Written by tvordj on 23 Jan, 2009
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 Composthp on 14 Oct, 2008
We were fortunate to have friends in Vancouver who acted us our hosts and guide to Vancouver. Thanks to them, we were not only able to see the main tourist attractions like the Capilano Suspension bridge, Dr Sun Yat Sen garden in Chinatown, Gastown, Granville…Read More
We were fortunate to have friends in Vancouver who acted us our hosts and guide to Vancouver. Thanks to them, we were not only able to see the main tourist attractions like the Capilano Suspension bridge, Dr Sun Yat Sen garden in Chinatown, Gastown, Granville Island and Stanley park but lesser known sights like Burnaby mountain, Coal harbour and Deep cove. Visiting Vancouver, we felt as if we have visited not just a country but a composite of many including Japan, Korea, China and Europe. Capilano Suspension BridgeThis award winning attraction, also the oldest attraction makes for a fun family outing. It has something for everyone. The star attraction of course is the 137m long bridge and the treetop walk that gave visitors a birdseye view of the fir canopy. The park has informative signs on its flora and fauna. It was a fun and educative experience for us. Dr Sun Yat Sen GardenDr Sun Yat Sen garden is a faithful recreation of the Chinese traditional garden according to style of the Ming dynasty. It is run by a non-profit organisation whose aim is to foster better understanding of the Chinese traditions and culture. We decided to pop in for a quick look around after a scrumptious breakfast at an authentic Hong Kong teahouse in Chinatown. We limited our visit to the outer garden which is free of charge. Our visit left us curious as to the name of the garden, this mystery was solved when we walked towards the bright red arch that marked the beginning of Chinatown along Carrall street. Here we stopped to admire the mural and the narrowest building in Chinatown and found ourselves in Shanghai and Canton alley, the original site of Chinatown where the history of the Chinese migrants to Vancouver were illustrated. This was where we also learnt that Dr Sun Yat Sen has visited Vancouver three times to raise funds to support his cause.Burnaby mountain parkLocated in Burnaby, it offers superb views of downtown Vancouver and the Burrand inlet. Locals flock here during the fireworks festival for its spectacular views at night. The park has a beautiful rose garden and a sculpture entitled "The playground of the Gods" which was installed in 2005 to celebrate its anniversary of Burnaby's sister city relationship with Kushiro, Japan. We felt a sense of deja vu as we had visited Kushiro in that year. Deep CoveThis little idyllic gem offers a glimpse of the life of early pioneers. Its heritage has been well preserved. Its ideal location, i.e., close proximity to the sea and mountain also proved popular among the locals and outdoor sports enthusiasts. For the less adventurous, a stroll along the cove and Deep Cover downtown makes for a relaxing afternoon.Money saving tipsThe Smartvisit card is a useful card to have if you intend to take in the many tourist attractions in Vancouver and Victoria. This card includes free entry to 50 attractions, a free day tour to Whistler, a half day orca-sighting tour and a harbour cruise in the Burrand inlet. Once activated, this card is valid for 2 days, 3 days or 5 days consecutively so timing is important. We purchased the 3 day pass for CAD$152 (inclusive of tax) and found it a good deal. If you are moving around by public transport, purchase the Fare Savers booklet available at newsstands. The booklet comes with 10 coupons which you can use on transit buses, seabuses and skytrain. The booklet is sold according to zones. Most attractions are located in downtown which is zone 1. A booklet of 10 for zone 1 costs CAD$19, this is a saving of CAD$6 (fare for zone 1 is CAD$2.50 and is valid for 90 minutes). 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 moatway on 09 Jun, 2007
CoombsThe log-frame Old Country Market is open every day and features a bit of everything: decorative items, toys, dishware, sushi sets, baked goods, ice cream, fresh vegetables, imported foods and deli. I can’t possibly do it justice…it goes on and on and there are things…Read More
CoombsThe log-frame Old Country Market is open every day and features a bit of everything: decorative items, toys, dishware, sushi sets, baked goods, ice cream, fresh vegetables, imported foods and deli. I can’t possibly do it justice…it goes on and on and there are things there that I’ve never seen before. It really has the feel of a big farmer’s market. Around it, you’ll find outbuildings that contain a number of shops with whimsical names: Pyromania Pottery, Baa Quest, The Prancing Pony, The Rubber Stamp Farm, Dr. Leather and Mrs. Hide and Dogpatch, for example. I often use the word "eclectic"; I should have saved it for Coombs. It’s a lot of fun and in the summertime, it’s the home of the Goats on the Roof. (You’ll have to check that out!)
NanaimoNanaimo reminded me of my own area…it is somewhat nondescript. It would be less so if one were to live there as they have paid attention to a lot of the details that would make a city livable. The waterfront, built around the blockhouse originally built to protect the area (It’s called the Bastion, which may be a little hyperbolic.), is pretty and has a number of coffee shops and an elevated boardwalk overlooking the harbour.
The Commercial Street area (aka Downtown) has a number of attractive shops. At 150 Commercial Street there is the Nanaimo Art Gallery, the downtown face of the main gallery which is on the Malaspina campus. At the gallery, it is possible to buy or rent art; rentals start at $20/month. Great idea! Down the street at 223 Commercial is Gallery 223. It has an extremely large selection of quality oils, photographs, prints, watercolours, glass, and pottery. Upstairs there is studio and display space for several local artists.
The Old City Quarter of Nanaimo is a short walk up Bastion Street (which becomes Fitzwilliam Street). It contains a lot of redevelopment and a number of restaurants. The areas that have been developed are attractive, but the "quarter" isn’t extensive and it has the feel of a good idea that is currently stalled.ChemainusChemainus is just a dot on the map north of Duncan, but it has become a tourist magnet. In 1982, the town invited artists to do murals on the exterior walls of its buildings. There are now 37 murals and 13 sculptures around the area. The visitor need only follow the yellow footprints on the sidewalks to see them all; there are actually two areas involved: the upper town and the old town near the beach…both are an easy walk from Water Wheel Park.
Chemainus is also the home of the Chemainus Theatre Festival; a professional theatre company calls the town’s attractive theatre its home base. As for the town itself, the main shopping area on Willow Street retains its old charm and makes for a nice visit without the murals. I think that in order to get a building permit here, you’ll need to use the word "quaint" in your building description. The town is a good example of what people can accomplish with a little imagination.
Tofino is a small, scattered community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is accessible by Highway 4 from the east island through Port Alberni. People travel the twisting, and very scenic, road to visit a town that is legendary for its outdoor activities:…Read More
Tofino is a small, scattered community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is accessible by Highway 4 from the east island through Port Alberni. People travel the twisting, and very scenic, road to visit a town that is legendary for its outdoor activities: surfing, whale and bear watching, and kayaking. It is also at the northern end of the Pacific Rim National Park, the home of beautiful Long Beach.
Having set out for Tofino, be sure to stop at MacMillan Provincial Park, also known as Cathedral Grove. A few short walking trails loop through old stands of Douglas fir; I’m tempted to talk about the majesty of the trees and the power of nature, but it really is something you should see for yourself. It is rain forest and these trees have grown as a consequence…it’s quite extraordinary. In fact the entire stretch of highway to Port Alberni is surrounded by natural beauty as it winds through dark forests and passes calm lakes.
In tiny Tofino, there are a number of surf schools as well as several places offering hot springs and whale watching tours. Personally, the only time I ever had a chance to "hang ten," I was standing on a curb waiting to cross, so I prefer to head for the galleries. There are several that feature clearly superior work by island artists, both native and non-native. On Campbell Street (don’t worry, you won’t need a map in Tofino.), you’ll find the Eagle Aerie Gallery, disguised as a clan house, with the work of Tsimshian artist Roy Henry Vickers. Definite native themes run through his prints and reproductions. There is also the Reflecting Spirit Gallery across the street which represents a number of island artists and has work in all price ranges…some of it very nice.
On Fourth Street there is The Shorewind Gallery. It features oils and sculptures by several artists and I thought that some of the work displayed there was just a step-above. I was inclined to go for my wallet, but I thought that it might destroy my beer budget, and let’s face it, some things are sacred. On Main Street, the Himwitsa Gallery is the place for aboriginal art with an excellent variety of masks and other objects. You’ll need deep pockets; even a small mask can be quite expensive.
Enough of things artistic? Go back to Campbell Street to Storm, The Tofino Surf Shop. My daughter, who should know better, dropped $30 on a t-shirt with their logo. I suspect that you’ll exercise better judgement and rent a surf board and head for the beach. Cowabunga!
In Ucluelet, you’ll find a lesser display in a lesser town, but you might be drawn to the Canadian Princess for dinner, a drink or lunch, or perhaps to stay overnight. She is actually part of a resort that is renowned for its fishing…out of sight, off her port side is a dock filled with small, modern fishing boats for sport fishermen. She was once the William J. Stewart, a hydrographic survey ship (1932-1975). I thought it was worth stopping long enough to have a drink in the attractive bar. You can learn more at Princess.
For transportation to the area there is Tofino Bus--(866) 986-3466 or Tofino Bus--with service from Victoria, Vancouver, and Nanaimo. To learn more about Tofino, try Tofino.
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: email@example.com Another note about the trail is that I found a distinct lack of toilet facilities – be warned!
Written by btwood2 on 23 Jun, 2006
We didn’t go hungry during our week in Victoria. Watching budget and waistlines, we only ate breakfast out twice, choosing to make use of fridge, toaster, coffeemaker, and microwave in our motel room at Travelers Inn for our first meal of the day. Once we…Read More
We didn’t go hungry during our week in Victoria. Watching budget and waistlines, we only ate breakfast out twice, choosing to make use of fridge, toaster, coffeemaker, and microwave in our motel room at Travelers Inn for our first meal of the day. Once we took off exploring, though, we were fair game for restaurants. Mostly, we chose spontaneously, based on what appealed to us visually, and of course, our pocketbooks.
Online, Victoria Dining Guide offers down-loadable menus (in pdf) of more than 50 popular restaurants. Victoria Visitor’s Choice has a Dining section describing at least as many eateries. Both have ads and photos that will make your mouth water. Both of these guides are in hard copy as well, easy to pick up at the Visitor Centre on the Inner Harbor or wherever you’re staying.
Variety the spice…: We didn’t dine at any really high-end places, but Victoria has its share. Yet even very fancy-looking places often have dinner choices under C$30 per entrée. Victoria’s international feel is enhanced by its eateries, not only the expected selections of Pacific Northwest cuisine, seafood, and English-style pubs, tea houses and fish ‘n chips places, but also Hungarian, Dutch, Caribbean, Chinese, East Indian, Greek, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Southeast Asian, Thai, Nepalese and Tibetan, Mexican, Vegetarian, and Organic.
Pizza in Victoria: Since my husband can’t seem to go even a week without a pizza meal, we were on the lookout for pizza places, and found three promising ones. City-wide (and international franchise) Sarpino’s Pizzeria offers not only specialty, gourmet, and create-your-own pizzas, but lasagnas, spaghetti, ravioli, and tortellini. Twelve-inch pizzas C$14-15. Three Romeo’s, one just a couple of blocks down the street from our motel, would be the place to order for a crowd. Their gimmick is two-for-one priced pizzas, making the average price of one 12-inch pizza between $C12-14. If you create your own, or just buy one, though, the price goes up to C$19 for a basic cheese pizza. Pastas, burgers and other specialty dishes are also available. We ended up getting our pizza at Second Slice, of which there are only two. Not only do they have gourmet pizzas, two-for-ones, and special deals, but their extra-large (16-inch) three-topping pick-up special only set us back C$10. Generously topped with pepperoni, onion and green pepper, it had a decent crust and tasty sauce. Their locations: 1310 Douglas and 1680 Douglas.
Chinatown has lots of restaurants, serving Chinese as well as other foods. While there one evening, we noticed people sitting at the outdoor tables at the QV Café-Bakery, across the street from the Gate of Harmonious Interest. This eatery, a favorite of locals, is open 24 hours, with many appetizing deli and bakery selections on display behind the glass counters. The following morning, we went there for breakfast. Bob had sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. I had a fresh croissant with egg and veggie filling—delicious.