Friday, August 23, 2013

Fisherman's Wharf - A Victoria Attraction

Today was my day to explore the ever changing Fisherman’s Wharf.  I got their early in the morning when it was quiet, but it did not stay that way for long.  By noon, it was teaming with tourists and locals in for a bite to eat.  The first business that I visited was Eagle Wing Tours.  They offer a number of specialty tours but I signed up for a 3.5 hour whale watching tour.
While waiting for the tour to depart, I wander around the docks visiting all the businesses, sites and activities.  There was a group being readied for the Pirate Adventure.  Before boarding, passengers are given pirate garb and mustaches are painted on their faces and then they are loaded on the boat.  The crew are all in costume and play their roles magnificently.  Then they are off on what I am told is a wonderful adventure in the Inner Harbour.  Looks like fun.

Fisherman’s Wharf owes its existence to a young lady named Barb, who established Barb’s Fish and Chips, which are now world famous.  Barb started her business in a small shack anchored beside the main ramp to the dock.  She endured many long and wet winters ensuring the vitality of her business.  She long ago retired and sold her business, but not before it became a Victoria must visit location.  Now, they have a sophisticated operation that often puts out as many as 3 or 4 meals a minute during peak times.  So, I had to check it out, as I had not been there for a while.  The quality was there.  The halibut was fresh and ample.  The cold slaw was delicious and the chips crispy as they should be.  Having lunch next to the water on the dock is an unforgettable experience.  Well done, Nath and crew.  It was delicious.  I unfortunately could not eat it all and I just had one piece of fish.  A few of the chips met an untimely death.

If you choose, you can take the water taxis, or the harbour ferries and check out the entire Inner Harbour and Gorge Waterway, or go kayaking and whale watching.  There are a number of choices when it comes to eating: Barb’s, The Fish Store, Grilligan’s BBQ or the Moka Coffee House for a lighter fare.  Then for desert, it is just a few steps to Jackson’s Ice Cream (mmm good).  Just follow the signs and you can buy fresh live crab off one of the fish boats or you can pick up some fresh fish from the Fish Store and entertain the crowds by feeding the four very fat harbour seals that are waiting patiently for the next free no-work lunch!  Then you can walk the dock fingers between the houses and see the houses that live their permanently.
The quality of the experience is reflected in the number of people who visit this great attraction.  Best you give it a try.

Whale Watching with Eagle Wing Tours

Today was my day to explore the ever changing Fisherman’s Wharf.  I got their early in the morning when it was quiet, but it did not stay that way for long.  By noon, it was teaming with tourists and locals in for a bite to eat.  The first business that I visited was Eagle Wing Tours.  They offer a number of specialty tours but I signed up for a 3.5 hour whale watching tour.  Our group loaded onto the “Gold Wing” a 60’ long powerful and highly manoeuvrable boat that can get you to the action quickly.  There were 28 comfortable seats on the open style boat and everyone had a great view of the action.  The boat has a below deck toilet and more than enough safety equipment.  The ride was thrilling at top running speed and our affable and humorous Captain Brett Soberg did a great job of putting us in the action while fallowing all the rules.   Brett’s strategy took to the ecological reserve of race rocks where there was plenty of wild life to see.  We watched Stellar and California sea lions basking in the sun and growling at the nearby boats.  Many very large ones swam near our boat to check us out or give us the evil eye for invading their territory.  There were also a number of harbour seals and all kinds of sea birds everywhere in the reserve.  The views there are incredible, so we were really fortunate to have time to stop there.  We waited there for the whales coming into Juan de Fuca Strait to get to where we were and then we followed them all the way back to Victoria.
The strategy was let them come to us and that is exactly what they did.  We even had a couple of large Orcas swim right under the boat and surface very close to us.  They were very active on the surface.  We observed tail slapping, flipper flapping, spy-hopping (where they come straight up to check us out), lunges, and the spectacular breach (where they jump right out of the water.  The water was flat, the sky was blue, and the whales were active and the passengers ecstatic!  Most of the people on board had never been whale watching, so they likely had no idea how spectacular a day this was.   Our tour was for 3.5 hours and I am sure it was closer to 4.  The only run time was on the way out to Race Rocks (10 nautical miles) and then about 5 minutes from Clover Point to the Inner Harbour.  Most days the whales are much further away.  We were indeed very lucky and we had an excellent team on board showing us around “whale land”.  Derrick Sterling the biologist on board was very knowledgeable and provided lots of very useful information.  When we headed into the dock, we were one of the last boats near the whales.  Job well done guys.  If you looking for a good time whale watching you certainly want to consider these guys.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Flour Trails Event this Weekend Aug 23-25

This weekend (August 23-25) is the 7th Annual North Saanich Flavour Trail. This rural ramble will appeal to visitors to Victoria who would like to experience the more rural aspects of our local culture. This self-directed farm and food adventure offers a diverse choice of 15 venues to choose to visit, including the North Saanich Farm Market (the region’s most idyllic market), the Muse Winery, Roost Farm Centre, “Wine and “Words” at Domaine Rochette, Melinda’s Biscotti Café and Bakery, The Pie Social at Cartef Gardens, Fruit Trees and More (a local citrus grower), and Wild Edge Garden Farm, among other sites and sounds. The weekend kicks off with a toe-tappin’ BBQ on Friday night at Muse Winery, with local band Water in the Crawl Space ($25). Complete details of the weekend and a downloadable version of our brochure are available on our website We would very much appreciate it if you would pass this on to your network. We are also able to supply printed colour versions of our brochure.
Robert (Bob) Thompson, Flavour Trail 2013 Coordinator, T: 250-652-4691 C: 250-812-1312
Website:   Facebook: /FlavourTrails  Twitter: @flavourtrails

Kick Off Event;  Jane and Peter Ellman invite you to the Muse for two events.  The Kick Off Friday evening and Local Artists in the Vineyard on Saturday and Sunday. 
It's going to be a great weekend offering visitors a rural ramble full of local flavour and you are invited to kick off the weekend at the Friday night BBQ and enjoy music by Water in the Crawlspace at Muse Winery.

The North Saanich Flavour Trail begins with an evening celebrating the bounty of the Peninsula, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Enjoy a Muse BBQ alongside the vineyard and celebrate the rural life of Deep Cove with local music. Enjoy our Harvest Spread filled with locally farmed products including Wine Maker’s Ribs, the Bistro Muse Salad, Beef or Chicken burgers with all the fixin’s, Veggie skewers, coleslaw and Berry Crumble – all for only $25 per person.
Non alcoholic refreshments and a cash wine bar also available.

Tickets will be available through Muse Winery – call 250-656-2552 to reserve.

Hope to see you at the Kick Off for all the fun!

We've got more happening the rest of the weekend at Muse- we'll have local artists in the vineyards on Saturday and Sunday.  Artist like the one above (Gord Langston).

For more information and Pictures, please go to our Facebook Page.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Seagrille Restaurant at the Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa

 A couple of days ago we celebrated a special anniversary, so I thought we would try new surroundings for our dinner out.  I chose the Brentwood Resort and Spa, Seagrille Restaurant in Brentwood Bay.  A few days we picnicked on the beach next door and the place looked amazing.  I imagined a dinner on the restaurant deck with the sun setting over Brentwood Bay.  The best laid plans of mice and me!  It clouded over and rained a bit when we arrived, but the Inn is well designed and we were able to sit on the sun deck and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.  The entire building is beautiful and we decorated.  There were plenty of staff and the service was good.  The food services at the Resort consist of the Seagrille restaurant and Sushi Bar.  You can watch the amazing staff prepare the sushi before your eyes.  

 Since sushi was a specialty, we started our meal with drinks and the dynamite roll with tempura prawns, tobiko, tamago and cucumber.  Not only did it look amazing it tasted even better.  For our main course, Linda had the organic free range chicken with asiago, prosciutto, rocket salad and balsamic pan jus.  It was absolutely delicious.  It was like eating chicken for the first time!  Ron chose the 6 oz AAA Alberta Filet Mignon, with warm potato salad, roasted garlic and peppercorn sauce.  The beef was very tender and cooked to perfection.  Ron followed his main with a Sticky Toffee pudding which was the best we have ever had.  Linda finished her meal with an espresso martini, which certainly fit the desert menu.  It was delicious.  
We took a quick tour of the facility which has amazing rooms with spectacular views, a great spa and a lot of services on the water in the bay.  This is such a beautiful resort.  We would highly recommend it for a great dinner.  We have yet to try the pub, but we will be back to do so.

For more pictures, please go to our Facebook Page.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar - A Great Place to Eat

We were told by friend and colleagues with the Victoria Guest Service Network that the relatively new Catalano Restaurant was very good.  So to celebrate a family birthday and get-together, we made a reservation last night. The Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar offers fresh Mediterranean cuisine, primarily from the regions of Spain & Italy. Cicchetti (chi-KET-tee) is Italian for a small bite or small plate of food. Their food is advertised as market driven, with emphasis on locally sourced product, prepared with a Mediterranean spin. The cicchetti bar, taken after the Venetian form of tapas, is an ideal spot for visitors and locals alike to gather for a glass of wine, a well-crafted cocktail and a cicchetti or two.

We were celebrating a birthday and a cousin’s visit.  We started with a bottle of Argento Malbec wine, which was very good.  We tasted several of the appetizers and some of the Cicchetti.  The main courses were absolutely delicious.  The service was very good and the ambiance of the restaurant was very nice.  Everyone in our party was full of compliments after dinner.

For more pictures, please go to our Facebook page.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Beautiful Brentwood Bay

Brentwood Bay Village
A small developing community on the East shore of Saanich Inlet approximately 20 minutes north of Victoria, Brentwood Bay is home to the world-famous Butchart Gardens and the spectacular Butterfly Gardens. Brentwood Village has some excellent accommodation and restaurants.  It has a Marina, the BC Ferry dock to Mill Bay, and is a great place to access some excellent kayaking and scuba diving.
The Brentwood Bay-Mill Bay ferry is a convenient 25-minute route across the Saanich Inlet.  It is used for a short cut route to and from destinations north of Victoria as it bypasses Victoria and the Malahat.

A transformed limestone quarry, now Butchart Gardens is filled with flowers, trees, displays  and theme gardens (such as the Sunken Garden or the charming Rose Garden) spread over a luxurious 20-hectare estate.  It is the number one attraction, attended by over one million visitors a year.

Very close to Butchart Gardens is Victoria Butterfly Gardens where you can stroll amidst hundreds of exotic butterflies flying free in an indoor tropical rainforest. This indoor tropical paradise is full of spectacular flowering plants and foliage, fascinating exotic birds and water features. You will pass right by Butterfly Gardens on your way to Butchart Gardens.  Please save an hour or two to tour Butterfly Gardens, you will not be disappointed.
The Brentwood Bay Lodge and Spa is a great place to stay as it overlooks Saanich Inlet.  It sits next to Verdier Park.  As there was fog at Island View Beach and north to Sidney By the Sea, we chose to move our picnic to Brentwood Bay.  The conditions at Verdier Park were excellent.
Verdier Park is located at the foot of Verdier Avenue, next to the Brentwood/Mill Bay ferry dock. Special features of this park include: a canoe/kayak launch, public washrooms, gently sloping lawn, Douglas fir and arbutus trees, paved pathway, picnic tables and park benches. Short-term parking is available for loading/unloading of your craft.  There was a nice shade tree on the beach and lots of afternoon sun.
Visitors to Verdier Park will appreciate pleasant views of Saanich Inlet and activities typical of a vibrant marine setting. With development of the Brentwood Bay Lodge and marina, a public walkway was constructed from the public boat ramp southward, with stairs leading to the beach. Please note, access to, and along, this beach is dependent on tides.  There is a walking bridge to the Marina where you can rent kayaks or go scuba diving or snorkelling with Rockfish Divers. 
While in Brentwood, you may wish to try some of the excellent restaurants.  The Brentwood Bay Resort has a beautiful water view restaurant, the Seagrille Seafood and Sushi to enjoy or you can go into the pub for a great burger and beer overlooking Saanich Inlet.  Just across the road next to the Ferry Dock is the Sea Horse Café, where you can sit on the deck on the water.  On Verdier Avenue you can try the Orient Café.  Others in the Village are the Zanzibar and Sarpino’s Pizzeria. There are also a number of great vineyards near Brentwood worthy of exploring.  The views from the Devine Vineyard reflect its name.
Many tourists pass right by Brentwood on their way into Victoria.  We suggest you give it a good look.  For more pictures of beautiful Brentwood Bay, please go to our Facebook Page.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Whale Watching with Prince of Whales

Today we had a chance to play tourist in our own town.  At 3:30 this afternoon Linda, our granddaughter Madison and I boarded the Ocean Magic II, one of the many boats operated by long time Victoria Whale Watch operator, The Prince of Whales.  Our guide Claire Butterfield was there to greet us, along with 50+ other folks looking for a good time.  And a good time we had!  We cruised through the Inner and Outer Harbours enjoying the sights, and then captain Jeff kicked Ocean Magic into action.  At 31 knots, we rocketed across the waves toward Race Rocks in Juan de Fuca Strait.  This incredible ecological reserve is Canada’s first protected marine area.  These tiny islands are home to a large number of harbour seals as well as California and Stellar Sea Lions, sea otters and marine birds.  The underwater marine environment is just as colourful as Butchart Gardens.  A collage of a small representation of the underwater life is included in our pictorial.  Sea life is abundant because the rapid currents that pass the islands provide an abundance of food.  Race Rocks Lighthouse is the 2nd oldest one on the West Coast of Canada, built in 1860.  The reserve has video cameras, including one underwater, that you can observe on-line at

We had a great view of the seals and sea lions, and Race Rocks Island with its distinctive black and white striped lighthouse before we pushed on to the whales.  Heading south toward the Olympic Peninsula shore of the USA we shortly discovered two humpback whales.  Humpbacks are generally solitary sea creatures, however we found a pair that seemed to be travelling together.  They put on quite a show as you will see in the pictures.  The whales did not breach (jump out of the water) but they did give us lots of good sightings and spectacular tail views as they dove into the depths in search of food. 
While waiting for them to surface, there is always something to see.  The fantastic scenery provided by the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula and the marine traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca can keep one quite busy.  We were accompanied by several other whale watching boats, some from Victoria, and others we didn't recognize, likely from the USA.
All the while, we were being educated by the friendly guides on board.  Madison and I stayed on the upper deck and were entertained and educated by Claire Butterfield.  Well done Claire!  Linda mostly stayed on the sheltered lower deck (where it was warmer!) with another knowlegible guide, Mika.  A third guide, Casey stood at the back of the boat where there was more seating.
The boat operates a snack bar for people who want drinks or snacks during the trip.  The boat is large and capable of holding about 75 people.  An added bonus is the head (washroom) on board.
Captain Jeff and the Ocean Magic II handled the rough seas well today, and Jeff followed the Vancouver Island shoreline to give us a smooth and scenic ride home.   As always, the landscape looked uniquely different from the water as we tried to pick out landmarks onshore. 
Great job Prince of Whales, we sure felt we were treated royally.  We will certainly recommend you to our friends and guests. For more pictures go to our Facebook page.