Written by tvordj on 23 Jan, 2009
First rainy day since the day after I arrived out west. It’s not raining hard, just a light rain, at times just a heavy mist. Breakfast comes with the room but there’s nothing cooked. Still, not a bad cold buffet though including hard boiled eggs,…Read More
First rainy day since the day after I arrived out west. It’s not raining hard, just a light rain, at times just a heavy mist. Breakfast comes with the room but there’s nothing cooked. Still, not a bad cold buffet though including hard boiled eggs, pastries, yogurt and the usual cereal, toast, etc. The best bus downtown from here is 98B B-line in case anyone needs to know but to get to the stop I have to walk a couple of blocks. It's a handy bus, though, just a half hour straight through to downtown with only a few stops along the way. The route goes along the south end of Granville Street which was an interesting ride. One stretch was residential and most of the homes either had a lot of trees or very high evergreen hedges along the street edge of the properties for privacy and nose cutting. The last few blocks before the business section (called South Granville Rise) looked to have some very large and posh homes behind the foliage. The section called the Rise is on a gentle hill and there’s actually a nice view straight over to downtown with the mountains looming in the distance. There looked to be quite a few good shops too, keeping that in mind for the next visit. Across False Creek on a bridge to the downtown peninsula. There is a lot of construction on the waterfront, condominiums mainly. You wouldn’t think there would be any land left on which to build but even through the city blocks I can see new buildings going up. Off the bus at about 9:45 but the stores don’t seem to open until 10 so. . . Starbucks it is. After I left there, I hunted down the Pacific Center with the intention of walking through to the Vancouver Center, both below street level malls. There were the usual franchise shops and a few nice shops featuring west coast arts and gifts. I saw a free standing kiosk called Just a Second that sold little clocks for 10 dollars, all in many, many different shapes and forms. It was a tough choice between one set into a British style phone booth and a 35 mm. camera but the camera won out. (they only take cash though, no credit cards so keep that in mind)Time for Robson Street, the Rodeo Drive of Vancouver. Or so I had planned. Only I did get momentarily distracted by the lovely Vancouver library which is built in a round shape with a tall building next to it that echoes it’s curve. There’s also Granville Street which is probably more fun than Robson as it has far funkier shops. Lots of second hand music and video shops as well. Robson is more upscale but a good place to window shop and there are plenty of restaurants. I spent much money in the MAC cosmetic store and I had to find the MAC in the Bay later to pick up an eyeliner colour that the one on Robson was out of. Not sure what I’m going to do with all these shopping bags for the flight tomorrow! I will see how much of it I can put in my canvas tote and maybe I might check in my roller carry on. That way I can probably get away with carrying a large shopping bag as well as the tote and my purse on board. I'm flying business class and there's usually a bit more leeway there. Lunch was good. I was attracted to a restaurant called Milestones that had a full sized Harley in the front window. Apparently it's a chain restaurant with locations in B.C., Alberta and Ontario but it seemed a cut above some of those types of places. There’s a restaurant and bar and I sat in the bar and had a tasty lunch of chicken strips with a sweet red chili sauce and a Caesar salad with roasted garlic on top. The ale was an Irish style brew from a Granville island brewery called Palomino. Looked like they had an excellent brunch menu as well. After lunch, a bit more browsing and walking down and back up West Georgia street but that was mainly all office buildings. I did see what I think might be a heritage house though I don’t know if it was open to the public. Came back past the other side of the Art Gallery but it was closed today and there I saw the Bay so I checked that it was the one I needed for the MAC store. It was. Out the other side, I realized I had come back full circle to the bus stop where I had got off this morning. A few things to do yet. Picked up a top in Pennington’s and walked toward the 7/11, planning to get milk to make tea in the hotel room but I spied an internet café. Cheap too! It only cost $2.00 including tax for about 45 minutes. Got all caught up while I got warm and somewhat dry. Sad, I know, as I am on the flight home tomorrow!Got the milk and hopped on the bus. Don’t think the driver was having a good day because I could hear him being cranky with quite a few that got on. Back through South Granville Rise. I managed to get off at the right stop though was a little disoriented. I could see a familiar hotel that I had passed on the way there this morning and got on the right road back from there. Glad to get back too as I’m a sorry, soggy sight. The tea, made in the small coffee maker in the room, tastes a bit like coffee but it’s hot. I managed to get all my purchases in my canvas bag and I can carry the Lush shopping bag separately. The Corrie get together at the pub in the Abercorn was fun too. Leanne did a great job of organizing and we were 13 in numbers in total. I knew about half of them, I guess though had only actually met in person 2. One of the men there was a dead ringer for Michael Caine I thought. The pub, called Bobby G’s (after Greyfriar Bobby) was very British looking in style and décor with carpeted floors, some tables and also some high backed armchairs and a dark wood bar. Leanne had organized a quiz and there was a gift exchange. One of the gifts had a lot of paper wrapping it and in the unwrapping, the paper caught fire on the candle on the table so we had a little flurry of excitement until the waitress threw a wet cloth over it. Nobody wanted to waste good beer after all! The party broke up about 10:30. I’ve got to be up to catch the 6:53 airport shuttle so I wasn’t long for my bed tonight once I had everything packed.November 11Caught the shuttle, got checked in and went through security. For the first time I set it off. Don’t know what did it but the hand held scanner bleeped at my bra hooks and rings and watches. Also I had to unpack a couple of things in the bag that they couldn’t identify on the x-ray. One was the little camera clock, a very solid metal. Off to the Maple Leaf lounge. The view across the runways to the mountains rising above some high cloud was a sight to behold. Unfortunately I didn’t think ahead and had rewound my film though it wasn’t quite finished and packed my last new film in the checked bag. (pre-digital days!) Had a bagel and tea in the lounge in case they didn’t serve breakfast on the plane. Which they did do so I was pretty full. Business class serves a great breakfast with fresh fruit and juice, an apple crepe with potatoes and onions. As we approach Ottawa, there are big cloud-mountains pulled up out of the spun cotton sea. We descend past the fluffy peaks and submerge into the white-gray depths, the plane now surrounded by opaque walls that soon turn gray, blocking out the sunlight. Terra firma isn’t evident until we’ve almost landed, only a couple hundred feet above ground. It’s been raining in Ottawa and the tarmac is wet, reflecting the lights yards out onto the runway. The plane stopped in Ottawa but I didn’t get off the plane though most people did. I just stretched my legs and read my book. Landed in an equally rainy Halifax on time. Close
Yet another sunny day and the nicest yet. Linda made omelets for breakfast and we left to pick up Cathy about 11 or so. The drive in to the city to the museum, which is in Vanier Park, was the better part of an hour…Read More
Yet another sunny day and the nicest yet. Linda made omelets for breakfast and we left to pick up Cathy about 11 or so. The drive in to the city to the museum, which is in Vanier Park, was the better part of an hour on the highway. Vancouver is quite large and all of the surrounding cities that add to the Greater Vancouver area go on for miles out. Maple Ridge is a good 40 km from Vancouver proper. The Vancouver museum is all about the history of Vancouver and the lower BC area. We were lured by the special exhibits at the time, one on the history of underwear, one about Vancouver in the 1950’s and one all about the opium trade, popularly advertised as "Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll". There was also a room showing the elaborate kimonos of a famous geisha-turned-singer Ichimaru. We also lucked into a walking tour/discussion about women in Vancouver’s early history, including First Nation, Asian and prostitutes as well. We had an hour before that was due to start, so we had time to look through the exhibit that explained the opium trade first. It was fascinating to see how it started as medicinal (and continues to this day in some forms) to an accepted recreation for the wealthier to an illegal substance of addiction for the masses. It showed how the stereotypes in portraying opium use evolved and how the trade was a huge contribution to may countries’ economy. We had time to see the evolution of underwear, focusing mainly on women’s garments, stays, corsets and bustles, veritable instruments of torture! They had a washable rubber girdle and an inflatable bra as well, complete with built in plastic straws! We enjoyed the talk on the roles of various groups of women. It wasn’t easy to research because women were usually omitted from history records or only very briefly mentioned. Much of the information comes from oral history, letters and journals, photographs and things like that. At the end of that, we were ready for a break but there is no coffee shop in the museum anymore, just vending machines. We had a bag of chips and went back to see more of the Vancouver history permanent collections and had a peek into the 50’s gallery. That was great! Lots of artifacts, photos and newspapers. Also some interactive displays. We could have spent hours in there. I couldn’t take too many photos because you can’t use flash but a few of the neon and better lit ones did come out ok.I had a good browse through the gift shop and came out $100 poorer! Got a new canvas tote bag and a lot of souvenirs and small items for Christmas presents too. We left about 4 and thought we should find a place for a snack. I figured I should actually have supper even if they didn’t because was checking into a hotel, not going back to Linda’s, ready for some time on my own in the City. Not far from the museum we saw a café and a bagel place but there was also a White Spot which is a famous local chain known for it’s burgers. It was the local drive in fast food in the 50’s. Sold! We had cheeseburgers, big fat French fries and I had a lovely strawberry shake. We found the hotel all right, the Holiday Inn Express near the airport and behold! The place where we’re having the Coronation Street get together, the Abercorn Inn, is right across the street! Excellent!Hugs goodbye and got settled in and put on the heat. Touched base by phone with a few local pals, had a bubble bath , organized my packing and settled down with a book. Going to do a little shopping downtown tomorrow I think. Close
Lions and Tigers and Bears! And Giraffes!!!!The sky started out overcast but turned out brilliant. What a great day for the zoo! First we had to drive to pick up Linda's sister Cathy and her daughter Megan. We are heading to FortLangley for lunch. We…Read More
Lions and Tigers and Bears! And Giraffes!!!!The sky started out overcast but turned out brilliant. What a great day for the zoo! First we had to drive to pick up Linda's sister Cathy and her daughter Megan. We are heading to FortLangley for lunch. We got there on a small open top car ferry across the Fraser River. Fort Langley is about 130 years old and was the place where the charter that created the province of British Columbia was signed. They still have a restored old fort here that you can visit but we didn’t take the time to go. Glover Road is the main street through Fort Langley and the shops, of various ages, are fashioned after the frontier style, with wooden siding and low cedar shingled roves. They have a historic old rail station, circa 1915, a 1930’s community hall and an old Anglican church as well. The main street is lined with interesting and sometimes kitschy shops including one that carries antique 1950’s memorabilia and a year round Christmas store. There’s also Gasoline Alley, a little courtyard with lots of shops and a few cafes but we didn’t venture into there or we never would have got to the zoo.Lunch was in Wendel’s Bookstore and café, a busy spot but we managed to luck out and get a little table that the four of us huddled around, shifting for a bit of elbow room. They have soup, sandwiches and salads and some veggie options as well. After lunch, browse in the bookstore and a walk up and down Glover street window shopping. A garden store had some amusing things like cement "puddles" and an outhouse tool shed. We admired some really beautiful ornaments in the Christmas store as well. Off to the Zoo which isn’t very far from Fort Langley. The Greater Vancouver Zoo used to be a game farm but has expanded considerably. We got there just in time to see the daily lion and tiger feeding at 1:30. The gamekeeper strode back and forth between the two cat compounds which were surrounded by high chain link and electrified barbed wire topped fences. He would throw the steaks over the fence and we watched the cats leap into the air to catch their lunch before it hit the ground. He also would lure the animals to the fence in front of the observers and push meat through the fence which had the tiger belly up on his hind legs against the fence, teeth very much in evidence as he tugged at the meal to pull it through, his giant claws holding him up! We were no further than 8-9 feet away from them! Tigers are the largest cat in the world but I think lions definitely have the loudest roar. Later in the day we heard the male lion growling and muttering and it was enough to make your chest vibrate with the sound and pitch of it. And he wasn’t even in full angry ROAR. Well that was interesting. Linda and I both love tigers but I’ve developed an affinity for giraffes after seeing them in Ireland last year. That was our next stop. We saw two but there might have been a third. One was male, you could tell he was more powerfully built through the body than the other. When we arrived there, the male was at the fence, lower than the cat fences, maybe four or 5 feet high and he was leaning that long graceful neck over the fence because…. Someone was feeding him grass or twigs or something! Oh I *had* to do that too! I searched for a small twig and went over. This huge head came down out of the sky towards me. I’m sure my eyes bugged out and my eyebrows met my hairline. Down came this long *black* tongue and he curled his tongue around the stick to take it. They don’t use their teeth apparently, only for chewing. I could have touched him on the nose but I wasn’t sure, as gentle as they seemed to be, that I should though my friend Rose says "You've never heard of anyone savaged by a giraffe! They are so beautiful, peaceful and seem to move in slow motion but they can run like ponies when they want to. That was my thrill for the day! We walked around the paths and enclosures and took a 15 minute free bus ride in a section where there were black bears, wolves and Roosevelt elk. They even have an albino black bear, extremely rare but we caught a glimpse of him. Another wonderful sight was a baby camel. The mother and other adults were sitting in the late afternoon sun but the baby was standing and gazing our way, looking practically fizzy with curiosity but not quite brave enough to leave his mama’s side. These were two hump camels and were a lot larger than the one hump dromedary we saw earlier. The little one was a chocolate brown and very spindly on his long knobby legs. We decided he must be very young. The zoo was really well laid out and very interesting. The animals had large to larger paddocks and enclosures and lots of natural settings as well. At one point near the end of the day something set off the white wolves and they all started howling at the same time. My God, does that ever make the hair on the back of your neck stand up! We left about 4:30 with the sun on its way over the horizon. We had some pretty spectacular views of Mount Baker down in very nearby Washington State on the way back to Maple Ridge. Linda made stuffed manicotti and salad which was delicious! Took some family photos and had a lovely evening over a meal and wine. Tomorrow the Vancouver Museum beckons. Cathy will come as well :) Close
There was frost on the ground this morning, and that doesn’t happen too often round here. We got on the road about 10:30 and took the Inland Island highway to Campbell River. This is a fairly new road, and though there were some glimpses of…Read More
There was frost on the ground this morning, and that doesn’t happen too often round here. We got on the road about 10:30 and took the Inland Island highway to Campbell River. This is a fairly new road, and though there were some glimpses of the water, the views were mainly trees and some mountains inland on the island. We arrived about noon and had a drink before lunch. Alison’s house is lovely and very sunny and bright. Lunch was delectable, that salmon melted in our mouths and the garlic bread and salad were perfect side dishes with apple pie and cream for dessert! We had a lovely visit there for the afternoon and drove back along a waterfront highway which is a bit more scenic than the inland road, stopping for a few photos along the way. The incongruously named Fanny Bay where there are a few oyster farms brought a snicker and we stopped by the beach at Qualicum where we’re going to shop tomorrow. The sun was going down by now, a pink haze over the mountains over on the mainland and gulf islands, the water deep shining blue in the last of the golden sunlight. Another relaxing evening with friends and making plans for our shopping trip into Qualicum Beach tomorrow. November 6The town of Qualicum Beach has a bylaw that bars any franchised businesses from the town area so all of the shops and restaurants are locally and independently owned and you won’t see a golden arch or a Tim Horton’s within the town limits. There are some really lovely shops here too, lots of bookshops and gift stores. The streets are tree lined and many of the one or two storey shops have really lovely outside displays and entrances. There are also a few residences scattered through the downtown core but most of the pastel painted buildings are businesses now. Qualicum Beach downtown has one stoplight, one gas station and a small community theatre called "Get Into The Act". We wandered along one street, poking our noses into a few little shops. Found a lovely small bookstore that we really liked and another wonderful gift store called Silverwood that carries imported and locally crafted gifts. But the piece de resistance was a store called Smithford’s (see review). It's one of those stores that has an immense variety of items from gifts, furniture, candles, crafts, etc. We spent an hour or more there before working our way back to the main street, in time for lunch at a nice bistro called Lefty’s. Lots of menu items are left-handed termed and the menu opens "backwards" (though it isn’t backwards for us left handed individuals). We did a few errands on the way home and Betty is leaving for Edmonton this afternoon. Today is Karen’s birthday and she is having a group of her women pals in tonight for a pot luck dinner. The guests all arrived by 6:30 and we had good food, good wine and good company. After the guests left, Karen, Don and I stayed up a while longer and spent some quality time chatting. I made sure I was all packed since I’m heading over to Vancouver tomorrow afternoon. November 7Last day here. I’m going to catch the bus from Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver via the ferry and meeting my cousin Linda there. We are heading into Nanaimo this morning for a little walk along the waterfront before the bus leaves at noon. It’s about a half hour drive to Nanaimo, where Karen grew up, with some spectacular views along the way. This is an extremely scenic part of Canada, as you might have guessed by now. The mountains in British Columbia are the highest of the Rocky Mountain chain that extends into the U. S. A. and there are mountains on the islands and Vancouver Island as well. Along this eastern coast of Vancouver Island you get views of the mainland and Gulf Islands, blue water and mountains rising out of the haze. We arrived in Nanaimo about 10 and I sorted the bus ticket out first. It’s $21.40 for a one way to Vancouver including the ferry. We then went over to a waterfront park and walkway along the shore. Down one pier then over where a busy harbour of fishing boats, sea planes and passenger ferries to the Gulf islands including a fast catamaran to downtown Vancouver, the Lynx. This is privately owned and independent of BC Ferries. This ferry wouldn’t have worked for me because the timing was either too early or too late. We walked and I got a few postcards at a shop in a strip that had a few nice souvenir and gift shops. There is also a little tea room with about a half dozen wooden tables so we went in there to have tea and scones, very delicious too I might add. Near the waterfront is a Bastion tower, built in the 10th century which used to guard the harbour. We didn’t walk up the stairs to get a closer look due to time constraints. There is also a wharfside fisherman’s market where you can buy freshly caught seafood off the boats and a seafood restaurant on a wharf as well. Back to the bus depot, a tearful good bye and hugs. I hate this part. The incoming ferry was late so the outgoing was as well and was nearly an hour late getting into the other side. The ferry ride was uneventful, views nice but I was surprised to see a haze of pollution over Vancouver. I didn’t realize that the smog does gather and sit in the Fraser Valley, the mountains more or less harnessing it in. Cold on deck but I was in and out a lot as the fresh air was bracing. I fretted about getting hold of my cousin Linda who was waiting for me at a downtown sea ferry and train terminus. A woman sitting by me on the bus i boarded once the ferry docked kindly lent me her mobile phone. Once Linda knew I was going to be late, I could relax. I caught the skytrain from the bus terminal to the terminus, humping my bag up the stairs. I’m glad I only brought a carry on roller case!The ticket machine at the skytrain station seemed broken so I took the chance and got on anyway. Nobody came through to check. Linda was waiting for me at the Waterfront terminus and we got on a commuter train to Maple Ridge where she lives. They didn’t check for the tickets that she'd bought on that either. They seem to work on an honour system but if you don’t have a ticket and they check, you can be fined. I don’t know how that works for them lol I suspect a lot of people take great advantage and risk getting caught. Linda only lives a few blocks from the train station so we were home fairly quickly. Her husband, Dave, and son Brian are there as well. Dave cooked supper while we sat and had a drink. We’ve discovered that we both love museums and galleries so Linda was keen when I suggested that I'd like to go to the Vancouver Museum. We may even try to squeeze in the Art Gallery if there’s time and we’re going to the Zoo tomorrow. After dinner, Linda and I chatted about family history, Halifax and all kinds of things, again, just like we'd known each other all our lives. I guess it’s that family connection but we seem to have a lot in common too. Close
Another sunny day with a chilly breeze. Perfect for walking around. Caught the bus and got to the appointed meeting place to wait for Ange, Murchies Tea and Coffee on Government Street. Again I was surprised that the downtown was not that busy,…Read More
Another sunny day with a chilly breeze. Perfect for walking around. Caught the bus and got to the appointed meeting place to wait for Ange, Murchies Tea and Coffee on Government Street. Again I was surprised that the downtown was not that busy, with either cars or people. Apparently though, this is mainly a tourist area, not a business area, and in November, tourist season is over. There are distinct advantages to traveling off season! Spied from the bus: sign at a garden center "Better Gnomes and Gardens". Victoria is a city of gardens and gardeners. Also a city where a lot of people retire from other places in Canada. This is evidenced by quite a few medical supply shops, one of which I saw had rows of walkers, electric rod on scooter-chairs including a Cadillac version all encased in clear plastic. Rows of them out front like a car dealership! I arrived at the tea shop in Murchies and had only just got sat down with a frothy chai tea in a cup the size of a soup bowl when Ange arrived. Big hugs! We settled in with our treats and got acquainted and almost immediately agreed the other was just as nice as we hoped/expected. This was the first time we'd met face to face, both being Corrie fans but having "met" each other online via Live Journal where we both have "blogs". We had a browse round Murchies’ Merchandise, all the varieties of tea and all of it very expensive. Next! We browsed our way up and down several blocks of Government Street, taking photos in and of shops and merchandise that took our fancy. We spent money in a good few of them too including the lovely Munro’s Bookstore which is right next door to Murchies in what used to be a bank, the drool-inducing Rogers’ Chocolates, Native art at Hill’s Native Art, truly a feast for the eyes and a feast for the body and soul at LUSH where you can get all hand made and all natural body and bath items. LUSH wouldn’t allow photos taken inside the store but I took one surreptitiously at an angle and Ange took some from outside the store. Onward and upward. A walk through Bastion Square to find a suitable pub or restaurant for a late lunch brought us to D’arcy’s on the waterfront corner of the square. We had a leisurely meal and a great chat. The only problem with leisurely lunches is that the time passes too quickly. It was three o’clock when we left and Ange had to be back at the ferry by 4 so we decided not to go too much farther afield. We walked down to the waterfront to get better photos and hurried over to Thunderbird Park for a look at the totem poles. Alas time to part ways. I walked back and had a look in some of the tourist souvenir stores behind the conference center and the Empress Hotel. I did manage to find a place that sold stamps for a couple of postcards I had and when I got back to the tourist information center, expecting to wait awhile, there was my uncle waiting for me. Excellent.Back home I had only a very light supper of pasta. Not even enough room to finish the salad. Hung out with Steven and the kids for a bit and got some laundry done. Lunch get together tomorrow for the local Coronation Street mates , more commonly termed a Ping, at Spinnakers and then up to Parksville with Karen and Betty. November 4Yet another gorgeous day. It turned out that the whole week was really nice, nearly unheard of for November anywhere in Canada! We left a little early as I had to pick up a couple of birthday cards, one for Karen and one for Sue in Florida. That one I got everyone at lunch to sign. We got to Spinnaker’s which is on the waterfront around behind the Condo section on the Esquimalt side of the harbour on Catherine Street. It’s a brewpub and a B&B with fantastic views over the harbour. I highly recommend this place!!! A few people were there already and the rest not far behind. These are all online friends, though a couple i'd met before. Some I had been chatting to online for years but due to the distance, this was the first time "face to face". Once hugs and introductions and photos were taken, we settled in for some excellent food, drinks and conversation. We had a table overlooking the water with good views across to the city. Goodbyes and more hugs after lunch and Betty, Karen and I hit the road to come "up island" to Parksville where Karen lives with her husband Don and son Jack. The drive is about 2 and a half hours thought steep cliffs lined with tall, tall trees and coastal views where the setting sun lit up across to the mountains over on the mainland to the east past Salt Spring and Gabriola islands. And what was the first thing I saw upon entering Parksville? "Bluenose Motor Company" ! A little piece of Nova Scotia? (Nova Scotians have a nickname, a Bluenoser named after the sailing schooner, found on the Canadian 10 cent coin. Parksville looks like a nice town, with parks and beaches and is quite popular with tourists who rent cottages and holiday homes here. We had a lovely evening having a natter, with glasses of wine and beer or cups of tea. Tomorrow we’re driving up to Campbell River to visit another online friend, Alison, who’s cooking up a salmon for lunch that her husband caught this summer!! Close
Weather has much improved. It’s clear, sunny and cold. They’re all complaining about the temperature but it’s colder than usual for here. It’s still warmer than yesterday though. Today’s route takes us on a scenic drive around the Oak Bay area into downtown Victoria where…Read More
Weather has much improved. It’s clear, sunny and cold. They’re all complaining about the temperature but it’s colder than usual for here. It’s still warmer than yesterday though. Today’s route takes us on a scenic drive around the Oak Bay area into downtown Victoria where we’re hoping the Street market is still on. Turns out it wasn’t but we had a nice wander anyway. Oak Bay is one of the very exclusive areas of Victoria with some estates assessed in the million dollar range and higher. There are marinas dotting the coastline around the peninsula and there are golf courses as well. Mind you, we also passed farms which are only barely 10 minutes from downtown. Victoria seems to have all bases covered. There’s a very large natural park called Beacon Hill which is extremely popular. In addition to walking trails, ponds and open fields, there are also recreation areas, a putting green, a wading pool and the tallest totem pole looking out over Juan de Fuca bay towards the mountains in the U.S. We also passed a signpost marking Mile 0 (Trans Canada highway I think) although there’s also a similar thing in downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland. So there, I’ve been at both ends of the Trans Canada Highway! That’s pretty neat when you think of it! I wonder if there’s a marker for the middle of it somewhere in Ontario or Manitoba?There are no sky scrapers in Victoria which enforces tight height restriction bylaws. A few apartment and condo buildings might hit 15-20 floors but that’s it and there aren’t many of them. Victoria is situated around a harbour on the Saanitch peninsula on Vancouver Island. One side of the harbour is lined with newish condominium developments stretching along to Esquimalt and the navy base. They command an impressive sweeping view of the Inner Harbour. Along the harbourfront are century old buildings housing shops and offices and some restaurants. The grand old Empress Hotel rises up elegantly. Afternoon tea amid Victoria swank will set you back a fair piece of your day’s budget but it’s fun if you wish to spoil yourself. The domed British Columbia provincial legislature building dominates the next stretch, next to the Royal BC museum. This museum is filled with social and natural history artifacts and IMAX screen. All that will keep you busy for a day. Don’t miss Thunderbird Park behind the museum where there are some very old totem poles. There’s also a wax museum next to the legislature, right next to the dock where the ferry from Seattle comes and goes. Back to our travels: We decided to find a quick snack to start us off. We found Market Square, which is a complex of shops and restaurants in heritage buildings surrounding a pretty outdoor courtyard. This being a chilly though sunny November Sunday morning, downtown Victoria wasn’t very busy at all even though most of the shops were open. It was nice not having to deal with crowds. We decided on a slice of pizza and found a small takeout place with very good pizzas though it didn’t look like much as far as the décor goes. They had a few high tables and stools so we sat in, perusing the wall papered with flyers and ads for everything from services (learn to fix your own bicycle!) to upcoming performances of every genre, many for the Halloween weekend just passed. Out the other side and out of Market Square on Pandora Street we approached Chinatown, the second oldest Chinatown in North America. It’s size is now greatly reduced to just a few blocks but it was once a large community and included notorious gambling houses and opium dens located mainly in the FanTan Alley area. FanTan Alley is still there, bookended by Pandora and Fisgard Streets. It is the narrowest street in Canada and only widens ever so slightly after entering to reveal a handful of small but funky shops. There is a second hand record store stocking lots of old vinyl and collectables including posters. There’s another music store with instruments and there were several stores containing imported goods. One had some really lovely items but one that had a lot of small rooms, nooks and crannies was filled with a lot of tacky stuff, smiling buddhas everywhere though there was a small alcove with a reproduction of a gambling den. Very much catering to tourists. The first store, Whirled Arts, I think it was, was far more interesting. There was a restaurant in the alley as well as one at the Fisgard end of it. Fisgard street has a large elaborate Chinese archway at one end and is lined with restaurants, businesses and markets with some fruits and vegetables you probably won’t recognize. Even the telephone booth was fashioned with a pagoda top on it. For your money, though, there are some very good and authentic Asian restaurants in this area. We headed back down Government Street to Johnston street which has it’s old buildings all very brightly painted with contrasting trims in equally bright shades. One shop selling bath soaps and things had a machine outside that was creating bubbles which floated merrily into the chilly breeze. We had a look in one shop that was full of joke items including a pencil sharpener shaped like a nose. Some rather unusual items good for a laugh. We could have browsed in there for a lot longer! Down along the waterfront for a photo of the bright blue Johnston Street bridge, a cantilevered bridge spanning an arm of the harbour. It opens from one side, not up the middle and is a pretty bridge for it’s sky blue colour. We drove across it and drove through Esquimalt. This is land that used to belong to some of the local First Nation tribes (possibly still does). The west coast navy has a base here, as I mentioned. There are some very nice parts and some rougher areas as well. There is an English Inn consisting of 4 or 5 Tudor style buildings and a replica of Anne Hathaway’s cottage (the original being just outside Stratford Upon Avon in England). We headed back home for about three for Sunday dinner. Chloe made us all very lovely thank you cards for her birthday presents so that will have a prized place in my photo album or the trip. After a nice leisurely and very tasty meal, we relaxed and watch CSI. Tomorrow I’m taking a bus downtown to meet an internet pal, Angela, who’s taking the ferry up from Seattle in the morning. Close
I had a huge amount of air miles so for my second visit to Canada's west coast, i decided to book Business Class. That gave me access to the Maple Leaf lounges in various airports in Canada and very cushy seats on board! I left…Read More
I had a huge amount of air miles so for my second visit to Canada's west coast, i decided to book Business Class. That gave me access to the Maple Leaf lounges in various airports in Canada and very cushy seats on board! I left on October 31. How much *fun* is it to travel on Halloween! I got to the airport by 7:30 a.m. for a 9 o’clock flight and spent a quiet half hour in the Maple Leaf lounge. At the gate waiting to board, I saw a woman in a chicken outfit, complete with yellow tail and orange legs/webbed feet! The first flight attendant on the plane that morning had bright sparkly sunglasses and the other one had big green "Mr. Spock/alien" ears! Everyone got on the plane with a smile! On the flight out of Toronto, the attendants had bright orange hats on, one pointy like a witch’s hat and one like a felt pumpkin. Lindor chocolates wrapped in orange pumpkin paper were distributed as well. While waiting in the Victoria airport, I saw a tall person dressed in a long cloak and rubber alien mask, and another man in a business suit hurrying through the airport, sporting a long bright pink wig under a fedora!Anyway, all the flights were fine. I was tickled to see Niagara Falls from the air as we prepared to land in Toronto, that was the closest I'd been to them! The Prairies were covered with a blanket of snow from Manitoba right across to the Rocky mountains which were pretty neat to fly over as well. Vancouver had quite a bit of smog as well which really took me by surprise but apparently it does have smog which nestles against the mountains in the Fraser Valley. The flight to Victoria only lasted 10 minutes, blissfully short after sitting in airplanes all day. I’m staying with my aunt and uncle who live in a flat in their son’s house in Victoria. My cousin was busy carving pumpkins with his two kids and they were excited to be going out in costume. We had a light supper and an early night because even though it was fairly early by west coast time, I was still running four hours later. November 1, 2003It’s unusually cold apparently. Low single digits, overcast and a bit rainy. Feels just like November in NS! We spent the afternoon at a town just outside of Victoria, Sidney By The Sea. Sidney is where the Victoria airport is and also where the ferry to Vancouver and Seattle docks. There are lots of little shops and restaurants in the town center. Our main goal was a fish restaurant that had been getting good reviews from locals. It’s called Fish on Fifth, being on Fifth street. It’s a little blue wooden building with a patio on the front and on the back though of course, too cold to sit outside today! The walls inside are painted a bright periwinkle purpley blue and there are prints all over the walls of fish and mermaids as well as fish outlines stenciled on the ceiling. They have lovely fresh seafood as well as other items. My fish and chips were very good though my aunt’s curry chicken on a bun wasn’t quite as satisfactory. They also make French fries out of sweet potatoes and they’re very good! Sidney has waterfront condos and nice houses, quite a prosperous town. The main street is Beacon Street and there are a few benches with sculptures of people sitting on the benches! Sidney is well known for book shops, especially for used and antique books. I spied a few pottery shops as well which I always enjoy. My favourite store was the Haunted Bookshop, on 3rd street. It’s Vancouver island’s oldest antiquarian bookshop and I wasn’t sure I was going to get out of there "alive" lol! It was very well organized, with lots of wooden bookshelves and lots of old books, hardback and paperback. I found some interesting old travel guides to London, one from 1941 and one from the 1950s and I bought a two volume set of Peyps’ diaries from the early 20th century. The owner is also very well versed in British History among, I suspect, many other things. We had an interesting chat about that. The name of the store refers to a passage referring to the ghosts of authors passed and past in an old book called the Haunted Bookshop. Someone get me out of here before I spend all my money! Sidney has a lot of bookshops, new and used and we got some books for my cousin’s kids in the Children’s Bookstore as well, on Beacon Avenue, the main "high" street. We browsed antique shops, a travel shop, a very funky apparel and accessory shop found on a side street, more book shops, and finally, when the rain had started to fall a little, we decided to call it an afternoon. My aunt and I were too full from lunch to bother with supper and later, we and my cousin’s wife went to see a movie. Close
Written by Cantin2 on 18 Jun, 2008
General Info on Yukon TourWe spent three nights in Victoria prior to embarking on a thirteen night Holland America Cruise-Tour of the Yukon. Cruise-Tour #3 can be viewed here. The Cruise: The Zuiderdam was enjoyable – good service, many balconies (ours even had a…Read More
General Info on Yukon TourWe spent three nights in Victoria prior to embarking on a thirteen night Holland America Cruise-Tour of the Yukon. Cruise-Tour #3 can be viewed here. The Cruise: The Zuiderdam was enjoyable – good service, many balconies (ours even had a tub), food better than I expected in the dining room. Meal times were very short. We missed lunch the first day because we didn’t pay attention to our daily schedule. The pool grill or room service then become your only options. The buffet food was typical – mass prepared early and kept warm but there were lots of choices, including their renowned Bread Pudding that it served at every lunch. The room service menu was quite limited and took about ½ hour to arrive. Since this ship cruises Alaska, the main pool had a retractable dome and all pools were heated. I found the dress very casual on the Alaska cruise. On formal night very few gowns or tuxedos were seen – cocktail dresses and sport jackets were the norm.A disappointment was the quiet nights – hardly and gamblers, no one danced anywhere, the shows were mediocre and the musicians and singers in the small rooms took lots of breaks and for more than a few minutes – a half hour at a time - usually causing the few guests to slowly dissipate. This was probably due to the early morning arrival in ports with so much to do. Excursions started at 7AM and on cruising at sea days, one wanted to be on deck at 5AM to see the whales feeding – so I guess that means "early to bed".The Tour:The Yukon is a vast territory – distances between towns are long – translating into lots of time on coaches. Our tour guide and driver guides were young, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, well trained, informative and best of all – entertaining. We learned about bears, eagles, forest fires, glaciers, saw a Gold Rush movie, were entertained with jokes, juggling, singing and poetry – all excellent…..Guess I was really impressed !!...It did make the trip go by quickly. The driver guides do a commentary whenever we travel past something of interest – Ours happened to have a major in theatre Arts – Such an actor – Added enjoyment for sure.The Holland America coaches are new for 2007 – very comfortable. First of all they are decorated with paintings of animals – moose, bear or eagle in shades of blue, green or yellow. It’s easy to pick out which coach is yours when at a tourist stop. All have leather reclining seats with footrest, drink holder and head phones. Unobstructed views for everyone through large windows. They are equipped with "new technology" see-through shades to filter the sun or to shade the reflection especially welcomed when watching the drop down TV’s and bathrooms are appreciated on trips as long as these. Frequent stops are made every couple of hours to stretch your legs, have a snack or lunch, Kodak moments and even for the "compulsory" gift shop stops.Hotels:These were somewhat of a surprise to me…..Not that I hadn’t read about it….It’s right in the brochures – "we will provide the best accommodations possible in the areas that we visit"…….In Anchorage and Fairbanks we had lovely hotels – Marriotts – that were located in the center of town, walking distance to all that you needed, but in the smaller towns like Tok, Skagway and Dawson City, they were really motels in need of updated décor. You had all that you need – coffee maker, alarm clock, TV, Safe, iron and board and they were clean, but the look was 50’s……Dark carpeting, heavy draperies and flowered spreads – even if they were brand new as in Dawson City. We have become accustomed to clean duvet covers for each new guest. Even in Denali Park, the resort is beautiful, but we were accommodated in the older section of the resort which needs renovations. The new buildings are lovely. Food:As mentioned previously, food aboard the Zuiderdam was better than expected. Once the tour starts, you have a choice of a meal plan – not recommended, even by Holland America - (surprised me) – unless you are one that needs "peace of mind" to know where you will be dining each night – on this plan you will be eating in the hotel every night. The meal plan included breakfast and dinner daily. We always chose to eat in town, rather than at the hotel. There were always choices within walking distance. In the smaller towns, dining is very casual. You’ll be hard pressed to find tablecloths, candlelight or flowers – It’ll be more like formica tables, forever lasting flowers and home cooked food. The larger cities have the more formal dining options. Do I recommend it??? Yes…There is so much to be appreciated about the stamina of the people at that time – and the desperation to get a piece of that "gold". No travelers complained about anything – even when we had meals that were not so appetizing – see picture…. The scenery is beyond belief and the tour well organized. There are so many different transportation experiences - Cruise ship, Narrow gauge rail, Catamaran, luxury coaches, school bus in Denali Park and luxury domed trains. We went to Follies Show, panned for gold, Visited old fashioned towns, the Denali Park excursion and so much more and all is included in the Cruise Tour price. There is no way that one could do it so economically or well planned on their own. Early July is probably the best time to go – We went on August third and it was already starting to get cooler – Colors were starting to change – which was great…and they even predicted snow one night – but it didn’t happen. Princess Cruise Tours also followed us to wherever we went – they are certainly comparable – their hotel in Denali is nicer. I’d choose whichever one was the better value. Close
Written by Cantin2 on 16 Jun, 2008
Our cruise tour was departing Vancouver, a city we reallly love - but we had heard and read such accolades about Victoria.....what were the logistics of getting there - especially after a long day of travel from NY?? My research encouraged me to plan four…Read More
Our cruise tour was departing Vancouver, a city we reallly love - but we had heard and read such accolades about Victoria.....what were the logistics of getting there - especially after a long day of travel from NY?? My research encouraged me to plan four nights there pre-cruise.We arrived in Vancouver at 10:30AM - went through immigration and customs, collected our luggage and as soon as we exited there was a Pacific Coach Desk with a big red sign for Victoria. A representative directed us to the bus depot area so that we could purchase our tickets for an 11:40AM departure.....Perfect !!Pacific Coach has large buses that leave from the airport, cruise port and also picks up from hotels in downtown Vancouver. The $43 per person fee from the airport to downtown Victoria includes transport for two pieces of luggage. Your luggage is checked and once on board it is a 20 mile or so ride to Tswassar, the ferry port.Lots of trucks, buses, cars and many walk-ons are boarding the six deck ferry. The bus with passengers aboard drives on to the ferry - you can leave personal belongings on your seat since the bus is locked during the voyage. During the cruise you spend your time on Decks 5 and 6 - It is a lovely, large ferry.There is indoor seating - theatre style to watch large screen TV, work stations with power for computers, a buffet, restaurant, vending machines with sodas and pre-made salads and sandwiches, and a cafeteria style restaurant serving sandwiches, grilled foods and simple meals. The gift shop sells jewelry, clothing, books and small gifts. A game room appeals to teens or dads with younger kids. Want a quiet trip - a private lounge charges $10 per person - sort of comparable to an airline lounge - seating areas with sofas and tables, coffee, tea, juices and light snacks are included.The outdoor aft deck is popular - great for viewing and picture taking with seating provided at tables and on benches. On select cruises during the summer, a naturalist is on board to give a 40 minute presentation. We found it interesting.The ferry arrives in Swartz Bay about 20 miles north of downtown Victoria. You reboard the bus - It makes a few stops along the way to drop off passengers and one half hour later the trip ends at the Inner Harbor bus station behind the Fairmont Empress Hotel. An easy pleasant trip. Once daily there is a direct bus to Canada Place in Vancouver for cruise ship passengers. With a reservation, Pacific Coach Lines will pick you up at a designated Vancouver hotel. The cost is $43 per person each way from the airport or cruise pier or $37 from downtown hotels. This is their website for additional info. Best of all - your luggage, once on the bus, is delivered directly to your stateroom and the drivers and pleasant and helpful Close
Written by lcampbell on 01 Nov, 2006
Arriving in Victoria from Port Angeles via the Coho Ferry must be the absolute best way to get to the city. From the water, the greatest highlights of Victoria are all before me, highlighted by the glistening water and summer sun. The Empress Hotel is…Read More
Arriving in Victoria from Port Angeles via the Coho Ferry must be the absolute best way to get to the city. From the water, the greatest highlights of Victoria are all before me, highlighted by the glistening water and summer sun. The Empress Hotel is first to grab my attention. I always think it is a castle at first, a bit imposing and covered in ivy. This a great place to experience the British tradition of high tea. Other sights that draw my eyes are the impressive Legislative Building, the float planes landing in the harbor, colorful kayakers, overflowing flower baskets, horse-drawn buggies, and the distinct lack of skyscrapers. Artists and musicians perform and sell their wares on the walkway in front of the marina. A short stroll takes you to Beacon Hill park, Chinatown, or the Royal British Museum, just to name a few.
I have come to Victoria with my friend Ron to do my first overnight camping trip by bike. Our bikes are parked in the bike rack on the bow of the boat. I look at my bike, loaded with two panniers hanging from my rear rack, a tool kit under the seat, and a tent lashed onto the rear rack. I have lunch, clothing, toiletries, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad in my panniers – oh and don’t forget the passport, a possible new requirement for Americans to enter Canada. A handle bar bag holds my camera and a few other things. I hope there aren’t any hills – I think biking will be a little harder than I am used to on this trip.
After disembarking, we cautiously head into the crazy traffic. We can see our destination, a big blue bridge, called the Johnson Street Bridge. We make it safely over (thank you courteous Canadian drivers!) and a trail takes off to the north. We follow it to a junction pointing west for the Galloping Goose Trail and east for the Lochside Regional Trail (see separate entry), and take the turn onto the Goose toward Sooke, our final destination for the day.
The trail is a rails-to-trails project, converting what used to be a passenger rail system which included a noisy gas rail-car called the Galloping Goose (hence the name of the trail) that went between Victoria and Sooke in the 1920s. The whole trail is 60km, but we are going only 40km to Sooke.
The trail starts out in outer Victoria, still pretty urban. Although we are on a trail, we still have to stop often to cross busy streets. The trail occasionally runs right alongside the busy roads, and I hope we get more into the trees and rural area soon.
Well, right about when I was thinking that, we did indeed get to a long wooded stretch of trail. The trail has now turned to packed dirt and gravel. Not the best for thin-tired road bicycles, but perfect for Ron’s mountain bike and my hybrid bike. We mosey along at a casual pace, stopping by a small creek to eat our lunch, and later stopping at Matheson Lake Regional Park. We were going to go for a swim on the small beach, but it was super busy that day, and the small swimming area was packed with families and kids on all manner of floating animal toy. So instead we had a drink and watched the fun, then headed back up to the main trail.
The final stretch into Sooke had some fabulous views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca. There was a nice bench to stop and enjoy the view. On this stretch, there were some killer hills where the trail dropped down to cross a road, then climbed back up to the railroad grade. I assume there were originally trestles in these spots, which are now gone and are too expensive to replace. We exited down onto West Coast Road and entered Sooke.
In Sooke, we camped at Sooke River Flats Campground. This is a private campground on the Sooke River. There are geese (ahem, Canadian geese, of course) happily lazing by the river. There are only a handful of other people in the campground. I had been told by my more-experienced biker pals that people are always very interested to see people traveling by bicycle. As we set our tents, I find out first hand that this is true. The campground owner, as well as a few of our campground neighbors, stopped by to ask a lot of questions about biking the trail, what our plans are, and commenting on our little bivy tents. (See below for more campground details)
After setting up camp, we headed into town for a short hike on Whiffen Spit. First, however, on the way there, I had my first bicycle crash. Silly me, I was looking around for somewhere to have dinner after our hike, and I wasn’t paying attention to my front tire. I hit a curb dead on – going ass over teakettle (or body over bike) onto the pavement. Nothing was injured but my pride (thank you nice Canadian man who helped me up off the ground and picked up my bike!).
Still blushing from my own stupidity, I managed to finish following Ron west on West Coast Road then south on Whiffen Spit Road to Whiffen Spit, which divides Sooke Harbor from the Straight of Juan de Fuca. By the time we parked and locked the bikes, my ego had almost recovered, and we had a nice walk. The extra small opening into Sooke Harbor was interesting, and I especially loved looking back across the Straight of Juan de Fuca back to my own home, the Olympic Mountains.
Dinner was at Mom’s café (2036 Shields Road, just off West Coast Road). The first thing Ron said before we went in was that he had learned over his 69 years that you should never eat at a place called "Moms" or one that advertises that it serves "Eats." Well, this place had both disqualifiers, but since we hadn’t seen much else, and it looked pretty cute and busy, we went in. I am happy to report that we have now proven Ron’s theory wrong! He pronounced his salmon and vegetables "really great" and my all-day breakfast was delish (of course how can you go wrong with all-day breakfast?) Again, the Canadians lived up to their friendly reputation, and we chatted with folks at the booth across from us. I personally think they wanted to find out if Ron and I were father and daughter, or some kind of unconventional couple. We are neither, but hee hee- we kept ‘em guessing!
We didn’t have time, but if possible, I think it would be best to spend two nights in Sooke, spending the middle day biking 20km farther up (and 20km back) the Galloping Goose Trail to the end at Leechtown, and stopping at the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park for a dip along with way.
The trip back was fairly unremarkable, except my second embarrassing incident involving sitting in gum. Ah… my life is slapstick….
For more information, check out these websites:
Galloping Goose TrailSooke River Flats CampgroundSooke Region Museum/Visitor Infor CentreSooke Community WebsiteSooke TourismCoho FerrySooke Potholes Regional ParkGalloping Goose Trail B&B groupMatheson Lake Regional Park
To reach Sooke River Flats Campground: Exit the Galloping Goose Trail onto West Coast Road and continue west. After crossing over the Sooke River on the bridge, take the first right onto Phillips Road. At this intersection is also the Sooke Regional Museum and Visitor Information Center (daily 9am-5pm). Follow Phillips Road to the campground, which is on the right on the river. Open April 1 – September 31, $18 CAN without hookups. Phone: (250) 642-6076, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Another note about the trail is that I found a distinct lack of toilet facilities – be warned!