Quarry Rock Hike

Just thirty minutes from downtown Vancouver nuzzled in the quaint Deep Cover neighbourhood in North Vancouver lies this beautiful little hike called Quarry Rock. We didn't have the best weather for the hike but nonetheless we powered on through the drizzling rain to get to the must-see lookout. 

Beginning at the parking lot on Panorama Drive, there are numerous signs indicating the path to follow for the Baden Powell Trail. Quarry Rock makes up only a fraction of the Baden Powell Trail. The complete Baden Powell Trail is 48km and covers a whole range of Vancouver's North Shore region from Deep Cove all the way to Horseshoe Bay. Follow the Baden Powell trail signs, which will take you along Panorama Drive until you get to a set of wooden stairs on your left. This is where the hike begins. Shortly after a few steps, you'll come across a pretty relentless uphill path covered in exquisitely intertwined tree roots. The hike leads you through one of Vancouver's many temperate rainforests with Hemlock and Douglas Fir trees aplenty. The trail begins to level out after about ten minutes, once you get to a wooden bridge. The next thirty minutes of the hike is a steady incline along paths and wooden boardwalks until you reach a fork in the Baden Powell Trail. Merge right through the tree clearing and you'll hit solid rock - this is the Quarry Rock summit. From here, you can enjoy scenic views of the Indian Arm inlet, Deep Cove harbour, and the skyscrapers of a faraway downtown Vancouver.

Quarry Rock is an awesome little hike if you want a bit of exercise before the day begins or if you're just in Vancouver for a couple of days and have lots to cram in!

Round trip: 1.5 - 2 hours

Length: 3.8km

Elevation: 100m

 

The Block Kitchen + Bar

A must on any visit to Banff is dining at The Block Kitchen + Bar. Located along Caribou Street just off of Banff Ave lies this brilliant and delicious tapas bar. The Block is a relatively new restaurant to Banff and has already made an excellent name for itself not least for its cocktails but also because of its amazing food which boasts an exotic Mediterranean and Asian twist. It is one of the few restaurants in Banff that offers a variety of dishes rather than just burgers, burgers and more burgers. (We do love burgers though!)

The interior of The Block is very different to the other typical Canadian restaurants in Banff. From its funky birdcage lighting fixtures to its wine bottles hanging from the wall and its chilled out music, this place is definitely one of the more edgier places to wine and dine in Banff. If you're looking for delicious cocktails in this little mountain town, then The Block should definitely be number one on your list. The Juniper Flower puts a fresh Asian twist on my favourite cocktail ever - the gin garden. Gin and St Germain elderflower liquer is mixed with lemon juice and an exotic Japanese citrus fruit called Yuzu creating a refreshing and zestful summery cocktail.  The Watermelon Splash is also a must-try cocktail with its perfect blend of watermelon, lime and cucumber. Our favourites from the hanging wine bottles collection are: the classic Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and the Trapiche Malbec from Argentina.

We've visited this tapas style restaurant many a times so have a few favourite dishes we like to indulge in. Firstly, we love the lamb koftes kebab that literally melt in your mouth complete with a creamy tzaziki and tomato jam. Another must have are the Silk Road chicken skewers, which have a delicious crunch on the outside yet are still succulently juicy on the inside topped off with an asian-infused spicy mayo to dip them into. Don't forget to try the lusciously flavoursome grilled spicy prawns with a peanut dipping sauce. The fact that there is only one salad on the menu is not a problem in the slightest. When you get it right once, why create more? The black quinoa, golden beet and apricot salad has everything you could want in a salad including all the great super foods covered in a light sesame dressing. The Block also has a great lunch menu with mouth-watering sandwiches (see the fresh veggie sandwich below packed with hummus, avocado and peppers) and a new curry pretty much every week.

For dessert, do not hesitate to get more than one. The banana spring rolls with mango cream and chocolate sauce are a taste of heaven. And to end the evening, the tiramisu brulé is a perfect choice. The satisfying snap of the sugar shell before you get to the creamy coffee custard centre is second to none.

This place has something for everyone! It should definitely be on your bucket list when visiting Banff!

For more information, check out their website here.

 

Whitebark Cafe

Away from the hustle and bustle of Banff's downtown district, just a little further along Banff Ave (at the Banff Aspen Lodge to be precise) lies this awesome little coffee shop. This place is a hotspot for locals and visitors alike, and once you try their coffee you'll know why! Whitebark source their beans from Moja Coffee - a European-inspired, organic, fairtrade roasting company located in North Vancouver. With these beans, Whitebark make some of the smoothest cappuccinos and lattes known to Banff. There is also a wide selection of teas to choose from including Earl Grey, Aspen Breakfast, Goji Berry, Twisted Chamomile and Roobios Chai to name a few - all of which have been sourced locally from the Banff Tea Company. 

There is more than just coffee and tea at this place too. A favourite of mine is the house made granola with yoghurt and berry compote. The granola has the perfect balance of crunchy and chewy thanks to the delicious combination of oats, coconut, almonds, honey, raisins and cashews. When this is mixed together with the yoghurt and fresh raspberry compote, it's a little taste of heaven. What's even better is that you can get this yoghurt parfait to go, which is ideal if you're in a rush to get to the ski hill on a powder day! The savoury goods include a daily selection of frittata, quiche, soup and focaccia bread. Pesto and roasted vegetables focaccia was on offer today. Once toasted, this little slice of bliss is served up with some rocket and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. The sweet treats are aplenty at Whitebark, some of which include loaded carrot muffins, peach blueberry muffins, coconut macaroons, oatmeal raisin coconut cookies, date squares, and a cheesecake. 

I love the minimalist design of Whitebark Cafe with its chalkboards and hanging lighting fixtures by the window. The row of chairs looking out onto Banff Ave offers a sweet view of Rundle mountain to daydream at. When the sun is shining, Whitebark's huge patio is thriving with other coffee lovers taking in the spectacular Banff mountains in every direction. 

For more information, check out their website here.

 

Tower of Babel Scramble

So I stumbled across this hike (which was more of a scramble) after a friend showed me some amazing photos from the peak and decided it had to be done. Tower of Babel is probably one of the most rewarding hikes I've ever done, but little did I know what was in store to get there...

Tower of Babel was named by an early explorer of the Canadian Rockies, Walter Wilcox, who thought the mountain had a strong resemblance to the biblical 'Tower of Babel' that reached to the heavens. It's hard to argue with this name when you're standing at the bottom looking up at the prodigious peak.

To begin the hike, head left from Moraine Lake and follow the trail towards Consolation Lakes. Follow a footpath with stairs until you reach a huge rock pile. Look up, see the two peaks, find the gully and that's where you want to get to! There's no right way to climb up this mountain, just aim for the gully in-between Mount Babel and the Tower of Babel. The start of the ascent involves a lot of big rocks that are easy enough to step on one-by-one without any give. As you get a little bit higher, these big rocks turn into smaller looser rocks also known as scree. You'll now find yourself using your hands a lot more as you need more balance and control as the rocks begin to give way below you - the faster you move, the easier it will be. Whilst ascending, I found holding onto the walls of the gully helped me to keep sturdy. As you climb further into the gully, more solid rock becomes available for you to climb and navigate yourself to get to the very top. As you reach the end of all the rock-climbing, turn left and follow the trail for no more than 5 minutes to get to the peak. Sit back, relax and enjoy that view! 

Lake Moraine is one of the most photographed lakes in Canadian Rockies - every tourist jumps off their tour bus, takes a quick snap of the jaw-dropping surreal clear blue water and gets back on their bus - but to see it from way up high from a completely different perspective after a vigorous two hour scramble was nothing short of incredible. The glacier fed lake looks even more blue and the Valley of the Ten Peaks as grandeur as ever.

On the way down, you'll see the most popular paths that have guided other people to the peak that you wish you could've seen on your way up. I was definitely expecting a difficult hike for the Tower of Babel, not a 5 minute walk and a 2 hour scramble to the top. Regardless, I am so glad I did it. As a side note, I would definitely recommend wearing a helmet - I had to duck a few times to avoid being hit by somersaulting rocks that had become loose from hikers above. If you do see a rock start to tumble, always shout out ROCK to let anyone below you know.

Round trip: 3.5 - 4 hours

Elevation: 2360m

To get to this hike from Banff, take the Trans-Canada Highway 1 westwards towards Lake Louise and then turn right onto Moraine Lake road until you reach Moraine Lake and the free parking lot.

 

Primrose Hill

Regents Park is home to the beautiful Primrose Hill, a serene escape from the exciting but relentless buzz of the city. Sit yourselves down on picnic blankets atop the grassy slopes which offer a perfect vantage point over the London skyline. The Shard, the London Eye, the Gherkin and St Paul's Cathedral reach into the clouds across the horizon, but surrounded by 50 acres of lush greenery, the city couldn't seem further away. 

We came armed with goodies from Borough Market, but a great way to enjoy a late summer afternoon would be to bring a bottle of bubbly and watch the world go by. 

The nearest tube station is Chalk Farm (on the Northern Line), which is a mere couple of minutes walk away. Follow the signs (or the dog-walkers) to Regents Park. Also if you fancy a wander, Camden is an easy 15 minute walk away down Regents Park Road and Chalk Farm Road.