Victoria – Part II

After we finished strolling through Wharf and Government Street, we took a drive through Beacon Hill Park as the afternoon was getting a little too toasty. The park is actually quite large with playgrounds, man-made ponds and a children petting zoo. There is also free parking here for 1-2 hours which is a nice change from all the metered parking. We drove by this one area in the park which looked poorly maintained. The grass was dry and had turned yellow. It was strange how it was just that one patch while the rest of the park was vibrant with flowers and trees…

From the park we drove down Dallas Road as recommended by my friend for a scenic drive and we arrived at Ogden Point. Ogden Point has a 20 minute walking trail out to the waters with a lighthouse at the end. This reminds me Of Iowna Beach, my favourite walking trail in Richmond! There was also a small pet exhibit going on nearby so I took a quick stroll. They had a doggy diving competition which was quite neat.

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We had seen stores of this local coffee chains several times and decided we would give it a try. It was a nice break from all the walking we were doing outside. At Serious Coffee, we ordered the cappuccino. The appearance of the drink was so so but the quality of the coffee was quite good. Definitely worth a try when you are in Victoria!

After doing some caffeine recharge, we went to Christ Church Cathedral to see the recital at 4 p.m. Many people on Tripadvisor recommended this so we went to check it out. The performance had started already when we arrived so we quickly found a seat. They had three performers playing the clarinet, piano and one was singing. The lady was performing an opera and her performance was very entertaining! The decor of the church is very nice with tall ceilings. It reminds me of the churches in Europe.

We still had some free time before our dinner date so we went shopping at the Bay Centre downtown. There are not too many shopping malls in Victoria and this was one of their largest. There’s not much to see here and it looks a little tired. I think it’s best to stick with the outdoor activities in Victoria!

Our friends in Victoria took us to this Indian restaurant called Masala Bites downtown which claims to serve the best Indian food in Victoria. It was prime dinner time on a Saturday night and the place was not very full. It is nice when you do not have to worry about reservations unlike Vancouver downtown.

They served us papadum after we placed our orders. We ordered the vegetable pakora for appetizer. We also each ordered an entree which came with naan or rice.  I thought the naan looked a little oily but the taste was fine. My butter chicken was very delicious but the proportion was too big for me to finish.

We also ordered the rasmalai (mashed carrots with condensed milk) for dessert which was also very good. I never knew you could make dessert with carrots! Service was just so so but still worth it to go for the food!

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After a hearty meal, we decided to go for a walk by the pier again to watch the sunset and snap a few photos of the parliament building at night. We met up with my friend who was also in town and we grabbed a drink on the patio of Steamship Grill. Their drink menus are limited and the view of the pier isn’t as nice as Milestone. I had a Summer Sangria and it tasted very sour because they used canned fruits.

After a long day yesterday, we slept in and relaxed at our apartment in the morning. At 11 a.m. we checked out and went to the Fort Rodd Hill again to see the lighthouse. The admission is $3.90 for adults. After you pass the entrance, there is a short introductory video about the site’s history. From there it is a 10 minute walk to the lighthouse. On the trail, you will also pass by the Upper and Lower Battery (fortress). There are also some other military exhibits for you to see.

The lighthouse is just amazing…We were in such a big rush we did not get to go inside but the view is just absolutely breathtaking. It felt like we were teleported to Halifax…Haha..

We really wanted to try Pagliacci, an Italian restaurant that was highly recommended by our friend. We came here for brunch on Sunday around 1 p.m. and fortunately there was no queue. Instead of bread, they serve you buttered bagel to start. Their bagel was amazing! It was so soft and creamy..we had to ask for another one!

My boyfriend and I each ordered a pasta and they were absolutely delicious as well! I ordered the salmon and pesto cream. There were lots of salmon and the pasta was very rich! It was nice that they offer two sizes for the pasta because the small was just enough for lunch.  Prices were also very decent for a restaurant downtown.

Our last stop in Victoria was the famous Butchart Garden. Frankly, I feel that the admission price is way overpriced at $32.10 per person. Even the food inside cost an arm and a leg (ice cream cone was $4.50).  Admission is free at Queen Elizabeth Park although the park is a little smaller.

It was not too busy when we went so we were able to see everything at our own pace. The flowers were in full bloom and the weather was gorgeous that day.

My favourite part of the garden was the water displays they have. Each were unique and were nicely dispersed in the garden.

We went through the garden in 1.5 hours and headed to the ferry terminal. It was Sunday evening and the ferry sailings were quite full. We got there a little early to make sure we catch our sailing.

OVERALL

There is always something to see in Victoria each time you visit that you will never get bored of this place. Although the Island is small, there are many off the path attractions that are worth checking out for the view. Next time I come back, I will be sure to check out Salt Spring Island as well. Three day and two nights should be sufficient time for you to get a good glimpse of Victoria!

 

Victoria – Part I

The summer time is the best time to visit Vancouver Island when you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of British Columbia while bathing in the awesome sunshine and summer breeze. We spent three days and two nights in Victoria two weeks ago and we could not have asked for better weather. It was blue skies and sunshine the whole way through!

I have been to Victoria many times before but my experience this time was very different as we visited some off the path attractions and spent some time hanging out with the locals.

FERRY

We reserved the 9 a.m. ferry a week before our trip. I have not driven to Victoria in a while and did not realize how expensive the ferry has gotten! It costs $56.45 per vehicle and $17.20 per passenger. If you wanted to reserve a spot, there is an additional $15 reservation fee! I highly recommend making reservations especially during the weekends in the summer as sailings can be quite full. The last thing you want to do is spend three hours at the terminal waiting for the next free sailing! Also, make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes early because your reservation will be void if you miss your sailing (i.e. $15 down the drain!).

After we parked our car, we went upstairs to the deck. On board amenities include a White Spot cafe, wi-fi, children play area, arcade, washrooms, gift shop and lounge area with TV. You can also sit outside on decks 5 and 6. The sailing time is 1 hr and 35 minutes. I usually spend 1/3 of it snapping some photos on deck 6, grabbing something to eat and relaxing in the lounge. The time usually goes by quite quickly as you also need to head down 10 minutes early to settle in your car before the ferry docks.

ITINERARY

We arrived at Swartz Bay around 10:50 a.m. and began our 30 minute drive downtown. There’s one major highway that goes downtown so it is pretty easy to navigate. Our first stop was lunch at Mo:Le Restaurant with my friend who has moved to Victoria. We arrived at 11:30 a.m. and waited about 30 minutes before we got a table. Mo:Le is a popular brunch place near Chinatown that offers vegan/vegetarian-friendly options. I ordered the full size of the smoked fish bennies which comes with a side of fruits, potatoes or green salad. You can choose between hollandaise or lemongrass bechamel sauce. My boyfriend  had the Jo’s Yam Wrap which comes with a tomato soup. Both our dishes were very delicious. I really liked mine as I have not had an egg benedict with a sauce other than hollandaise and this was a nice combination.

After doing some catching up with my friend, we went to our first attraction in Victoria, Hatley Castle. This was one of the less popular touristy attraction that my friend recommended. It was a 15 minute drive from downtown. After you pay for parking, it is about a 5 minute walk to the bottom of the main castle building which is where the tour starts.

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The tour is 1 hour and admission costs $18.50. Be sure to check out the tour times on their website. The tour begins at the Italian garden just outside of the castle, continues to the lower garden where the family used to play bocce and now is used to host weddings and ends on the first floor of the castle. You can also tour the castle on your own but I found the tour to be very informative and highly recommend it.

Hatley Castle was initially situated on a farm and then bought by the Hatley family as their retirement property. When the Hatley passed away, it was bought by the military and now it is the campus for Royal Roads University. Only the first floor of the castle is opened to the public as the rest of the building is used as the administrative office for the University. The X-Men movie and a Disney family series movie was filmed here.

After the tour ends, there is also a small military museum located on the ground floor that you can check out for 30 minutes.

Also, take a walk out to the man made lakes and gardens from the entrance of the Italian garden. It is a nice tranquil trail under the shade.

We checked in to our apartment after this attraction and took a brief nap as we had an early morning. After some recharging, we went to our second attraction, Thetis Lake. This is also a popular attraction with the locals where they enjoy spending the weekend. The lake was about a 10 minute drive from our apartment. Parking there is $2.25 for the whole day. Although it was only 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, there were already many people gathered here swimming and playing in the water. The cool water felt very refreshing on a hot summer day and the view was beautiful. There are also a few walking trails that you can take here as well.

We had some spare time before dinner so we decided to go to Fort Rodd Hill to see the lighthouse. However, when we got there, it was already closed by 5:30 p.m. We saw many cars drive along the road next to the lighthouse entrance so we went to check it out. It turns out that there is a great spot here to catch the sunset.

After seeing the sunset, we grabbed some take out from Wok Box (a Chinese food franchise) and headed back to our apartment.

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Day 2 began with a tour at the Parliament Building at 10:30 a.m. Tours last 40 minutes and run every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Even though I’ve been to Victoria many times, this was actually my first time going into the building. You need to first pick up a free ticket at the booth near the entrance to attend the tour.

The tour was very informative and is free. After you go past security check, the tour guide takes you up to the second floor where you can see the main assembly hall. I highly recommend checking it out as you can only enter the building with a tour.

When we finished the tour, we saw the army cadet band performing. They were playing their instruments while marching and their performance was quite good.

We went across the street to the pier. They had the water taxi ballet performance which was very neat. The show runs every Sunday at 10:45 a.m. after the Victoria Day long weekend. We went on a Saturday but perhaps they had a special showing…Nonetheless, definitely worth checking out as I have not seen such performance elsewhere.

After the show, we checked out the booths along the pier. It was quite busy that day as there was a dragon boat competition going on. Teams from Canada and US were competing that weekend. My friend was there for the competition so we cheered her on as we watched from shore.

We went to a Greek restaurant, Millos, for lunch. The restaurant was pretty dead when we got there but I did enjoy the ambiance as there are many Greek decor here. It is also just a 5 minute walk from the Miniature World. We ordered the Caesar chicken wrap with Caesar salad and pita bread with hummus. Food and price was alright.

After lunch, we strolled along Government and Wharf Street where you can buy souvenirs and find the city’s most popular restaurants and pubs.  There is also a few ice cream shops here where you can eat to your heart’s delight with so many flavours.

ACCOMMODATION

As it was peak season, hotel prices were very high. We decided to go with AirBNB to save some money. We found an apartment for $85 a night which was a 15 minute drive from downtown. The place was a little cozy for two people but the view from the deck was just amazing. The landlord also offered their kayak for us to use which was nice. We spend a lot of time just relaxing on the deck and waving at people who went by on their boats or kayaks.

PARKING

It is paid parking almost everywhere in Victoria. Most spots downtown have a 2 hour parking limit. However, to get around it, I would recommend first paying with the meter. Then you can download the Victoria parking app and purchase parking for the same spot again so you do not have to walk back. Parking generally is cheaper than Vancouver ($5 for 2 hour parking).

 

The Captain’s Boil – Richmond

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I’ve been back in Vancouver for a month now but haven’t had a chance to blog about the new restaurants I have tried! Let’s take a brief detour from my Japan trip and take a look at what’s happening in BC!

My mom told me about this restaurant that had opened up in Union Square which have very long line ups. We decided to check it out on Monday night. Without making reservations, we showed up at 6:15 p.m. and the restaurant was already 80% full. The server gave us a table but requested that we have to give it back by 7:30 p.m.

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Ambiance – 7/10. They have completely refurnished the restaurant from its previous look which was a Chinese restaurant. I like the new decor as it is much more trendy and Western-looking. They also have a large bar table near the entrance and had loud music playing in the background. I like the wood carving of seafood on the wall. The restaurant actually looks a little out of place in a Chinese mall surrounded by Asian restaurants.

They provide you with a plastic bib and gloves so you don’t get yourself dirty while plunging in  on the seafood. To add to the “disposable” theme, they provide you with paper towels, plastic table cover, plastic cups and utensils.

Food – 7/10. There are a few selection of fresh seafood that you can order by pound (i.e no half pounds). Then, you can choose the type of sauce and the level of spiciness. We ordered the garlic bread as an appetizer. This was just so so.

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We also ordered the teriyaki chicken sizzling hot plate. If you order this before 4 p.m., it comes with 2 prawns, 2 mussels and 2 clams which is a much better deal for $10.95. The style is similar to Pepper Lunch but I found the chicken too bland.

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For seafood, we ordered a pound of mussels, a pound of shrimp and two pounds of clams. In hindsight, we should have ordered two pounds of mussels/shrimp instead of clams as there will be more substance to eat. Also, the clams all fell out of their shells so we had to pick them up to eat from the bottom of the bag. As such, it is hard to say if we actually got a full pound of clam meat. The seafood was fresh and quantity was exactly as we ordered (for the shrimp and mussels).

The seafood was served in plastic bags with the sauce mixed in. We ordered the garlic sauce and the taste was very strong, so strong that I still had the taste of garlic on my breath the next morning…

We paid about $70 for three people which is reasonable for seafood but do not expect to be very full.

Service – 8/10. The server came by quickly to take our order. Our food was also delivered quite quickly. Not bad overall.

Good to Know! – As the restaurant is new, there’s still a lot of hype about it. If you want to try, I would recommend making a reservation. Credit card is accepted here.

Overall –  This restaurant is similar to Crawfish King on Alexandra Road which is now closed. Hopefully the restaurant is able to escape the same fate!