Travel

Long Way Up

Vancouver, Canada. September 2014.

ME: So what’s this thing we’re doing before we go zip lining?

HER: Oh don’t worry about it; it’s nothing, a small hike.

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What appeared to be a rather innocuous pre-zip lining activity turned out to be anything but, yet it resulted in one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences a traveler could undertake.

That “small hike” was Vancouver’s Grouse Grind; the spectacular 1.8 mile hike up the steep, winding trail of Grouse Mountain. Standing at 2800 feet from its entry point to the final step, the trail boasts varying difficulties of steepness that fluctuate from 17 degrees to a calf-busting 30. For those not so hike-inclined, all those numbers mean that it’s a damn steep mountain; one that proudly claims the nickname “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”.

The climb has become regular exercise for extreme fitness nuts, easily spotted as those running (yes, running) up as you huff and puff to stop every 10 minutes. The fastest recorded times clock in at less than 30 minutes, which, when you start climbing the grind, you realize is borderline insanity.

We had hiked a fairly decent trail around one of Tofino’s islands just days prior but what preparation is big enough to stand in the shadow of a mountain?

The gravity of the hike dawns on you at the foot of the trail, emblazoned with substantial warning signs and disclaimers warning those with poor health and rickety hearts to stay away. But with every quad-breaking step amongst the endless trees and rock, you begin to take in the enormity of the task at hand. And with every step, the opportunity to hit reset and trek back down the walk grows smaller and smaller. It’s a challenge that is only rewarding if you push through, fight the urge to quit and soldier on to the top.

After an hour into the hike, we really did feel like dying, and as what seemed like the last embers of strength faded in our search for respite, a marker finally twinkled at a distant, just barely out of our reach. The ¾ marker? The halfway point? Our anticipatory glimmer of hope was crushed as the ¼ marker made its much belated appearance. At this point, we really did just have to sit for a moment to pull ourselves together. Some water, a pep talk and new found determination later, we decided there was no room for quit.

Ten minutes at a time.

Through our ascent we noticed the wide range of people who took the climb. From the elite athletes who run the trail multiple times (we met someone who did the Grind 4 times in one day), to those like us, looking to challenge themselves, it really is a wide slice of society that finds themselves mountainside. Yes, there were those who were hopelessly unprepared for the trek too- lost tourists in jeans, young female socialites who couldn’t part with their heels(!), and for some odd reason, those toting their laptops up with them.

Yet while we huffed and puffed our way to the top, we would have been remiss not to stop as often as we did. Partially to catch our breath, but also to enjoy and to take it what a glorious setting it really was. We sat there, where the trees opened up to the view, and revelled at exactly where we were: the hard yards of a beautiful journey to the peak of accomplishment. While our feet grew weary, our hearts and minds grew stronger, more inspired in every sense as we neared the peak. You often see those tacky inspirational quotes shared across social media, one-liners and phrases meant to lift you. But there are few things more uplifting for both the body and mind than an accomplishment like climbing a mountain.

It’s why the Grouse Grind should be on your list of life’s accomplishments. It’s a fantastic way to test your body and mind while taking in some terrific scenery. It’s free, and if you’re so inclined, there’s plenty of paid activities once you get the top. Clocking in at about 2 hours, the completion of the trek was exhilarating, and endlessly rewarding. Yes, you’re tired, but with a renewed sense of adventure, we powered through two hours of zip-lining across the mountains which in itself, is a breathtaking way to fly through the clouds.

You’ve seen and heard how motivating the outdoors can be; living active, living strong. It’s an old mantra that continues to be one of life’s most simplest, yet most giving ways to get the most out of everything. If Vancouver is a stop on your next holiday and you’ve got plenty of nightlife and shopping on the list but need something with a bit of gruff, consider the Grouse Grind as a perfect antidote to the sometimes draining nature of modern living. There’s nothing out there but you and the mountain. Sometimes, that’s the only way to live. And let me tell you, that first beer I had when we made it to the top of the mountain was the best beer I ever had in my life.

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At Home

Your Home Town Tavern

There are few things more appropriate for the home than your own bar. It is a place for reflection, celebration, and the occasional loosening of the edge. One of the advantages of a home bar is that they can come in almost any shape or size, any colour or style, leaving you with plenty of options to decorate, customize, and adorn with your favourite bottles of liquor.

On a recent trip to Canada, I came across two very different kinds of home bars. The first was a very compact, simple table top bar that was both elegant and defining. A silver crested tray that displayed a few bottles of expensive whiskey, a decanter, crystal glasses and an ice bucket. It’s what one would expect from an upper class home of subdued elegance. The other was your traditional man-cave bar setup, complete with hanging glass rack, bottles of college party fuel and a presence and style that screams “I’m here to party”.

Both can be good for your home and depending on the kind of space and layout, you can easily see which one suits your abode best. Each has their own way of saying “let’s have a drink”, the ultimate end result and the most important reason for having one.

When Ms. 3013 and I decided on having our own home bar we looked at the various options available in Melbourne. While we do not have the means to build a traditional looking bar, we thought that perhaps a simple table top lacked the kind of character that suited us both. We shopped around and found that you can find many pre-made bars that while serviceable, lack the personal options of wild colours and customized finishing. It wasn’t for us.

What can you do when you’re stuck between a limited budget and the desire for something more than straight forward?

You look around the house to see what you have.

What we did have was an abundance of unused IKEA hardware- in this case, two Forhoja trolleys. We liked their look and their compartments, and most of all, their size. Compact enough to fit into small living room areas, but large enough that you could find space for wine glasses, wine bottles, liquor, and a bit of personalized decoration.

Their price tag and Swedish construction meant that we could easily customize the trolley to a design and colour we liked to boot.

The first thing we had to do was pick a colour- something that pops- and after some browsing (ME: How about this one? HER: No.), we picked a pink-streaked orange that not only stands out in any living room, but suits just about any liquor palette one may have.

Dismantling IKEA furniture is a lot less painful than putting them together but we wanted to reassemble the finished work, so having a large and flexible working space is important. We did most of the work outside as sanding, priming, and painting indoors is best done in limited amounts. Sanding and priming the dismantled trolley is a step best taken with care as it makes a big difference in the finished look.

Good primer and paint takes significant time to dry, so plan your painting so that coats on different sides can be done all at once. After your desired layers of paint are completed, and your trolley has been put back together, you can think about additional features you’d like to add and just what you’d like your bar trolley to stock. We wanted some place to put our wine glasses and took inspiration from our friend’s man-cave bar and chose some simple hanging racks we installed under the trolley. Inexpensive, looks good, and for some reason, hanging wine glasses always makes a bar look a lot more appealing to the senses.

 

The next step after you’ve put your glorious new bar trolley together is to stock it with the most inviting bottles of liquor you can. The choices are infinite, but class is not. So avoid the cheap stuff and get your bar the kind of liquor your hard work deserves.

I’m a whiskey guy and Ms.3013 is partial to gin, so our first two choices were Royal Salute and Hendrick’s. You can’t go wrong with one or two of the high end bottles to help solidify your taste. It gives whoever happens across your bar the sense that you’re not only willing to go far to create something at home, but you take stock in having the best.

So how do you go about stocking your bar?

While it’s certainly fun to visit your local alcohol apothecary, there’s one better way to plenish your bar AND show it off; a stock the bar party.

It’s exactly what we did.

 

You’ve got to be confident when you throw such a fete. It’s not always easy to throw a party then ask its attendees to bring the fun, but there are a few ways to make sure it all goes according to plan.

It’s important to be clear about the party’s reason and to let your friends know how much work and effort you’ve put into creating the bar. It’s not about getting free alcohol (okay, it is a little), but more about coming together to celebrate good friends, a good home and yes, a toast to it all.

While it’s great to receive, it is also vital to provide. In this case, giving your guests some basic drinks on the house, like beer, soft drinks, and food, is a key part to any successful party. Sure, they’ll be bringing some great bottles of liquor, but what says great service more than being welcomed with a cold beer and some food? Trust me, they’ll remember it. We also provided a signature cocktail for guests to have, an option as easy as picking an interesting concoction online. We chose something summery and provided clear instructions on how to make it themselves and the necessary ingredients. What we got was a simple, but engaging way for guests to interact with each other, and our new bar.

Our friends have impeccable taste as some of the wine and liquor we received were not only of high quality, but were perfect additional to any home bar with a bit of class. The party was a success and is a great way to not only introduce your newly minted craftsmanship, but your home as well. The bar is now a focal point of our living room and it can easily do the same for you. Having a home bar can be a small but significant DIY project, one that can brighten and bring a space to life. Most rewarding of all is that you’ll have a place where everyone knows your name, right at home.

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The finished product

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