Driving north from Summerland to Kelowna in the hot Okanagan heat, my partner and I were refreshed from the previous weekend's antics, while she drove I searched online on my smartphone for a hotel in the heart of the city. I was disappointed to find out that the hotel I had in mind to stay at was under renovation, and while they were still renting rooms, was definitely not up to my expectations. After a bit of searching I came across Hotel Zed in the the listings, I recognized the name as there is one in Victoria BC that I had seen before. It was funky, and had a retro, hipster flair that made it unique, so I thought this might be a fun place to stay. With hardly any reviews (the Kelowna location had been up and running for a mere 2 weeks at this point), I decided to risk it and make a reservation for the night. Flying by the seat of my pants is something I do, but the look of hesitation on my partners face I knew she was going on pure trust in me and was a bit apprehensive.
As we entered Kelowna, we drove right passed the downtown core as we had some time to kill before we would be allowed to check in. So we went to the mall. Orchard Park mall is quite a large mall, although quite underwhelming as we had been in the West Edmonton Mall only five days previous, so we did a quick lap and checked out a few stores, in one of which my partner picked up some cute sun dresses. Afterwards we went for lunch in a Kelsey's restaurant that was across the parking lot. The meal itself was unremarkable, and the waitress was all but missing, but the bartender in the lounge cleared our plates and made us drinks. He was an older man, but looked like he was local and up on the trends, so we asked him where in town was a great place to eat, something modern, with really good food and price was no object. He directed us to seek out a place called "Raudz" so I tucked that little nugget of information into my brain and thanked him, paid our tab and left.
Hotel Zed was indeed as funky and retro-chic as I had imagined. The lobby had roller skates and cruiser bikes to borrow free of charge and had Jenga and other various games set up on a few tables, welcoming guests to play them. There was a games room which after we had checked in we decided to investigate. There was a ping pong table, a few TVs and more board games. Our lodging room was fairly unremarkable, aside from the fact that it was missing a phone (just an oversight, and was corrected soon after) but very clean and quite acceptable at any rate.
In the late afternoon, we strolled around the downtown park and tourist areas of town, all the while playing Pokemon Go on our phones. We went to the Kasugai Gardens, a beautiful serene Japanese garden in the heart of the city. Built there many years ago to honour Kelowna's sister city Kasugai, Japan, it was just the Zen experience we needed after a bit of hectic travel. I remembered it fondly as it had been one of my favourite places downtown when I had lived in Kelowna some two decades before. It had barely changed an iota. Some trees were bigger.
After meandering the streets a bit more and doing some light shopping, we found Raudz restaurant. This place had a small lineup in front of the door. A good sign, I thought. We entered where the host greeted us. This is the kind of place that doesn't take reservations, but at the same time doesn't have space to seat everyone who shows up, so the girl at the door took our name and phone number and informed us that she would call us when a table was ready. She surmised it would only be an hour or so. Two doors down was a place called Micro bar and bites. It was the perfect place to hang out for a bit, as I didn't want to be too far away when they decided to phone us to inform us we could come eat. They had a nice selection of craft beer on tap, including one of my favourite breweries, Crannog. We had a few drinks and an order of duck fat and rosemary coated popcorn. Those who know me know I vehemently despise popcorn. Not so much for the flavour, but because of its relative closeness to not being a food at all. It's a calorie anemic, mostly air substance that has the reputation of getting caught in your teeth and being more trouble than it's worth in the end. But this was delicious. Far and away, this was the best popcorn I've ever eaten. We sang its praises to others in the bar who were considering ordering and eventually shared it with a couple of women sitting next to us as we figured our table was being close to ready at Raudz.
Let me tell you how dinner was in part 3...