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A dreamy day trip to the Valley, no sunshine required.
I was born and raised in the Lower Mainland, so a little rain never bothered me. That said, my partner and I were a little choked when our suburban adventure to Abbotsford was marked by an atmospheric river (and later, a thunderstorm—read on for details). But there’s plenty to do and eat and drink in Abby, even in a downpour. Our trip featured weather for ducks, and also many, many ducks. Here are the highlights.
It makes sense to start a dark and drizzly day with a warm mug of something or other—but after seeing Old Hand Coffee’s wine selection, I think it makes sense to end the day there, too.
It’s a casual curation of local and international bottles: think Duncan’s Averill Creek vineyard and Batard-Langelier from France. At 8:00 a.m., my beautiful mocha and breakfast sando do the trick.
Old Hand Coffee
2617 Pauline St
Birdwatching in the rain? I’ve got news for you: the birds don’t care whether it’s raining or not, especially ducks. Abbotsford is part of the BC Bird Trail, meaning it has some of the best birdwatching opportunities in the province. We trudged through the puddles at Willband Creek Park with Kris Cu of Birds Canada and spotted 19 different species (or so Kris said—I’ll admit that many of them looked the same to me).
Cu is originally from the Philippines, and I asked him whether the birds here are boring compared to the brightly coloured, tropical ones he remembers from back East. At first, he says, it’s true that the B.C. birds don’t seem as exciting—but the neutral tones of our local birds also make birding more of a challenge, and spotting rare species more fun. We saw roughly 500 American widgeons, but Cu also pointed out ring-necked ducks, Northern Shovelers and a hooded merganser—plus chickadees (I know that one!) and bushtits (ha ha ha). It’s a rather therapeutic experience to brave the rain along with the birds: after all, it’s just water.
Willband Creek Park
34100 Bateman Road
This was my favourite store we visited in Abbotsford, and it’s permanently on my list for mindful gift-giving. The BIPOC and Local Marketplace is exactly what it sounds like: a store that highlights the best of B.C. makers and people of colour. I got a pair of cool statement earrings from Bead Mindful Gems (my most-complimented piece, ever) and browsed a ton of other local brands—keep an eye out for upcycleco.ca, a new small biz that makes new clothes from, well, old clothes. They have some awesome-looking upcycled fleece pullovers (see picture below).
Also in store are candles, pet accessories, many, many mugs shaped like boobs (reminds me of the bushtits) and art made from wood carvings.
BIPOC and Local Marketplace
Lower 2645 Montrose Ave
Yes Chef! (formerly cobblestone kitchen) is truly a home cook’s dream. Think walls and walls of cookbooks, sleek, modern appliances and funky linens that say “I’m not a regular chef, I’m a cool chef” (not literally, of course—that would be deeply uncool). There’s a wide selection of local food brands, as well: Truff hot sauce, Sriracha Revolver, The Preservatory, you get it.
2619 Montrose Ave
The massive, winding houseplants, soft white decor and many wicker details make Revive Boutique Bistro look like a Pinterest board come to life. Part restaurant, part homewares shop, this is the place to bring your well-trained Instagram boyfriend. There’s photo opps aplenty (and some pretty delicious flatbread—we got the smokey barbecue chicken.
Revive Boutique Bistro
33757 South Fraser Way
We did a lot of browsing on this trip—after all, ducking into a cozy shop filled with treasures untold is a pleasant alternative to the pissing rain. Here’s a few highlights from our toodle around town:
Bureaux Modern Mercantile
33827 S Fraser Way
2619 Montrose Ave
Hidden Treasures Thrift Store
2657 W Railway St
Corby’s Antiques and Collectibles
33779 South Fraser Way
Sinking deep into a booth at Restaurant 62, my partner and I remarked on how unbelievable it was that it was still raining. This called for pasta and braised short ribs—two menu items that turned out to be so comfortingly decadent I debated simply falling asleep right there in the warmly lit, farm-to-table restaurant. The short rib was particularly good, thanks to a beautiful dark gravy and the fluffy potato bed it rested on.
33559 Marshall Rd
The Brookside Inn was unlike any hotel experience I’ve had before—the inn itself is more like a giant house on a hill, with a maximum of two units on each floor. Each unit is named (and themed) for a movie: Midnight in Paris, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Secret Garden and so on. Coming in from the pouring rain and settling into our crown moulding-adorned digs was comfortable… almost too comfortable, decided Mother Nature, who chose around 9:30 p.m. to strike the power out. At last, we’d been bested by the winter storm.
Or so we thought. In fact, the four-poster bed was the perfect place to watch the storm brewing over the hills, and the pitch-black room (as well as the pitch-black neighbourhood) made for excellent viewing by moonlight. Did staying in an unfamiliar Tudor-style home surrounded by thunder and lightning make the house feel a little haunted? Yeah—maybe it was a conservative ghost that didn’t like how many times I giggled at “bushtit” that day, or a spirit we picked up from Corby’s Collectibles. It wasn’t quite the experience we intended to have, but it did prove that not only do you not need sunshine to have fun—you don’t need electricity, either.