Canada ’08: Up and Down the Okanagan – Penticton

Continued from, Canada ’08: Up and Down the Okanagan – Peachland and Summerland

The day moves on and the rains begin to fall as we drive into Penticton via a short stop at Summerland Sweets which is the front office business of a highly successful company that trades up and down the Okanagan area. It’s almost three years since I visited Penticton and it feels a little different from previous times. Kelowna by comparison appears to be exploding with life, vitality and wealth while Penticton looks older and more dated. The town however does prosper through vacationers during the summer swarming to the lovely beaches and also to Apex Ski Resort in the winter months.

Okanagan Lake at Penticton

Our first port of call after a drive down the Okanagan Lake side is The Book Store at 242 Main Street This bookshop is truly magnificent and one of my favourite book stores anywhere. Perhaps showing signs of creaking at the seams due to over stocking, the shop is nevertheless a place where one could easily camp oneself in all day. The friendly owner is also very knowledgeable and helpful. I’m under strict orders today not to buy my usual weighty consignment of reading material due to there not being much spare space in our suitcases for home. Still I manage to find a rare book about the life and times of my all-time hockey hero, Guy Le Fleur of the Montreal Canadiens. The book was written in Guy’s heyday in 1967 and shows monochrome images of the Flying Frenchman in typically full flow and blurring, damaging speed.

Other (local) hockey heroes show themselves in the fabulous and huge outdoor mural of the 1955 Penticton Vees Hockey Club who won the World Championships against the combined might of Russia all those years ago.

It doesn’t take too long to be up in the mountains in this part of the world and this is quickly where we find ourselves, heading up sharp switchbacks towards Lost Moose Lodge. Passing a relatively bold, young and inquisitive dear at the roadside we soon view the slightly bizarre sight of the Penticton Speedway track down below. A strange position for such a facility perhaps. Onwards, twisting and turning we finally alight at our destination. The Lost Moose Lodge restaurant sits stubbornly at the head of the parking lot at around 4000ft, looking imperiously over Penticton, deep in the valley below. Over yonder lies a Saloon Bar. I hold back the urge to step over there, kick the swinging doors open and ask for ‘two fingers of red-eye’. The sound of a motorcycle echoes mutedly from a nearby canyon but otherwise all is silent.

Okanagan Lake meets Skaha Lake in Penticton
Okanagan Lake meets Skaha Lake in Penticton

A jarring few minutes and we are in the foyer of Penticton’s main shopping mall. How strange the contrast. What faces us a typically North American display of openness as a dance instructor leads a group of well looked after middle-aged ladies in a routine up on a podium for shoppers to watch. I call back this way shortly afterwards and also to my disbelief, more ladies are now doing exercises in synchronicity bouncing up and down on their bottoms on miniature trampolines. No worry at a slight loss of dignity here.

I head for The Bay store and choose a couple of items of clothing before heading to the fitting room. Two staff are keen to assist me. (This has to be some kind of record for The Bay!) After pulling a few things on and off in the Canadian-sized changing room roughly the same size as a small theatre hall I emerge only to be informed that it’s ‘Bay Day’ today. What is this? Anything like Thanksgiving? A heritage day or something? I’m not sure but apparently it allows me to 10% off my purchases if I agree to take out an account with them. I don’t have the (no doubt) forty minutes to take this most kindly offer so make my excuses and leave.

It’s coming towards the end of a somewhat dreich day as we Scots would say. We take a final look at the beautiful beach that borders the attractive Skaha Beach. I’m told that Skaha is the native word for ‘dog’. This is so much more superior sounding to ‘Dog Beach’ I have to concur.

The day hardly over however as we’re approaching supper time heading back North in the direction of Kelowna. Before long we’re back in Summerland – this time to visit the beautiful Zias Stonehouse Restaurant. This is a building with some history. An Italian, Alfredo Biagioni first built the large stone building with eighteen inch-thick walls way back in 1916 – practically pre-historic by Canadian standards. Over the years the sturdy almost palace-like structure has been developed into a superb, roomy, airy and elegant restaurant, opening it’d doors to the public in 1998. A very special place. I wasn’t feeling particularly ‘gourmet’ on the night we visited but did enjoy a great bowl of French Onion Soup with a tasty, well cooked Sirloin Steak to follow. The menu is however very varied yet with an Italian flavour. The disparate choice in way detracted from the good quality of the food which was enjoyed by all. Zia’s has a beautiful ambiance. This is great aided by a live pianist in the dining room. On the night we dined a young woman was caressing the keys and played some softly distinctive tunes in keeping with the atmosphere.

Time for home then, sated and satisfied. The bright lights of a passing Peachland give way to those of City of Kelowna over to the right in the reassuring far distance. A scurry back back over the dark waters of the Okanagan via the floating bridge and we are home once more.

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