Fenton & White Relax In The Rainforest

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THE FERRY FROM VESUVIUS BAY TO CROFTON WAS THE SMALLEST ON OUR TRIP, WITH A MAXIMUM CAPACITY OF 52 CARS

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It was time to bid farewell to Salt Spring Island and drive 10 minutes to the ferry dock on the northern end of the island.  Our voyage would take us 2.8 nautical miles across Osborne Bay and drop us in Crofton about 90 minutes north of Victoria.  Taking this route shortened the drive to our destination in Ucluelet considerably.  As indicated in the previous posting, there are no toll booths or fees to get off the island.  The crossing only takes 25 minutes and with the rainy weather, we decided to stay in the car.  For a full schedule of crossing times, click on the link for B.C. Ferries 

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LOW HANGING CLOUDS HUG THE SHORELINE

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We disembarked  in Crofton around 9:30 and made our way one hour north to Nanoose Bay along highway 19.  We decided to get a coffee and ensure the car had a full tank of gas before turning off onto highway 4 which would take us the 160 kilometre distance to the west side of Vancouver Island.  This road only has services and amenities at the ends of the route so fueling up is highly recommended.

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THE ROAD TO THE WEST SIDE OF VANCOUVER ISLAND IS MYSTICAL

OR IS THAT MIST-ICAL?

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The road to Ucluelet/Tofino is a driver’s delight.  It is paved the entire way and has curves aplenty.  The speed limit is generally 80 kilometres an hour, but due to three steep passes, several stunning look-outs and the prevalence of fog, mist, rain and in the winter … ice, you can count on taking two, to two and half hours to drive the road.  To add to the challenges there are only small sections of the route that have passing lanes, and if you get behind a big truck going up or down some of the steep grades, your speed will slow to a crawl.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I’ve driven roads with lots of hairpin twists, but this road has bends that take sharp and unexpected turns which force you to slow to 30 kilometres an hour on a regular basis.  Although the drop-offs aren’t alarming, there are certainly sections on the passes where you have a rock face to your left, a drop to a lake on the right, and very little shoulder to move over if the oncoming traffic is a wide vehicle. It is a road filled with blind corners and limited opportunities to pass, so bring your patience and enjoy the ride.

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CAMERON LAKE IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO STOP FOR A PICTURE

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Within 30 minutes of leaving Nanoose Bay, we came to the Cameron Lake lookout.  This 43 metre deep lake is in the traditional territory of the Kwalikum First Nation.  It is like a looking glass, and the colour varies depending on the direction you are facing, the amount of sunlight and the reflections of the trees around it.

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IT IS HARD TO DETERMINE WHERE THE TREES END AND THE LAKE BEGINS

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Cameron Lake is on the edge of MacMillan Provincial Park which is also home to the Cathedral Grove hiking trail featuring trees that are hundreds of feet tall, and hundreds of years old.  The weather was rainy and misty and we decided to continue our journey in the hopes that we could find better weather down the road.  We knew that we would be coming back through this way, and we planned to hike the trail through these amazing giants on the way home.

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THE RUGGED COASTLINE FROM THE WILD PACIFIC TRAIL

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Our original plan was to find lunch, walk the Wild Pacific Trail and then check into our accommodation and watch the sun set on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve before heading back to our loft for dinner.   We stared out on a trail, but the weather was very wet and there was limited visibility, so instead we went for a longer lunch and then hiked a trail that in many ways was even more magical in the rain.

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THE RAIN FOREST IS LUSH AND GREEN

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When you go to an area where there is a thriving rain forest, you have to expect to run into some rain.  Pacific Rim National Park Reserve receives over 118 inches of rain annually.  Systems sweep across the Pacific Ocean and the western side of Vancouver Island is the first land mass which alters the temperatures of those moist weather fronts and allows them to drop their precipitation as they sweep across.

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THE RAINFOREST TRAIL HAS TWO 1 KILOMETRE LOOPS WHICH ARE MOSTLY MADE UP OF BOARDWALKS

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Right in the middle of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are two loops of a trail called The Rainforest Trail that take you over, through and under sections of … the rainforest.  These interpretive trails have signs along the way that explain the unique ecology of the area. The fall was the perfect time to walk through the enormous trees as the weather wasn’t too hot and humid.  And even though there was a steady drizzle, under the canopy of the rainforest, only a certain amount of moisture makes it to the forest floor.  Droplets fall from height off the branches but even a steady rain won’t fully penetrate the forest canopy.

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THE TRAILS CAN BE SLIPPERY IN THE RAIN

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The boardwalks are designed as one-way trails, and there are caution signs that warn you that the moist wood can be slippery.  We were surprised how rugged the terrain was.  The trails actually have a LOT of stairs.  We didn’t count, but you can bet that at the end of the day, your fit bit will show that you have taken a lot of steps as you navigate the cedar walk-ways that keep you above the bog and guide you through sloping terrain and shallow ravines filled with dense plant life.

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THE PATH LEADS YOU ON A MAGICAL JOURNEY THROUGH THE FOREST

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IN SOME AREAS YOU HAVE TO DUCK TO GET UNDER FALLEN OLD GROWTH TREES THAT HAVE INTENTIONALLY BEEN LEFT ACROSS THE PATH.

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EVEN WITH A NOTCH CUT INTO THIS TREE, I’M TOO TALL TO WALK BENEATH IT WITHOUT DUCKING.

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PETRIFIED WOOD ON THE FOREST FLOOR GLEAMS

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SOME SECTIONS HAVE BEEN RECENTLY REBUILT WITH NEWER WOOD

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MOSS COATS THE TREE STUMPS CREATING FASCINATING IMAGES.  TO ME, THIS LOOKED LIKE AN OLD MAN WEARING A CLOAK OF MOSS

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THE PATH CLEVERLY CURVES AROUND OLD GROWTH TREES ALLOWING YOU TO GET UP CLOSE TO THESE GENTLE GIANTS

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THIS TREE IS VERY BIG AND VERY OLD

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The trees in this area of the forest are close to 800 years old.  Their trunks are over 20 feet in circumference and they stretch hundreds of feet up into the air.  Pete is standing beneath one of thousands of trees in the forest.  It is humbling to realize how small we truly are compared to the wonders of nature.

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 THE TREES ARE SO TALL, YOU CAN’T EVEN CLEARLY SEE THE TOPS

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IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS PHOTO, SEE IF YOU CAN SPOT THE MUSHROOM-LIKE FUNGUS

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The rainforest is a rich environment for trees, plants, animals … and fungus.  Some of them were immense.

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THE TOP OF THIS SHINY FUNGUS IS OVER 12 INCHES ACROSS

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It appears everything in the rainforest is bigger and more majestic – even the fungus.  We spent over an hour meandering the amazing boardwalks and then decided it was time to check in to our accommodation.  We stayed at a sweet place called The Outside Inn.  Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is home to some of the finest surf beaches in Canada (and some might even say in North America).  The owner of our establishment for the night runs one of the local surfing schools (there are many), and also is the local representative for a brand of wet suits.  At times during our stay here, it seemed like we had accidentally landed in California.  A lot of people called us “dude” and asked if we were going to “hang ten” on the waves.  It is a strange juxtaposition of natural beauty on First Nation lands and the young surfers who come to take advantage of the amazing beaches and great waves.  So in keeping with the surf theme, our abode for the next three nights was the “Wick Loft” … as in … wicked cool … man.

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OUR UNIT WAS ONE OF FOUR IN THIS FUNKY BUILDING.  EACH UNIT HAD A SMALL PORCH WITH A BARBECUE.

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THE MAIN ROOM HAD A SMALL KITCHEN WITH MICROWAVE, FRIDGE AND BASIC DISHES

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THE LIVING ROOM HAD A COMFY COUCH AND A TV

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THE BEDROOM WAS UPSTAIRS IN THE LOFT

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OUR BATHROOM WAS EQUIPPED WITH EPSOM SALTS IN CASE YOU WERE FEELING STIFF AFTER A DAY OF SURFING … ER … HIKING.

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Although it was small, it was also quite inexpensive, and was more than enough room for our needs.  It had a lot of charm and would provide an excellent base for our planned hiking and other adventures in the upcoming days.  We decided to go into town and pick up some fresh chowder and rolls and opened up that Pale Ale from our wine tour the day before.  We settled in for a relaxing evening after a great drive and some stunning sights.

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In our next blog … Surf, Sand and Boss Beaches.  Wishing you a smile … even on those drizzly, rainy days.

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Fenton & White

 

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Fenton & White Find Fine Wine On Salt Spring Island

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SUNDAY MORNING ON ST. MARY LAKE IS PEACEFUL

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We had been on the road for a week and we decided that Sunday would be a day of rest … sort of.  The plan was to sleep in, make a late breakfast, take a row boat out onto the lake and then have a bite to eat before being picked up for a 5 hour wine tour of Salt Spring Island.

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MAPLE RIDGE COTTAGES PROVIDE FREE ACCESS TO BOATS, LIFE JACKETS AND PADDLES AND OARS

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The morning was clear and bright and the lake was like a mirror.  A perfect day to get out on the water.

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PETE ROWED US OUT TO THE FAR END OF THE LAKE

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Pete  sat at the back and rowed us out onto the water.  At the end of the lake we switched seats and I rowed back.

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SCOTT ROWS FENTON & WHITE SAFELY BACK TO SHORE

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We were proud of ourselves.  We got to the end of the lake and looped around to our starting point, didn’t get wet, and had a glorious morning paddling around on the still water.  We returned to the cottage in time to make a morning tea and have a light lunch before we were picked up for our wine tour.

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THIS IS JASON OUR TOUR GUIDE

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We chose Western Splendour Tours to take us around the island.  The company offers a variety of types of tours, and we chose the one where they pick you up at your lodging, then drive you around the island to 3 wineries, a cider outlet, a brewery, a cheese shop and on certain days … even a local distillery.  At a little before noon, our guide (and owner of the company) Jason drove up in a large white van.   There were a few things that were special about this tour.  For starters, the van is an older model that has been converted to run on used vegetable oil.  Jason fuels the vehicle with filtered oil  which is recycled from restaurants who give it to him after they have finished frying food in it.  We thought this was pretty cool and also represents the environmentally friendly tone of the entire island.  The other amazing thing about our trip was that the second group scheduled to come with us cancelled at the last minute meaning that Pete and I got a private tour.

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MOUNT MAXWELL LOOMS IN THE DISTANCE AS WE TOUR SALT SPRING ISLAND

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We spent the first fifteen minutes talking and getting to know each other and then Jason showed us a map of the island, identified the areas we would be traveling to, and asked if we had any other particular interests.  On some tours, you can peer into the studios of artisans. For us … this day was about locally made wine (and a bit of food along the way).  Jason took us via a range of main roads and side roads that allowed us to see the island from a different viewpoint.  He was knowledgeable about the area, the residents, the history and the wine we were heading to taste.

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PETE PURCHASES OUR FIRST BOTTLE OF WINE AT MISTAKEN IDENTITY VINEYARDS

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Each location has its own style and charm. The first winery had a modern tasting room and we were offered three 2 ounce samples of wine … a rich full bodied red wine, a medium dry pinot gris and a light rose.  We were also offered a 1 ounce sample of wine not yet bottled, but nearly ready for the season.  Each of the wines had a distinct flavour.  We bought a bottle of the pinot to enjoy later in our trip.

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THE SALT SPRING WILD CIDER SHOP HAS A LARGE INDOOR AND OUTDOOR AREA

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Our next stop was Salt Spring Wild Cider, where we met the owners who were pitting large vats of plums for an upcoming concoction. At this location, we were offered a flight of 5 ciders made from apples, pears, elderberry, apricot and a bonus sample of a tasty ginger cider.

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EACH GLASS CONTAINS 2 OUNCES OF CIDER

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So for those of you who are counting, we had almost 7 ounces of wine at the first location, and now we were adding another 12 ounces of cider.  Fortunately, this location also has a kitchen that makes amazing charcuterie boards that include local meats and cheeses.  If you look closely, you can see the back of the charcuterie board behind the row of cider samples in the picture above.  Although we enjoyed the cider, our tastes run to things that are a little less sweet so we didn’t buy a bottle, but enjoyed the meat and cheese we ordered to pair with our cider.  The costs of the wine samples, the driver and transportation is included in the tour … the food is at your own expense and of course … if you buy a bottle of wine after you taste … well, you pay for that as well.

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SALT SPRING ISLAND VINEYARDS AND TASTING ROOM WAS NEXT ON THE AGENDA

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Doing a wine tour is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. By the time we visited with the owners or staff, listened to them explain how they made their wine and what each wine was made from, and then savoured each sample, it was easy to spend 30 to 45  minutes at each stop.  At the Salt Spring Vineyards and Tasting Room we tried some dessert wines paired with sharp cheese and dark bitter chocolate (included free as part of the tasting).  Because the wines were sweeter, the samples were smaller … but even 1.5 ounces of each was enough to get a distinct sense of the flavour.  We wound up buying a dry sparkling wine here to give to friends.

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SALT SPRING ISLAND VINEYARDS HAS A LOVELY OUTDOOR AREA BY A POND

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Most of the wineries are hobby operations averaging only 3000 bottles per year.  The average size of the vineyards is around 7 acres.  There is pride in keeping the products local, right down to the artwork on the labels which is sourced on Salt Spring Island.  We learned that many of the wines are made with locally grown grapes, but sometimes grapes are imported from other locations in B.C. to create blends.  The taste of grapes is impacted by the soil, so to get an earthier, richer wine, sometimes a blend is necessary.   While we were sampling, Jason would talk with other locals, or wander away and visit with the neighbours. We decided we’d like to meet some of them.  It turns out they were a bit sheepish, and when I pointed the camera their way, all but one ignored me.

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THESE SHEEP ARE RAISED FOR WOOL AND SHEEP’S MILK ON THE ISLAND

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We headed off next to the Garry Oakes Estate Winery.  This was our favourite location.  The wines were much richer and fuller-bodied.  We sampled 4 different wines and came away with a beautiful bottle of pinot noir (another gift for friends).

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THESE GRAPES WERE GROWING NEAR THE ENTRANCE TO ONE OF THE WINERIES

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There is an unwritten rule on Salt Spring Island that there is no use of pesticides, and as much as possible, organic growing practices are used to ensure that all of the food on the island is grown in a responsible and sustainable way.   We were delighted to discover that our next stop was going to be the famous Salt Spring Island Cheese Company that makes a healthy and delicious cheese that is marketed all over Canada and into the U.S.

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THIS IS A VERY VERY GOOD PLACE IF YOU LOVE CHEESE

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The variety of goat cheeses made by this shop are staggering.  The milk is gathered from local goats (and goats from the mainland, for the demand is so high), cultured and set and then cured for 5 days for a soft chevre, or many weeks for harder cheeses. Before packaging, the cheese is mixed with herbs and light oils.   The terrible/wonderful thing about this place is that you can try samples of as many of the cheeses as you want … for free … and it’s all really, really good.  We escaped after 20 minutes of trying tiny pieces of cheese, only buying one of the many amazing flavours, but it was tempting instead to buy one of each … this place is dangerously delicious.

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OUR FINAL STOP WAS FLIGHTS OF BEER AT THE SALT SPRINGS BREWERY

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The distillery wasn’t available on the day of the tour, and it was probably a good thing.  At this point, we had each had the equivalent of 3/4 of a bottle in wines, 12 ounces of cider, a charcuterie platter and a whole lot of goat cheese (with those other bits of cheese and chocolate at the one winery thrown in for good measure).  So to finish the day, it was time to sample the brewery.  We were offered a flight of 5 two ounce glasses from a menu of 9 beers.  We sipped slowly through each one … and picked up a lovely Golden Ale.

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TREASURES OF THE DAY … THREE BOTTLES OF WINE, ONE BOTTLE OF ALE AND A WONDERFUL CHEESE

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By the time we finished our tour, it was almost 5:30.  Jason drove us back via a scenic route.  We were truly thrilled with our purchases and had enjoyed the afternoon sampling the local wines.  If you decide to go … eat a good meal before you start, and remember the goal of the tour is to taste the wine and to get to know the people who run the wineries, not to slug it back and get tipsy.  The pace is leisurely, and although we had a fair amount in small samples, it was spaced out with food along the way.  It was a luxury to have someone else doing the driving (other couples who weren’t on a tour wound up with one designated driver who didn’t sample, and the other partner who did) so this made for a much more pleasant way to share this experience together.  When we got back to the cabin, we cooked a light dinner with groceries we had bought the day before, watched the sun go down over Lake St. Mary and went to bed early.  This was a wise move as the following day we were going to be heading to Ucluelet which was a ferry ride and a 3 hour drive along winding roads from our little cottage on the lake.

In the next blog … hiking in the rain forests of Pacific Rim National Park.

Until then … imagine you are rowing in a boat on a sunny day on a peaceful lake with …

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 Fenton (background) & White (foreground)

Fenton & White Take In The Tide Pools On Salt Spring Island

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THE JOURNEY FROM SWARTZ BAY TO SALT SPRING ISLAND TAKES ONLY 35 MINUTES

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We had enjoyed our 2 days in Victoria, but now it was time to go someplace a little quieter.  We made an early breakfast, bid farewell to the Helm’s Inn and drove 30 minutes back to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal to catch an early morning boat.  The Salt Spring Island ferry is considerably smaller but it has 8 voyages per day to serve the needs of people wanting to visit.

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THE SALT SPRING ISLAND FERRY IS AN OPEN DECK CAR FERRY

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We traveled to Salt Spring Island on a weekend and got onto the morning sailing we wanted by arriving early, but the ferry did fill up and cars behind us had to wait for the next boat.  Reservations aren’t available, so ensure you get to the ferry terminal at least an hour before the scheduled crossing and if you are taking the last sailing of the day …. give yourself extra time if you want to ensure you make the boat. The vessel has 5 rows which hold 10-15 cars each (depending on the length of the cars).  There are stairs to 2 outdoor viewing levels on each side of the boat and along the edges there are inside galleries with seating, small tables, and washrooms.  Since the ride is so short there are no food amenities provided. The cost for the crossing for 2 of us plus the car was around $60 which is a two-way fare as there are no toll booths as you leave Salt Spring Island.  For more information on prices and schedules click here.

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THE MORNING WAS DEDICATED TO A HIKE IN RUCKLE PROVINICIAL PARK

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We disembarked at Fulford Harbour at around 9:45 in the morning.  It was far too early to check into our accommodation and we were feeling energized by the sunny day and the crisp breeze on the crossing, so we decided to do a leisurely morning hike.  In fact the plan for the day was to do a few hikes in the area and simply get back to nature. Our first stop was a mere 15 minute drive from the ferry dock.  Ruckle Provincial Park has 48 walk-in tent sites with stunning views of Swanson Channel.  There are numerous hiking trails that take you around the perimeter of the park as well as past the historic buildings of the original farm owned by the Ruckle family (who still farm a section of the land).  For scuba divers … the area is rich in underwater coastal sea caves and for those who like to scramble along the shore … the tide pools are filled with natural wonders.

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THE SHORELINE TRAIL STARTS IN THE TREES AND HEADS UP A SHORT SET OF MOSSY STAIRS

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We decided to walk the shoreline trail which ran through the woods before it looped into the tent campground along the water.  The trail circled past the historic properties and wound up back on the road we had come in on, a 5 minute walk from where we had parked the car. The whole loop was about 6 kilometres, and at a leisurely pace took us around 90 minutes.  We were impressed with the size of the camp sites and also the decks for the tents to ensure that campers stayed level and relatively dry.

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CAMP SITES IN THE TREES HAVE WOODEN PLATFORMS TO KEEP YOUR TENT LEVEL (AND OFF THE GROUND WHEN IT RAINS)

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OTHER TENT SITES GO RIGHT TO THE WATER AND HAVE LARGE AMOUNTS OF SPACE BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR NEIGHBOUR

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WEREWOLVES?

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The trail is clearly marked, and in some areas the trees have blazes on them (small sections of bark removed with a colour painted on the trunk to show the way). The above tree had an unusual pattern as the under-skin of the bark was drying and peeling. With our vivid imaginations, we thought it looked like something had been sharpening its claws on the tree. Of course that isn’t true, but if you camp at Ruckle Provincial Park and hear howling in the distance … well, maybe there are werewolves in the woods!

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TIDE POOLS CONTAIN WONDERS FROM THE SEA

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There are many sections along the trail where you can get out on rocks that have pockets that catch water when the tide is out.  These tide pools contain abundant life that includes sea anemones, crabs, snails, fish,  and small coloured corral.

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A CLOSER VIEW OF THE SEA ANEMONES IN ONE OF THE NUMEROUS TIDE POOLS

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There are also small paths along the route that lead off the main trail to scenic viewpoints such as “Grandma’s Beach”.

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WALKING THE SHORE OF GRANDMA’S BEACH

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This tiny half-moon bay has a stony beach with a stunning view out to the inlet.  Although we didn’t see any on the day we were there, it is not uncommon for seals to come in and play in the calm waters of the sheltered harbour.

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MORNING TRANQUILITY CAN BE FOUND LOOKING OUT FROM GRANDMA’S BEACH

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THIS TURKEY GAVE US THE EYE AS WE WANDERED PAST THE HISTORIC RUCKLE FARM BUILDINGS

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Our loop ended near the historic buildings that include the original farm house and buildings where tools were stored … and made.  Livestock still roam the grounds including sheep, cattle, chickens and wild turkeys.

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PETE EXPLORES THE GANGES/FULFORD WEEKEND MARKET

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It was getting near noon and we were getting hungry, so we made our way back to the car and headed into the central town of of Ganges/Fulford.  Salt Spring Island is only 182 square kilometres and most of the land is farmed or used for livestock.  It is home to many significant artists from famed folk musicians Raffi and Valdi, to CBC personality Arthur Black, to the internationally renowned visual artist Robert Batemen.   Local artisans have studios scattered all over the island and touring all of the pottery and painting studios would take days.   On the weekend you can see many artisans all in one place at the weekend market.  Literally hundreds of tents spring up near the harbour with pottery, fresh fruit and vegetables, local wines and other wonderful foods.  It was so busy it took us nearly 20 minutes to find a spot to park (several blocks away from the harbour).  We took a quick browse and decided it was too crowded for our liking.  Instead, we grabbed some sandwiches from a nearby shop with fresh baking and made our way back to a road that would take us to the highest point on the island.

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THE ROAD TO THE TOP OF MOUNT MAXWELL IS … INTERESTING

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With our sandwiches and sodas in hand, we returned to the car and turned back to the route which would take us to the top of Mount Maxwell via Cranberry Road.  At first, things were easy as we transitioned from the paved surface to a wide gravel road, but slowly … the road began to get narrower, bumpier and steeper.  After the fact, we were told that the road is passable in a normal car but that generally it is best for four wheel drive vehicles.  Local car rental agencies will void your insurance claim if you have a problem on this road.  Although it is only 12 kilometres from the turn-off to the viewpoint, we took a long time to get to the top. The grades can reach 16 to 18 percent, the narrow track often only allows for one-way traffic which means if you encounter another vehicle you may have to pull off (if you can), or back up to a wider section. And the pot-holes if it has rained recently … we averaged about 5 kilometres per hour over the last section of the road as we gently bounced from hollow to hollow.  So was it all worth it?  The answer is an unqualified YES.

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THE VIEWS ARE STUNNING FROM THE TOP OF MOUNT MAXWELL

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On a clear day you can view large sections of Salt Spring Island, see Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and even Mount Baker on the mainland.  There are steep cliffs near the viewpoint that have fences to prevent visitors from falling.  We enjoyed the amazing vista, had a relaxing lunch in the sun while sitting 580 metres above the sea below and then made our way slowly back down the road.  It was now around 3 PM, and time to check in to our accommodation at the Maple Ridge Cottages on St. Mary Lake.

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THIS SWEET LITTLE COTTAGE WAS A BARGAIN AND HAD A LOVELY VIEW

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Maple Ridge Cottages are a 20 minute drive north of the Ganges/Fulford township on a side road on St. Mary Lake.  The property only has 5 cottages and the owners Glenn and Elle are wonderful down-to-earth folks who have built a business that makes you feel like you are staying with family.  We were in the Cedar cottage at a price of $110 per night.

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EACH CABIN HAS A DECK, A BARBECUE AND A PICTURE WINDOW WITH VIEWS TO THE LAKE

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Vancouver Trip 2017 280THE BEDROOM IS COZY

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THE MAIN ROOM HAS A COUCH, FIREPLACE, FULL KITCHEN WITH DISHES AND A T.V.

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After a relaxing morning ferry ride, a gentle hike peering in tidal pools, a stroll through the market and a drive up Mount Maxwell, it was time for a nap.  We unpacked, took a snooze break and then got up to go for a late afternoon drive around the island.  We traveled roads that ran along the coastline and after a short time we saw a trail head for a path that was supposed to lead to a quiet bay.  The trail was only a little over a kilometre each way and it was too early for dinner so we decided to stretch our legs.

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 A SET OF STAIRS BROUGHT US OUT TO THIS STONY BEACH AT LOW TIDE

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At the end of the trail we came out to a stony beach with average views along an inlet, but upon closer inspection, the beach had a magical quality … for the shore was 50% stones and 50% shell fragments.

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COLOURFUL BROKEN SHELLS LITTER THE BEACH

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This was a wonderful way to finish off our day.  We slowly walked back to the car, headed to a local shop with a little pizza outlet … got a large Hawaiian thin crust  and a bottle of wine and settled in to watch the light fade over St. Mary Lake.  It was time to rest up to prepare for the next day’s wine tour!

In the next blog … wining and dining on Salt Spring Island.  Until next time here’s a set of silly smiles from …

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Fenton & White (and some guy in the background we don’t know)

or in this case

White & Fenton (and some guy in the background we don’t know)

 

Fenton & White Browse The Butchart Gardens

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IF YOU LOVE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, THE BUTCHART GARDENS IS A MUST SEE

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We had one more day left in Victoria before heading off to Salt Spring Island. The agenda was fairly relaxed.  In the morning … breakfast in our room and a meeting at the Belfry Theatre.  In the afternoon, a short drive to Brentwood Bay to wander around the spectacular Butchart Gardens.  And in the evening, dinner with friends.

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THE BELFRY THEATRE CAN SEAT 279 IN ITS CHARMING AUDITORIUM

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Victoria is lucky to have a fantastic professional theatre in the centre of the city.  The Belfry Theatre puts up a season of six main stage shows and the “Spark Festival” of new plays.  The theatre’s artistic director, Michael Shamata, is passionate about works for the stage and we were delighted to spend some time visiting, talking about the arts in Canada and getting a tour of the performance space.  If you are in Victoria this fall, be sure to check out the production of the musical Onegin by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille.  The show runs from October 17th to November 12th.

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PETE PONDERS WHERE TO BEGIN AT THE BUTCHART GARDENS

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We finished our theatre visit late in the morning, picked up some sandwiches, and made our way 30 minutes north of Victoria to check out the amazing Butchart Gardens.  The site was originally owned by Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie Butchart.  When the limestone in the quarry ran out, Jennie decided that it should be turned into a fantastical garden.  This property evolved in phases that took over a decade to complete utilizing the skills of several prominent landscape artists and garden designers.  The Sunken Garden was started in 1909 and evolved into its present shape in 1921.  Each year the garden changes as trees grow taller, and plants and flower banks are altered.

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A SMALL PORTION OF THE SUNKEN GARDEN

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The overall site is divided into 6 sections spread over 55 acres.  The sections include the Sunken Garden along the base of the quarry, the Concert Lawn, the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Italian Garden and the Mediterranean Garden.  A well designed map and system of pathways takes you through the site along an easy-to-follow route.  Most of the gardens are accessible thanks to alternate paths suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.  There are a few places with stairs, but whenever possible an effort has been made to ensure guests at all levels of mobility can enjoy the stunning scenery.

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THE ROSS FOUNTAIN SPRAYS WATER OVER 70 FEET IN THE AIR

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Fountains and statutes also play a prominent part in the experience of walking through this magical landscape.

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THE JETS OF THE  ROSS FOUNTAIN ARE ON OSCILLATING PIPES THAT CREATE CONSTANTLY CHANGING PATTERNS

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The Ross Fountain is named for Ian Ross, the Butchart’s grandson who was given the gardens in 1939 as a gift for his 21st birthday.  The fountain gyrates and sprays water in patterns in multiple directions thanks to oscillating pipes.  At night, the pathways and fountains are illuminated with colourful lights.

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AT EVERY TURN THERE ARE MAGICAL DISCOVERIES NESTLED AMONG THE FLOWERS

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THE ROSE CAROUSEL WAS ADDED IN 2009

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After touring the Sunken Garden we followed a path that took us to the indoor Rose Carousel.  This amazing piece of art features a menagerie of 30 animals.  It was designed by Don Horenberger and the animals and benches were realized by multiple carousel carvers who each put months of work into each creature including unique animals such as the Orca in the picture above.  The carousel opened in 2009.  There is an additional charge of $2 to take a ride, but it was well worth it.  The carousel goes at a good speed, the animals go up and down to a significant height and the whole experience made us feel like kids again.

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PETE TOOK A STANDARD HORSE FOR HIS RIDE

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SCOTT RODE A PANDA BEAR

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After our ride, it was time to walk towards the Rose Garden which was built in 1929 when the Butcharts decided to remove the vegetables and replace them with rose bushes and vines.   The flowers bloom throughout the year with peak periods in each season.  The blooms were too numerous to count, but the roses were lovely and once again, the fountains were show stoppers.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the photos tell their own story (well, okay, with a few informative words beneath).

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THIS STUNNING DRAGON FOUNTAIN IS ON THE PATH BETWEEN THE ROSE CAROUSEL AND THE ROSE GARDEN

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A REAR VIEW OF THE DRAGON FOUNTAIN

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BUNCHES OF ROSE BLOOMS BURST FORTH FROM BUSHES AND VINES ALL AROUND THE CIRCULAR GARDEN

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A PERFECT DELICATE HYBRID TEA ROSE WITH A LIGHT SCENT

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VISITORS ENJOY THE THOUSANDS OF ROSES IN BLOOM

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MORE THAN JUST ROSES BLOOM IN THE AREA SURROUNDING THE ROSE GARDEN

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THE CONCERT LAWN HOSTS MUSICAL EVENTS THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER.  IN THE DISTANCE, THE FORMER BUTCHART HOME … NOW A RESTAURANT.

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THIS BEAUTIFUL STURGEON FOUNTAIN RESIDES ON THE CORNER OF THE ROSE GARDEN

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PETE EXPLORES A SECTION OF THE JAPANESE GARDEN … ONE OF THE FIRST GARDENS ON THE PROPERTY

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THE ITALIAN GARDEN FEATURES THIS STAR-SHAPED POND.  THIS WAS ORIGINALLY THE BUTCHART’S TENNIS COURTS, WHICH WERE REPLACED BY THE GARDEN IN 1926

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THE MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN AT THE ENTRANCE FEATURES THIS FANTASTIC STATUE OF A BOAR.  IT IS SAID THAT ONE SHOULD RUB THE NOSE OF THE BOAR FOR GOOD LUCK.  WE COULD TELL BY THE SHINY SNOUT THAT MANY VISITORS HAVE DONE SO.

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Touring the gardens at a leisurely pace will take 2 to 3 hours. The garden is open year-round and admission fees vary dependent on the time of year. In high season, adults pay around $32 per person.  After September 30th, rates drop to around $27 and in the winter when there are far fewer blooms, admission is $18.   There are also restaurants on site, special events including concerts and fireworks and evening viewings where the pathways are lit up. When you see the magnitude of the gardens, it is safe to say that this is a worthwhile addition to any trip to Victoria.  For more information click here.  Today, the gardens are still in the Butchart Family.  They are currently run by Robin Lee Clark, the great-granddaughter of the original owners.

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After our adventures in the gardens it was time to head back to Victoria, have a rest, and then go for dinner with friends.  We didn’t take pictures of the food but we can wholeheartedly endorse our dining location … Pagliacci’s.  The restaurant offers great Italian food with good size portions and friendly service.

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In our next blog … sailing to Salt Spring Island.

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Until then, we wish you a day filled with fun and frolic.

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Fenton & White

 

Fenton & White Peruse The Parks

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VICTORIA HAS HIDDEN TREASURES A SHORT DISTANCE FROM THE HARBOUR

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We were pretty full from our afternoon tea and it was now late in the afternoon so we decided to make our way to our accommodation.  The plan was to check in, have a quick nap and then explore the area away from the harbour.  We were truly delighted when we checked in for our stay at the Helm’s Inn.  For starters, the cost of the room was almost half of what we had paid in Vancouver.  The hotel is located a 15 minute walk from the tourist district near the water and has close proximity to the provincial museum, legislature buildings and Beacon Hill Park (more on that in a moment).

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LARGE AIRY ROOMS ARE A FEATURE OF THE HELM’S INN

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There is no doubt the hotel is older.  There is no elevator (the building is three stories high) and the patterns of the carpet are from an earlier time, but when we opened the door on our second story corner room we were thrilled with the amount of space.  It was like checking into a small apartment.  Everything was clean and tidy and welcoming.

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ROOMS AT THE HELM’S INN ARE SET UP FOR LONGER STAYS WITH PLENTY OF CLOSET SPACE

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The room had a large bathroom, two full size closets, a nice writing desk, chest of drawers and for later in the evening, a television to catch up on the news of the day.

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THE BATHROOMS ARE CLEAN AND MODERN

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The best part of all was that the room included a nice kitchen with stove, full size fridge, a table and chairs and a complete set of dishes and pots and pans.  During our time in Victoria we took advantage of this by shopping at the nearby grocery store and warming up meat pies for dinner and doing porridge in the morning for breakfast.  This not only saved us some money, but after eating in restaurants for the past few days, it was a nice change of pace.

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A KITCHEN IN YOUR SUITE ALLOWS YOU THE OPTION OF COOKING A FEW MEALS

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The desk staff were outstanding and the lobby features a fireplace with a bowl of fresh fruit for guests.  At 4 PM each day, guests can come down for a fresh pot of tea and cookies … we passed, as we were all full up.  We truly can’t speak highly enough about our experience here.  If you decided to go, book early.  We discovered that in the winter, many people come for a long-term stay and book the rooms for weeks at a time.   It is often sold out.

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AFTER TAKING A NAP, WE WENT TO BEACON HILL PARK

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Just across the street from the hotel is the entrance to Beacon Hill Park.  This stunning 200 acre sculpted landscape features walking paths, a children’s petting zoo and gorgeous gardens including wonderful surprises like the integrated sculpture, the “Moss Lady”.

 

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THE MOSS LADY FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE

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The whole place has a magical feel to it.  If you walk to the end of the park you can look out towards the ocean, or stay in the middle of the park and lose yourself among the tall trees, formal gardens and ponds and fountains scattered around the property.  There is no admission charge and lots of parking if you come by car.

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VAST CEDAR TREES REACH TO TO THE SKY AND MAKE YOU FEEL SMALL

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EVEN THE GRASSES SEEM TALLER ON THE EDGE OF THIS LAKE COVERED IN LILY PADS

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PEACOCKS STRUT FREELY AROUND THE PARK

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Aside from the lovely scenery there is a lot of opportunity to get up close and personal with some unusual animals.  Peacocks strut and preen and a few of them even roost in the branches of the trees above and occasionally flutter down to the ground spreading their wings.  We had never seen a peacock fly before.  We counted over 20 of them in one area walking freely around the gardens.  There is also a wonderful children’s petting zoo with some unique varieties of animals.  Entrance to the petting zoo is by voluntary donation with a suggested price of $4 per person.  We were curious and one experience in particular was worth the price of admission.

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THIS ZEBRA CHICKEN WAS ONE OF SEVERAL UNUSUAL BREEDS ON DISPLAY

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 THE LLAMA POSED POLITELY FOR OUR PICTURE

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There were pot-bellied pigs, llamas, miniature horses, guinea pigs and rabbits, but it was truly the goat enclosure that stole our hearts.  The pen has a double gate to try and discourage the goats from trying to make a run for it.  The enclosure holds about 30 goats.

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THESE GOATS LOVE ATTENTION

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Attendants ensure that there is plenty of food and water for the goats and that the wood chips are fresh and the abundant droppings are continuously cleaned.  After you enter the enclosure, you are free to wander around the animals as long as you don’t feed them.  They are curious and affectionate.

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THIS GOAT TOOK A SHINE TO PETE AND GOT RIGHT UP TO SAY HELLO AND GET A SCRUB ON THE HEAD

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While Pete’s strategy was to get in the middle of the herd and let the goats jump up and say hi, I was more interested in the baby goats.  I found a spot on a bench in a less congested are of the pen and within a few minutes a few of the baby goats came over to check me out.  Without any prompting, soon they were nestled in my lap looking for a nice rub behind the ear.

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WHILE THE WHITE GOAT DISTRACTS ME, THE OTHER GOAT TRIES TO EAT MY SWEATER

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We stayed in this pen for over 20 minutes.  One of the older goats managed to leap over the fence.  The attendants let him wander freely within the confines of the zoo near the pen, (keeping an eye on him) and eventually he jumped back in to be with the others.  It was a truly fun way to round out the afternoon.  The zoo has plenty of hand-washing stations and the animals seemed well-cared for and kindly treated by the staff.  In the winter, they go back to a local farm and then return to the park in the late spring.

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MACAULY POINT PARK HAS LOVELY VIEWS OF THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA AND FEW CROWDS

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It was nearing dinner time, but we were still full from the tea in the afternoon.  We decided to get back in the car and drive past the downtown and get to the other side of the harbour for a nice view. We discovered a former military installation at Macauly Point Park, a mere fifteen minute drive from the downtown.  It has level graveled walking trails, interesting remnants of buildings from the time when the base here guarded the port, and beautiful views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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TRAILS TAKE YOU TO DECOMMISSIONED BUILDINGS THAT WERE ONCE STORAGE UNITS FOR MUNITIONS

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THE SITE DATES BACK TO 1895.  THIS ENTRANCE TAKES YOU THROUGH A TUNNEL TO ONE OF THE GUNNERY MOUNTS

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TRAILS TAKE YOU HIGHER ON THE HILL WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE SITE FROM ABOVE

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THE INLET NEAR THE ENTRANCE TO THE PARK AT FLEMING BEACH HAS LOVELY HOMES ON A SMALL HARBOUR

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THIS PAIR OF SWANS WAS SWIMMING NEAR THE SHORE

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We saw sea otters playing in the water near the shore, and to our surprise a pair of swans.  We didn’t realize swans would swim in salt water.  Research after our trip indicated that swans can indeed vary their diet and spend short times in salt water enjoying the bounty of the sea.

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We spent an hour strolling the trails before the sun began to dip below the horizon and we were ready to go back to the hotel and settle in for the night.  It had been a great day from the ferry crossing, to watching MPPs in action, then having high tea, going for a visit with the animals and a relaxed stroll along the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We went back to the grocery store, picked up some fresh meat pies and a bottle of wine and had dinner in our room.

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In the next blog … Butchart Blooms and a stop at the Belfry.  Until next time, warmest regards …

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Fenton & White

 

Fenton & White Visit Victoria

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FENTON & WHITE BID FAREWELL TO THE MAINLAND AND HEAD TO VICTORIA

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It was time for us to pick up our rental car and start our travels towards Vancouver Island. Originally we were going to rent from the Avis dealer right next to our hotel, but we had read a number of unfavourable reviews connected to the staff, the consistency of hours and false charges being laid for damages.  Now keep in mind, every car rental agency is a franchise so we suspect these comments (and there were a lot of them), were connected to the staff at this particular location, not the company in general.  We opted to try Enterprise Car Rental on Granville Street instead.  It was a good choice. The service was outstanding.  We took a short cab ride with our luggage from the hotel to the outlet and arrived 20 minutes before the agency was supposed to open.  The staff were already at work and invited us inside and processed our rental car in a few short minutes.  They offered maps of Victoria, did a thorough damage inspection on our car and explained that damages would only be charged on dents or dings that were “larger than a tennis ball”.  The three folks behind the counter were friendly and cheerful.  They may have won us over for future business with Enterprise.  The best part of of all was our car.  We had ordered a compact vehicle. They upgraded us to a small Mercedes with a sun roof at no extra charge.  It was a trendy and fun way to start our day.

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IT IS BEST TO ARRIVE FOR YOUR FERRY DEPARTURE 60 TO 90 MINUTES IN ADVANCE

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We made our way from downtown Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal which is about a 40 minute drive from downtown Vancouver in good traffic.  During peak times in the summer, reservations are recommended for the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria  There is  an additional charge for this service and you have to arrive more than 30 minutes prior to the sailing or you lose your reservation and reservation fee and have to take the next available sailing.  During the shoulder season, arriving 60 to 90 minutes in advance without a reservation will generally get a spot for your car on the boat. If you miss the next sailing … there is another one in a few hours (unless you arrive for the last sailing of the day).  The boat starts loading passengers and cars approximately 30 minutes prior to departure.  The crossing for 2 people and a car cost us around 90 dollars. The ferry departs on a regular schedule and arrives at Swartz Bay (about 35 minutes north of Victoria) in an hour and 35 minutes.  For more information on schedules and fares, check out the B.C. Ferries site.  

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AMENITIES ON THE BOAT INCLUDE A LARGE CAFETERIA-STYLE RESTAURANT.  WHY IS THIS SHOT BLURRY?  WE HADN’T HAD OUR COFFEE YET!

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Once your car is parked on the vehicle deck, lock it up and go and explore the upper levels of the ship.  On our boat there were two inside passenger decks that featured spacious seating areas, a large cafeteria-style restaurant, a coffee shop, an arcade, a souvenir shop and lots of places to take in great views of the surrounding vistas.

Vancouver Trip 2017 069 THE VIEWS OF THE STRAIGHT OF GEORGIA ARE LOVELY ON A SUNNY DAY

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If the weather is fair, it is nice to get some fresh air on the outdoor upper decks.  The first part of the crossing takes you across the Straight Of Georgia (now also known as the Salish Sea), and then winds through the channels around Galiano Island, south of Salt Spring Island and eventually to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.

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EVEN ON A WINDY DAY YOU CAN ENJOY THE SHELTERED OUTDOOR DECKS

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The ferries travel at a decent speed on the water and even on a fair day the wind can be quite brisk on the outer decks.  To maximize the enjoyment of passengers there are glassed-in sections at the bow, in the middle of the boat, and at the stern where you can watch the scenery completely protected from the wind.  Behind the seats in the above picture the deck is open to the sea air.

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HUMOUROUS VANDALISIM?

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As you approach the destination terminal, an announcement lets you know that it is time to return to your vehicle.  On the way down to the car deck, we spotted this sign that someone had altered encouraging one and all to familiarize your “elf” with the locations of the safety equipment.  We didn’t have an elf with us, but we’ll know for next time.

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VICTORIA IS HOME TO THE PROVINCIAL PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

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We disembarked from the boat, drove 35 minutes south and found a parking spot near the central harbour of Victoria.  We had two items on the agenda prior to checking into our hotel.  First up was a visit to the Parliament Buildings.  Those who plan to enter should be prepared to go through airport-style security screening  which means removing all metal items from your pockets and going through a metal detector.  Once inside, you can take a guided tour or do a self-guided tour.  Around every corner there are fascinating discoveries to be made.

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THIS AMAZING  RIVER CANOE SITS ABOVE A BEAUTIFUL MOSAIC FLOOR IN THE CENTRAL ROTUNDA

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The Honourable Steven Point, a former Lieutenant Governor of B.C. found a cedar log along Ross Bay and its tapered ends suggested that someone had started carving it into a canoe, possibly as long as 500 years ago.  He decided to have this log brought to Government House and over 13 months, he and chief Tony Hunt (Chief of the KwaGulth, and also a master carver) worked to create the canoe you see in the above and below pictures.

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CARVINGS AND MARKINGS ARE DONE ON BOTH THE SIDES AND BOTTOM OF THE CANOE

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This canoe is a Shxwtitostel which is a traditional Salish river canoe used for hunting at night. The hunter would light a fire in the pit in the bow of the boat and hide behind a bulrush blind, spearing the fish that came to the surface attracted by the light.  The project took 13 months to complete and when it was finished, the boat was donated to the people of B.C. as a symbol of the bridge between first nations people and the existing government.

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SO WHAT HAPPENS BEHIND THE DOORS OF THESE CORRIDORS OF POWER?

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One of the advantages of visiting in September was that the Legislative Assembly was in session.   We took advantage of the opportunity to sit in the public galleries and watch MPPs conduct some business.   One has to go through a more thorough security check at the entry point to the galleries and there are rules … no talking and no taking pictures. We thought it would be kind of exciting.  To be truthful, it was a little disheartening.  A young MPP was giving a response to the recent throne speech.  Other MPPs seemed to wander in and out at random during her speech.  A few MPPS on the opposition bench half-heartedly heckled her and another back-bencher chimed in and said “give her a break, it is her first speech in the house.”  All in all, those assembled looked bored.  I’m sure on more pressing matters it would be a more spirited house, but it made it clear that on “lesser matters” not every member was sitting in the house as there was no vote on the agenda.  In spite of the low energy in the space, it was still fascinating to get a glimpse of the process of parliament in person.

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NOTHING SOOTHES LIKE AN AFTERNOON CUP OF TEA

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This trip took place around Pete’s birthday and one of the things I had promised as part of the celebrations was afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel.  During peak seasons, reservations are recommended.  We were fortunate as we didn’t have a reservation but at the time we showed up they were just starting the next seating and there was a delightful table for two available.

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THE TEA LOBBY IS NICELY APPOINTED AND SOPHISTICATED AMBIANCE IS SET BY A PIANO PLAYED SOFTLY IN THE BACKGROUND

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Large brass chandeliers hanging from a vaulted ceiling dominate the room. We were directed to a table across from a window looking out on the harbour.

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THE FIRST CHALLENGE IS CHOOSING WHICH OF THE 21 TEAS TO SIP UPON

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A server comes and explains the menu for food (which is fixed unless you have allergies) and leaves you with a tea menu which is a hinged wooden cabinet with teas in compartments on the left side and a description of the teas on the right.  Some teas are included in the prix fixe price while other specialty teas are offered at an additional charge. Pete had the Bella Coola Organic tea while I ordered the Rose Congou Emperor tea.

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THE FAIRMONT EMPRESS HOTEL HAS ITS OWN CHINA PATTERN

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The Empress Tea China  has it’s own pattern and was first presented to King George V in 1914 at the time of the opening of the Booth factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Apparently the china was first used by The Empress in 1939 for the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. According to the web site, the pattern is now produced by William Edwards exclusively for the Fairmont Empress.

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SO THAT’S WHY THOSE LITTLE CANDLES ARE CALLED TEA LIGHTS

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Ever wondered why those little candles you get at IKEA are called tea lights?  After selecting your tea, the server brings two ceramic bases with tea light candles inside.  They are designed to keep your tea at the proper temperature.  The candles are lit and then the server  prepares fresh sachets of your chosen tea, goes to a large heated silver Samovar and fills the tea pots with hot water and brings them to the table where they are placed on the bases.

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THREE, FOUR OR FIVE MINUTE TEA?

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The server turns over the 3 part hour-glass timer provided at your table.  Each colour depicts a different time, the green timer being for a three minute tea, the white for a four minute tea and the brown for a five minute tea.  It was recommended for our tea, that we should remove the tea bags when the sands of the white section had finished running into the bottom of the timer.  A set of silver tongs and a tea sachet plate are provided to make this part of the process quick and tidy.

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SCONES ON THE BOTTOM, SAVOURY ON THE TOP AND SWEET IN THE MIDDLE

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Shortly after our tea had settled, our server came back and poured our first cup of tea and presented our food.  We were told that the appropriate order to tackle this plate was to start with the scones with the fruit compote and clotted cream (like whipping cream) on the bottom layer.  After that, move to the savoury sandwiches on the top, and finish with the sweets on the middle layer.  Needless to say, it was a rich and filling meal.  And speaking of rich … this is something to do on a special occasion.  The price is set at $75 per person which is a pretty hefty tab for a pot of tea and some sandwiches and sweets.  The ambiance is lovely, the piano player was very good, the service was attentive and it was all served with style, so if you want to splurge on a special occasion then it will be a memorable addition to your trip.  We were feeling sleepy which meant that it was time to check into our hotel and go for an afternoon nap.

In our next blog … peacocks, goats, and a lady made of moss.

Until next time,

Vancouver Trip 2017 065 Fenton & White (or in this case … White & Fenton)

 

Fenton & White Wing Westward

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VANCOUVER … WHERE THE MOUNTAINS MEET THE CITY

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We generally travel in the spring and the fall which suits Pete’s work schedule and my arts and teaching schedule.   It also tends to cost a little less as we are in the shoulder season.  After considering destinations that ranged from the Azores to Iceland, we decided in honour of Canada 150 to stay within the borders of our own country.  In the spring our trip took us by train to Halifax, and in the late spring, work took us to Calgary.  For our fall trip, we decided it was time to head as far west as we could go.  Our planned trip included a quick stop in Vancouver which was rapidly filled with commitments to friends and work colleagues, a few days in Victoria, some time on Salt Spring Island, and some time hiking in Tofino and Ucluelet.  Come along with us as we share some of the highlights of our trip.  We truly are lucky that we live in such a wonderfully diverse and beautiful country.

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EVERY FENTON & WHITE TRIP STARTS WITH A COFFEE AT THE AIRPORT

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We were fortunate to have enough air miles accumulated so that aside from a small amount of tax, our flights were paid for.  We chose a mid-morning flight that took us from Toronto to Vancouver in 5 hours.  Before every trip, we always do the traditional shot of us toasting our trip with a coffee … and of course, being Canadian … it had to be from a coffee shop named for a Canadian … Tim Hortons.  Since the Vancouver portion of our trip was mostly devoted to quick visits, this installment of the blog will focus mostly on the times when we weren’t doing business or seeing friends and will compress a few days into one blog.

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AFTER A LONG FLIGHT … IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO STRETCH YOUR LEGS

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We arrived at the airport  in Vancouver shortly after 1:30 Pacific Daylight Time, made our way via the sky train to the area of our hotel and were checked in and ready to go by 3:00 PM.  Our original plans changed at the last minute, leaving us the late part of the afternoon and evening to explore the area.  We stayed on Broadway near Cambie Street not far from the City Hall and a short walk to False Creek.  We took advantage of this and walked along the inlet to Granville Island to give our legs a stretch.

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FENTON & WHITE CAN ALWAYS FIND THEIR WAY TO FOOD AND DRINK

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A pleasant 45 minute stroll along False Creek brought us to Granville Island.  In the summer this vibrant area hosts buskers and arts stalls.  The pedestrian friendly streets of the island are lined with storefronts for studios housing a wide variety of artisans.  The island is also home to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, the Arts Club theatre performance spaces and offices, and on the weekend prior to our visit, was the hub for the Vancouver Fringe Festival of Theatre.

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THE STREETS OF THE GRANVILLE MARKET BOAST WONDERFUL ARTISAN SHOPS

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During a late Monday afternoon, there were few buskers, but the central market is filled with fruit, vegetable and meat vendors as well as any other food substance you can imagine.  As we wandered through the main market and then back out onto the bricked streets, we discovered a little shop that demanded our attention.

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ARTISAN SAKE MAKER CREATES THEIR DELICIOUS RICE WINE FROM B.C. RICE

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When I think of Sake, I think of rice wine imported from Japan or areas with large rice fields in Asia.  To our delight, we found a small shop that not only distills their sake on the premise, but also sources all of their ingredients from an area of BC that has gone into farming wild rice exclusively for use in local rice wine.  The store is called Artisan Sake Maker.  The proprietor Masa Shiroki is committed to bringing a unique quality to his sakes and is proud to let you experience it for yourself at a very reasonable price.  For $5 each, we were able to try sample portions of 3 different varieties of the local sake.  Rice wine is popular in Vancouver where sushi restaurants are abundant … so much so that the week after we were there, the store was one of several participants in a sake festival.   After a long flight, 3 small (very tasty) samples made us feel like perhaps we should go and find some food!

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ONE CAN TRAVEL BY FOOT OR BY FERRY ALONG FALSE CREEK

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False Creek Ferries runs a service with 9 stops along False Creek that cover the area between the Science Centre and The Museum of  Vancouver on English Bay.  It is a fun way to get from attraction to attraction along the inlet and a full day pass is only $16 for adults or $12 for seniors.  We were tempted to take one of these wonderful boats to save a 45 minute meander back to the hotel, but decided that perhaps we should walk off the impact of the sake.

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A MILKSHAKE IS A GOOD WAY TO START OR FINISH A MEAL

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After a quick nap, we headed east on Broadway to a place that friends had recommended called Fable Diner.  The food was offered in generous-size portions and the service was friendly, but the restaurant is also notable for their fine milkshakes.  We grabbed a copy of the local entertainment paper and browsed it as we started our meal with a sweet treat … but this was no ordinary milkshake.  For starters, the good people at Fable Diner have taken recent concerns about the use of plastic straws seriously.  Hundreds of thousands of plastic straws wind up in the ocean due to careless dump practices, and these straws kill wildlife.  At Fable Diner, the trendy straws pictured above are made of coated cardboard, and can be composted.  So why do I have that wide-eyed look in the picture above?

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HOW CAN YOU RESIST A CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE WITH BOURBON IN IT?

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My milkshake had a bit of a kick … bourbon to be exact. It was tasty, and went well with the amazing burger I ordered.  So if you are in Vancouver and looking for an unusual night-cap,  consider a trip to the Fable Diner for a boozy milkshake.  We finished off our meal and headed back to our hotel to rest up for the following day.  We had a number of quick visits to get in before heading away from Vancouver.

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AFTER A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP … BREAKFAST WAS IN ORDER

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We often use tripadvisor.com to search out interesting places to eat, and one of the top breakfast places in their listings was a little restaurant called Jam Cafe.  The web site advised us to arrive early as there were no reservations.  It was a pleasant 45 minute walk in a new direction and when we got there, there were two seats at the coffee bar.  The menu is all fresh-made after you order, the coffee was fantastic and the service was very good.  And the food?

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IN THE BACKGROUND … PETE’S BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

IN THE FOREGROUND … MY CHICKEN FRENCH TOAST

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The portions are plentiful.  Pete opted for the triple stack of pancakes loaded with fresh blueberries with a pork belly side.  Other flavours included banana walnut, spiced double chocolate, cinnamon cream cheese swirl, or red velvet.  I opted for the Chicken French Toast which featured buttermilk fried chicken on top of brioche french toast drizzled with tobasco honey and jalapeno sour cream, tomatoes, pickled cabbage and green onion.  It was … um … just go there!  If you have a smaller appetite, share an item.  They have a wide-ranging breakfast and lunch menu, but be prepared to line up.  It is a popular place.

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PETER LIKES PANCAKES … THE SMILE SAYS IT ALL

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 The rest of this day, was focused on business and friends.  At this point, we simply had to stop taking pictures of the food.  We were too engaged in our dining companions to break for pictures … but I have listed some of the other places we ate including an excellent sushi lunch at Miku (we had to try some sushi after the sake the day before) and a home cooked meal for Pete’s birthday hosted by friends … okay, you won’t be able to necessarily go there, but it was a lovely meal.

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PRINCESS CRUISES IS ONE OF MANY CRUISE LINES THAT DOCK AT CANADA PLACE

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  On our final day,  we did a breakfast meeting, and walked towards Canada Place, which is a combined hotel, convention centre and cruise ship port.  When Vancouver hosted Expo 86, the venue was utilized as the Canada Pavilion.  It is defined by its vast sails extending into the sky as it juts out into Burrard Inlet.  On the day we were there, a cruise ship was docked at the pier.  This gave us a chance to get up close to the boat and see the size of the various balconies and get a sense of how large these cruise ships truly are. The boat that was docked in Vancouver was the Island Princess … a boat that my folks would be boarding in Los Angeles three days later for a cruise towards Panama.  We had no idea that the boat we were taking pictures of was the same boat they would be sailing on later in the week.

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GASTOWN FEATURES THE WORLD’S FIRST STEAM POWERED CLOCK DESIGNED BY RAYMOND L. SAUNDERS

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We wandered back towards Gastown which is located where the western edge of the Granville townsite used to be.  It is an area noted for lots of tourist shops, restaurants and scenic views of the harbour.  It also has the world’s first steam powered clock … a popular attraction for picture-takers.  We met friends for food and drink (an excellent lunch and flight of sample beers at the Steamworks Brewing Company ) and then walked back to the hotel over the Cambie Bridge.

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 VIEWS FROM THE CAMBIE BRIDGE TOWARDS THE END OF FALSE CREEK ARE LOVELY

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We took in a last meal with friends at the exquisite Mackenzie Room,  (to see pictures of their food, click on the title and it will take you to their web site where you can view the video about how they prepare their food and drink), and then prepared to bid farewell to Vancouver.  There were some folks we simply couldn’t get to see due to schedule. This will give us a reason to get back another time.

In our next installment we head to Victoria taking in the B.C.  Ferries, the Provincial Parliament buildings of B.C., and do high tea at the Empress Hotel.  Until then … wishing you safe armchair travels from …

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Fenton & White