On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, I took a drive out to Harrison Mills to visit the nearby Rowena’s Inn. This was not just your typical drive – I took the Scenic Drive along Highway 7: a beautiful alternative to the usual mundane highways. Despite the rain falling down from the clouds above, the drive was serene, peaceful and full of nature. Mountains stood proudly around me, with bursts green farms below and the winding Fraser River flowing beside me. I was immersed in the natural wonders of the land. Who knew a short drive out of the busy city would bring me such tranquility?
Turning off from the highway, I felt like I was driving along a logging road until I hit a spectacular golf course – the Sandpiper – surrounded by a mountainous backdrop and a gleaming river that led me right to my destination. Rowena’s Inn rested perfectly amidst the landscape, like a postcard from a foreign place. The building had a European feel to it; cozy yet surprisingly spacious on the inside.
Check-in began at the golf course, and I was directed to my home for the night at the Nelson Cabin. Wow, I went back in time. The cabin had a “Little House on the Prairie” vibe, which took me back to a simpler time with just enough of the modern amenities to get me by. A wood-burning fireplace greeted me as I walked through the doors of the expansive cabin. Though the night was warm enough without it, I felt comforted knowing I could warm myself up, if need be. The tiny kitchen provided me with everything I could possibly need: dishes, cutlery, and a coffee maker to accommodate us caffeine addicts.
A closet door revealed more towels and pillows than I could ever use for myself. Again, it was nice to know I could indulge if I wanted to. Everything felt antique, yet the old-fashioned feel was calming. I especially appreciated the worn furniture that could give most vintage shops a run for their money. A round, dining room table welcomed hungry hearts, with two wooden chairs and a romantic feel. For those of you who like your wine, the fireplace is the perfect spot for a dreamy date for two.
I tuned the radio to JRFM and cozied up along the reading nook with a perfect view of the river in the distance. It was a complete escape.
At 5PM, I met with Betty-Ann, the owner of Rowena’s. She humbly welcomed me into her home at the Inn. Yes, she lives on the main floor amongst the coming and going tourists, like myself. The tour began with a wall to the right that boasts an abundance of pictures that tell the story of her family. A staircase to my left brings you up to the Inn’s rooms, and a gorgeous Grandfather Clock stared at me in the centre of the room.
We walked through a doorway that led to a massive dining room table that can fit up to twenty people. Imagine that feast! You could call it the Royal Table, since the King and Queen had both enjoyed a meal at it. China cabinets decorated the walls around me – it gave a quaint, yet awe-inspiring feel to the room. Walking a bit further, a smaller dining section with more tables and chairs sat in a corridor for more guests to enjoy their meals.
What struck me the most, though, was the enormous fireplace to the left. Carefully crafted stone walls surrounded the pit, giving it an undeniable ambiance of cabin life. Beside the heated area, a bar sat peacefully awaiting thirsty people, hoping to fill their hands with spirits and refreshments.
Each piece of furniture was unique – they all were chosen and brought in from some interesting place in Europe. I felt like I was in another country just by looking around the room.
Betty-Ann guided me down a brass-railing staircase (brought in from the Hotel Vancouver) towards the Formal Room, which also had a European vibe and elegance to it. This specific room has been a popular setting for wedding ceremonies, to no surprise. A colossal chandelier took my breath away: it must have been about five-feet tall, with over a thousand pieces of pristine crystal flawlessly forming into the jaw dropping fixture.
It was a room straight out of Casa Blanca.
We took a quick trip upstairs to check out the Inn’s rooms, each one named after Betty-Ann’s siblings. Almost every room has been renovated to have an on-suite bathroom, making guests feel more at home with their own privacy. Unlike most hotels, each room has distinctive furniture pieces to give guests a unique experience.
After the tour came to an end, Betty-Ann invited me for dinner: Tajine Chicken accompanied by rice and vegetables, with a delicious Crème Brule for dessert. The top layer was just right, with a crunchy, caramelized shell. I would have had stayed for seconds (maybe even thirds). We sat for hours, chatting about the building’s history and much more, eventually closing down the restaurant. Betty-Ann was hospitable and kind with a knack for good conversation; a rare type of hotel owner who builds lasting bonds with her guests.
I walked back to my cabin with a full belly and happy heart. Though my tired eyes were trying to get the best of me, I settled in for a hot Jacuzzi…that lasted nearly forty-five minutes! Feeling relaxed and at home, I hopped into bed and let the rain sing me to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up around 7AM and spent some time sitting out on the patio, breathing in all that nature had to offer me. I listened to the melody of the birds and snapped some photos of the surrounding beauty. Around 9AM, I joined Betty-Ann for breakfast: Eggs Benedict with a delightful hollandaise sauce! She told me about the nearby Eagles’ Nest, perched above the golf course, where a live camera feed is currently broadcasting in hopes of catching a glimpse of the hatchlings.
Betty-Ann told me about the Hallmark movie that had been filmed at Rowena’s, called “I do, I do, I do”, in which she even made a cameo appearance! During our conversation, Hallmark stopped by to check out the restaurant and surroundings to scope out a place for another up-coming movie project, as well. I can see why the area has so much interest, simply from the sheer beauty of the building and landscape.
10AM came and it was time for me to say goodbye to Rowena’s. As part of my trip, I was invited to Harrison Lake for a guided Eco-Tour with BC Sport Fishing Group. We floated to where Harrison Lake meets the Harrison River, as well as the Fraser River – a spectacle in itself, with a fusion of colours where the waters collide. Along the way, we passed by waterfront homes amidst a gorgeous, scenic backdrop of mountains and land. We passed by a mill and even made an impromptu stop to admire two young Eagles perched on a tree. During our boat ride, we waved hello to locals and took in the sheer beauty around us. On our ride back, we made a stop at a nearby rock formation that boasted images of ancient Native drawings. The overall experience was simply breathtaking.
Once we returned, it was time for me to drive home in my sporty ride – a brand new, 2016 Honda Civic, generously provided to me by Honda. I found the vehicle to very economical and great on gas throughout my long, but short trip.The Civic provides a lot of legroom and space, which came in handy for all the gear that I brought along. Perhaps my favorite part of the ride was features including rear and side view cameras, and the easy-to-connect cell phone control.
I drove along Highway 7, reflecting on my time at Rowena’s and in Harrison. It’s an experience that gave me a chance to escape from the busy city life and truly become one with nature. I will be returning soon, I’m sure. Not only for the scenery and wildlife, but of course, for the Crème Brule!
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