Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Moss Street Market

This is undoubtedly the best of the Markets around Victoria. It has been around for a long time and the organizers have obviouslyh figured things out. It is well organized and there is literally something for everyone. I arrived early and took some of my photos before things got going. A bell rings at 10 am precisely and then the vendors start selling. The locals know, as they head directly for the fresh vegetables and especially the organic ones. There are instantly line-ups for these vendors. There is also someone who must make amazing bread as there was a long line up there. They have an entertainment stage and this morning the Obrien's were playing. There are lots of food vendors to choose from in the centre of the market. The smells made my knees week. The neighbourhood crows know when there is a free lunch and were lined up along the fence waiting for the first person to drop some food. They seemed to fit right in. About 10:10 am the place was packed. This is indeed the Grand-Daddy of local Markets. Check it out but come a bit early. enjoy the photos.  For more photos, click this link. 

The market also has over 75 craft and food vendors, all offerings made and sold directly by the local producer. The market is complimented by local musicians, great coffee, special event days, and the annual Moss Street Paint-In.

Butterfly Gardens - A World Class Victoria Attraction

Once you step through the doors into this tropical paradise you will discover why Butterfly Gardens is one of the Top 5 World Class Attractions in Victoria. It is not all about the butterflies, although they are the main attraction and tourists chase them around trying to get great pictures of them. Those darn dull brown ones that open their amazing blue wings when they fly, just never stop long enough for a picture...or do they? Then there are the tropical plant life, the amazing birds, the fish, the turtles, and the amazing educational displays. Be sure to stop in their great gift shop before leaving. Enjoy our tour of the Butterfly Gardens by clicking on this link.

Devine Vineyards on the Saanich Peninsula

Beautiful Property, well organized business, outstanding wine tasting facility, friendly staff and wine good enough to take home. What more can we say about this local vineyard. It is located at 6181B Old West Saanich Road. The drive is beautiful to get to and the scenery there is amazing. This is well worth a visit. Check it out. For more pictures of this property, click here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pub Tour - English, Irish and Scottish Style

Our evening started at the Scottish Pub, the Bard and Banker on Government Street at Fort in the heart of Victoria. General Manager Brad Skerrett greeted us as we arrived and made sure he got around to every table to meet and greet his the guests! This has to be the most beautifully designed and decorated pub around. It is visually striking, the food is great and the beer even better with a choice of over 40 beers on the menu. Cocktails and wine are also available, providing visitors with a very impressive selection of spirits under one roof. The pub is large with 12,000 sq. ft. and seating for 320. For years, the building was a bank. With the live music Wednesday thru Saturday, this place rocks! Outdoor seating on the Government Street patio completes the scene.
From the Bard and Banker we hopped on the gigantic Big Bus and we given a tour of Victoria’s gorgeous waterfront, down Dallas Road in Victoria and then through Oak Bay ending at the Penny Farthing Olde English Pub in the middle of Oak Bay Village. We received a warm welcome from General Manager John McDonald who was waiting for us as we arrived. This pub has fires crackling in four fireplaces, dark rich wood, Victorian etched glass doors and windows, a fascinating collection of memorabilia and a fabulous bar. Break through Oak Bay’s tweed curtain and enjoy a true British experience at the “Penny”. This Pub is connected to the VIS-à-VIS WINE BAR + CHARCUTERIE which has a restaurant licence so all family members can go there, or you can choose to eat in the Penny Pub. We had dinner in the VIS-à-VIS which served well for our group function.

As the sun set, we all boarded the Big Bus and returned downtown to the Irish Times Pub. Warm and inviting, it is located in downtown Victoria at 1200 Government Street, just two blocks north of the Bard and Banker. The Irish Times Pub is home to 190 seats on two floors with 80 seats available on the patios, opening onto both Government Street and historic Bastion Square. This pub is a fun place with authentic live music 7 nights a week. The tradition of Ireland has also been extended to the menu, which features Irish Pub Food as you would see in Ireland today. After our meal at the Penny Farthing, we were treated to Irish Coffee and a yummy brownie dessert covered with Irish Cream liqueur and pistachios. General Manager Nancy Stewart had joined us at the Bard and Banker and was with the group through the entire evening.

Thanks to these three establishments for a great evening of English, Irish and Scottish hospitality, just as it should be. We enjoyed being so close and personal with the staff and management of the Victoria Pub Company operations.For more great pictures of these amazing pubs, click here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fairmont Empress Tour

The Fairmont Empress is the majestic cornerstone of our beautiful Inner Harbour which is the centre of activity for the vibrant City of Victoria. This Vancouver Island hotel is located in British Columbia's capital city and features turn of the century architecture, classic beauty and an unrivaled location. Since 1908, it is Vancouver Island's most celebrated resort, spa and meeting destination. Last night we had the opportunity to tour the hotel and get a taste and feel for this classic hotel.  The Fairmont Empress is renowned for the special treatment the guests receive and we were no exception.  As we arrived we were greet by many of the friendly staff and offered our choice of two special cocktails and some delightful appetizers.  We tried the signature cocktail the 1908 and it was delicious.  Don Fennerty, the General Manager of the hotel provided the greeting and then our tour began.  Our first stop was one of the tastefully decorated guest rooms with a magnificent view of the Inner Harbour which is just across the street.  The hotel is over 100 years old but has had extensive and multiple renovations over that time.  Part of the Hotel is used for their Fairmont Gold product which is an add-on Concierge Service and special guest area that provides a hosted refuge with breakfast and appetizers. As we moved through the Fairmont Empress Gold lounge it was easy to see why it epitomizes the style and service that ranks among the best Fairmont Gold experiences in Canada.    Our last stop in the tour was to the highly acclaimed Willow Stream Spa regarded as one of the best spas in Canada. Here we were treated to hand and arm massages and treated to a sampling of the famous Fairmont Empress afternoon tea.  Many of the staff we met has worked at the Fairmont Empress hotel for many years.  We had the feeling that we were being escorted by the Empress Family and that they were proud of the hotel and what it had to offer.  From previous experience and this tour, we can only describe the Fairmont Empress as top notch!  Well done!   For more pictures of our beloved "Empress" Click Here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Springtide Fam Tour - A Tourism Industry Event 2013

Last night was the annual Fam Tour of Springtide Charters Whale Watching. Guests attended from tourism and hospitality businesses across greater Victoria. Our hosts Captain Dan and Joanne, the owners of Springtide, had their boats and staff decorated with a Canada Day theme and guest were asked to dress in red and white. It sure made it easy to spot guests as they gathered in front of Milestones at wharfside. Fiona, the party organizer and her sidekick Carlie did a wonderful job. There was plenty of great food (supplied by Island Gourmet Caterers at the Ambrosia Centre), and lots to drink (Wine from Church and State Wines, beer from Darcy's Pub). Music was provided by a band called On Fire. The Marauder cruised around the Inner Harbour as the party unfolded and captain Jeff brought the large Zodiac along side and took groups of partygoers out for some excitement in Juan de Fuca Strait. They all reported back about how much fun it was, despite a few messed up hairdos. The staff appeared as if they really enjoyed working for Springtide. As hard as they were working, they had smiles on their faces all night long. Springtide is one of the best whale watching companies in Victoria and they have great experienced staff. You can be guaranteed that if you go on one of their tours, they will do all they can to make sure it is a memorable experience. Having been out with them several times, I can attest to the great job they do. You will find no boat more comfortable for an on-water excursion and it is more than fast enough to get you out to the whales. I'm sure I can speak on behalf of all the attendees that the event was a smashing success and that everyone went home more happy than they arrived. Thanks to all the staff who worked so hard to make it happen and to Joanne and Dan for hosting the event For more pictures of this event, please go to our Facebook Site.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

VGSN Tour of the Canoe Brewpub, Restaurant and Marina

Tonight, members of the VGSN attended a Fam Tour at Canoe Brewpub, Restaurant and Marina. Canoe Brew Pub is found at the foot of Swift Street on the Inner Harbour. It has the best waterfront patios in Victoria with a western view and great sunsets. The Brew Pub is located in a soaring, old timber frame structure with brick architecture. This character building showcases the brewery at one end, with a pub, lounge, upstairs dining room, large outdoor patio and free parking. The service is great with plenty of staff, who were very helpful. The Pub could easily handle groups of all sizes. Thanks to Taryn Stewart, Event Coordinator, and servers Sophie and Caley for the great job they did taking care of our group. We sampled four different handcrafted beers: Belgian Blonde (a seasonal beer), Red Canoe Lager, Beaver Brown Ale, and River Rock Bitter. The beers were accompanied by a selection of great appetizers offered in the Brew Pub. The appetizers were unique and different from your standard pub fare. We were treated to duck flatbread, fried oceanwise squid, crispy polenta, cauliflower and corn fritters, albacore tuna, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, grilled bread, marinated olives, oceanwise mussels, and messy fries. All were delicious. We were also guided on a short tour of the brewery. My vote went to the River Rock Bitter (an award winner), the mussels, flatbread, and the squid. Linda loved the prosciutto wrapped asparagus and crispy polenta. Chef Gabe Milne has created an eclectic menu (see ) and he calls it real food because they use locally sourced food, showcasing local farmers, highlighting seasonal organics, local quality meat and only oceanwise sustainable seafood. Presentation of the food is important and it tastes as good as it looks. Thanks everyone at the Canoe Brewpub.  For more pictures of this facinating business go to our Facebook Page.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bastion Pier Launch Party

Last night we attended the Bastion Pier Launch Party, a joint effort by BC Whale Tours, Lido Bistro, Somersby Apple Cider, Moon Brewery & Pub, Golf Central & Doug's Gone Fishing. After a rather unstable day, the weather settled down and provided us with a warm spring evening to enjoy festivities on the pier. Moon Brewery and Pub had their very own locally brewed beer to sample. The new owners are making German style beer in their brewery. Somersby Apple Cider was also there with samples, we thought it was one of the best ciders we have ever tasted. Doug's Gone Fishing caught some fresh halibut and provided delicious fish tacos for the group. BC Whale Tours took people for rides on the Tika and the Luna, two of the three tour boats they operate. The Tika flies like the wind and can handle rough water better than any whale boat on the island. The Luna has indoor seating with spacious windows and is very solid in the water. Thanks to Tom, Harold (owner) and Russ for being such congenial hosts. BC Whale Tours staff also provided the canned music for the event to round out the experience. Judging from the big smiles all around, a great time was had by all, networking with other people in the tourism industry. Touring the inner and outer harbour by boat always provides a unique experience that we never tire of. There is so much to see and every time we do it, we always see something new. Last night it was a welder very high up in the rigging of a fishing boat. Out in the strait, the views of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State are also ever changing. Thanks to all who participated in the "Launch" at Bastion Pier.  For more pictures, please go to the VGSN Facebook Page.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Prince of Whales & Milestones Restaurant-Two Great Experiences

Last night VGSN members were hosted by Prince of WhalesWhale Watching and Milestones Restaurant. We boarded the 62 foot Ocean Magic for a sight-seeing tour of the Inner Harbour. Each tour of the Harbour seems to offer something new to discover. On this trip we "discovered" the 95 million dollar sailing yacht Athena, owned by the Netscape guy. The Athena is the largest privately owned sailing ship in the world. However, it only takes on 10 passengers and 18 crew. There are lots of beautiful sights to see while touring the harbour. Onboard we were treated to appies and drinks and some great music by Claire Butterfield’s band Foxglove. We got to meet many of the Prince of Whales team and owner Alan McGillivray thanked us for joining them. Our thanks to Clair Butterfield who organized the event and explained the services of Prince of Whales. It was a very informative evening and lots of fun. When we returned to the dock, we were directed into the lower deck of MilestonesRestaurant where Manager Pat Allabarton hosted us with drinks and appetizers, including Milestone’s signature Belinis, which were very popular! The food was delicious and the hospitality exceptional (normal for Milestones)! Thanks everyone.  For more pictures visit the VGSN Facebook page.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

VGSN Monthly Meeting at Tilley Store 560 Yates Street Victoria

Tonight we held the VGSN monthly meeting at the Tilley Store at 560 Yates Street in Victoria's Old Towne. Many of the historic buildings have been renovated to provide some excellent shopping opportunities. Our group was invited by the store manager, Jennifer Robinson. Jennifer started the meeting by explaining how the Tilley Company started from its humble beginnings as a small hat business, by Alex Tilley. The store is customer friendly with well trained staff, an area to sit and relax, a computer for visitors to the city to check their email, and plenty of change rooms. They even have a spacious customer washroom. There is a huge selection of adventure clothing and accessories throughout the bright and spacious store. It is well worth a visit for a great shopping opportunity for locals and visitors from around the world. Guest presenters tonight included Claire Butterfield, Public Relations Representative and Naturalist from Prince of Whales. She explained the various trip and tour opportunities provided by Prince of Whales and what sets this company apart from other similar businesses. Prince of Whales operates out of Vancouver's Coal Harbour as well as Victoria's Inner Harbour, and they partner with CVS, Helijet, Harbour Air, Kenmore Air and Butchart Gardens to provide a well rounded customer experience. They are not just a whale watching tour company! Our second presentation was by Victoria HarbourCats representatives Ashley Camponi, Fan Engagement Coordinator and Stewart Scholz, the Media Relations and Content Coordinator. Victorians and visitors to Victoria can expect a great baseball experience when they take in games by the HarbourCats. Good food with lots of variety and a changing menu, lots of fun activities for kids, and a high quality product on the field all promise an entertaining outing at a reasonable price. The HarbourCat management has researched what their fans want and have taken great strides to make it happen. Expect a really good time at the old ball game. Many thanks to Jennifer for hosting the meeting and to her staff for working so hard to make it an enjoyable evening. For more pictures go to the VGSN Facebook page.