Sunday, May 29, 2011

20th Anniversary Weekend: Victoria, B.C.

A great beer - the view from our room -
the view from the breakfast table - new shoes & rose petals
- fun architecture - our walking map

Gregg & I had a wonderful time on our weekend in Victoria.
We walked all over town, watched the Swiftsure sailboats depart, saw bike races, ate well, drank well, rested well, shopped a little, laughed until it hurt and enjoyed being alone together.

We got up early on Friday morning (5:30!) and drove for an hour and a half, in order to catch the early sailing of the M.V. Coho from Port Angeles to Victoria. Around us were a number of sailors with gear bags, going to meet their vessels. They were on their way to participate in the Swiftsure sailing race (I've written about this in years past; it's always on Memorial Day weekend, which is the weekend of our marriage).

When we arrived in Victoria after an hour and a half of sailing on the ferry, we stood in line with others to go through customs. After answering the agent's questions about our reason for visiting Canada, and our plans, we were allowed to head out of the building and over to our hotel. We were going to leave our bag with the concierge until check-in time, but happily, they were ready for us early. We dropped off our bag and freshened up, before heading back out to start exploring the city on foot. Discovering places on foot is one of my favorite things to do, and even though we've been to Victoria many times over the past 20 years, we are still finding new restaurants, parks, shops and sights. I love that city - I could happily live there, if only our health care systems were willing to swap services.
We think we could live very happily in a place like this floating house...
just smaller!

We walked up to Fort Street, where there are antique and furniture shops, as well as some great restaurants. One of my favorites is a Japanese restaurant called Sen Zushi, and I had been dreaming of eating there again. We stepped into its quiet ambience and enjoyed a slow meal of the freshest sushi, miso soup and lots of green tea. We then stopped in a bakery to buy a couple of treats to take with us for dessert. We also stopped to buy a 6-pack of delicious apple cider, one of the great alternatives to beer in Canada.

Walking around the waterfront is always a pleasure. We love to see the boats in the marina preparing for the next day's start. There are several different classes of sailboat in the Swiftsure, and several races, but they all start on Saturday morning.

After a rest, we walked back up to Fort Street to enjoy dinner at Cafe Brio. Their speciality is fresh, local ingredients, superb tastes, two portion sizes, beautiful presentation and a romantic - yet friendly - atmosphere. Local paintings line the walls, and the art-deco light fixtures give off a soft, warm glow. Our dinner was delicious, and it was fun to be surrounded by a variety of people, including a courting couple, as well as a jolly group of sailboat racers, eating heartily and preparing for the morrow. All told, we walked about 6 miles on Friday.

On Saturday, we got up early enough to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the dining room of our hotel. One of the many reasons we like this hotel is that the dining room overlooks the harbor with huge windows. On Swiftsure race day, it is a great pleasure to eat while the boats pour out of the harbor on their way to the start at Ogden Point. After breakfast, we started our walk along the waterfront to Beacon Hill Park, which affords fabulous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. The sailboats gathered at the starting point, created a glorious sight.

After the sailing race commenced, we found that we were walking along the path of a cycling race. The Tour de Victoria was taking place on Dallas Road and beyond, so we saw some of the cyclists whizzing past. Ryder Hesjedal, a Tour de France contender, is a local boy, and he was inaugurating a new cycling event in town over the weekend. There was a lot of excitement around him and the events.
Sign observed in a holistic medical office window on our walk.
We walked a looooong way on Saturday - 10 miles in all! Highlights included shoreline, parks, beautiful Craftsman-style and Victorian cottages, gardens in bloom, a neighborhood farmers' market and our favorite coffee shop for a cup of java. Mid-afternoon, we stopped for an appetizer, beer (for Gregg) and cider (for me) at the Irish Times Pub. We had planned to eat dinner there, but by 8:00 p.m., the line of people waiting to get in was still out the door and into the street, so we gave up on that idea, and moved on to a fabulous little place called Ferris' Oyster Bar & Grill. It was a perfect dinner for both of us: a burger for Gregg, halibut for me, yam fries and salad for both.

We toured an historic building that is being converted into studio-condominiums, but decided that they were too small to consider, even for the future as empty-nesters.

On Sunday, we got up and ate breakfast, again enjoying a windowside table and the view of the harbor. We then packed up, checked out, left our things with the concierge and walked around the other side of the harbor to a neighborhood we haven't explored yet: West Bay. It was a lovely walk.
Along the way, we discovered this driftwood sculpture
We don't normally check in with the Tourist InfoCentre, because we know where we want to go in Victoria, but I was looking for a map with distances on it. They had a wonderful walking/running map, which showed a number of new routes, distances and time to allow. This walk was one of them, and we ended up going about 6.5 miles that day, before boarding the M.V. Coho again and heading for home. Walking so much is great for taking any guilt out of eating and drinking well on vacation - actually, it's great at home, as well!

Finally, for Maribeth, who does not like my new shoes. They were super-comfortable until the last couple of miles of the trip. For brand-new shoes to go that far, comfortably (without socks!) speaks well of their quality. And you may not believe this, but I received lots of compliments on them!
For Maribeth:
we thought of you in many places!
The week preceding this little get-away had been chock-full of writing deadlines and filming. After such an intense week, I needed to let go of the story of Katie's illness and focus on the present. We were given a warm welcome, and even treated to chocolate-dipped strawberries "on the house" as an anniversary treat from our hotel. Canadians are fabulous: friendly, kind, open, and interesting. I love the way I feel when visiting their country. Gregg and I had a superb vacation, and came home feeling truly rested and refreshed.


Busy Bee Suz said...

Karen, your weekend looks amazing...such beautiful sights, wonderful meals and a lovely companion too. I wanna go next time, would that be three's company???
I LOVE your shoe collage of are just too cute and funny.
love to you both!!!!!

Allegra Smith said...

One of my favorite cities in the whole wide world. When I was very young my Grandparents took us to the Empress - before it was a tourist place - for High Tea. I went back nearly 35 years later and only the building was the same. But I love it anyway.

And I love your shoes, so much so that Barry spent some time on line trying to find a pair because I carried on and on about them. I love to have a pair in every color, I mean it. I will let you know what happens Tuesday as soon as we get back. Again, Happy Anniversary with much love to both of you from both of us.

karen gerstenberger said...

Suz, you & Coach should come & bring the girls! It would be a blast for all of us.

Allegra, my grandparents used to stay there, too & loved it. It is rather overrun with tourists now, but I still love the architecture. I hope Barry located the shoes for you - I got mine on - and isn't it lovely that the brand is called "Allegria?" Yes, please report on your meeting when you are able.

HUGS to all!

Karen said...

Sounds romantic, invigorating and refreshing. A nice break for the two of you...and well deserved for 20 years of marriage! I applaud you both and celebrate the day with you.

Lynda said...

Wow Karen, sounds like such a great weekend. I'm curious what hotel you stayed at? We just made plans for our 20th anniversary today which is in 2 months...a little different as our day will include our kids, but so proud of us & you for making our marriage the "main thing". Congratulations!

Jim said...

Hi Karen, thanks for dropping by, your comments are always welcomed and looked forward to.

Victoria is one of my favourite cities as well. It sounds like it was just what you both needed.

Anonymous said...

I also discovered Allegria shoes about four-five years ago. I have more pairs of them than I should. I received three more pairs just two weeks ago--a cute red pair, some beautifully flowered clogs, and a pair of sandals. I order them from the Allegria website--I think the price is reasonable too! How did you hear about them?

M said...

I followed your comment on Chi-Town Girl's blog to here. I was also married on Memorial Weekend....May 29- except in 1982. This year my nephew was married on that day. I also had a teenaged daughter who had cancer, but has been off treatment for 6 years. I made quilts to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford also.

Go Cubs!

Kay said...

Love this entire the shoes..sounds like you had an amazing time..but love the last paragraph the most. So thankful you could be in the moment and enjoy such a delightful time. Hugs! :)

deb colarossi said...

I love you.