Sip Trips #165: European Escape (Part 2)

After stops in London and Sicily to start our European vacation, we made our way to Malta for the final leg of the getaway. Promptly upon arriving in the country, we collected our rental vehicles and drove to the ferry, transporting ourselves to the sub-island of Gozo. After boarding the ferry, Mrs. Sip retrieved a can of Hopleaf Pale Ale for me, as I waited with a sleeping Baby Sip.

For dinner that evening, we went to the Zebbug Rovers Bar & Grill. Here, I enjoyed the Zebbug Rovers Special pizza (topped with chicken, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni, sausage and BBQ sauce drizzle) with a large serving of Paulaner Weissbier.

The next day, after checking out some of the sites around Gozo, we stopped for lunch at the seaside Churchill Restaurant. For our meal, I enjoyed a Grilled Angus Burger, along with a glass of House Rose. Afterwards, upon being challenged, I performed a near-perfect cannonball into the adjacent Xlendi Bay!

cannonball

Our big stop the following afternoon was a visit to Lord Chambray Brewery. Thanks to a group effort, we all got to try everything they had on tap, with my pint selection being the Sun Blas English IPA. Other favourites included the Fungus Rock Stout and Blue Lagoon Belgian Wheat.

That evening, we managed to finally get our hands on the final two episodes of Game of Thrones – as well as a TV we could view them on – and sat back to enjoy the spectacle. My enjoyment was enhanced by the addition of beers such as the 8.6 Original Intense Blonde Beer, which I became a big fan of during the Maltese portion of our trip.

The next day, we were off to the main island of Malta, staying in the marina area. On our first night, we had a late dinner at the nearby Mamma Mia, known for their Chicken Dippers meal, which was very, very good and really hit the spot after another long day of driving and sightseeing. A pitcher of Cisk Lager was a nice, if not underwhelming, accompaniment to the feast.

pitcher longer

Our next attraction was the walled city of Mdina, where we had lunch at the Palazzo de Piro Café. My Clubhouse Sandwich was unique in that it included boiled egg, but that didn’t detract from the meal. We also split a bottle of Medina Sauvignon Blanc to wash down our food.

Next up, was a visit to Meridiana Winery, where for 12 Euros, we received a four-glass tasting, including the vineyard’s Isis Chardonnay, Fenici Rose, Nexus Merlot, Melqart Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot. With a bottle of the rose coming home with us, we can recreate the serene experience anytime we want.

To celebrate the return of our rental cars and no longer having to drive, we had another late dinner at Uncle Matt’s Kitchen. There, I had another meaty pizza with the Chicken Farm option. A tall can of Blue Label Amber Ale and glass of house rose completed the feast.

car rental.jpg

We next explored Valletta, the capital of Malta. Our day of exploring ended with drinks at the 200-year-old Caffe Cordina, where I drank a bottle of Farsons Double Red Ale. Baby Sip liked the stop, as she got to chase birds in the small square, as well as receive numerous packs of cookies from the servers.

On our last day, we bought tickets for Malta’s hop-on, hop-off bus. Our main stop was the Marsaxlokk Fishing Village, where we explored and dined at Carrubia, along the waterfront. Mrs. Sip and I weren’t very hungry, but shared a really good breaded cod and chips plate. The restaurant also offered free bruschetta for the table. A bottle of Green Label Delicata made the picturesque spot a perfect ending to the journey.

As mentioned earlier, Alaska is up next, a cruise I’ve been wanting to do for some time. I’m hoping to get some breweries in while there and the typical cruise ship shenanigans are bound to occur. I’ve made it my goal to hit at least one saloon in each port, so that should make things interesting!

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Sip Trips #164: European Escape (Part 1)

The Sip Family has wrapped our seemingly annual trek to Europe and have a few days to recover and repack for our next adventure aboard an Alaskan cruise. With so little time at hand, let’s get right to the wrap-up of our most recent crossing of the pond. Part one, will look at our stops in London and Sicily:

Our group of three couples, three babies and two grandmas began our travels in London. On our first evening, weary from the journey, we ventured to The Spencer Pub, located near our Airbnb. Despite the rest of the group each ordering Fish & Chips, I was craving a beef burger. It was delicious and a good choice, although no one was complaining about their meal. To pair with the dinner, I ordered a pint of Watney’s Sarcasm Citrus Pale Ale, which was tasty.

proper pub

After a night’s rest, we visited Windsor Castle. Following a self-guided tour of the grounds, we popped into the Tower Tea Room at the Harte and Garter Hotel & Spa, as the ladies wanted to enjoy an afternoon tea. Being the only guy in the group, I didn’t have much choice, but made the best of the situation, ordering a bottle of Windsor & Eton Guardsman Best Bitter.

With all our group finally amassed, including friends living in London, our next endeavour took us to Hampton Court. The day began with a meal at The Bishop Pub, where I enjoyed a Buttermilk Chicken Burger and pint of Meantime London Pale Ale. I always marvel at how low the alcohol percentage is on beers in London with it being rare to see something surpass 5%. Certainly not what I’m used to at home.

With babies in tow and the girls wanting to see a theatre production, the guys spent a night in on the Saturday, while we would get our turn out on Sunday (on Mother’s Day of all days). We took full advantage of our evening though, stocking up on beers to be enjoyed. My brews included Camden Hells Lager, Gipsy Hill & Yeastie Boys Bogan Bogan Double IPA, Drygate Disco Fork Lift Truck Mango Pale Ale, Drygate Gladeye IPA and Vocation Pride & Joy Pale Ale.

babysitting.jpg

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we convened at Ting in the infamous Shard building for their Shangri-La Royal High Tea. To start, Mrs. Sip and I ordered one of each of their cocktails, which included the Little Miss Royal (vodka, ratafia, isake classic and egg white) and The Little Prince (gin, blue curacao, pineapple, lemon and pastis glacial mint). These drinks were very boozy, which turned some of our group off, but that’s just the way I like my libations.

Then, it was time for the guys to take off and watch the end of the English Premier League season. My two comrades are Liverpool supporters and picked The Comedy Pub to watch the games amongst fellow fans. There, we drank quite a bit, remaining at the bar well after the crowds cleared. Over the session, I tried pints of the Camden Pale Ale and Doombar Amber Ale.

Our next stop was Waxy O’Connors, which is a very cool place with multiple levels and nooks buried underneath the city. After a few more rounds, we decided some food was in order and stopped at the nearest Pizza Hut (cause we’re classy like that) for a couple pies and, you guessed it, even more beers!

pizza hut

The next day, we were off to Sicily, Italy for the second leg of our journey. After a day of travel and some settling in to our place, we went for a late dinner at Ristorante Borgo dell’Etna. There, I enjoyed a serving of their Pasta al Ragu, while a few of us split an 8-Euro litre of house white wine. Gotta love Italian vino pricing!

On day two, we visited the city of Taormina. Unfortunately, it rained pretty heavily that day (as it did nearly every day of our Italy stay, despite our friend’s guidebook saying it rarely rained in Sicily), so we took refuge at La Cisterna del Moro. With a great view, I dined on a scrumptious Calzone Saporito (tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichoke), paired with a half-litre Moretti Rossa beer.

Day three in Sicily finally brought mostly good weather, so we partook in wine tastings at both Firriato Winery and Gambino Vini. Both places had their own charms and we very much enjoyed this day, which offered some easier road circumstances for us drivers. Baby Sip also liked running around the ground, collecting corks and pinecones.

wine more room.jpg

On our final day in Sicily, we booked a Godfather Tour, as a number of scenes from the trilogy were filmed around the island. Getting off to a rough start, due to more inclement weather and traffic gridlock, a portion of our tour was altered from an outdoor wine tasting to a meal at Il Padrino Restaurant. There, we were served about 15 different seafood dishes, with my favourites being shrimp in thousand island dressing and breaded mussels. The desserts were also nice, accompanied by homemade Limoncello, Grappa and Amaro, which you could pour as much as you wanted for yourself. The tour wrapped with a stop in the village of Savoca, where we enjoyed a couple beers to end the day.

Taking advantage of our beautiful Airbnb property, we did a few meals in, enjoying a number of Italian beers and wines to unwind after each busy day of sightseeing. My selection included: Cavaliers Birra Speciale Rossa Artigianale; Arcana Golden Ale, Red Ale and White Ale; Patronus Weissbier; Birotti Weissbier; and Briere De Haute Fermentation La Blonde De Ch’nord, which was my favourite of the bunch.

Upon leaving Italy for Malta (part two of this Sip Trips review), I bought a bottle of Fuoco dell’Etna at the airport, lured in by the bottle’s design which looks like a volcano has erupted (complete with a rocky texture), as well as the liqueur’s 50% alcohol percentage. The booze is supposed to include flavours such as strawberry, citrus and Sicilian herbs, so I’m looking forward to experimenting.

Sip Trips #156: Whiskey Worship

These past couple weeks was highlighted by a whiskey tasting event attended by the male members of the Sip Syndicate. With five glasses of whiskey to be enjoyed, we knew we were in for a hell of a night, one that will most certainly make my ‘best of’ list for 2019.

Prior to the whiskey tasting, we agreed it would be beneficial to have full stomachs. Our pre-game meal was held at Craft Beer Market, where I enjoyed an order of their BBQ Beer Can Chicken Sliders, paired with a serving of Yellow Dog Smash It! Orange Chocolate Pastry Stout. The beer was tasty and best of all, $1 from my purchase went to the Canucks Autism Network. I love drinking for the benefit of charities!

tasting throwing

As for the whiskey tasting, we had a fantastic time, as expected. The private event’s theme was whiskeys that were new to British Columbia and featured: Highland Park Full Volume, Glenlivet Code, Macallan Edition No. 4, Glenfiddich Winter Storm, and Octomore 9.1. The guy who selects these bottles is very knowledgeable and I look forward to returning next year for more debauchery.

Through the night, our crew also enjoyed a couple other whiskeys (Nikka and Oban) from the bar, as well as beers (Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale and 33 Acres of Life California Common, for myself). My goal for the night was to never not have two drinks in my hand, usually a beer and whiskey serving. That’s double fisting in style, my little sippers!

With more drinking at home occurring during this current cold snap, I should also highlight some of my recent purchases. First, I picked up a tall can four-pack of Old Yale Brewing’s Bloom Tulip Ale. Although this beer was released last spring, it had not come across my radar. Brewed using 2,000 fresh cut tulips from the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival, the beer is advertised to be blue in colour, but is actually more of a purple. Still, it’s a neat drink and the floral flavours are interesting.

tulips dog

I also popped into Central City Brewing last week to see what was available in their fridges. I came away with a tall can of Lucky Pig Tangerine Ale with Ginger (brewed to celebrate Chinese New Year), a regular can of Treeline Campfire Juniper Smoked Farmhouse Ale (from the Central City/Parallel 49 Alpine Adventure Pack 2018 advent calendar) and a tall can four-pack of After Hours Old Fashioned Pale Ale, which combines the breweries own whiskey with orange peels and cherries, to create an Old Fashioned cocktail/pale ale beer hybrid.

Up next for the Sip Family is a week-long all-inclusive stay in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. With unlimited food and drinks and a couple craft breweries and a tequila museum to visit, you better believe the Sip Advisor is looking forward to this vacay!

Sip Trips #146: Wedding Season

Mrs. Sip and I (along with Baby Sip) made the most of the recent B.C. Day long weekend. In fact, today’s entire wrap-up occurred on only one day of it. The rest of our time lately has been spent preparing to move out of our Downtown Vancouver condo. We’re still making time to squeeze some fun into our lives, though, so here’s what we got up to:

On Sunday, we got together with visiting friends for brunch at Craft Beer Market. I had a delicious order of Chicken & Waffles, paired with the Electric Bicycle Dig Dug Beet Juice Ale. I have never had a beer of this type before and was impressed with how good it was. This was also my first experience with Electric Bicycle Brewing and it has increased my desire to visit their recently-opened tasting room. Mrs. Sip’s beer selection, Storm Watermelon Pilsner, was also a fantastic beverage.

beets-natures-candy

Next up, we visited Big Rock Urban Eatery, where I indulged in another new (at least to me) menu item. The Songbird Saisaweizen was an interesting blend of saison and hefeweizen that I found to be very refreshing in the summer heat. The flavours were also quite nice and if we had the time, I would have elected to order a jug of the suds, rather than just a pint.

We wrapped the day with a wedding at the gorgeous Hycroft Manor. This was our first Persian nuptials, so it was fun to learn about another culture’s traditions. What we also loved about this wedding was that it only included the ceremony and a cocktail and canape reception afterwards. Rather than lose an entire day to a wedding, we were able to celebrate the newlyweds and still had our entire evening open (although Mrs. Sip took that time to crash after a hellacious July). As for that cocktail reception, it was open bar and the Sip Advisor did what he does best, indulging in multiple servings of 33 Acres of Sunshine, Innis & Gunn Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale and Whistler Rescue Session Ale (a nice touch given the bride and groom’s passion and support of animal rescue operations).

Tomorrow, Mrs. Sip and I leave for Halifax, Nova Scotia for another wedding this weekend. On the itinerary are a self-guided craft brewery excursion, a food tour and, of course, the wedding, which also features an open bar reception. Look out east coast, here we come!

Baby Beverages #2 – Baby World Immersion

I’ve decided to make my Baby Beverages articles a monthly feature for the time being. As I take a look at all things going on in my and Mrs. Sip’s new life as parents, today we’ll tackle unsolicited advice, my balance of work and fatherhood with a newborn and some of the Sip Advisor’s favourite baby devices thus far. Let’s get things started:

When you’re a new parent, advice (good and bad) is coming at you from all angles. No amount of dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and dodging will help you avoid all the voices. Not surprisingly, much of the information contradicts other tips and tricks you’ve been provided. My approach has been that while I will certainly make mistakes, that’s the only way to learn and become a better parent.

Baby Advice

Moving on, my work-life balance has been fairly good. Sure, my sleep per night (requiring my creation of the unit of measurement S/N) has been cut, but thanks to Mrs. Sip taking the bulk of overnight duties on work days, I’m still a functioning employee. Not fully-functioning, but I never really was to being with. I will say that sometimes it feels like I’m working two jobs: my typical work shift, followed by evenings with Baby Sip. Clocking in with Baby Sip is far more pleasurable, though.

Finally, we’ll wrap up with a look at some of the Sip Advisor’s favourite baby gadgets through the earliest stages. Since I’m on diaper duty whenever I’m home, I absolutely love our Diaper Genie. It was easy to set up and work with and gets my full seal of approval. I dare say diaper duty has been fun, minus the occasional mishap and mess. I also like the Graco Car Seat Adapter Mrs. Sip found on Amazon US. It was only $60 and has allowed us to move Baby Sip from vehicle to stroller and back with ease. The same product on Amazon Canada was a staggering $300-plus. Other items that have been essential to our child rearing so far are Baby Sip’s Fisher-Price Swing, Angelcare Bath Support, and various Sleep Sacks, among others.

Baby Beverages #2: Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • 0.5 oz Kahlua
  • 0.5 oz Tequila
  • Beer (chase after shot, while people pressure you)

What will the next month of parenting bring me and Mrs. Sip? Only time will tell!

Sip Trips #104: Babymooning (Part 2)

Yesterday, we took a look at the first portion of our Rome to Dubai babymoon cruise, with stops in Rome, Naples, Athens, and Santorini. Today, we make our way through the Suez Canal to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, with many ships hijinks in between:

While our ship was brand-spanking new with some great updates to behold, I missed some of the charms of the older vessels in the Princess Cruises line. For example, the Explorer’s Lounge has been replaced by the Princess Live Studio. This is where many trivia events take place, respectively, but the studio is lacking tables, so there’s no surface to write on. Even worse, there’s nowhere to rest a drink… heck, the place doesn’t even have a bar, which is practically criminal.

Also, the Skywalker’s Lounge – home to the Elite/Platinum Lounge – is gone from the newer ship design and so the lounge time for loyal guests now takes place in a windowless room of the ship, with servers having to travel some distance to hook passengers up with the daily drink special. As a result, one of my favourite parts of the day on most cruises, was only attended twice by me and Mrs. Sip. The experience just didn’t feel special at all.

Fix Your Own Drinks

Another missing piece from other ships we’ve sailed on was the line’s Crooner’s Martini Bar. Apparently, we weren’t the only guests to notice, as a few days into the cruise, the Juice Bar was turned into a pop-up Martini Bar each evening. On its opening night, we dropped by for their Tropitini (Bacardi Oakheart, Malibu, Creme de Banana), which was very tasty and far better than a health smoothie.

As we docked in Aqaba, Jordan, I tallied my 50th country visited. With a Rob Roy ordered in the Elite/Platinum Lounge, I was also able to cross off country number 50 that I’ve drank in. This is a feat I’m very proud of and just may make the cut to be immortalized on my headstone: Here lies the Sip Advisor… he drank EVERYWHERE!

That evening, as Mrs. Sip and I were checking out what the buffet had to offer, we were stopped by the team selling shots of Limoncello and souvenir shot glasses. Eventually, they coerced me into buying a glass and shot for $3. Then, the lead of the group offered to give me a second pour on the house, if I downed the concoction right there. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Before I knew it, I was four shots deep – one for me, one for Mrs. Sip, one for Baby Sip, and one just for the hell of it – and I had still only shelled out $3.

Shots You Take

The next day brought the British pub lunch that seems to occur at least once per cruise voyage. I paired my delicious fish and chips with a Blue Moon, which got the ball rolling on it being a beer day. Afterwards, while laying in the sun and watching Queensland vs. New South Wales (National Rugby League) on the pool deck with a horde of Aussie passengers, I delved into a bucket of Heineken beers, which all made for an entertaining and relaxing afternoon.

With my stock of mixers depleted at this point, I purchased cans of Tonic Water and Barq’s Root Beer. For whatever reason, I was really craving a Gin & Tonic (perhaps I needed to stave off scurvy) and after getting a couple lime wedges from the pool bar, I had all the ingredients needed to make some really good beverages for myself.

Nearing the end of our cruise, we attended the Captain’s Circle Party, which is hosted for Elite/Platinum passengers and provides free drinks. I had a few beverages here, but they weren’t of the best quality, as usual for this event. We did however win a bottle of champagne, amongst hundreds of entries. As soon as they said Mr. and Mrs. I knew they were going to announce our names, since Mrs. Sip isn’t drinking much at this point.

Champ in Champagne

We were also invited to a Farewell Cocktail Party, as the ship’s captain was also taking leave in Dubai. Hosted in the Hollywood Pool (an indoor, adult’s only area they unsuccessfully tried to turn into a night club setting in the evenings) this was an absolute drinkfest for the Sip Advisor. With Mrs. Sip’s help, I grabbed a few really good Cosmos and Gimlets, as well as some other treats.

Upon arriving in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, it was time for Mrs. Sip and I to sadly disembark the cruise. While Dubai was an absolutely fascinating place to visit, drinks are pretty difficult to find. I did manage to have one cocktail at our hotel’s bar, the Double Decker Pub. I ordered the Eldery Flower (Elderflower-infused Gin, topped with Lime, Apple and Cranberry Juices), which was very refreshing, but expensive (45 Dirham = approx. $16 CDN) . It was worth it, though, as consuming drinks in “dry” countries is a guilty pleasure of mine.

That wraps up our babymoon, our last big trip before we move from a family of two to three. I can promise all you little sippers, though, that the fun is far from over!

Sip Trips #103: Babymooning (Part 1)

Back in 2012, Mrs. Sip and I celebrated our honeymoon with a cruise through the Panama Canal. Nearly five years later and with a little girl on the way, we decided to take our babymoon from Rome to Dubai – through the Suez Canal – aboard another luxury liner. Here’s part one of that expedition:

Our first stop of the journey was Rome, Italy, a favourite city for both Mrs. Sip and myself. Friends from London joined us for this portion of the vacation and after some sightseeing, we journeyed to the 404 Name Not Found bar, which one of our companions had researched. There, complex cocktails (and a mocktail for Mrs. Sip) awaited us. Always a fan of spicy drinks, I tried the 666, complete with Jalapeno-infused Tequila, Cointreau, Lime Juice and Honey.

The next morning, I was able to cross an item off my drinking bucket list, when I enjoyed my first ever McBeer (Beera Moretti Baffo D’oro) at the McDonald’s just outside the walls of the Vatican City. Despite beer being available at a McDonald’s stop or two prior, this was the first time I’ve imbibed in the option and it was a great experience with my set of famous hamburgers.

McBeers

Later that day, we were off to board our ship at the Civitavecchia Port, over an hour outside Rome. After checking in, we arrived at our room (which had been upgraded from a balcony to a mini suite) and were promptly given glasses of sail away bubbly. It was a very nice start to our two-week journey aboard the Majestic Princess.

Mrs. Sip surprised me with bottles of Bacardi Rum, Skyy Vodka and Gordon’s Gin to go along with the two bottles of wine I had just grabbed at the Termini train station. I also brought a handful of Grey Goose mini bottles, so giving I was drinking solo, I was quite set for the voyage. I never buy the all-inclusive pop package available on the cruise, so having mixers for my booze can be challenging, but I’ve picked up some tricks along the way. I did purchase a soda set, which provided me with six cans of pop, while also taking advantage of free orange juice for breakfast and lemonade throughout the day. This allowed me to create an array of drinks, enhanced by some clever fruit pick-ups at the buffet.

Our first stop of the cruise docked in Naples, Italy. Our excursion for the day would take us to the island of Capri, where I got to do a little Limoncello tasting, followed by lunch in Sorrento (where I chugged back close to a bottle of house wine) and finishing with a tour of the historic Pompeii.

Pompeii Stoned

Our next port of call was in Athens. Mrs. Sip and I elected to take a hop-on, hop-off bus into the city, where we visited the 360 Cocktail Bar. With views of the legendary Acropolis from the bar’s rooftop patio, I sat back and enjoyed servings of their Heat Wave (Russian Standard Vodka, Mezcal, Jalapeno Chillies, Oregano, Herbs, Agave, Lime) and The Journey of Chivalry (Chivas Regal 12-year, Noilly Prat Vermouth, Cashews, Smoked Salt, Coconut Water) cocktails. I had also tried to order the Summer Loading (Bacardi White Rum, Watermelon, Orgeat, Lime, Three Cents Agean Tonic), but sadly it was not available.

As we continued to explore the area, we popped into a store where I purchased a bomber-sized bottle of Alfa Weiss Beer and cans of Fanta Strawberry-Kiwi and Tuborg Orange-Cinnamon Soda to add to my mixer collection. The greatest treat came as we returned to the port. There was a duty-free shop in the terminal and after confirming purchases wouldn’t be taken away, as there was no security check to go through boarding the ship, I popped back into the store before we set sail to snag a half-liter bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon.

Our stop the next day on the Greek island of Santorini was one I was greatly looking forward to. We had visited for a week 10 years prior and it became one of my favourite places I’ve ever been to. Sadly, this trip wasn’t nearly as good, as the tiny island was hosting three different ships and was overrun. To salvage the day, Mrs. Sip and I sat down in a tiny bar in the capital city of Fira, where I had an Alfa Beer and enjoyed the sights. Then we travelled down 700 steps to the port, dodging donkeys and their droppings along the way.

That wraps up part one of our expedition. Join us tomorrow for the second half of an amazing holiday.