This summer, rather than gallivanting abroad, I decided to stay domestic. My boyfriend Chris had never been out west, so we were due for a visit. We took an evening flight from Ottawa to Vancouver, then hopped on a ferry to Vancouver Island the next morning.
Leslie picked us up at the Victoria ferry terminal, and the three of us took another ferry to the nearby Salt Spring Island. Our first stop was the Saturday market, where Raffi was selling CDs. As soon as I saw him, my childhood flashed before my eyes. I couldn’t resist purchasing a signed CD for my niece Hannah, then getting a photo. Leslie was cool as a cucumber (she’d met Raffi before), but I was impossibly giddy. Raffi was just as kind and gracious as I’d imagined he would be. “You made us so happy” were the only intelligible words I managed to get out, and he smiled at us. The encounter gave me a perma-grin for the rest of the day, and really for the rest of the trip. In fact, I’m still smiley 😀
Leslie drove us to a cider tasting place, where you can try several different samples of ciders. I don’t drink at all anymore, but Chris thoroughly enjoyed himself. We then made our way over to a nearby goat farm, where they made the most unbelievably delicious cheese. I was in heaven! We were able to sample many of the flavours, like chili and spicy feta. I bought some lemon chèvre, which reminded me of lemon cheesecake.
After we were finished touring, we rode the ferry back to Victoria. Leslie took us to her and her girlfriend Kyla’s apartment in Victoria. I hadn’t seen Kyla since our Mexico adventure in April 2016. As you will see in this blog post and the next, our trip definitely had a “reunion” theme! Leslie and Kyla were eager to introduce us to all the best food spots in Victoria. We started with Red Fish Blue Fish on the waterfront. There’s always a line, and for a good reason! The chowder and fish and chips are absolutely divine.
“Where is one place in Vancouver Island you absolutely cannot miss?” Leslie asked us. “Mystic Beach!” I answered, without skipping a beat. The beach marks the start of the famous Juan de Fuca Trail to Port Renfrew, which Leslie and Kyla had tackled a year earlier. They very kindly drove us down the windy highway to the beach. From the parking lot, we made our way through an ancient forest, until we reached the spectacularly beautiful shore.
There used to be a giant rope swing that swung out over the water, but it was recently removed. To my delight, there were still some mini rope swings, and I couldn’t resist trying them.
The following day, Chris and I took the bus downtown. We wandered around Victoria’s Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America.
We spent the rest of the morning strolling around Beacon Hill Park, behind the Victoria Legislature. Victoria is known as the “Garden City”, because flowers bloom in every nook and cranny. I would say without hesitation that Victoria is the most beautiful city in Canada.
Leslie picked us up at lunch time and we drove to Fisherman’s Wharf. The wharf is such a cool little part of the city. People live year-round on beautifully decorated houseboats. We wandered up and down the wharf, admiring all the cool designs.
Our next stop was Ogden Point, where we ventured out to the tip of the breakwater. Leslie told us that normally we would be able to see the Olympic Mountains in Washington from this point, but all we saw was haze. “We have to trust you that Washington is there,” we joked with her. What we could see, however, was the incredible Unity Wall Mural presenting the artwork of the Coast Salish Nations.
We drove over to Mile 0 (I wonder why it isn’t Kilometre 0?) of the Trans-Canada Highway. Terry Fox was supposed to end his Marathon of Hope at this spot, so there’s a statue dedicated to him.
Leslie took us to the beach near her old apartment, and we spotted an otter! I was so happy. I don’t think that I’d ever seen one before. I loved how it galloped into the water. It was so completely adorable.
For our last night in Victoria, Leslie and Kyla took us to the supremely delicious Tacofino. The restaurant had started out as a food truck in Toffino, and now it has permanent franchises all over BC. I had the fish taco and yam taco, minus the cilantro of course.
To travel back to Vancouver, Chris and I opted for the V 2 V ferry. The regular Vancouver and Victoria ferry terminals are quite far from their respective city centres. As such, a company recently launched a new pedestrian-only ferry that takes people from downtown Victoria to downtown Vancouver. It’s extremely convenient, if you’re willing to pay the extra money and you don’t have a car. Plus, you get things like a luggage room to store your bags or suitcases, power outlets beside each of the (super comfy) seats, and tasty food for a surprisingly reasonable price.
The only thing that could have made the trip nicer was if we had actually had a view. The forest fire season in BC was particularly bad this year. We could hardly even see any of the islands. As we approached Vancouver, the smoky haze got thicker and thicker.
When we arrived in Vancouver, we dropped our bags off at a Bag BnB. The way the system works is that you pay through an app to leave your luggage at a business such as a restaurant or coffee shop. Once you’ve selected the general area where you want to drop your stuff and paid the fee, the app tells you the address of the business. Our BnB turned out to be a pizza joint, and the storage space was the staff toilet! As long as our bags were safe, it was fine by us 🙂
We spent the afternoon walking around Stanley Park, munching on blackberries and admiring the totem poles.
We picked our bags up from the pizza joint toilet, then met up with Rose and her boyfriend Lauren at their apartment. Rose drove us over to North Vancouver, where we were joined by my friend Steve from my 2015 Contiki Costa Rica tour. Together we explored the Lynn Canyon Park, where there were nice hiking trails, sweet suspension bridges and some nifty swimming holes.
Rose and I bravely ventured into the freezing cold water in one of the swimming spots. It wasn’t really the sort of water you could get used to, but it felt wonderfully fresh.
That night, we all had dinner at Raglan’s Bistro a restaurant in North Vancouver based on the surfer town in New Zealand. It was a great way to end our trip to the west coast. The next day, we left Vancouver behind and headed deep into the interior.