We were in Victoria for a week without the kids this time, but we've gone several times in years past and will continue to go in years to come. It's a lovely city with an amazing climate, friendly people, local food, and gorgeous architecture. Not to mention, of course, that we have family there- and the ocean. The ocean is a big draw.
Without further ado: Here's the list of Things to Do! And these aren't in any particular order. Some are better for the kids so they will be marked accordingly. If we feel kids would be bored then we'll mark them "adult".
Bear in mind even if an activity is marked as a half day, at the very least you will need to plan on finding something to eat or drink after, and be flexible with your timing. We have learned the hard way not to make commitments to get somewhere right after a day trip- either it takes longer than we think or the traffic doesn't cooperate. When you're on vacation, just give yourself the freedom to take your time.
1. Butchart Gardens
-Plan for a day away! I went as a kid and hated it- got very bored very fast. (Adult)
2. City Tour, including Craigdarroch Castle
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-We went with CVS Tours, so that's who I linked you to. We enjoyed the tour so much- the bus was air conditioned and with tinted windows we could sit in comfort. The driver was fun to listen to, a good driver, and had so much to tell us. The Castle itself only takes about an hour/90 minutes or so to get through, so the half-day tour is mostly driving through interesting neighborhoods, hearing about the history of Victoria, and seeing places you probably wouldn't get to really see if you're focusing on driving.
-We highly recommend it as we learned so much about the city and saw so much of it.
3. Historical Food Tour
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-You start at the Victoria Public Market and explore the interesting local businesses, hear their stories, and sample their food...and then you walk. We enjoyed tasting everything from Olive Oil to Macarons to Peroghy.
-You will hear fascinating stores about Victoria- just like on the CVS tour- but from a street level. It was so much fun and we enjoyed the tastings tremendously.
4. The Bug Zoo
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-The Bug Zoo is located downtown and housed in a small space with an amazing collection of bugs. If you and your kids like the wiggly and crawly, hairy, tiny, or huge bugs, this is the place to go. They offer tours- the staff will take small groups of people from habitat to habitat, often with the opportunity to touch and hold bugs.
-My kids were enthralled. It can take as short or as long as you like- we had to leave early once before my kids were ready, which resulted in an epic meltdown. Be sure to give yourself more time then you think you'll need.
5. Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
-Plan for a full day (Kids)
-So much for adults as well, if you love the ocean as much as I do. The exhibits are phenomenal, so beautiful and so important. Like most aquariums, there is a huge element of education involved. They have worked hard to educate and teach the public about the Sea and all that lives within and depends on it to live.
-I've only been there once, several years ago, and we are definitely going to revisit when we return next time.
6. Willows Beach
-Plan for a half day- but be prepared for a full one (Kids)
-So much for the adults as well. This beach has easy parking, food, washrooms, and a playground. Lovely sand to play in and water easy to wade into. Hit up the dollar store to pick up some sand toys to enjoy and gift to another family when you leave :)
7. Gonzales Bay
-Plan for a half day (Adult)
-This is great for kids too, but with no on-site parking, washrooms, or food available it's less family friendly. You will definitely still find sand that's playable and ocean that's walkable, and the views are amazing.
8. Whale Watching
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-Our tour was with Prince of Whales, so that's who I linked you to- but I think all the companies in Victoria are driven to promote respect for the ocean and its inhabitants. I know they work together to help watchers see whales. There's never a guarantee because ocean creatures are free to go where they want to, but we've now been on 3 different tours (one in Southern California, and twice in Victoria) and we have always seen whales- Humpbacks twice, and Killer Whales once.
-You never know what the weather will be like out at sea- it's best to bring a light jacket, a hat, and sunglasses. One whale watching tour we did in July when my second was an infant was so cold we almost needed a toque and gloves, so be warned- it's very different on sea then on land.
-If you think you or the kids might be prone to seasickness, it's best to bring Gravol (motion sickness medication) with you. You may also consider a day pack with bottled water for each, a battery charger for your phone, and a good camera that snaps pictures quickly. The whales will appear (often without warning) and then are gone, and if your camera takes its time to load you may miss capturing the experience on film.
-Many companies offer photographs taken by their staff during the tours, so ask about that option so you can just enjoy the day without worrying about what photos you may be missing.
I'm sure you'll enjoy Victoria as much as we did. Drop me a line and let me know what treasures you have discovered there!
My husband and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. We took a week off from real life to head to Vancouver Island to celebrate and to jump start some new creative thinking for my cooking.
Our host city was Victoria, British Columbia. We opted to stay in an air bnb because I wanted the option of an entire suite with a working kitchen. My goal for our journey was to enjoy as much fresh seafood as possible. Living in landlocked Alberta, fresh fish isn't something we see often.
We wanted to eat out and enjoy food from places we haven’t been to before, but also do a good amount of cooking at our home for the week- breakfast and lunches for the most part, but a dinner or 2 as well. We also planned on eating in with family since they live in that beautiful city and surrounding area.
I thought it would be fun to document our food journey so that the next time YOU are in Victoria, BC, you will have some suggestions on what to eat and where.
On our day of arrival, tired from travel, we opted to eat out. All we ate for breakfast and lunch before boarding was a handful of nuts, so by the time we arrived, rented our car, and hit the road we were seriously hungry. The first place google maps suggested was closest to the airport- about a 90 second drive or something- called The Spitfire Grill. Mike ordered the West Coast Tacos and I ordered the Blackened Sockeye Salmon Sandwich, which we then divided and shared. This way we both got to try both menu items.
The Sockeye Sandwich was amazing, and that’s all I have to say about that. There was just enough blackening seasoning to complement- NOT overwhelm with too much spice. It was filling, flavourful, stuffed full of goodness.
The Tacos were good, but not really lunch sized. An order comprised of 3 tacos, and they weren’t very big. The corn tortillas were delicious and I suspect freshly made. They were topped with mostly baby greens and a little bit of mango and fish (Alaskan Halibut). If I had to choose again I’d order the sandwich for sure, and so would my husband.
Our hostess at the Air bnb, Marianne, suggested Bin 4 for dinner. They are known for their gourmet burgers- from bison, ahi tuna, chicken, and lots of beef. Almost anything you can imagine topping these burgers, and completely customizable. Mike ordered The Dirty Bourbon with a side of red onion rings. I ordered the Pre-Season with a side of their seasonal Almond Praline Blue Cheese Salad. We each drank mint lemonade, ordered their house-spiced potato chips as an appetizer, and shared a sour cherry cheesecake for dessert.
The Pre-Season burger was delicious- all the flavours combined to make one seriously tasty and amazing burger. You wouldn’t think that jalapeno guacamole and bruschetta are food matches made in heaven, but they were on this burger. The salad was disappointing, though. Too much blue cheese and praline, and I didn’t even notice the almonds, to the point where I’m not actually sure they were in there.
Mike thought The Dirty Bourbon burger was “ok”- a little too sweet, with some of the flavours a jarring combination. He enjoyed the onion rings and I tried a bite, but to me they were nothing special- onion rings are onion rings, and these didn’t surprise me or wow me. If we were to eat dinner here again, we’d both order that Pre-Season burger, and I’d probably stick to the house salad or fries.
The lemonade was tasty but sweet, and the fresh mint added another layer of flavor which we both enjoyed. The sour cherry cheesecake was rich, decadent with chocolate shaving, and perfect for sharing.
We enjoyed a coffee down at The Nest, a neighborhood coffee shop. Here we got to enjoy the main show- #eclipse2017. Got some great indirect photos of it, too.
The Halibut from Nautical Nellies came highly recommended, so we ordered the Halibut Burger for lunch.
Situated down where Wharf Street meets Broughton, the outdoor patio was a lovely place to eat, with tables situated in both sun and shade.
Yes, order this!
The other halibut choice was fish and chips, and to be honest we’ve already enjoyed some great fish and chips near home. Ordering the burger was the only real choice here.
Both Mike and I ate the same thing. It came topped with lettuce, bacon, and tomato, as well as a balsamic honey vinaigrette. It was a bit sticky and drippy and slightly too salty for everyday enjoyment but worth every bite. The halibut was cooked perfectly.
Sidebar: the only place I’d fly to enjoy fish and chips is Scotland…unfortunately I have no idea where we were when I enjoyed those there.
End Part 1
We drove to Vancouver Island for our family holiday this year. It took 2 days of driving each way, though it could have taken longer- accounting for construction, breaks, rest stops, and filling for gas, one day each direction was about 10.5 hours, and the other around 7. My general maximum time on the road is about 6 hours and then I get cranky.
But arriving on Vancouver Island and spending time soaking up the sun and inhaling the ocean breezes made the travel time worth it. We spent a lot of time on Mount Tolmie. The view was breathtaking all the time, even when it was foggy and grey. Sunsets there were incomparable. Morning coffee was even better with a view like that! Spending time with my brother and sister in law, getting to know my niece and nephew, and watching the kids enjoy the company of their cousins was the icing on the cake.
Unaccountably for me, the planner, we went without a plan. We woke up each morning and decided what we felt like doing that day. A couple of mornings we left the kids at my brother's home and wandered in downtown Victoria along the harbour or browsing shops for a couple of hours. We had coffee on Tolmie a few times. We took the boys to Port Angeles, WA for the day, and were gifted a Whale Watching tour for another. We saw 3 humpback whales, but no orcas.
We visited with old friends, enjoyed a meal and a few hours at and around Fisherman's Wharf, went fossil hunting, spent some time at Oak Bay Marina, and caught Pokemon everywhere we went. A few hours were spent at Beacon Hill Park, and while we ate our share of the usual fast food, we also enjoyed unique meals at places we haven't been before, such as West Coast Waffles.
I even shared an oyster with my husband at Smugglers Landing in Port Angeles. It wasn't as bad as I expected...but I'm not sure it's something I must eat again.
We earned our keep by helping out with groceries, cooking a few meals, giving my brother and his wife a couple of nights out by babysitting, and helping out with their dog. One morning we spent a couple of hours blackberry picking- that was an eye-opening experience. Those bushes are deadly! But it gave me an opportunity to do some #testkitchen #recipedevelopment while I was gone, and I developed a blackberry and maple pudding recipe just for my newsletter subscribers. I recreated it at home with raspberries, because I couldn't find blackberries. At least it's versatile! If you want in on that, I'd be happy to share that recipe with you! Sign up here :)
Our last day away we spent a few hours in Sooke honouring my dad in a ceremony off of Whiffen Spit. He passed away late November of last year and my step mom took the opportunity of all of us being together to set up a really lovely ceremony to say good bye. My dad had always loved the ocean, and it was the perfect place to honour his memory. Whiffen Spit was one of his favourite places to go,and while I'd never been there, I can see why. The kids all enjoyed looking out over the water and tossing stones into the ocean, and it was a really nice walk to get there. I enjoyed meeting family I hadn't met before. It was so good to see my stepbrother and my sister in law, and my stepmom was really happy to have us all together.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into our family holiday! How did you spend your summer vacation?
All the best, friends.
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A long time ago, I travelled. I've seen a large portion of the world. Since marriage and family, that travel has somewhat diminished. But does that make me a former traveller, or is it more true to say "once a traveller, always a traveler"? Does travel ignite a spark of wanderlust in everyone, or are some personalities more likely to engage in travel than others?
I don't know the answer to those questions, but I'm going to call myself a traveller. I still travel in my mind, and in my dreams. I plan vacations and trips online, and talk about the places yet to see with my family and friends. I remember places I've been, and know where I would return to in a heartbeat, and where I wouldn't bother.
This morning I stumbled across a photo of a Turkish breakfast. I was instantly and vividly reminded of a breakfast enjoyed at an Israeli kibbutz, which in fact had been my favourite breakfast for a long time after, until life got busy with small babies to care for- but now that I've remembered, it's going to be a favourite again. Eggs, tomatoes, cucumber, yogurt, whole wheat roll, and a spread. Back then, we had juice- but I'm going to have coffee with mine. OK, and maybe a glass of cranberry juice too.
Here is my recreated memory of an Israel breakfast. Granted, that's not a roll, and I don't remember what state the eggs were in when I was there. The tomatoes and cucumbers could have been diced up together in a bowl. But the basic ingredients are here, and it was the most enjoyable breakfast that entire summer. The next place we stayed at served corn flakes in slightly warm milk. Ewww.
When you've travelled- no matter where you've gone- have you come home with an appreciation for other foods from different places? Or have you been reminded of familiar, favourite foods that you used to eat but for one reason or another, forgot about?