The first thing my kids do when checking into a new hotel (after saying hello to everyone in the lobby, fighting over who presses the inside button in the elevator and insisting on opening the door themselves) is jump on the beds. We not only do we have lift-off, but we have 150% approval for Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos, British Columbia.
Amenities range from fully equipped gourmet kitchens (the grocery and liquor stores are right next door) and washer and dryer in the suites, to poolside grilling stations for easy dinners (if you can pass up the restaurant.)
This Okanagan lakefront resort offers huge tapas plates in the Watermark Restaurant, wine tastings in the lobby, a waterslide in the outdoor pool, two hot tubs, yoga and pilates classes and the Illumination Spa and Salon.
If the kids tire of the waterslide (funny joke), the lake is adjacent to the property and features a three-sided dock to keep little ones safe yet allows the older ones to practice their cannonball form in deeper water. The Osoyoos Yacht Club is a short walk down the beach and we were able to hitch a catamaran ride and then test our salmon fishing skills, which were excellent incidentally. (Even though it was a banner year for salmon and the government actually increased the limits…).
When the boys and I were by the pool, we ordered to-die-for grilled cheese and homemade mac and cheese for lunch. I actually managed to tear them away from the waterslide for 6 minutes in order to eat!
For dinner, the family went to Watermark’s tapas-style restaurant run by terroir-inspired Chef Adair Scott. It also boasts it’s own wine label and to-die-for views.
They have made the small kitchen into an advantage by creating grilled dishes such as arctic char, chicken confit, local steaks and tapas-style fare (spicy prawns, tenderloin carpaccio or quinoa cauliflower salad, anyone?) presented artfully and cooked skillfully.
It really shouldn’t be called tapas. The dishes are huge – and you will want to finish it all. Much of the organic produce comes from Covert Farms, and the herbs are all grown a few feet away in the resort’s garden.
My son was transfixed one day watching a wedding underneath our balcony and it was all I could do not to ‘shhh’ loudly when he asked questions about the ceremony. There are learning opportunities even while on a beach vacation!
While in Osoyoos we made many a kid-friendly excursion, including the Miniature Train Museum and Rattlesnake Canyon Amusement Park – you can see our Osoyoos Top 10 list HERE). But one of the best ‘excursions’? Home Hardware. Just up the street from Watermark is an amusement park in itself. You will want to set aside about an hour. We picked up swim goggles, a cooler for the 75 pounds of salmon we were bringing home and garden décor.
From now on, Osoyoos will be on my summer hitlist – not only for the fresh salmon and organic fruit, but as an excuse to make memories with my family at Watermark Beach Resort.
Disclosure: Watermark Beach Resort has been awarded the Tripadvisor Hall of Fame for the past five years. We were hosted for a weekend and loved it so much we stayed an extra night. All opinions are my own.
What do you think it would be like to have your passions and activism rewarded by being flown across the globe, given VIP access and hosted (along with your Mom) at stunning Thai resorts while you met elephants and reported on polo matches? Cinderella meets Madagascar kind of movie, right? Nope. For 13-year-old elephant lover and polo enthusiast Jonny Gray of London, Ontario, the dream became a reality. Named this year’s Roving Elephant Reporter for the 11th Annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Hua Hin, Thailand Sept. 12-16, 2012, he was given the experience of a lifetime.
As the Roving Elephant Reporter, Jonny became a star of the elephant polo circuit, delivering a television report and enjoying VIP access to all areas of the four-day event, including exclusive interviews with participating players, elephant experts, and celebrities. Jonny and his mother, Jacquelyn Doucette, spent seven-nights stay at Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas Riverside Resort & Spa in Bangkok and Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa in Thailand. UrbanMommies was granted an exclusive interview with Jonny and he shares about his love of animals, activism and his travels.
UM: What first made you like elephants?
JG: My first exposure to elephants was through the African Lion Safari near Cambridge, Ontario where we loved to watch the elephants have a bath. I fell in love with how they interacted with each other like a family and how they seemed so bonded with their trainers. I dreamed about seeing them one day in the wild on a safari but never thought it would be so soon!
UM: When you were selected to become the Roving Elephant Reporter how did you feel? Had to traveled overseas before?
JG: When I first got the news I won I was speechless and then I became scared because I was worried about the responsibility of being a reporter on this charity event. I didn’t know what to expect! Eventually I became excited about traveling to a new part if the world and experiencing all it had to offer. I had traveled to Europe but never to Asia.
UM: What are 5 things you packed for the airplane?
JG: The flight to Thailand was very long. It took us over a day to get there and we stopped in Belgium and India on the way. To keep me busy I packed my iPod for music, a good book, lots of snacks (gummy worms!!) and a travel pillow so that I could sleep.
UM: What would you tell other kids about rescued elephants in Thailand?
JG: There are over 1500 elephants that live in captivity working on the streets in Thailand. Although most are treated as well as possible by their owners they still live a life of poverty without much to eat and poor living circumstances. Many people recognize that this is a big problem in Thailand and are making efforts to help them. My experience is with the elephants which have been rescued by Anantara Resorts. They provide a wonderful life for thirty rescued elephants where they spoiled and doted on. You can visit these elephants and learn to take care of them if oh ever get a chance to visit Thailand!!
The charity polo tournament that I was reporting on helps to support these elephants as well as providing funding for an elephant hospital and ambulance, and even research with elephants.
UM: How would you advise other kids to become animal activists?
JG: I believe that animal activism starts at home. My parents have taught me that animals need our respect and protection. We have always taken care of baby or injured birds, rabbits, chipmunks and mice that we have found on our property. We learned what they needed to eat and how to take care of them from the internet. We have also adopted dogs which needed homes and because we are on a farm we did the same with horses. Awareness that animals need our help, and learning about endangered species, is an important step towards being an animal activist. You can learn about the animal rescues in your community and see if they need volunteers, but even just spreading the word about these foundations helps to raise awareness about the needs of the animals in our communities. I think a great idea is to have a birthday party which ask for donations of pet food or toys instead of gifts to be given to your local animal rescue is a great way for kids to help!!
UM: You stayed at the Anantara Riverside Resort & Spas. What were your favourite things about the hotels?
JG: I had the privilege to stay at Two resorts in Thailand. The first one was the Anantara riverside resort and spa in Bangkok and the second one was their resort in Hua Hin. One thing I loved about the resorts was all the tropical plants that we don’t see in Canada. I felt like I was staying in the rain forest! The food was amazing too! However, by far the best thing about the Anantara chain of resorts was the people. They were so friendly and helpful they made me feel at home eventhough I was half a world away.
UM: Finally – tell me about the other activities you did while you weren’t busy reporting!
JG: I was so busy in Thailand reporting on the tournament that I had to decide between two activities – a Thai cooking class and a trip to Monkey Mountain. Well, I chose Monkey Mountain because I heard it was an incredible experience and I was right! As we drove up the mountain we started to see monkeys occasionally and we were pretty excited because we had never seen monkeys in the wild before. At the top of the mountain, we met a lady who sold peanuts to feed to the monkeys. When we bought a bucket full from her, monkeys started coming from everywhere and suddenly there were hundreds of monkeys surrounding me wanting a peanut. It was crazy! The monkeys were so fast and they climbed everywhere to get a peanut, even on my head. I was really scared at first but after the peanuts were all gone, I got three more buckets just so I could experience it again!!
They had me at the s’mores gift bags. Sticks, Marshmallows, Chocolate and wafers. And fire pits by the pool and hottub on which to create the s’mores. The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe was built around a main fireplace/chimney, from which the rest of the building emanates. The main floor is more a great room than a lobby, with families eating, trendsetters having drinks and skiers doing après. It’s like the community centre of the rich and famous. Or at least that’s how it makes you feel.
The rooms boast soft sheets, stunning views, fireplaces and insanely amazing toiletries. Combined with turndown service and fluffy robes? Epic. My room overlooked the slopes of Northstar and I was torn as to whether to ski or stay in the gorgeous room. (The skiing was too good to pass up though).
I was to be on TV the day after I left Northstar and the Ritz-Carlton, and my nails were a mess. A devotee of Shellac, I needed acetone and foil to remove the 3 week-old colour from my fingers (it still looked great but not up to TV standards). The spa attendants let me in after they had closed to figure it out (how amazing is that?!). Not only did I see the alpenglow at the end of the day, but the healing, serene environment made me giddy. And I chose a very au courant blue lacquer for the TV appearance. You must check out the copper bathtub in the spa when you go. Stunning.
Similar to other Ritz-Carlton properties, the chain gives tribute to local culture and the art throughout the hotel was sourced locally. My favourite pieces were the 160 beer-can butterflies in the lobby bar, of which only one has been stolen since opening. You would never know they had been up-cycled. Hopefully I can find them on Etsy.
I wish I’d had my family there. As I watched a little boy have his boots nudged on by a valet, I remembered all of the weekends at Whistler mountain with my boys, screaming about their boots being tight. The Ritz-Carlton staff had magic that I do not. How I wish my boys could ride the uber-cool snowmobile sleigh and get their gear laced up by a pro! (The valets at the Ritz even place your skis and poles for you so your only job is to hop into them like an Olympian.) And watching the families après in the huge lobby are, surrounded by fireplaces, warmth and sun made me decide to return with my boys in tow.
The dining at the Ritz was like none I had ever experienced. (Knowing Shaun Whyte was ‘in the house’ didn’t hurt either – we toured his world-class halfpipe the next day). I began with a BNB. That would be – bacon and bourbon. The bacon being the stirstick. Yeah. I’m hard-core, BTW. Try to catch up to me on the slopes. Ha ha.
The food was amazing, (Trying not to be cliché but I can still taste it and I just can’t find the words). There were 6 of us around a table, getting to know each other over dinner. How rude was I when I asked for a taste of everyone else’s meals!
I’ve stayed with several Ritz-Carltons – New Orleans and I am off to Key Biscayne in Miami right now. What impresses me the most is how each hotel embraces their environment, meshes with the locals, incorporates the history of their surroundings into everything from the architecture to the menu. True vibrant hotels allow a parent to teach as well as relax, and taking your kids to this property you can’t help but feel the history, the gold rush, and the national forest emanating from the environment.
My drive back to the airport at Lake Tahoe was unforgettable. I was fidgeting with my Blackberry, fielding calls from work, and the driver was silent. He was the same driver I’d had on the way in. Feeling rude, I struck up a conversation which may have changed me forever. He told me of his ancestors. The railway tracks to the right that helped Lincoln win the Civil War. He told me of his great grandfather who was a guide in the gold rush as his eyes gleamed and his pride showed clearly. As a river guide in the summer he knows these parts. He stopped in the perfect location so that I could take one parting photo if the Ritz-Carlton. Remember in The Thomas Crown Affair – the smile of a Father? – That’s what it was like. The smile of a man who not only loves the land, but loves the businesses who prolong the history – his history.