When you turn the key in the lock of the little cabin and open the door, the first thing you smell is wood and smoke.
Masculine and warm, it’s at first hard to tell if the smell is coming from the wood that the cabin is made of, or if it’s the olfactory remnants of wood fires that have taken place in the huge riverstone fireplace that dominates one corner of the cabin.
It’s October, and the last few weeks have been a blur of classes, meetings and workshops. It’s been busy. I’m here on a weekday for a quick staycation getaway from the city.
Harrison is one of my favorite staycation destinations. The Fraser Valley and Agassiz is full of fresh produce, dairy farms, and wineries, all things close to my heart. Mission is an adorable town just down the road, and Maple Ridge has a lot going for it, food-wise, as well.
But today, I’m at Rowena’s Inn on the River, a heritage hotel that is part of the larger Pretty Estates Resort that includes a golf course and restaurant.
I’m treated to a tour of the inn, which dates back to the 1800’s originally. Very little, if anything, is left of that building. I meet Betty Ann (Faulkner) Pretty, whose father bought the house and land way back in the 40’s. She grew up here, and still lives on site, in well-appointed drawing rooms that hearken a time long before Vancouver real estate prices forced us to all live in shoeboxes.
All the furniture is antique. There are pieces here from the original Hotel Vancouver, and the dining suite used to live at Hycroft Manor.
In addition to the Inn, there are 4 adorable log cottages, and this is where I have retreated to.
The cabin is just one room, dominated by a king-sized four-poster bed, and the aforementioned riverstone fireplace in the corner. We also have our own private porch with a table that faces a small pond, and with views of the river just off to the left. There are big, comfy chairs, and plate of chocolate-covered strawberries awaiting our arrival.
I travel quite a bit. I stay in hotels quite a bit (I’m actually writing this blog post from a hotel in Portland right now), and to me, what sets apart the good from the great is the small details.
There’s a small wetbar just as you come in the door. It’s equipped with a sink, a keurig, and a small fridge, along with plates and cutlery. You couldn’t cook, but it’s perfect for charcuterie and snacks. The fridge is stocked with water, Pelligrino, chocolate and wine, all complimentary.
And then there’s the bathroom. It’s huge. There’s a stand-alone shower, and the slate-tiled floor is heated. The tub, though, is the pièce de résistance. It easily fits two, and toiletries and candles with matches are supplied. Did I mention the tub was jetted? Heavenly.
I’m a city girl, so I will admit I may not have the survival skills for a zombie apocalypse, like, oh, say building a fire. However, there was no need to have been a Girl Scout to stay here–the fire was set and ready to go, we literally just had to strike a match, and were, within minutes, basking in the warm glow.
The bed was enveloping, and honestly, tough to get out of. The weather was particularly stormy, and sitting inside with a fire while the storm blustered outside was really the epitome of cozy.
The restaurant attached to the hotel is called The Clubhouse, and I gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. From the menu, I had doubts, but the food itself was really great.
I had a chance to meet and chat with Chef Jonathon Gee. He’s a local boy, did culinary school in Chiliwack, and then worked his way up through the kitchen at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel before coming to Rowena’s 7 years ago. He has great relationships with the local farmers and artisans, and takes pride in cooking locally and seasonally. The salmon that goes into their Salmon Wellington (a house specialty) is caught just in the river out front. Seasonal vegetables and eggs come from nearby farms, and the cheeses come from Farmhouse Cheeses, just down the road.
Of particular delight to me were the french fries. I could tell they were cooked in proper Belgian style–first at a lower heat, then at a higher heat. The dessert was also pretty epic: a pastry bowl deep fried and then coated in cinnamon sugar (like a churro), and then filled with ice cream, whipped cream, fresh strawberries and drizzled with caramel. Yeah.
We also had breakfast here the next morning, and you know how I was talking about the little details earlier? Well, here the toast is liberally buttered–again, a small detail that, to me, makes a huge difference.
Permit me one last example; an older couple was also having dinner at the Clubhouse. They had gotten married at Rowena’s, and were back to celebrate their first anniversary. They couldn’t finish their bottle of wine, but the server happily packed it up for them, with ice, to take back to their room for later.
There’s a beautiful outdoor pool and a golf course for those who are into that. I’d love to come back in the summer when the weather is nicer and explore the property and spend some quality time poolside. Ideally with a margarita.
If your life is anything like mine, it can feel like you never get a chance to relax. Every day is answering emails at 10 pm. Sometimes you just need to physically remove yourself from the situation, and go somewhere where coziness reigns, and you can just let someone else worry about dinner for a while.
I really loved my stay at Rowena’s Inn on the River, and am planning to go back (hopefully) sometime soon. I highly recommend it for a quick, romantic staycation.