Great Scot! It’s the Great Gatsby!




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Rowena’s Inn on the River is a delightful trip back in time. It’s an old homestead built by a pioneer logger in the area for his family.

Charles Nelson Pretty was a businessman and entrepreneur. In the 1920s he had an opportunity to buy a 160 acre parcel of land in Harrison Mills. That land became, among other things, a dairy farm, a silvertip fox farm and a logging operation. At one time, Pretty’s operation was the largest privately owned logging company in all of British Columbia.

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The Pretty Estate overlooks the Harrison River #HarrisonMills

When the home was built, there was no road. The Pretty family took the train to Harrison Mills and paddled by canoe to their estate. Later he had a yacht built and sailed up the river, mooring in front of his home.

While Charles and his wife Rowena spent much of their time in Vancouver, they also spent time in Harrison Mills. Betty-Anne, the youngest of their four children was actually born at the home.

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The Pretty family home at Harrison Mills

There was no electricity, so Pretty built a dam and produced his own electricity. The home still runs off the power from this generator.

In 1968, two of the children died tragically within six months of each other. Charles Pretty passed away in 1992 at the ripe old age of 102. The two surviving siblings, Ivan and Betty-Anne decided to convert the old manor into a Bed and Breakfast in 1995. They named the inn Rowena’s after their mother and late sister. There are five bedrooms available.

Four cozy cabins were added and the gatehouse which has two bedrooms is also available.

Two of the four cabins available for rent
Two of the four cabins available for rent #Luxurycottage

Ivan thought the location was ideal for a gold course and the 18 hole Sandpiper Golf Course soon became a reality. A restaurant was built adjacent to the old homestead. It was called the River’s Edge Restaurant but was renamed as the Clubhouse Restaurant to tie it in with the golf course. (I like the old name better!)

After Ivan passed away, Betty-Anne bought out his share and became sole owner of the property. Though Betty-Anne sold the estate in 2016, she and her husband Doug still live in the house, though Doug is currently in a convalescent home.

One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint!
One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint! #RowenasInn

The house is filled with antique furniture and old photos of the family’s history. As a home from the 1920s,  it seemed an ideal place to hold an annual themed party costume party. And so the annual Great Gatsby Party came about.

Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014
Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014 #RowenasInn

We attended the party in 2014, dressed up in costume, and stayed overnight with our friends Chris and Sheila. The Pretty family and their staff do it up in grand style. They bring in several old period cars and park them on the lawn of the estate. They bring in a few large tents in case it rains (which it occasionally does) and they brought in a swing band, the Jen Hodge All Stars, to provide some atmospheric music. They rocked the place. Band leader Hodge is the bass player in the video below.

There were also professional dancers to get people into the swing of things.

Professional dancers got people's toes tapping.
Professional dancers got people’s toes tapping. #RowenasInn

It did rain for a while during the day and the party was moved under the tents and indoors. Tea and refreshments were served, including 1920s era drinks like mint juleps.

Janis and Sheila enjoy a cup of tea while chatting with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty.
Janis, Sheila  and Chris chat with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty. #HistoricalInn

Of course, one of the main attractions is the attendees. Some go all out to create the 1920s look. Flapper dresses, vests, suspenders and pocket watches. My wife sewed her own dress for the occasion.

Three gals in flapper dresses
Three gals in flapper dresses #RowenasInn

We thought that the party might just attract older folks like ourselves but we were surprised by how many young people got into the spirit of the occasion.

Outside under a tent, the Baz Luhman version of The Great Gatsby was playing on a screen, but not many people were watching. It was backdrop.

The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound
The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound #RowenasInn

The Gatsby Party skipped a year in 2016 but is back for 2017. A limited number of rooms and cabins are also available if you want to stay overnight.

Below is a short promotional video the estate produced for the Great Gatsby Party. My wife and I just happen to have a cameo appearance.

And while the Gatsby Party is a fun reason to visit Rowena’s, there are other reasons and seasons to visit. The inn is at the base of the road that leads to the Hemlock Ski Resort. The same road leads to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel where you can watch salmon spawn. It’s open for visits from Oct. 6 to Nov. 1 every year.

And the Harrison River attracts one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in North America every year in November. November 18-19 this year kicks off the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. Pretty Estates is a great place for eagle watching.

And this year the estate is having a special Valentine’s dinner in both the Clubhouse Restaurant and in the dining room at the inn. My wife and I have booked a two day stay and are looking forward to it.

Rowena’s is a thoroughly charming trip back in time with many activities to choose from. It’s only 21.9 kilometres from Harrison Hot Springs and 108 kilometres from Vancouver, about an hour and a half drive.

Below are two photo galleries and some links of interest. If you’re on the front page of this blog, just scroll on down, otherwise click on the links. I will be taking more photos and adding them after Valentine’s Day.

 

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Photo Gallery: Great Gatsby Party




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Here are some more photos from the Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s Inn on the River in 2014. The party is being held again on June 11, 2017.

The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena's
The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Professional dancers added to the mood.
Professional dancers added to the mood.
A number of people mingled at poolside
A number of people mingled at poolside
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she's wearing
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she’s wearing
Janis and Sheila have tea
Janis and Sheila have tea
Betty-Anne's husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
Betty-Anne’s husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
This classic Rolls was also on display
This classic Rolls was also on display
The guy on the right won best male costume
The guy on the right won best male costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Janis and I near the restaurant
Janis and I near the restaurant

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Photo Gallery: Rowena’s Inn on the River




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Here are some additional photos of the inn and surrounding area. I will be adding some more after Valentine’s Day when I will be taking some interior shots. The view at the top of the page is of the Harrison River as seen from beside the swimming pool.

The inn in the winter - it's prettier in the summer with the sunshine and the shrubs in bloom
The inn in the winter – it’s prettier in the summer with the sunshine and the shrubs in bloom
There'as a little brook near by
There’as a little brook near by
One of the four cabins
One of the four cabins

More photos to follow after Feb. 14th.

 

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Paris: The City of Light




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Paris does not have a wild plethora of neon like Times Square in New York or the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. It’s called the City of Light because of its importance during the Age of Enlightenment and because it was one of the first European cities to get street lighting.

My wife and I spent a week in Paris to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary in 2011. We had never been there before and we were in for a treat. Paris is fabulous.

Today’s post will give you an overview. In future posts I’ll look at the Palais de Versailles, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Eiffel Tower and more. But my very next post will be a bit more risque. I call it Paris: Ooh-la-la!!! Watch for it.

In any event, we flew out in mid-September, arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport around noon on the 17th. Our hotel was on the other side of town, just south of the Bois de Boulogne in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.

The Tim Hotel on the Place Marcel-Sembat
The Tim Hotel on the Place Marcel-Sembat

We schlepped our bags across town on Paris’s excellent rail network, changing trains at the huge Gare de Nord. The stations have no escalators so it was a bit of a haul. But finally we arrived at the Marcel-Sembat Station, which conveniently lay just below the Tim Hotel where we were staying. It overlooks Place Marcel-Sembat, one of the busiest intersections in the region with streets emanating like spokes on a wheel – eight of them.

Jet-lagged as we were, we weren’t about to throw away half a day sleeping. After a quick shower we went down and asked the concierge how to get to the Eiffel Tower. He told us to hop the Metro to the Trocadero Station.

Now Paris’s subway system is superb (despite the lack of escalators at stations). We got week-long tickets and hopped on. At the Trocadero Station we got off. Up some steps and we were at the back of the Palais de Chaillot. We hiked up some more steps to the vast Trocadero Plaza and there it was. Magnificent! Absolutely stunning! The Eiffel Tower!

The Eiffel Tower seen from the Trocadero Plaza.
The Eiffel Tower seen from the Trocadero Plaza. In this photo it looks like it is right there on the Plaza, but it is actually across the Seine River.

We walked towards it and found it was across the Seine River from the plaza. We descended the steps to street level and crossed the bridge feeling euphoric that we were actually in Paris.

We decided against going up the tower, opting to take a riverboat cruise on the Seine to give us an overview. The tour guide brought our attention to various points of interest along the way as the boat headed downstream, around Notre Dame Cathedral and back.

One of the many tour boats on the Seine.
One of the many tour boats on the Seine.
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The back of Notre Dame Cathedral with its flying buttresses.

Years ago in Vancouver I used to eat at a little restaurant on Thurlow called Le Bistro. My favorite dish was something called a Croque Monsieur. So I was pleased that food was available on the boat and Croque Monsieur was on the menu. Unfortunately, it did not hold a candle to the one at Le Bistro. In fact, I have yet to find one as good.

Le Pont Alexandre III
Le Pont Alexandre III, one of many bridges across the Seine.

After returning to our starting point we decided to walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We could see it in the distance. Paris is actually a great city for walking. All the major venues are within walking distance and we only used the Metro occasionally. The famous arch was just over two kilometres away, a half hour walk.

The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe

The arch stands in the middle of a large traffic circle at one end of the Champs Elysees. We walked around and under it but did not go to the top. We never did get around to going up to the top – something for our next trip!

At the other end of the Champs Elysées is the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre. The Champs is a huge roadway with four lanes in each direction. We walked by shops and other sites and saw a long lineup at a place across the street. Later we learned it was a new Abercrombie and Fitch store and the lineup was job applicants.

Job seekers outside Abercrombie and Fitch on the Champs Elysees.
Job seekers outside Abercrombie and Fitch on the Champs Elysées.

Among other sites, we passed Le Grand Palais. This is a huge convention center with a massive glass roof. A variety of different trade and other shows are held there. While we were in Paris they had a an exhibition on the history of video games.

Le Grand Palais, Paris's Trade and Convention Centre
Le Grand Palais, Paris’s Trade and Convention Centre.

The Champs Elysees ends at the Place de la Concorde where the giant Luxor Obelisk stands. This is one of the original obelisks from the Luxor Temple in Egypt and was gifted to the people of France by Muhammed Ali, Khedive of Egypt in 1833. It is over 3000 years old and was moved to its current location in 1836.

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The 3000 year old Luxor Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde

But in 1793 this large square was called the Place de la Révolution. Close your eyes and visualize the square filled with throngs of rough-hewn people, milling and jostling for a view of the object in the center. On a platform – the guillotine. Tumbrils roll up carrying their victims for the day. One by one they are led up the steps of the scaffold. They are strapped to a board and tilted into place. The knife drops. The executioner draws the head out of the basket and holds it aloft to show the jeering crowd. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were among its victims. It’s enough to make the blood run cold as an icy finger traces down your spine. Hard to believe that happened here.

Paris is a city of gardens as well as famous buildings, including les Jardins Luxembourg near the Sorbonne University. Along the Champs Elysées we passed a number of beautiful gardens before arriving at the Tuileries, gardens built by Queen Catherine de Medicis in the 1564. She also had a palace built at one end (between the gardens and the Louvre). The palace served as the city residence for the royal family and was burned down by the Paris Commune in 1871.

The Louvre seen from the round pond in the Tuileries Garden
The Louvre seen from the round pond in the Tuileries Garden

The original garden measured 500 meters by 300 meters and was the largest garden in Paris at the time. (It still is.) After it became a public park, many statues were placed here and it is stunning both as a garden and a museum piece.

Staute of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Jardins des Tuileries
Statue of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Jardin des Tuileries

We passed the mini-Arc de Triomphe and headed to the Louvre. This immense art museum used to be a palace before Queen Catherine abandoned it and built the new one. The Louvre was also torched by the Communards in 1871 but miraculously survived.

In a central plaza in the nook formed by the U-shaped Louvre is the famous glass pyramid. We’ll take a closer look at the Louvre in another post.

Yours truly in front of the Louvre
Yours truly in front of the Louvre

We left the Louvre and walked down some steps to the banks of the Seine, walking along its length for a while. On the far side we saw the Musée d’Orsay, which used to be a train station. It is reminiscent of the old Gare Montparnasse shown in the Academy Award winning movie Hugo.

The Musée d'Orsay is housed in a former railroad station.
The Musée d’Orsay is housed in a former railroad station.

Soon we found ourselves back at the Eiffel Tower. We crossed over to the Palais de Challot and the Trocadero Metro station for the short hop back to the hotel. After dinner at a nearby restaurant, we hit the hay, looking forward to the rest of our time in Paris. Our appetite had been whetted and we would eat up the city with gusto.

Statue in front of the Palais de Chaillot across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. The Palais is also a museum.
Statue in front of the Palais de Chaillot across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. The Palais is also a museum. The top of the building directly behind the statue is the Trocadero Plaza. You can see people standing at the edge of it.

Our next post will be Paris: Ooh-la-la. It will tell an amusing story of an unexpected encounter on our first morning in Paris, as well as our visit to the Moulin Rouge on our last evening in Europe. Watch for it!

Meanwhile, check out our photo gallery of additional pictures of Paris. Click on the link below or scroll on down if you are on this website’s main page.



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The Aquarium at Atlantis




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In 2002 Forbes Magazine had an article on the most expensive hotel suites in the world. Top of the list at $25,000 a night was the Bridge Suite at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. Ever since, I’ve always wanted to see the Atlantis Resort.

In January 2015, my wife and I, her sister and her brother and his wife took a Caribbean cruise that stopped at Nassau in the Bahamas. One of the excursions available was to the Atlantis Resort. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity.

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The Atlantis Resort Hotel

The  Bridge Suite is in the bridge between the two Royal Towers. But the hotel complex shown above is just one of five hotel complexes and they also have the Harborside Resort which is a collection of villas and a marina if you want to stay there on your boat.

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The Harborside Resort is the colourful collection of villas you see across the inlet.

Besides accommodations, Atlantis has a 141 acre waterpark, beaches, pools, aquariums and  21 restaurants. There is also a street of shops you can check out. You can swim with the sting rays, snorkel, scuba dive, and get up close and personal with dolphins. It really is a destination resort with something for everyone.

Our tour barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. A bus took us from the cruise ship to Paradise Island where Atlantis is located. We met up with our guide who first took us through the casino. No picture taking was allowed inside the casino.

The Casino at Atlantis
The Casino at Atlantis

And then we got to the main part of our tour which is the aquarium. It’s a world class affair with many different species of fish. There is a clear tunnel you can walk through and watch the fish swim overhead and alongside. And there are many different aquaria, each with its own theme.

Many colourful tropical fish were on display.
Many colourful tropical fish were on display.
Including this odd bunch that liked to hang out in the corner by themselves.
Including this odd bunch that liked to hang out in the corner by themselves.

I’ll include more pictures in a separate photo gallery because I want to focus on the best part of the aquarium visit which was quite different and which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Many of the aquaria opened up at the surface to the outdoors and you could, in fact, walk around outside and look down on the fish.

Juvenile sawfish and stingrays swim around in this outdoor area.
Juvenile sawfish and stingrays swim around in this outdoor area.

When we finished our inside tour, our guide told us we could spend the rest of our time exploring on our own. She recommended checking out the feeding of the sharks and rays outside in about a half hour. So we went out and waited. Remarkably few people joined us. Their loss as what we saw was amazing. A young lady named Bianca, one of the curators at the aquarium, came out with a trolley filled with pails of fish. She fed some in one location and then walked across a shallow section of the immense pool field with sharks and rays following her around like puppies.

She climbed out of the pool and walked over to another area where she hand fed stingrays and zebra sharks. It was an incredible sight as these denizens of the deep snapped fish from her hand. She sometimes patted their heads and you could see she had a great affection for these beasts. And they seemed to like her as well.

My wife asked Bianca if she named her charges. Indeed she did using names from Greek and roman mythology. But she only named the rays and sharks. Too many other fish to name them all. Amazingly, she could identify which sharks and rays were which though they all looked much alike to me.

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Bianca and one of her charges.

In the video below, Bianca explains the names of her fishy friends. But watch that zebra shark just snap up that last fish as she tries to identify him. Chomp! So cool!

We still had an hour or so after the feeding session so we explored some more of the Royal Towers complex. Outside the casino was an immense abstract sculpture, one of five that each cost over a million dollars.

Janis and her sister Betty in front of a million dollar statue.
Janis and her sister Betty in front of a million dollar statue.

We headed for the lobby and came across the Throne of Atlantis. Naturally we had to try it out. It was big enough for two!

Janis and I sitting on the Throne of Atlantis.
Janis and I sitting on the Throne of Atlantis.

The lobby area had an immense atrium with intricate carvings and fluted columns. Quite amazing.

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The immense lobby of the Royal Towers.

We inquired about the Bridge Suite and yes, it was open to tours. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time before we had to return to the cruise ship. Another time for sure.

The Bridge Suite
The Bridge Suite

Our tour guide had told us that it was informally know as the Michael Jackson Suite as he was the first person to have stayed there. It rents for $25,000 a night with a four night minimum.

I recently checked online and it is no longer the most expensive hotel suite in the world. In fact, it slipped to number three in 2003 and it is not even on this year’s top 15 list. A lot of fancy hotels have been built since 2002!

But I also checked to see how much a stay at Atlantis would set back the average person. The budget complex, still pretty fancy, is the Beach Tower. There is currently a special on if you order before July 20th. Forty percent off. I did a tentative booking for a week in early October and it costs a much more affordable $129.14  a night.  I think a week at Atlantis just might be in our future!




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