Summer is a great time to explore British Columbia, with her many outdoors activities and festivals. While some will make the drive straight to Vancouver, the more enlightened traveler will stop and visit Abbotsford, the largest city in the Fraser Valley. According to Destination B.C., Abbotsford is known as the “City in the Country” for its agriculture, hospitality, and outdoors activities.
Abbotsford is nestled on flatlands between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges. With a burgeoning population of approximately 143,000, Abbottsford lies in the heart of the Fraser Valley, 68km east of Vancouver and just 5km from the US border. While Hwy 1 connects the community east and west, its airport has put Abbotsford on the international map. Abbotsford is an alternate arrival/departure point to Vancouver’s International Airport.
It’s a great place to stretch your legs walking, hiking or running one of Abbottsford’s numerous scenic trails or have a bite at some of the best eateries you’ll find anywhere, and perhaps spend a night. Enjoy the panoramic view at 300 meters after hiking the Abby Grind or run the Mill Lake trail, for a perfect sample of what Abbottsford offers outdoors enthusiasts. My partner, John and I checked out both trails recently in perfect mid-spring conditions. Read on for our detailed analysis:
Outdoors – Abby Grind
The Abby Grind is like the little sister to North Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. This was our first time hiking the steep Glen Ryder Trail. It has a viewpoint that can be reached in about 45 minutes. The 4km trek can be a challenge if you’re not wearing the proper shoes, though on this sunny day runners and walkers with their dogs enjoyed the trail as much as we did. The Abby Grind has been around since 2013 and offers a great workout. Steep though it is, there are sections that level off, allowing one to rest.
Outdoors – Mill Lake
We started out walking around the paved pathway and boardwalk that encircles beautiful Mill Lake Park in central Abbottsford, but ended up running parts of the two kilometre path. Mill Lake is a popular trail that attracts everyone, with picnic tables, a playground, and water park. Prepare for photo ops abound with spectacular views of Washington State’s Mount Baker. A fun fact: did you know that Mill Lake Park is the Jewel of Abbotsford because of its rich history? The first saw mill was built there in 1903 and remained active until 1934.
After our workout we were welcomed to lunch by friendly staff at the Harvest Grill n Greens in downtown Abbotsford. It’s a one-of-a-kind eatery in which owner/chef Dion Brisson presents a varied menu of all healthy choices for the vegan and meat lover alike. It’s comfortable, bright, and super clean, built in part with 100-year-old cedar beams that were discovered under the original building by Dion’s friend and carpenter. The wood benches and foot rests are brought back to life from barns that once occupied the site.
Dion says he’s always been passionate about healthy eating from being an athlete himself as a hockey player, wrestler and an avid Abby Grinder. His passion for healthy eating led him to create custom meals from soups, salads to entries. Dion says the food is local and all fresh, as we tried his recommendation – salad served with local produce and sausage. Dion says, “it is the new Kits,” in reference to Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano district, in offering a gluten-free menu to a knowledgeable clientele.
Brodeur’s Bistro carb loading!
Brodeur’s made me feel like I was home in Quebec with their Montreal style menu. It’s a great place for carb-loading before a hike or a long run. I couldn’t resist ordering my favourite Quebec dish, poutine, along with Pierre’s Cuban sandwich. Their specialty is Montreal smoked meat, which is served in large portions. John had a half rack of ribs with Brodeur’s barbecue sauce, which he devoured. Chef Jay Baker has about 20 years experience and the food dishes are a fusion blend of New Orleans and Montreal cuisine.
En route to our overnight stay at the Brookside Abby, we drove by pristine farmlands that seemed to stretch for miles. It’s a charming boutique inn on Chardonnay Lane that is close to local vineyards. The Brookside Abby was voted best small hotel in Canada by TripAdvisor for 2017 and their award list goes on. We stayed in the “Midnight in Paris” suite, which is themed after the romantic comedy about a writer, directed by Woody Allen. Each suite has a movie theme and is decorated with items based on the movie, such as an Underwood typewriter from the late 1920’s in our suite, as well as other fascinating artifacts and paintings. Chris and Sandi, the owners told us, “the items were to remind people of the movie theme. The movie is the central theme. All of that is Sandi’s idea. She thought of which movie themes: Thomas Crowne Affair, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are not aware of any other hotel like this in the world.” We were treated the following morning to a homemade gourmet breakfast, which was included in the stay. As a rather muscular action movie star might say, “We’ll be back.”
If you have a passion for living a healthy lifestyle, your visit to Abbotsford will be fulfilling. The city is a gem of a place with healthy eateries, lots of outdoors activities, beautiful vineyards, parks, mountain views and lots more.
Look for next week’s feature as we explore Harrison Hot Springs……
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