Even though the grocery store was right across the street, six years ago, it took me a half an hour to get there. I lived on 86a in North Delta, which, if you’re unfamiliar with the area, was just spitting distance to Scott Rd. This road, which is the dividing line between Delta and Surrey, doubled as a parking lot most days. There were medians everywhere, no left turns, constant construction. To get to a grocery store, I had two options: loop around with three right turns, through heavy traffic to get across Scott Rd. so I could shop at the less crowded Save-On Foods or turn right once and head to Real Canadian Superstore and shop amongst half the population of Delta. It didn’t matter which one I chose, grocery shopping was going to be an ordeal to which half of my day would be devoted.
My husband’s commute was an hour and a half each way. Mine was forty-five minutes each way. He was giving 15 hours a week to sports talk radio and 7 and a half hours a week was slipping through my fingers as I listened to the same ten Mumford and Sons songs repeat on the Peak over and over and over…
Needless to say, we were unhappy. We had wonderful neighbours, great jobs and the weather was always mild, though often rainy. Family lived close by, we had good friends in the area and there were fantastic amenities all around us. But it was difficult to enjoy all that while we sat in traffic for most of our day, every single day.
One day, as we stared listlessly out our living room window at the endless rain, I got an email telling me I’d won a trip to Kelowna to attend a bridal fair. Those of you who know me, know my “husband” and I have been engaged now for about eight years. It’s not because anyone has cold feet, or we’re not sure about commitment. It’s more about just not wanting to spend the cash on a wedding, really. Things are working wonderfully the way they are, so don’t fix what ain’t broke, right? We are professionally engaged, let’s just say. As such, I indulged a targeted ad on my Facebook feed and signed up to win a bridal fair weekend in Kelowna and I won. So, my forever-fiancé and I headed to the Okanagan in the middle of January to attend a wedding show (read as: cupcake smorgasbord).
Before we get to the trip though, a little background information. Both my hairier half and I had been to the Okanagan many times before. As kids growing up just outside Vancouver, we’d camped and stayed on the lake, jet-skied and hiked, fished and suntanned and enjoyed the views on more occasions than either of us could count. We thought we knew what this gorgeous valley had to offer. We had also spent two years living on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, so we’d had our fill of the blazing hot sun. The sunny summer Okanagan days were not that enticing to us, because really, we’d been there, done that. Ho flippin’ hum.
But here we were, heading to Kelowna in the middle of winter. Winter, to my Edmonton-born fiancé, often meant ten-foot snowbanks and being cooped up inside for the majority of the year. Winter, for myself, meant grey, endless rain and that damp chill that never really dries out until July. Neither of us thought winter, anywhere, could be pleasant.
So, at this point, I realize all of you seasoned… Okanaganers? Okanaganites? What should we call you? How about Noggins? Noggins it is. So, I realize all of you Noggins out there are probably laughing at my simple-minded naivete. I’m in on the joke, now, but back then I wasn’t and I actually believed winter, everywhere, was unpleasant. I didn’t think there was a non-tropical winter on earth I’d be happy with and actually want to go outside in on purpose.
And then, one day six years ago, we found ourselves waking up in Kelowna, in winter. I was slow to rise that morning, having travelled well into the night to get to the Okanagan, but when I finally did get up, I walked over to the window. The way my mind replays it, everything happened in slow-motion and there was a chorus of angels singing somewhere but it was more likely that I just ungracefully tripped to the window and ripped open the drapes.
Immediately, bright, white light poured into our hotel room and I stumbled backwards rubbing my eyes. What was this? What was this blinding light? As my eyes adjusted, I scoured my mind for answers but none came. I simply could not explain where this brilliant glow was coming from. I took a step closer to the window, held my hand to my forehead to ease the burning in my eyes and as the grogginess cleared and my eyes began to focus on the sight in front of me, I gasped.
By the Hammer of Thor, Courtney, that is the sun.
In the dead of winter, there it was. Reflecting off the delicate dusting of snow that turned the hills I’d seen a thousand times before into a sight that was so magnificent, my heart literally began to ache. The lake seemed to think it was just as beautiful as I did, as it sat there as still as possible, reflecting the breathtaking image so all the valley could see it twice.
“John…” I called to my fiancé. “John!”
He finally rose and trudged sleepily over to where I stood by the window. He paused. He rubbed his eyes. He blinked.
“Is that… is that real?” We looked at each other in complete disbelief for what seemed like an hour. Before we even headed outside, we knew, this was home. This is where we belonged. We were completely in love with the Okanagan.
We spent that weekend walking to and from Prospera Place and our hotel. It was a good, long walk but we chose to do it even though we had our car with us. Yes, we actually chose to go outside in winter. For an Edmontonian and a Vancouverite, this was life-altering. We strode past the outdoor skating rink where kids shrieked with laughter chasing their moms and dads. We walked along the lakefront where the delicate waves clapped against the soft sand. Even when the clouds finally rolled in and the sky became grey, it was still beautiful as tiny, dry snowflakes fell to the ground like powdered sugar. It wasn’t wet. It wasn’t frigid. It was beautiful, fresh and crisp. On our drive back to Delta on Sunday afternoon, John and I worked out a plan to move.
Our new home, the day we moved in.
The following year, in March, we pulled up to our new home in Summerland and began to unpack.
I spent so much of my life travelling. I lived in Australia and Mexico and hopped around Asia and the South Pacific. I’d been on interstate road trips in the US and crossed the International Date Line so many times I’ve rung in the New Year more times than my age. My parents had also been renters when we were home in Richmond, BC and so I spend most of my life moving, never staying still and having a big, giant void where home was supposed to be.
It wasn’t until that day in March 2014, as I took that first step into our new house and became a resident of the Okanagan that I finally felt that void disappear. I was finally home. And like I’ve said to hundreds of you Noggins I’ve met since, “I am never going back.”
I don’t just love the Okanagan, you guys. I am in love with it. I love the laid back lifestyle which has reduced our stress by a metric ton. I love the complete lack of traffic in most areas of the valley, which gives my family more time together. I love the fact that we don’t hear sirens every ten minutes and when we hear a loud bang around Halloween, we’re pretty certain no one is firing a gun. I love the fact that just when you’re getting tired of winter and snow, spring comes around and then summer blasts you with constant sunny days. Then, just when you’re tired of the hot, dry weather, the relief of fall arrives and then the reason I fell in love in the first place: winter. Beautiful, gorgeous, sunny winter days with a light dusting of snow on all the hills around us… that’s what I live for.
Really, there is only one thing I didn’t like when I moved here and that was the few dining options. Coming from a lifetime in Richmond, I was used to pho on every corner, authentic Chinese food everywhere, Raman cafes and sushi bars, Korean BBQ and Indian Buffets. I think six was the total amount of restaurants in Summerland when we arrived. Six. As a foodie, I knew I had to take action.
I scoured the internet for consistent food reviews and information about food in the region and I realized there wasn’t any. No one really blogged about food in the Valley regularly. Eventually, I taught myself to make the food I missed, purchasing the more exotic ingredients online, and set out to explore dining options in all the other cities and towns. I couldn’t stop thinking about the lack of information on the internet, though.
I found the same thing when it came to things to do with your family. I wanted to know about the kid-friendly hiking trails, kid-friendly events and where to take kids sledding. I found the same lack of information when it came to what sights to see and how to get there. Sure, there are plenty of simple lists on tourist websites, but there just was no in-depth information.
There were so few recommendations, so few reviews, and way outdated information and I never really stopped wishing that someone would just do it. Just blog about it, and tell us all what’s out there.
It’s four years later, my friendly Noggins, and I’ve finally just realized I’m gonna have to do it myself. I mean, I love this place so much I never shut up about it already, so I’m just gonna eat the food and tell you about it. I’m also going to hike the trails and tell you about it. I’m going to see the sights and tell you about it. I’m going to give you the information you need to plan your time with your family, friends and furbabies in the Okanagan.
So, without further adieu, I give you, GOkanagan. I really hope you like it.
Stay tuned! Tomorrow, I’m going to give you 6 Reasons You Should Stop Bragging About Life In The Okanagan and later in the week, we’ll be giving stuff away! If you want to be notified when new posts and giveaways come out, be sure to follow us at the following places:
Here’s what you can expect from GOkanagan Magazine:
Promotion of local charitable efforts
Promotion of local businesses and ingredients
Photoblogs of places in the Okanagan Valley
Recipes using local ingredients
Things to do with your kids
Things to do with your pups
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