Bus Tour 1 – Merritt, Kelowna, and Vernon

After a few hours of travelling along the Trans-Canada Highway from Surrey to Hope and then the snowy Coquihalla Highway from Hope, we arrived in the town of Merritt. Nestled in the Nicola Valley, Merritt is in the centre of the semi-arid valley that is home to some farmland and ranches. Merritt, to me, is best known for the Merritt Mountain Music Festival. That’s the largest country music festival in BC.

Along the Coquihalla Highway between the summit and Merritt

Well that’s not why we stopped here on our highway tour, we stopped here for lunch. And because we were on a Chinese-language tour, we were stopping for Chinese food.

Chinese food in Merritt

I think Chinese food outside of Vancouver and Toronto can be hit and miss. I think Chinese food in small town Canada is sketchy at best. However, it seems like any Chinese-language bus tour I’ve been on in the past always give their business to Chinese restaurants along the way. I guess that’s what most of the travellers on these tours want. It wasn’t what I really wanted, but I knew this would happen when I signed up for the tour. So I just accept it.

One thing I did like about Tropico Spice Chinese Restaurant in Merritt was the classic red Chinese dishes with 4 Chinese characters floating in circles among Chinese floral prints with all of it encircled by abstract and boxy Chinese clouds. These plates are a classic and kitschy part of some Chinese restaurants. I think that was probably the best part of the meal. The food here was okay. To me, it was nothing to write home about, but it’s definitely not like the Chinese food found in Vancouver.

Sails sculpture in Kelowna
closed boat rental facility on Lake Okanagan

After a quick lunch, we were back on the bus and off to Kelowna. Blue skies accompanied us all the way to the city on the shores of Lake Okanagan. Kelowna is always a beautiful city to visit with its ideal spot on Lake Okanagan. In the hotter and busier summer months, one can rent a boat and other water-borne vehicle to enjoy the lake. Our guide told us of the City of Kelowna’s million-dollar bounty for anyone who can capture an unmistakably clear photo of the Ogopogo, the BC version of the Loch Ness Monster.

Kelowna’s Paramount Theatre

Being a more urban-centric traveller, I actually walked away from the beautiful lake and took a look at the street shops nearby. There was a new and fairly large Earls Restaurant that had popped up directly across from The Sails sculpture. Down one of the streets, there was the Art Deco-ish Paramount Theatre. Beyond that, there were a few shops and an all important coffee shop.

shop signage in Kelowna

We popped into the Blenz Coffee on the street corner for a couple of reasons. A couple of us had a coffee craving (not me). Then I needed to pay my hydro bill. So instead of looking at the beautiful lake, some of us chilled in the coffee shop. That’s okay. I’ve been to Kelowna before and I probably will again. I’ll truly enjoy the lake when I have more time.

Oyama, BC – Kalamalka Lake to the left and Wood Lake to the right

After a couple of us downed some coffee (no unbottled drinks allowed on the tour bus), we hopped back on the tour bus and headed north out of Kelowna. We were on our way up to Vernon now. Along the way, we passed by Oyama, BC.  Oyama’s claim to fame is that it is a tiny strip of land that separates Wood Lake to the south and Kalamalka Lake to the north. It’s just such a tiny strip of land with a tiny village built on it.

Planet Bee in Vernon, BC

At the northern end of Kalamalka Lake, we arrived in Vernon. We made a planned stop at a honey place called Planet Bee. We were introduced to the owner’s son, who gave us the low-down on all things bee and honey-related. After the honeybee spiel, they let us into the shop to purchase their wares. There was a whole counter with honey samples. Just pick a toothpick and dab it into any flavoured honey jar of your choice. I soon realized, however, that trying every single flavour would not be possible. It was just so sweet from the get-go that I gave up after two samples.

What I would have preferred to sample was some mead. They had some mead for sale, but I couldn’t sample any. Unfortunately, Planet Bee does not serve samples to the bus tours that come through. If I had come on my own apart from a tour, then I might have been able to try some mead. So because I didn’t really get to sample anything, I decided not to purchase any mead. Oh well.That’s how the honeycomb crumbles.

After Planet Bee, we were back on the road and on our way up Highway 97A to go back onto the Trans-Canada Highway at Sicamous. Not to mention, dinner time was fast approaching.

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