Saturday, May 31, 2014


I love Canada. I feel so "at home" in British Columbia that, every time we visit, I have fantasies of living there.
Victoria is one of my favorite cities. It has an international feeling, a historic sense, and yet it has a manageable size - not too big and not too small. It is truly charming - not phony charm, but the real kind, based upon innate good qualities.

When we visit, we walk as much as possible, and do not rent a car. We average 8-12 miles walking each day, and we love seeing the neighborhoods and different areas from ground-level, at pedestrian speed. We love to be near the water, and Victoria has plenty of that. We love to eat and drink well, and restaurants, cafes and pubs abound. There are plenty of interesting shops for browsing, as well as farmer's markets, yard sales, antique stores and coffee shops. We love boats, so the Swiftsure sailboat race weekend is a natural attraction for us - plus, it coincides with our wedding anniversary (or should that be the other way around?).

On this trip, our 23rd anniversary, we arrived in a drizzling rain, so we checked our bags at the hotel and borrowed an umbrella. As Puget Sound natives, we view an umbrella as simply an insurance policy: if we carry one, the rain will stop. True to our expectation, after about an hour of carrying the umbrella as we walked up to the Cook Street Village for a cup of coffee and some people-watching, the sun came out.
We found a fabulous delicatessen that was new to us. Its cheese selection made our mouths water, but we were saving our appetites for dinner at Cafe Brio. We were not disappointed; we never have been, at Cafe Brio.
Part of the fun of our hotel's location is walking through Laurel Point Park, looking at the city from various angles, reading the dedications on the park benches, and people-watching. We walked to dinner as the light softened from day to dusk.

Gregg started his meal with a salad and a beer; I had a glass of wine. We chose to share a fish entree, and Gregg had a half-serving of pork shoulder to himself. Then we shared a dessert which is in a class of its own: the Sticky Date Toffee Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream, swimming in toffee-rum sauce. I don't have words to describe it.
With dessert, Gregg had coffee, but I indulged in something new: fortified blackberry dessert wine from the Venturi-Schulze Winery on Vancouver Island. We are planning a visit to that winery on our next trip to the island.

On Saturday morning, we awoke for an early breakfast so that we could watch the sailboats heading out to begin the race. One reason that I love this modest hotel is its location on the inner harbour. The parade of boats is an exciting spectacle, and we are able to enjoy it from our breakfast table.
The harbour looks quite different without the boat parade. It is always busy, with ferries, pleasure boats, float planes, passenger ferries and commercial shipping, but I caught it during a quiet moment here:
After breakfast, we walked up past Ogden Point, onto the breakwater, out to the lighthouse and back. Then we continued up Dallas Road to Beacon Hill Park, and joined the crowds watching the boats depart. The winds were brisk, and there were were para-sailors riding the updrafts.
It was exciting to watch them flying so close over head, floating on the wind. Gregg was totally captivated. I thought he was going to try it, but he didn't.
We went from the Swiftsure race to the Moss Street Farmer's Market, another favorite place. They have beautiful crafts, vegetables, baked goods, toys, face-painting for children and live music. Along the way, we admired the many charming cottages, some made into duplex and four-plexes, with glorious gardens. Victoria enjoys a drier climate than ours, and it shows in the cottage gardens.

After walking about 10 miles, it was time for a nap, and after our nap, time for happy hour: oysters on the half-shell, beer and cider, outdoors near the harbour.
From there, it was on to the Irish Times restaurant, where there are dozens of beers on tap, pub food and excellent live music. They featured Irish folk tunes on Saturday night (fiddle, guitar, bass and vocals) - really well done, and in such a fun atmosphere.

The Irish Times' menu contains this page:
This is not my view of alcohol, but I thought it was pretty funny. I like the very last sentence best.
 Walking back to the hotel, this was our view along the quai (the Empress Hotel, above)
and the government buildings. Do you see what I mean about the charm of the city? It has captured my heart

I'm thankful that Gregg and I agree on the gift of time spent together as an anniversary present. It's my favorite kind of gift.


Ann said...

Perfect timing for this post. My husband and I leave for Victoria, BC a week from Friday courtesy of We are being put up at the Oswego Hotel and we'll be there for a week! I'm taking notes from your trip. xo

Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh how you make me want to get there myself. Your anniversary celebration is so sweet; you are right, the gift of time together is priceless!!! The drunk menu guy was funny. :)