more temperate climate can be the difference between life and death out on the sidewalks. Its tourists are arguably a source of sustenance for those down on their luck too.
A little flavour of Kelowna then. Of course I have my own slant on the city and surrounding area, and this is hardly an exhaustive review. Now about those cars…