Kelowna, B.C. 2020

Because of COVID-19, we had to cancel a March trip to Hawaii. Since our last big trip was to Tahiti in December, we were ready to get away somewhere, anywhere – even for a short break. So, once travel restrictions opened up, we decided to go for a holiday in Kelowna with my sister over the September long weekend.

To drive from Edmonton to Kelowna takes about 10 hours. As we wanted to make the most of the long weekend, and since flight prices were reasonable, we decided to fly instead. We booked an evening flight on the Thursday night and took Friday off to make it an extra long weekend.

We flew Air Canada, connecting through Vancouver. As these were the first flights we’ve taken since the start of COVID-19, I decided to do a review of of the flights and also of the recently re-opened Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Vancouver. Once these reviews are posted, you will be able to access them HERE.

As always, I will updating a photo album with our adventures. Click HERE FOR PHOTOS from our trip.

Day 1 (Thursday, Sept 3, 2020) – Evening Flight to Kelowna

Our flight to Kelowna was at 6:25pm, so we left the house around 4:30pm. Because there were so few people flying, parking at the airport was very reasonable. By booking online, we were able to park at the parkade right at the terminal for $36 for the whole weekend.

Just as we reached the entrance to the terminal, one of the Air Canada Concierges (Akemi), met us outside. We had a nice chat with her, then we went inside to go through security.

It was not very busy in the airport. With our Nexus cards, we were able to go pretty much straight to a security line (not that there were that many people waiting anyway). As the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge in Edmonton hadn’t re-opened, we didn’t know where would be able to fill up our water bottles with ice. So, we thought we would fill up our bottles with just ice to see if we would be able to get them through security.

Well, went the pack with Randy’s bottle went through the machine, it got pushed into the lane for further inspection. All my bags (including the one with my water bottle filled with ice), went through no problem. The security agent dumped out Randy’s ice, but I still had mine.

Since we weren’t going to be getting any food on the flight, we stopped into one of the few restaurants that was open (Chili’s). We didn’t want a lot of food, so we just ordered some chips and guacamole. The waitress was also kind enough to give Randy some ice and water for his water bottle.

We had enough chips to get us by, and then headed to the gate. Not long afterwards, they started boarding. Before boarding, the did a temperature check of everyone. We had just booked economy class tickets as the flight to Vancouver was just an hour and a half, and with COVID, there wasn’t any food or beverage service in business class. Randy was able to get us seats in the exit row, and we had booked the window and aisle seat – hoping that no one would sit in the middle. Luckily, no one sat in that seat, so we had some extra room on the flight.

Even though Randy hadn’t flown for 6 months, apparently his body reverted back to its old habits – as he was sleeping before we even took off.

Randy snoozing during takeoff

During the flight, they handled out a little client care bag with a small bottle of water, some pretzels, hand sanitizer, a couple of wipes, earbuds and rubber gloves. Then we just sat and watched a movie on the inflight entertainment.

Once we arrived in Vancouver, we were met at the gate by one of the Vancouver concierges (Denise), who has known Randy for a while. She walked us to the Maple Leaf Lounge, where we had some food and drinks. Because of COVID, a person can’t just help themselves to food and drinks. Instead, you can use your phone to order food right to your table. If you wanted a drink or some snacks, you could go up to the food area and an employee would get it for you.

We headed to our gate, and were the first people to board. As we were settling in, Randy realized that he forgot his water bottle in the lounge. Since we were at the opposite end of the terminal from the Maple Leaf Lounge, it was too risky for him to try to run back and retrieve it. So, he emailed the Air Canada Concierge, and she (Denise) got back to him right away. She was able go to the lounge, find his bottle and bring it onboard before the plane left. Phew!

The flight to Kelowna was quite full. Randy fell asleep on take off again. It was a short hop to Kelowna, and we were there before we knew it. However, the plane parked at the furthest end of the airport and and we had to walk the entire length of the airport to get to the exit. My sister was picking me up, and she had to park further away from the arrivals door. So, we ended up walking almost the entire length of the terminal again to her vehicle.

It was after 10:00pm when we got to the condo. We were quite tired, so we pretty much went straight to bed.

Day 2 (Friday, Sept 4, 2020) – Naramata Bench/Penticton

We woke up, had some breakfast and then headed south to the Penticton area. Today we had a tasting and a lunch reservation at Poplar Grove winery. Our tasting was at 11:30am, but we arrived earlier than expected, so just went for a drive past the different wineries first.

Even after a little drive, we were still about 15 minutes early for the tasting, so we just stood outside in the parking lot enjoying the nice weather until it was time to go in. The winery building was very beautiful and had fabulous views of the lake.

First was the wine tasting. The tasting room was set up so that the workers were behind a big plexiglass shield and would pass the wine through a little opening. The tasting was $5 each, and the wines were quite good.

After we finished our tasting, we went into the restaurant for our 12:00pm lunch reservation. It wasn’t very busy, so we were able to sit on the patio with a great view. We shared a bottle of wine of ‘orange’ pinot gris. This was pinot gris wine that they had accidentally left on the wine skins too long, so it had a slight orange tinge to it. They didn’t have a lot of bottles of this wine, and you could only get it in the restaurant. It was quite good, and went down well on a nice summer day.

Lunch at Poplar Grove

For lunch, Lucille and I had tempura halibut, Karen had cannelloni and Randy had a steak sandwich. All the meals we had were delicious. Lucille and I went with the Express Lunch option, which included a dessert of chocolate ganache (which we shared with Randy and Karen. It was also yummy. Before leaving the winery, Randy bought a couple bottles of wine.

After lunch, we drove around the Naramata Bench area a bit more, and found an honour fruit stand by the side of the road. Picked up some table grapes and some plums, then we headed back to Kelowna.

When we got back, we stopped at a grocery store and got some deli meat and cheese so we could have a charcuterie board later. Once we got to the condo, we opened up some wine and sat on the balcony for a bit.

To work up an appetite, we went for a short walk to the nearby Rotary Beach. We also stopped to watch a boat valet in operation. It’s like a big forklift that drives down the boat ramp and scoops up a boat (with passengers still in it), then drives into the nearby boatyard to let the people off at an elevated platform, then they store the boat in the yard. Very cool. Much quicker than trying to back a boat trailer into the lake yourself.

Late afternoon at Rotary Beach

For supper, we put together a lovely charcuterie board. After a fairly big lunch, this was the perfect amount of food for supper. To go with the charcuterie, we had one of the bottles of wine that we got at the winery.

Charcuterie board

We sat up chatting for a bit, but as we had been drinking off and on since 11:30am, we were a little tired, and ended up going to bed early.

Day 3 (Saturday, Sept 5, 2020) – West Kelowna/Sunset Cruise

Today we didn’t have plans first thing in the morning, so were able to relax a bit in the morning. Randy went for a run, and when he got back we had some bagels and fruit for breakfast.

We had lunch reservations at the Modest Butcher – which is a restaurant at the Mt. Boucherie Winery. Our reservation was at 11:30am, and we made it there right on time (after taking a wrong turn). We were able to sit out on the deck overlooking the lake.

We didn’t do a tasting here, but we did order some wine with our lunch. For lunch I had the fried chicken sandwich and Randy had the steak sandwich. My fried chicken was good, but Randy’s steak sandwich wasn’t as good as what he had at Poplar Grove. It was actually quite warm out, so a person was pretty warm sitting in the sun.

Lunch at the Modest Butcher

After lunch, we took a drive along Boucherie Road. There a some other wineries and also some nice looking houses. We stopped at a winery called Rollingdale. This was a very modest winery that was housed in a quonset hut. When we arrived there were a number of other people, but they left shortly after we got there, so there was only us an another couple (on the other side of the building) doing wine tastings.

Rollingdale winery

The wine tasting cost $4 each, and we had some interesting wine. Our wine host was very interesting and had a lot of knowledge of the winery and their processes. The quonset hut is not only used for tastings, but also is where they store the wine they produce during the winter months.

After the tasting, we just went back to the condo and hung out until it was time for our sunset cruise at 6:15pm. Luckily, the pick-up point was a 5 minute walk from where we were staying. I had booked a private cruise with Luxury Lake Tours, and they were very friendly and easy to book with.

As we were walking over to the meeting point, I got a call from Rob at the tour company. He was just letting me know that they had a problem with their regular boat. I immediately thought that the cruise was going to be cancelled, but he was just letting me know that we would be on a different, bigger boat. Which was fine by us.

It had been hot all day, and it was still beautiful weather for our cruise. Rob was our captain, and he first took us down the lake along side the West Kelowna side, where we saw some massive houses perched on the hill. Some even had their own funicular to get between the house and the lake.

Randy on sunset cruise

We watched the sunset, then cruised back along the Kelowna side of the lake – getting back just before dark. With this company, you were allowed to bring alcohol on board, so we brought some beer and snacks with us. The lake was nice and calm, so it was a great cruise. Also, Rob had lots of interesting tidbits to share with us (like where some hockey players had homes, and even the house that Goldie Hawn stayed at for a while).

Sunset on Okanagan Lake

After the cruise, we went back to the condo, where we had a charcuterie board again for supper (as we still had lots of food). Visited for a bit and then went to bed as it had been a busy day.

Day 4 (Sunday, Sept 6, 2020) – Beer and Eldorado Hotel

Today we didn’t have any plans, except for a dinner reservation in the evening. We had a bagel for breakfast, then we walked to a nearby Starbucks to get a drink. We then took our drinks to the nearby Bluebird beach, where we sat on a bench and watched boats and paddle-boarders in the lake.

Hanging on Bluebird beach

Close to Bluebird Beach was another small beach with beach access between two houses. Here we decided to wade into the water a bit. It was a bit on the cool side, but not too bad once you got used to it.

Karen and Randy wading in the lake

The meandered back to the condo – where we had some fruit and leftover cheese as a second breakfast, and hung out for a bit. Around 2:00pm, we decided to try a brewery called Kettle River Brewing. This place was was located in an industrial area not far from downtown Kelowna. But, it was a cool little place. We each had a flight of beer tasters, and shared a plate of fries with a brown butter and serrano aioli. Both the beer and the fries were good. Apparently the chef here was on Top Chef Canada, so a person might have to come back and try more food next time we are here.

Kettle River Brewing

After the beer and fries, we went back to the condo and continued drinking. We had a 5:30pm reservation for supper at the Eldorado Hotel (which is the same place we had take our sunset cruise from). It was a short walk from the condo and we arrived right on time. We were shown to a table right on the water.

Supper at the Eldorado

We all ordered the fried chicken sandwich – which was good (and also filling!). It was a beautiful night, so we took our time finishing our drinks and watching the scenery.

When we got back to the condo, everyone was too full to have any more food and drinks. So, we just watched a bit of TV, then went to bed.

Day 5 (Monday, Sept 7, 2020) – Return Flight to Edmonton

Today we had to fly back home. We woke up at 6:30 am, showered and had breakfast.  Around 7:40 am, we headed to the airport.  As it was a holiday Monday, there was little traffic, so we got there without any issues.  Although, we did notice a building on fire that was fairly close to the airport.  There were fire trucks trying to put out the fire while we were there.

Fire near end of airport runway

As we didn’t have any bags to check, we were able to go straight through security.  There was no line up, so it was quite quick.  However, we had to have our boarding pass scanned 3 times during the security process.  Once at the entrance to the security line up. Next, there was a small table just before the security belt where an agent scanned my boarding pass and also asked to swab my iPad.  Then once more before my items in the bins went through the x-ray machine.  These 3 agents were literally 10 feet away from each other, so I don’t understand the multiple boarding pass scans.

Once through security, we just found some seats to hang out at before our flight.  Past security, there was a Tim Horton’s, a Subway, a White Spot restaurant, a gift shop/convenience store and a wine shop that were open.  The wine shop is handy to pick up some wine to take home with you (as long as your travels don’t include going through a security check again). 

We boarded the flight (which was quite full) and were on our way to Vancouver.  The little client care bags were handed out once we were in the air.

We had a few hours in Vancouver before our next flight, so we went to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge.  As we approached the lounge, we noticed that there was a line-up out the door.  We weren’t sure if the lounge was full, or what the issue was.  We had to wait in line for a few minutes, and once inside, we were checked in quickly.  There was only one person working at the reception, so I’m guessing that someone was trying to change flights or something, and that was holding up everyone who was just trying to get into the lounge.

Once inside, we grabbed some seats.  As it was after 10:00 am, they had the lunch menu available.  Randy ordered a chicken flatbread and I ordered the chef special – which was Cod croquettes.  The croquettes were surprisingly good.  However, they came with arugula – but it was just plain greens – no dressing or anything. After we had something to eat, Randy popped out to get himself a latte from Starbucks.

Our flight to Edmonton was completely full, so we didn’t have an empty seat between us. Anticipating this, I had settled into the middle seat, and offered the window seat to the person originally in the middle seat.

This time the inflight entertainment was available as soon as we sat down. So, I tried to finish watching a movie that I had started on our flight between Edmonton and Vancouver. Partway through the movie, my screen started glitching – random green flashes and the audio and video weren’t synced up. I stopped the movie and restarted it again a couple of times until it started working again.

Other than that, the flight was uneventful. When we arrived in Edmonton, we hopped in our car and drove home. The weather was cool and rainy – and we even encountered a bit of hail on the drive home.

It was a great getaway, and we had lots of fun. We will have to try to get to Kelowna more often!