September 30, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Victoria, Art Galleries & Artists
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When I prepare myself well for a trip, I appreciate the journey more. Practicing a few words in another language helps me communicate. Understanding the geographical formation and history of a particular region helps me appreciate viewpoints.
I started my preparation for a visit to Emily Carr House
over a year ago, knowing, like Emily, I could only appreciate the fullness of the trip if I developed a deeper connection to the subject. Emily Carr, a famous Canadian painter and author, was born in Victoria, lived in Vancouver and traveled throughout the BC coast up to Alaska.
Yesterday, when I finally stood in her garden, I was shrouded in the layers I accumulated from hodge-podging together pieces and experiences that touched Emily’s life in one form or another. Here is what I did over the last year to prepare for a trip to Emily’s garden.
1. First, I read The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland. In my opinion this book presents a good visual of British Columbia life at the time, and set a vivid, colourful stage of Emily’s puzzled and courageous life between 1871 and 1942.
2. Next, I read Klee Wyck, by Emily Carr. This is her own account of her travels as she ventured along the coast to paint. Klee Wyck is the aboriginal name given to Emily by the First Nations People in Ucluelet
; it means "laughing one."
3. I have spent many hours wandering through the Museum of Anthropology
in Vancouver. I love seeing first hand the totem poles and artefacts of the myriad of First Nation groups throughout BC. I tell everyone to go there. Often.
4. Emily C
September 26, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Vancouver, Sightseeing Tours
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One of my favourite things to do downtown Vancouver
is walk in a big square. Four unique streets all join together, and in an hour or two you can capture the essence of them all and get in touch with the diversity of the city. Robson to Denman to Davie to Granville to Robson.
Yesterday I started on Robson Street
, the see and be seen street. The spend all your money before you go home street. The high end, high style street that surprisingly offers much to be bought at discount prices. I made it to the other end with only a few bumps and a new bohemian bracelet, despite all the shoe stores with half price signs summoning me in.
Denman Street is laid back with funky shops, restaurants and cafes, which all lead to English Bay beach. I stopped at Bud’s for some greasy fish and chips and a brew before heading down to the waterfront, where a fire dancer just finished her show. Pretty much every night of the week you can catch some type of street entertainer, from violin quartets and comedians to African drummers and sketch artists. I threw a Toonie ($2 coin) into her donation hat and kept walking.
Davie is the gay-friendly street and is dappled in rainbows. I sat down at one of the hot pink bus stops for a rest and watched everyone walk by. And I mean everyone. An obviously well off couple in their convertible Acura. Two young, Japanese women holding hands with a picnic basket and a sleepy boy. A transvestite, I think, all dressed up. An elderly man with a fedora and walking cane.
Granville is a street in transition. I used to come down here to catch a flick, hunt through vintage clothing stores and dance at the Commodore Ballroom. Now I come down for 99 cent pizza, a drink after work with friends and to dance at the Commodore Ballroom. The street is considered the club and bar zone for Vancouver. As it was a bit
September 21, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Campbell River, Wildlife Tours
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Today is the official last day of summer. Sigh. But, it has been a busy, and as usual, adventurous few months and I wanted to share with you my top destination of the summer.
I had never even heard of Mitlenatch Island
until the day before I left to visit it. I was told by a local boater that it was like the Galapagos of the North. I’m not sure why but pictures of penguins and sea turtles came into mind – two things you don’t find in waters 30 minutes off the coast of Campbell River
Mitlenatch means ‘calm water all around’ in the Coast Salish language. But the island was anything but calm. The noise from the birdlife was like a chaotic musical symphony. Gulls squawked, cormorants cawed and there were hee-ha and whee sounds coming up from guillemots, oystercatchers, auklets and other species of birds too numerous to count. We did count seven bald eagles including 3 hatchlings. It was early summer and the tiny island was filled with newly born baby birds.
As we toured to the other side of the rock the relentless roar and barking of the migrating sea lions joined in the chorus. I had never seen this many large lions on such a small space before. Needless to say they were all jockeying for position, with many getting pushed back into the crashing waves.
Once on shore (just a little beyond the basking seals) we climbed over sun-bleached driftwood and were met with the park keepers. BC Parks has a program where volunteers can stay on the island for a week in exchange for maintaining trails and ensuring visitors don’t encroach on protected areas.
The island is very small but we were able to climb up to the peak to peer down to study the roosting birds from behind a lean-to. Then we meandered through a meadow filled with vibrant wildflowers with intriguing names like seablush, chocolate lilies, death camas, gum
September 20, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Victoria, Sightseeing Tours
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Last week I had to make a quick trip to Victoria
. Of course, like all good West Coasters, I chose float plane as my mode of travel and eagerly booked my flight with Harbour Air Seaplanes
When the flight was ready for loading I was front of line and as luck (and a little maneuvering) would have it, the pilot asked if I wanted to sit in the co-pilot seat. Not too many people know this, but the co-pilots seat is often available on these flights. After always being the brides-maid and not the bride, so to speak, I finally figured it out - all you have to do is be the first in line or just ask.
Perhaps the best part of the trip is wearing the “official” headset and listening to all the flight chatter. My pilot was extremely amicable, complete with an Aussie accent, and I received a personal tour of the sites below. As we whisked our way over Pender Island, Mayne and Saltspring I watched ferries dock and sailboats find their moorage. From 3,000 feet up he pointed out the winery on Saturna Island and I picked out my waterfront dream home. We saw tankers, cruise ships, tugboats and the Coast Guard. On previous trips I spotted submarines and historic tall ships. I am still waiting to see a pod of whales.
Although I haven’t experienced it, Harbour Air offers the $149 Mail Run Tour, a 75 minute ride with the locals on their regular flights from Vancouver harbour to the remote villages of the Gulf Islands. That sounds pretty cool too.
September 19, 2005 | Tips from Us >
New Denver, Festivals & Events
Those words are proudly displayed on my souvenir t-shirt. The event, which has become so popular, they've moved it from the village of Hills to the larger community of New Denver, was definitely a highlight on my recent five day road trip in the West Kootenays
. Venders from all over BC were there selling a wide variety of home-grown organic garlic. Prices averaged $6 to $9 a pound. If you've never had organic garlic before, I can tell you it's well worth it. A single clove has the same potency as four or five cloves of non-organic grocery store garlic... and the flavour and aroma is incomparable. I ended up with four pounds of garlic, a jar of organic garlic powder and, of course, the official t-shirt. The Garlic Festival was more than just garlic. There was musical entertainment, arts and crafts for sale, and plenty of food venders selling everything from garlic-buttered popcorn to borscht and organic buffalo chilli.
September 19, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Duncan, Historic & Heritage Sites
One of the best things about this vacation is getting to do some things I’d never normally do in Victoria as a local. Taking some pretty spectacular things for granted is something we’re guilty of here I’m afraid. A perfect example is taking (or not taking) a ride on VIA’s E&N Dayliner
, our version of a train. This isn’t one of those long trains with the little red caboose on the end. It is a dayliner which contains the engine, passenger seats and caboose all in one neat little car. It is kind of cool because the train can really pick up speed relatively quickly since it hasn’t got all that extra baggage hanging on.
It was a bit of a circus getting 9 of us down to the train station and on board by the 8:15am departure but we managed.Lesson #4:
book this trip well in advance. This is a small train with only two cars running on a usual day in the summer. When we called two days in advance, they were sold out because one of the cars had been taken off the route for maintenance. Wait listing a group of 9 people is not the easiest thing to do. Save yourself the headache and book in advance…there is no penalty for canceling or no-showing. Attention all seniors. VIA
has a promotion that enables an adult to ride free when accompanying a senior citizen. Great deal. Did I mention we invited my mother to come along?
Now I’m not an experienced train traveler, having been on only a few trips in my entire life but there is something both thrilling and relaxing about chug-chugging along, doing nothing but checking out the sights. This route took us out of downtown Victoria, along the western communities of the Greater Victoria area, through Goldstream Provincial Park
and then began the climb up and over Malahat Mountain. Some of the scenery near the summit overlookin
September 19, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Sechelt, Cruises & Boat Tours
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Sunday morning in Sechelt
and I dragged the kids to Secret Cove, which I believe is one of the best kept secrets in British Columbia. For only $25 an hour, we rented a motor boat and explored the area by water. Bob from Buccaneer Marina marked on the map all the hot spots. We motored around Thormandy Island and searched for lingcod in the northern shallow bays. On the south side of the island we watched harbour seals sunbathe on their bellies and roll down into the waves. Zooming across the channel we then coasted in and around Halfmoon Bay (a great place to go kayaking) and into Smugglers Cove Provincial Park, which used to be a traditional First Nations fishing site and then a hiding place for rum runners. The pinnacle of the day was landing on Thormandy Island for a picnic lunch. Thormandy beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in BC and is boat access only. The long, white sand beach set against an evergreen forest. There is even a small provincial campground if you want to spend a few nights. The place is full of boaters, bathers and sandcastle makers during the summer, but this weekend we were the only ones around. Our three hour trip cost a total of $75.
September 19, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Sechelt, Outdoor Activity Tours
Saturday - Local Hangouts in Sechelt
It’s the middle of September and I have finally managed to make my summer pilgrimage to Sechelt
. Usually I come up to here at least 4 times between June and September, but this summer I was so busy on other adventures (Tofino, Campbell River, etc) that I pretty much missed the high time. This meant that I needed to fit in all my favourite local activities into one late summer weekend. Kind of like Christmas really, just a few short weeks to cram in all those traditions, but I only had two days.
Saturday morning was spent at the beach in Davis Bay overturning barnacle encrusted beach rocks and watching the kayakers paddle by. Did I mention I came up with three energetic kids? Beachcombing took a while and I was happy when we all agreed that green and black spotted crabs do exist and that they should remain hidden under the seaweed with their family. I was happy to move onto bigger and better things, namely "Troll Forest".
I had never heard of Troll Forest until my parents moved a 5 minute walk away. It starts from a non-descript pathway in Brookman Park and heads up Chapman Creek. In fact, you would have no idea you were even in Troll Forest until you got to the Troll House a few metres into the path. The House is an old tree stump with a dilapidated shingle roof. Continue walking up the path and see if you can spot the 14 hidden Trolls. A local carved these mischievous faces into tall cedars, fallen firs and spruce stumps. Some are easy to spot, some more difficult. I like to think of it as the I Spy of the natural world.
Onto Roberts Creek where I absolutely have to indulge in fries with miso gravy at the Gumboot Café. Roberts Creek is my favourite community on the Sunshine Coast, mostly because I feel as though I am on one of the Gulf Islands, complete with a vibrant art scene and a laid back ambiance. Kayaks, essential oils, pottery and Indones
September 14, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Victoria - Shopping
I believe part of being a good and gracious host is knowing your limitations, identifying your strengths and weaknesses. That is why I have deputized my wife as the leader of today’s events: planning, organizing and managing a shopping day in Victoria with five kids in tow. To me it is mind boggling to find stores that will not only be of interest to youth but will also fit within their budget. Since our marriage vows included words about partnership and supporting one another throughout life’s trials and tribulations, I agreed to at least be the driver and refrain from complaining throughout the day.
My wife was in her element to say the least: I’m not sure who was looking forward to this day of the vacation more; her or Kelsey, the 12 year old going on 16.
First stop: Mayfair Shopping Centre
where the end-of-season sales were in full swing. I think she said everything was at least 50% off but then my wife was less than coherent when she called on the cell phone from one end of the mall, gasping for air as she had Kelsey in the change room with a pile of clothes that surely would take a half day to try on.
Okay, so Walter, the 6 year old and I are well matched when it comes to patience – an hour or so of this cosmopolitan stuff and we were ready to go. It didn’t take much convincing to recruit 13 year old Devin and the suave 16 year old Kirk onto our team (I kind of fibbed and told him more girls hung out at the other mall).
Soon we were off to Tillicum Centre, which, as far as shopping centres go, is as good as it gets. Why? While the girls worked toward their Ph.D in consumer spending, we headed off to the SilverCity movie theatre adjacent to the shopping centre. Ah, we found our happy place! It is like a video arcade, a fast-food haven and movie hall all in one. I was a kid again.
As I watched my wife and Kelsey struggle across the parking lot, arms stretched from holding
September 14, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Qualicum Beach, Shopping
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If you're in the Qualicum Beach
area on Vancouver Island
, stop in to Smithford's Island Time Gallery in Qualicum Village. Their motto says it all ... "If you don't need it, we've got it." Smithford's uses their space to great effect, displaying unique and charming artwork by local and BC artists inside the store as well as in front, back and side garden areas. On display are fantastic folk art sculptures for the house and yard, beautiful hand-made furniture, jewellery, clothing, bath products, you name it. Smithford's merchandise isn't cheap, but products aren't outrageously priced considering their quality and unique nature. Allow yourself an hour or so to browse as there's lots to see, and you're guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face!