Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Living on an Island

Our summer tour took us to Vancouver Island, which included house hunting. (It came down to a shortlist of Victoria and Sidney, to the north of Victoria, between the airport and the sea).
BC Trip Monday 11 July - Tuesday 2 August 2016:
Monday, 11 July, WESTJET Flight: WS 711, Departure: YYZ TORONTO, TERMINAL 3, 12:55PM, Arrival: YVR VANCOUVER , MAIN TERMINAL, 3:00PM.
WESTJET Flight: WS 3222, Departure: YVR VANCOUVER, MAIN TERMINAL, 4:15PM, Arrival: YYJ VICTORIA 4:46PM.
YYJ Bus to downtown Victoria, with running commentary, drop off at the Swan Hotel & Brewpub, Pandora Avenue. Short walk to Airbnb accommodation at:
409 Swift Street, Suite 310, Victoria, BC, V8W 1S2 (Mon 11 July to Mon 18 July, on the waterfront near Johnson Street Bridge, water taxi stop at Mermaid Wharf, adjacent to China Town.)
First evening walk to China Town to get some milk. Supper at Canoe Pub opposite our digs, squid and beet salad, $6 Belgian beer special, $42 for two incl tip.
Tuesday Day 2: After watching the Tour de France on tablet, walk to Honeybun Café, 805 Yates Street for breakfast, Fry Up and French toast, $26 incl tip for two. Shopping at Shopper's Drug Mart and Market on Yates (checked out 10:00 am), checking on prices.
Wednesday Day 3: Stroll around downtown. Decaf Americano and panini at Sandwich Corner, Courtney & Gordon. Meet Jeannie and the boys at RBC Museum. Adjacent food trucks for lunch. I take the water taxi while they take in the Imax. In the evening walked to Delta Grosse Point Hotel for drinks and dessert, harbour view.
Thursday Day 4: Bus 2A to Oak Bay ($5 bus deal "Rover ticket" - any bus all day). Coffee at Serious Coffee, Oak Bay Ave, a local chain. ReMax real estate, Library.
Bus #2 on circular route round Oak Bay, then stroll to Oak Bay Marina, lunch at Dockside Eatery. Watching heron in the harbour, also belted kingfisher stalking a sea otter, hoping for leftovers. In the evening to Famoso Pizzeria, Douglas St, $5 Driftwood Brewery Fat Tug IPA (later I discover this is 7% alc/vol - hard to find a session beer in BC).
Friday Day 5: Walk to James Bay. Coffee at James Bay Coffee Co (with bookshop), on down to seashore, along Dallas St, check out a house on San Jose Avenue, then Ogden Point. Walk on to Fisherman's Wharf, lunch at Barb's Fish & Chips, later meeting Jeannie and the boys from Seattle. Water taxi back to digs.
Saturday Day 6: Meet Margaret. Breakfast at QV Bakery, Government St., cheap and cheerful. Car to Cook Street, walk to Fairfield Plaza and back, coffee at Starbucks. Deer live in the suburbs, often seen, they will come and eat from your veggie patch. Some gardens have high fences and are deer proof.
Then by car to Esquimalt, The Gorge, then Willow Beach for stroll. Logs on the Beach. Lunch in China Town.
Sunday Day 7: Bubby Rose's Bakery, Cook & Fort, to meet Emma and Paul, newly arrived from Toronto. Pleasant and not too busy at this pavement café.
Mon 18 July to Mon 25 July: Switch digs to 760 Johnson Street 1005, Victoria, BC V8W 0A4 (Juliet Building, corner of Johnson and Blanshard. Coffee at Mochiato, downstairs, while waiting to get the keys.)
Bus to Oak Bay Marina for lunch. Meet Clive and Anna on vacation from Toronto.
Tues 19: To Sooke with Clive and Anna for rented mountain bikes and ride on the Galloping Goose trail. About three hours, I manage to climb the hill into Sooke on return. Drive to Sandcut Beach, among the trees, along the Juan de Fuca Strait. Pitstop at Shirley Delicious, on the way back, for cookie and lemonade.
Wed 20: Walk to West Victoria to see the old E&N railyards and roundhouse. Coffee at Casa Nova Catering, 492 Esquimalt Rd. Early supper at Margaret's House in Gordon Head.
Thurs 21: To Chapters to buy Victoria map book, Trains magazine. Bus to Oak Bay. Lunchtime snack at friendly Good Earth Coffehouse, 1971 Oak Bay Avenue.
Fri 22: Walk to breakfast at Relish Food & Coffee, 920 Pandora. Bus to Cook and Fort, checking out the shops. Car to lunch outdoors with Margaret at Milestones by Victoria harbour in the sunshine. The Hot Rods are arriving for the big show.
Sat 23: To "Jaguars on the Island" car show at Windsor Park, Oak Bay. Strolling on leafy streets to Fairway Market, bought jelly babies while checking on prices. Lunch at Penny Farthing "English" pub, Oak Bay. We enjoyed Northwest Deuce Days in Victoria, some 1200 Hot Rods plus "outlaw" muscle cars. We sat out at an intersection in the warm Saturday evening watching the cars cruising the town. It was like appearing in "American Graffiti."
Sun 24: We were up early on Sunday to see the Hot Rods assembled round the harbour, many top notch cars up from California. The show runs every three years. On our last night in Victoria we found the Veneto Bar at the Rialto Hotel, Government & Pandora. Less noisy, less blokey than some.
Rudyard Kipling, writing in 1907, likened Victoria to Bournemouth with the Himalayas in the background. (There are snow-capped mountains in the distance, in the US. Victoria being below the 49th parallel.)
Mon 25 July to Tues 2 Aug: travelling around Vancouver Island.
We backtracked to the airport on the YYJ bus to pick up a rental car, catching the bus at the 'Save on Foods' Memorial Centre, a hockey stadium in Victoria. We set off through the spectacular Malahat Pass, in a black Nissan Sentra, stopping at Duncan for lunch. Three hours free parking, by the old train station, pausing to listen to a folk concert outdoors. Pleasant lunch at Gourmet Gardens, 161 Kenneth Street, Duncan, BC V9L 1N5, outdoors under a grapevine.
Ride on to Qualicum Beach Inn, 2690 West Island Highway. Period circular bar and dining room, great location with sea view. Stock-keeping not their strong point - they were running out of tonic at the bar and had no bacon for breakfast. I managed to scrounge some real milk to go with coffee in the room. Meet up with Reb and Billy and walk to The Shady Rest Waterfront. The restaurant was not firing on all cylinders.
Next morning quick vist to QB Airport, park at the old train station, then stroll in the 'chocolate box' downtown where they are making a movie. Drinks at Qualicum Foods, a trendy supermarket, followed by a visit to the latest incarnation of Pancake Manor studios, in an old school classroom.
Then short ride to Port Alberni via "Goats on the Roof," a hokey tourist attraction, and Cathedral Grove, a magnificent forest. We enjoyed three nights at Port Alberni to the max. Great breakfast by the river at the Blue Door, 5415 Argyle St, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 1T6 - "Home of All Day Breakfasts" - old timey without the greasy spoon. Shopping at Walmart and No Frills - best prices on the Island.
Superb ride in the speeder car (known locally as a crummy) to McLean Mill, approx 35 minutes. There is a crazy lady en route who waves flags at all passing trains while dressed in costumes, house decked out with flags.
We toured the lumber mill, which wasn't operating that day, but it didn't matter. Many photo ops of old vehicles and machinery without any crowds. The crew of the speeder car, which used to carry up to 30 people to work sites on the railway (more in a trailer, not present), were very friendly and afterwards took us back to the engine shed in the speeder to see the old Shay locomotive, a shaft-drive rarity which seems to turn up on our travels e.g. in Australia. They need $200,000 to make the Shay fully operational. (We had checked at Victoria Tourist Information ref the train ride and been told it was no longer running - we took steps to put this right.) We drove out of town to find the old hill climb racing course from the sixties at Alberni summit. The road off Hwy 4 near the brake test area is now blocked off but we are fairly sure we were in the right place. I am on the trail of pictures and film etc. We walked to supper at Bare Bones, a popular fish and chip place in an old church, with a simple choice of red or white wine.
Next day we walked up the trail to the trestle and waterfall, watching the steam train 90 foot up in the air. Only snag here 75 inches of rainfall annually, mostly in winter. (The rainfall varies greatly over a short distance e.g. 75 inches in Port Alberni, 28 inches in Victoria.) Can't fault a place that sells Eccles cakes!
We are sorry to miss "Thunder in the Valley" in Port Alberni. Usually a quarter mile drag race at the airport, this year they are refurbing the airport with runway extension and new lighting, so have moved the event to town with an improvised eighth-mile strip outside our hotel. Gotta love the spirit of these people. The lady that booked us into the hotel is driving in the drags. Another sign of making the most of things is that the hotel is a stop on the railway - our speeder driver, Pete Geddes, told of a special train stopping at the hotel to pick up a wedding party.
Parksville reminded us of New Zealand, with single-story buildings and nose-first angle parking. We stopped by the disused railway station and chatted to a lady with an AMC Spirit car, before she disappeared indoors to the pottery shop: "I don't watch the news, it's a bliss thing!" We spotted a Stedman's department store, a name no longer seen in Ontario.
We check in to Best Western Northgate Inn, 6450 Metral Drive, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 2L8 for two nights. Folk had said uncharitable things about Nanaimo, but we enjoyed strolling on the harbourfront, taking coffee and sandwich at Javawocky, #8 - 90 Front Street. Nanaimo, BC V9R 5H7. Walk to supper at Milano's Ristorante, Suite 300-6551 Aulds Rd, Nanaimo, V9T 6K2.
Next morning we went to search for the remnants of the No. 5 Mine at Wellington, in the northern suburbs of Nanaimo (now incorporated). We explored near Diver Lake, but apart from a plaque there was little to indicate that this had once been a busy coal mining area. Scored $2 Bodum bundle at a thrift store, where they recommended Buzz Coffee Shop, 1861 Dufferin Crescent, Nanaimo, BC V9S 0B1. We also checked out Country Grocer supermarket opposite.
After lunch we caught #50 bus at the Woodgrove Centre, which turned into #7 at Prideaux Street downtown, and then set off south into the boondocks dropping us in Cedar, about a mile from the Crow & Gate "English" pub, a Mock-Tudor building in the middle of nowhere. We met up with Reb, Billy and Jaynie for supper. This unlikely place qualifies as a "Home from Home." Lift back to hotel, via Nanaimo railway station, now a restaurant.
Next morning we set off southbound via Ladysmith, then Chemainus (well presented murals and a sad little railway station) for Sidney. Back track to coffee at Saltair Station House, 10445 Chemainus Road, Chemainus, V0R 1K2. Lunch at The Surly Mermaid, 9891 Seaport Place, Sidney, V8L 4X3, (fish and chips, very fresh).
Two nights at Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites, 9775 1 St, Sidney, V8L 3E1. Walking tour of south side. Early evening drinks at Charles Dickens Pub, 2280 Beacon Avenue, Sidney. Pizza supper at Woodshed Restaurant, 2369 Beacon Ave, Sidney, BC. Last gasp at noisy Haro's Restaurant & Bar, 9805 Seaport Place, Sidney, V8L 4X3. Coffee at welcoming Red Brick Café (2 for $3.50), Tour by car taking in the northern suburbs, airport and Patricia Bay. Last night treat at Beacon Landing Restaurant & Lounge, 2537 Beacon Ave W #107, Sidney, V8L 1Y3. Scallops.
Tuesday, 02 August:
WESTJET Flight WS 3277, Departure: YYJ VICTORIA, 2:00PM; Arrival: YVR VANCOUVER, MAIN TERMINAL, 2:28PM.

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