Three Days in Naramata

We took a short break to Naramata in BC's Okanagan Valley last week to visit some friends. Although we weren't there to be tourists we couldn't help it. It's a wonderful time to visit. In fact, it may even be the best time, with the vineyards full of fruit, ready to be picked. It seemed like every corner held another magnificent view.

Lake Breeze Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Vines at Lake Breeze Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Vines aLake Breeze Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

We weren't on a tasting holiday per se, but we couldn't not try a few. Quickly we realized we would need more hours in the day. We made some new-to-us discoveries in the form of the delightful Pinot Gris from Poplar Grove as well as the Meritage from Lake Breeze. I feel like we only skimmed the surface and another trip is definitely in order to delve further into the delights of Naramata.

Poplar Grove Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Poplar Grove Winery, Naramata, BC, Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

One of the highlights of the trip involved no wine at all but a drive up to Chute Lake, just north of Naramata. A forest fire swept through this area a few years ago, and now the new growth of deciduous trees is renewing the area. The green and gold colours lit up the barren and scorched landscape, making me feel like I had landed in a Group of 7 painting. Arriving at Chute Lake, we were greeted by a lovely lady sitting outside the café.

"Are you coming in for a cinnamon bun, fresh out of the oven?" she asked.

There's really no way to say no to that, is there? After our walk down by the lake and a perusal of the "museum", an old barn packed with antique household machinery, and farm equipment, we ordered two cinnamon buns between four of us and promptly ordered two more. In addition to being covered in sweet, gooey icing, they came with a side of butter. And no, it wasn't too much.

Near Chute Lake, looking over Lake Okanagan.  Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Cinnamon Bun at Chute Lake. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Chainsaws, Chute Lake. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Café at Chute Lake, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Overlooking Lake Okanagan, near Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

On our way home, a chance to hang on to the Okanagan for a little while longer as we stopped in Keremeos to buy fruit at the row of fruit stands that dot Highway Three. I seem to have a problem, which I'm fairly sure is genetic, inherited from both my mother and father, that makes it impossible for me not to stop at a fruit stand. The consequences of this were a next day spent at home pickling hot peppers, making acorn squash soup, corn chowder and a pear tart. There are worse problems.

Salish Apples, Keremeos, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Pear & Ginger Frangipane Tart Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Acorn Squash Soup Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
View with Vines over Lake Okanagan, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

I'm already dreaming of when we can go back. Have you been to Naramata? What are your favourite wineries or experiences?

All content © 2015 Helena McMurdo. Do not reproduce without permission.

Arde Lucus: My Roman Holiday

I wanted to share one of the really special things that we experienced while we were in Galicia this time: The Arde Lucus Festival in Lugo. Now I had been to Lugo once or twice before. As some of you may know, I was born there so this wasn't my first trip. But to see it in this way was an extra special treat.

Roman Costume at Arde Lucus. © 2014 Helena McMurdo

The area of Lugo was originally a Celtic settlement, dedicated to Lugos, the Celtic god, of among other things, light. Depending on your point of view, the area was either a) conquered, or b) pacified by the Romans in 13 BC who built the city which they named Lucus Agusti. By the 3rd century they had surrounded the city with fortified walls mostly to protect the city from the local tribes. The walls still stand and today are described by UNESCO as "the finest surviving example of late Roman military fortifications".  In 2000, the walls were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Arde Lucus festival is a celebration of this Roman heritage. If you have ever been in Spain for festivals like Pamplona's San Fermin or Sevilla's Feria de Abril, you will know that they are spectacles of colour and pageantry. And Arde Lucus is no different in that respect. This is no sweaty fraternity toga party. This is the full set of Gladiator. With 600,000 visitors over 3 days, it is a sight to behold. 

Catedral y Muralla de Lugo © 2014 Helena McMurdo
Romans catching up with the news at The Arde Lucus Festival  © 2014 Helena McMurdo

For me one of the highlights was the way the families approached this event, all dressed up together and coordinated. We even saw baby carriages decked out like Roman chariots. They went to such great effort, each putting their own spin on things. It was lovely to see everyone getting into the spirit of things. Of course, there were events and spectacles like a Roman Circus to behold, but for me, the fun part was the people watching. The variety and quality of the costumes was astonishing. And of course today, Romans and Celts mingle in the streets with little animosity. 

A young gladiator at the Arde Lucus Festival © 2014 Helena McMurdo
Celts at The Arde Lucus Festival © 2014 Helena McMurdo
Family at the Arde Lucus Festival © 2014 Helena McMurdo
Roman Warrior at Arde Lucus. © 2014 Helena McMurdo
Roman Hair. Arde Lucus © 2014 Helena McMurdo
Lugo, Arde Lucus Festival  © 2014 Helena McMurdo
Calle de La Cruz, Lugo, Arde Lucus Festival  © 2014 Helena McMurdo

Of course, we joined in the fun in the bars and restaurants. As we stopped in one restaurant in the narrow street above, we sipped our wine happily, while past the doorway marched legions of Roman soldiers, with their drums and cavalry to boot. For a brief moment I thought of what it must have been like to be a Celt living in a straw covered hut, seeing the Romans marching in and wondering how life would change. But then I took another sip of wine. And everything seemed fine.

A truly special display, and if you find yourself in this part of the world around the middle of June, you might want to consider investing in some Gladiator sandals. In 2015, Arde Lucus will take place June 19-21.