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The 2nd Best Place to Live or Visit in BC

The 2nd Best Place to Live or Visit in BC

  • Posted: Sep 17, 2016
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Where Is The Second Best Place To Live or Visit in British Columbia?

It is the Okanagan Valley. Most maps show it running from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos on the US/Canadian border. The major towns/cities are Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and Osoyoos. So what does a couple of tourism professionals do when they have time off. Well it is tough to leave Vancouver Island and Greater Victoria, the number one place of live or visit in BC. We have a rule that we don’t leave Victoria in the summer months because of our sensational weather, fantastic scenery, great food and a whole lot more.

We this year we decided to revisit the Okanagan for a week to see what is new. This area has tremendous beauty and a bounty of fruits and vegetables and vineyards. The fruits and vegetables are very reasonable when you buy from local markets. There are 200+ and growing. Pun there! So you can visit a new one everyday for 2/3 of the year! The grape is doing very well in the Okanagan! The local tourism brochures will point out something to do for everyone.

grapes in the Okanaga

grapes in the Okanagan

We love to stay in Bed and Breakfasts, so I did an internet search and found what I believe to be two of the best B&B’s in the Okanagan. As we have a cousin in Lake Country that we wanted to spend time with we started our stay in Oyama, a small community a bit north of Kelowna. This was our base for the first five days. Robby, our hostess runs the Country Ridge Bed and Breakfast high in the hills overlooking Woods Lake and Kalamalka Lake. Country Ridge BB is situated high on a hillside overlooking surrounding lakes, orchards and vineyards. Expansive windows and a magnificent wrap around veranda take full advantage of breathtaking views and the very tranquil setting.The views of the valley and lakes are stunning! Her home was built as a bed and breakfast and contains three well appointed rooms with very comfortable rooms. Each room has windows that overlook one or both of the lakes. The out door balcony has plenty of seating where you can enjoy the spectacular views and each room has private seating as well. This B&B has everything you would ever need in your room. Robby has thought of everything as far as we could see. At the entry, there is a ramp for people with movement challenges and the ramp even has a metal non-slip section. The main floor is spectacular. Upon entry through the front door you will observe a magnificent spiral stair case going to the living space of the home. The main floor has two separate rooms where you can watch TV, listen to music or talk with other guests. There is also a reading room with shelves of games to play. The dinning room is spacious and all guests share the same table, so you get a chance to meet the other guests at the 8:30 am breakfast. Robby serves excellent breakfasts. Her chocolate croissants are addictive! Each day were served parfaits of fruit, nuts and yogurt! They were delicious and nutritious! We also had eggs served in a variety of ways along with some of the best bacon I have ever eaten. Linda requires gluten free options and this was handled very well by Robby. Robby also brings out the tin foil, so that if you have left overs and we always did, you can wrap them up and take them with you for a snack later or put them in the common fridge in the foyer for later! Robby has lots of suggestions and information that will help you enjoy your stay in the valley. We heartily recommend a stay at this most excellent B&B!

Country Ridge B&B Oyama

Country Ridge B&B Oyama

Country Ridge B&B Oyama

Country Ridge B&B Oyama

While we were in the Okanagan we thought we would take in some golf so I looked for a couple of courses that fit our skill level. Those were not championship style courses! The first one we played was in West Kelowna. Two Eagles was well manicured and had par 3,4 and 5 holes. The length of the holes suited us just fine. The weather cooperated and we had a nice time and then visited old friends John and Diane, who live just up the hill. You might notice the wire protective fence that has a number of golf balls stuck in it, all stray shots! (not ours)

Two Eagle Golf Course West Kelowna

Two Eagle Golf Course West Kelowna

The 2nd course that we played was in Osoyoos at the NK’MIP Resort. The resort is a four season playground with a golf course, accommodations, camping, an interpretive centre showcasing their culture, dining and wine tasting. It is located at the south end of the Osoyoos Indian Band’s land, NK’MIP Resort encompasses over 200 acres of the ‘bottomland’ (NK’MIP). “NK’MIP” in the Syilx language refers to the area at the north end of the lake where the mouth of the lake meets the Okanagan River. Note the signing warning to watch out for rattlesnakes! No one wants you to step on them and hurt them!

NK'MIP Resort

NK’MIP Resort

While in the Okanagan Valley we did some serious research at many of the 200+vineyards and wineries scattered through out the valley. We covered Lake Country (Winfield and Oyama), Kelowna, Penticton & the Naramata Bench, Oliver and Osoyoos. I volunteered to be the designated driver so that Linda could deepen her research and for part of the time cousin debbie joined in! I am not sure how Linda came home with only 18 bottles of wine. Maybe her research was blurred!

Okanagan Vineyards and Wineries

Okanagan Vineyards and Wineries

Okanagan Vineyards and Wineries

Okanagan Vineyards and Wineries

Okanagan Vineyards and Wineries

Okanagan Vineyards and Wineries

Now the most important part of the research. The wine must be tasted. Linda did her best. She found a lot of really good wines and some that did not match her preference. Apparently the research was all good. Grapes are apparently good for many things! Some of the tasting facilities were amazing. Every place we visited made an effort to display their wines appropriately and the grounds and facilities were generally immaculate. Some served lunches and some did not. The staff were always knowledgeable and informative. As you will see below, Linda was deep into her research. Just to prove that the DD was protecting her I threw in a picture of the two of us at the Arrowleaf Vineyard, one of the finer operations in Lake Country. This one had beautiful views of Okanagan Lake, a nice lunch venue and a beautiful wine bar.

wine-tasting

wine-tasting

While in Lake Country we attended an annual event call Artwalk! The venue was at the high school and community venues across the street. It was to showcase local artists and artisans. There was a lot of variety and some excellent work displayed. The event was very well attended. It is important to ask about these type of events and others like local markets. Our host Robby directed us to this one and it was well worth the visit.

Artwalk

Artwalk

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Abkhazi Gardens

Abkhazi Gardens

  • Posted: Apr 13, 2016
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Abkhazi Gardens – A Gem Worth A Visit!

Abkhazi Garden, located at 1964 Fairfield Road in Victoria BC, is a wonderland oasis in the middle of a quiet residential area; the creation of Peggy and Nicolas Abkhazi.  Peggy has an intriguing history, related in her memoir “A Curious Cage”.  She met Nicolas Abkhazi, a Georgian Prince, in Paris and eventually married him; making their home on this property that she purchased after WWII.  Read her book to understand how the orphaned child of parents living in Shanghai China ended up in Victoria!

Abkhazi Gardens & Tea Room

Abkhazi Gardens & Tea Room

Princess Peggy Abkhazi’s Garden

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A Perfect Day in Paradise

A Perfect Day in Paradise

  • Posted: Mar 31, 2016
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A Perfect Day in Paradise – A West Coast Adventure

Today I was touring my nephew Greg and his family from Edmonton. We started our day at French Beach which is about an hour out of downtown Victoria. It is very popular for locals as it is great for day picnics. It is about a 3 minute walk from the parking area down to the picnic tables and fire pits. You need to bring your own firewood. I suggest you get your firewood at Home Hardware in Sooke (kindling and firewood) and make sure you have some paper or fire starter and matches.

Our mission was to have a hot dog roast. Mission completed. The water was flat, the surge had small waves crashing on the shore, sounding exciting and that sound everyone relishes when they are relaxing by the sea. The temperature was around or just above 20C making it an exceptional spring day. It was a great place to relax or take a stroll the beach. The kids had fun filling their rubber boots with ocean water and building forts out of the logs that had washed up on the beach.

There is also a beautiful campground at French Beach that is very busy throughout the spring and summer. If you want to go here you need to book early.

French Beach

French Beach

After spending most of the afternoon at French beach we headed into town and took the scenic route to get out of rush hour on the Sooke highway. That route took us towards East Sooke and then through Beacher Bay and to our final stop at Tower Point Park which is part of the Whitty’s Lagoon Park. It is on the east side of the Bay, just outside of Whitty’s Lagoon. At low tide the entire bay empties out. This makes for enjoyable walks, playing in the shallow and warm water and skim boarding. This is the best spot in all of Greater Victoria for skim boarding. A couple of kayakers came in while we were there. The views from Beacher Bay and Tower Point Park are totally awesome. They are breath-taking!

Beach Bay & Tower Point

Beach Bay & Tower Point

The views are across Juan de Fuca Strait and the majestic Olympic Mountains which tower above the water. Right now they are deeply covered in snow and some of that will remain all summer. The best view is of Hurricane Ridge which is the back drop for Race Rocks Light Station.

It was an exceptional day to be out and about. Yes, another “perfect day in paradise”.  For more pictures of these locations please go to our Facebook Page link.

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Island Moments: Gentle Giants Live Here!

Island Moments: Gentle Giants Live Here!

  • Posted: Mar 29, 2016
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Big Trees Live Here….Really Big Trees

Big trees grow on Vancouver Island. Actually giant trees grow on the Island. Some are really easy to get to and some require a good hike.

Port Renfrew Trees

The Port Renfrew area about 2 hours west of Victoria is one of the best for a variety of massive trees with some of them being very accessible (minimal effort).

One of the trees that hit the news in the past few years is Avatar Grove, not far from Port Renfrew. It is known as the gnarliest tree in Canada. Check this link for a great map showing you the location of the really big trees around Port Renfrew along with detailed instructions.

We have visited the Harris Creek Fir and the San Juan Spruce.

The Harris Creek Fir next to Harris Creek, northeast of Port Renfrew is an 82 meter tall giant that dwarfs everything around it. This tree is all fat flared trunk and twisted moss draped branches.  It is spectacular and on about 15 meters from the highway and right next to Harris Creek.  It is about 32 km from Lake Cowichan and 30 km from Port Renfrew. From Port Renfrew it will be on your right and marked by signage. Continue reading

Breakfast As It Should Be: The Village

Breakfast As It Should Be: The Village

  • Posted: Mar 20, 2016
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The Village Restaurant in Royal Oak – Breakfast,As Good As It Gets

Today we took our granddaughter Madison out for breakfast or brunch. We chose to return to one of our favourite breakfast haunts, The Village Restaurant in Royal Oak. The breakfasts are so good here it makes it hard to choose another location.
Meals at the Village restaurant in Royal Oak

Meals at the Village restaurant in Royal Oak

The staff is sensational. While waiting for our table, the manager Brian said “were you not hear last Mother’s Day with a group?” I was impressed he remembered as that was our only meeting. No, I don’t have a red X painted on my forehead!
Our waiter Andrew was telling my gluten intolerant granddaughter what was in the hot chocolate. She was disappointed that she could not order it. After a minute or two behind the counter, Andrew said, how would you like to try steamed almond milk with Cadbury egg chocolate mixed in. Her eyes lit up and it was delicious. Well done Andrew!

Check out the video done by “You Gotta Eat Here” 

The restaurant was packed the whole time we were there, so if you are planning a visit on the weekend, expect a wait to get in. Our wait was about 20 minutes. As always, it was well worth the wait. If you choose to come during the week, there is a likelihood that you may not have to wait to get in. Call ahead and see how busy it is if your time is limited. Their Latke’s are to die for. If you have never had a Benny on Latkes, you are in for a treat. It beats the English muffin hands down.
Village Restaurant Royal Oak

Village Restaurant Royal Oak

Madison ordered the Village Hash consisting of oven roasted potatoes, melted cheese, green onions, two eggs any style and toast with your choice of Montreal smoked meat or Red Barn back bacon. Of course she had to ditch the toast!
Linda ordered the Back Benny, a combination of back bacon, fresh avocado and feta.
I ordered the Red Barn Benny, combination of Red Barn strip bacon, fresh avocado, roma tomatoes and hollandaise. Our meals also came with an assortment of fresh fruit. If you have not tried Red Barn bacon, you are in for a treat! Check out the pictures to get your mouth watering.
This is one well-run restaurant with excellent food. We certain recommend that you give them a try. Hours are 8:00am to 3:00pm Daily. Adress: 4517 W Saanich Rd, Victoria, BC V8Z 3G3
Phone: (778) 265-8898
There is a Village Restaurant now at three Greater Victoria locations. See Below:

Estevan Location

8:00am to 3:00pm Daily
2520 Estevan Ave, Victoria, BC V8R 2S7
(250) 592-8311
estevan@thevillagerestaurant.ca (Best way to communicate with us!)

If you have have questions please refer to our FAQ page. If you require take-out click here .

Royal Oak Location

8:00am to 3:00pm Daily
4517 W Saanich Rd, Victoria, BC V8Z 3G3
(778) 265-8898
royaloak@thevillagerestaurant.ca (Best way to communicate with us!)

If you have have questions please refer to our FAQ page. If you require take-out click here .

Torquay Location

8:00am to 3:00pm Daily
4087 Shelbourne St, Victoria, BC V8N4P6
(778) 265-5200
torquay@thevillagerestaurant.ca (Best way to communicate with us!)

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oneTree exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

oneTree exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

  • Posted: Nov 30, 2015
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ONETREE A Community Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

One Tree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

One Tree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

 

So, I have this giant maple tree and it is dying and rotting and is danger of falling on my house. What will I do? The tree is 100 years old. It would be a pity and an insult to this grand old tree to turn it into fire wood. Certainly there is a better end for this stately old tree!

How about gathering up a whole lot of wood artists and see what they can do! Are you kidding? No.

One Tree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

One Tree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

The One Tree Exhibit is now on at the Robert Bateman Centre. The One Tree Project is a collaborative offer of Live Edge Design, the Robert Bateman Centre and 42 wood artisans from Vancouver Island and across Canada. The creativity and talents of these artists is on display in the Robert Bateman Centre until January 15, 2016. The legacy of the magnificent tree will live on through the art created. What they did is truly amazing and well worth a visit.

You also get to see more than 100 amazing works of Robert Bateman spanning seven decades of his work. He is truly one of Canada’s premier artists. If you have not been there before, please check it out.

So, during your Christmas holidays, try something different. You will not be disappointed! If you have guests, they will love the centre. If you are looking for a unique gift, check out their gift shop or buy one of the art pieces. You can have a magnificent dining table that will be the envy of all your friends for just $30,000. If you are a tourist visiting Victoria, this is a must see attraction conveniently situated in the Inner Harbour at 470 Bellville Street.

You can have lunch or dinner downstairs from the Robert Bateman Centre at the Steamship Grill and bar which has a great patio right on the harbour edge. So you can make a day of the event.

For more pictures see our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StayAndPlayVancouverIsland?sk=wall

OneTree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

OneTree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

One Tree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

One Tree Exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre

The Ogden Point Breakwater

The Ogden Point Breakwater

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2015
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Victoria Harbour Breakwater – An Adventure You Don’t Want To Miss – Year Round Fun!

 

The Ogden Point Breakwater is a major Victoria tourist attraction which is year round and FREE!  There are few places in this world where you can walk out 850 metre (approximately one-half mile) into the ocean.  The walk starts next to the Ogden Point Café at 199 Dallas Road (V8V 1A1). If you drive up Douglas Street (south) and turn right when you get to Dallas Road you will soon see it jutting out into the ocean. The Breakwater is very popular with locals and with tourists who take time to find it. The Cruise Ship docks are right next to the Breakwater, so many cruise ship passengers also walk the breakwater. The walkway has aluminium and stainless-steel railings on each side of the walkway for safety and there are two sets of stairs to take adventurous people down on to the granite blocks. Walking on the lower levels requires you to pay attention as it is uneven and there are large cracks between the blocks. You are likely to see more from the top, however being down below allows you to see into the cracks and crevices where many marine creatures live. There is an information kiosk on the West side of the Breakwater with ecological information. A recent addition of the Recently Na’ Tsa’ maht (The Unity Wall) is an effort by the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations to bring their history to the forefront and bridge culturals.

As you walking out the breakwater keep watching the surface of the water near the granite blocks.  You just never know what you will see. Seals are common. Sea Lions also appear from time to time and on occassion whales come close to our shores and have actually gone into the Inner Harbour. Large jellyfish are common in the summer months. The marine traffic passing the end of the breakwater is amazing.

When you are done with the Breakwater, take a stroll along the Dallas Road waterfront for more great sights. As I wrote this post, it was 10C and sunny and almost the end of November. This is our winter and generally the worst time of the year for weather. We have been getting very good winter weather over the last couple of years.

Views Around the Breakwater

Breakwater Views - Clockwise - the Bistro, the kiosk, First Nations art, Rotary Park, and a young lady fishing

Breakwater Views – Clockwise – the Bistro, the kiosk, First Nations art, Rotary Park, and a young lady fishing

Be sure to check out these sights around the breakwater. The Breakwater Cafe and Bistro which is at the entrance to the Breakwater walkway is a great place to have lunch or snacks. If the weather is inclement you can sit inside an watch the views sipping on a warm drink. The Breakwater and the Dallas Road shoreline is a great place to “storm watch”. If your in Victoria and the wind is blowing, be sure to check out the Breakwater. It is an excellent place to storm watch. If you walk out on the Breakwater during a storm, you are likely to get soaked. Watch what is happening as the waves can go right over the top of the Breakwater and if conditions are like that it is very dangerous! Best to watch from shore on those days. The waves sometimes break over Dallas Road as well. The Rotary Park just off Dallas Road at the drive in entrance to the Breakwater and the parking lot, you will find this amazing little park where you may want to sit and enjoy the surroundings. Across the parking lot is the Ecological Kiosk display. Check it out. Below are some pictures taken over the years of the waves during storms.

Wild Winds at the Breakwater

Wild Winds at the Breakwater

As you walk out on the breakwater look down often into the water along the granite blocks. You just don’t know what you may see. The octopus below decided to eat a gull for lunch. It must have been hungry! The abalone in the large picture was high and dry after the tide went out and it seemed like it was dancing. The shell above the meaty foot was gyrating back and forth. There are lots of barnacles on the breakwater. If you can observe them closely by going down on the granite blocks when they are just barely in the water you can observe them feeding. They have feeding appendages, called cirri, which are jointed and set with sensory hairs. You can see the barnacles open and close as they feed. You can see star fish, jellyfish, seals, sea lions and maybe passing whales. There are tons of fish down there but you have to scuba dive to see them and all the other life below the visible kelp beds. This is a great and accessible dive site. You are like to see divers getting in to the water or out of the water or you may see bubbles coming to the surface as they pass by.

Breakwater sea life

Breakwater sea life

Over 200 cruise ships visit Victoria and the most our port can handle is three at once. On some days, there are four with one waiting for another to depart before docking. Each year the number that comes gets bigger because people around the world are discovering Victoria. If you are coming into Victoria be sure to enjoy our Breakwater. It is part of what makes Victoria one of the more interesting Port stops. Notice that even the “Mouse” knows where Victoria is and is a regular visitor. A travel agent from Los Angeles once told me that his wife thought Victoria was like Disneyland but without the rides!

Cruise Ships

Cruise Ships

Be sure to bring your camera on your Breakwater experience as there are some amazing views available as you take the half-mile into our ocean. I would personally like to thank our American neighbours for providing us with a spectacular backdrop to our city, the Olympic Mountains. Thanks!

Breakwater Views

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indoor Entertainment: Beautiful Butterfly Gardens

Indoor Entertainment: Beautiful Butterfly Gardens

  • Posted: Oct 26, 2015
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Butterfly Gardens – Into the Jungle we go!

 

Now that the weather has changed and it can be a bit more challenging for outdoor experiences, let us recommend Butterfly Gardens.

Welcome to the Jungle!

Victoria Butterfly Gardens offers a unique opportunity for people of all ages to experience the beauty and curiosity of a tropical jungle up close. With surprises at every turn, the gardens is home to a wide variety of rescued tropical animals including ducks, flamingos, rare tropical birds, poison dart frogs, tortoises, turtles, giant Koi and thousands of tropical free flying butterflies. Stroll along the paths and see organic vanilla beans growing on the vine, papaya trees, pineapple, coffee beans, ginger and many other foods of the world flourishing in their natural habitat.

Witness hundreds of butterflies feeding on fresh tropical fruits, learn about carnivorous plants from our jungle experts and marvel at the stunning blooms and thousands of rare and endangered tropical plants. For best butterfly sightings we recommend a sunny day. So if you are looking for a tropical experience in Victoria check out Butterfly Gardens. It is just 5 minutes from nearby Butchart Gardens. Don’t pass it by or you will miss something very special that Victoria has to offer visitors. Like all great tropical gardens it is a world full of colour and wonder…please check it out. You will not be disappointed!

 

Butterfly Gardens

Butterfly Gardens

 

Butterfly Gardens

Butterfly Gardens

Palm Trees Do Well in Victoria

Palm Trees Do Well in Victoria

  • Posted: Mar 10, 2015
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California has nothing on Victoria. Check out these palm tress. You can see they do very well in Victoria. I was checking out the amazing blossoms around Victoria when I discovered this grove of Wildmill Palms bordered by a cherry tree and a beautiful Magnolia. Life is good in Victoria. Come for a visit!

Life on another Rock

Life on another Rock

  • Posted: Feb 01, 2015
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We live on the Rock (Vancouver Island that is). Occasionally we feel the need to leave the rock and take a brake. So, we took off to another rock, approximately 1500 miles to the west. It has been a very long time simce we had a holiday on Oahu and we knew what we would find. Waikiki beach has turned into a high end shopper’s paradise and it is very expensive to spend time there. Our visit was very enjoyable but it is likely we will ever go back there again. Our previous Hawaii experiences were in other islands and the experience was much better. Rock Oahu is over developed and the residents there were protesting potential development on the windward side. “Enough is enough” was the common message. You can hardly blame them. Waikiki Beach is wall to wall high rise buildings and they are still building more. A new hotel and shopping area is being built on the long standing International Market. Seems like nothing is sacred when the money moves in. Continue reading

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