VICTORIA:    A FOODIE'S PARADISE


Victoria has the highest number of restaurants per capita in all of Canada, and the second highest number in North America, Victorians know how to eat, and they know how to eat well. So if you're a food lover, you've come to the right place. This itinerary is jam-packed with exotic flavours, tasty treats, and culinary delights to impress even the most seasoned foodie.

Breakfast: 

Of all the meals offered in Victoria, breakfast is definitely the most popular. For the local residents, breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day.

For a classic breakfast try Shine Cafe, a local favourite. 1320 Blanshard St. Another local favourite is the Blue Fox, 919 Fort Street, be prepared to get there early and wait for your breakfast – on weekends, this place can have lineups out the door and down the road, the food is well worth the wait.

For the vegetarian try Rebar Modern Food, an eclectic vegetarian restaurant in Bastion Square, Lady Marmalade at 608 Johnson St, enjoy the wild decor. And, if big portions are your thing, give Ruby a try, 642 Johnson Street, waffles, chicken and waffles, and bennies, enjoy the sounds of their classic vinyl collection.

Insider's Tip: For a late-night breakfast, check out West Coast Waffles at 1235 Broad Street. They're open until 2:30 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, so you can get your waffle fix on, even in the wee hours.


Brews

For many food and drink lovers in Victoria, there's no better way to pass an afternoon than by sampling some of the city's fine local beer selections. Victoria is home to some great microbreweries, many of which offer tastings and tours of their facilities.

For a tasting tour, head to Phillips Beer, at 2010 Government Street to sample their extensive collection of brews that continues to grow every season. They offer tours on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4pm for $5.60 per person. Just down the road from Phillips, at 2330 Government Street is Vancouver Island Brewery, the first microbrewery to hit the island. Tours can be reserved and they occur every Friday and Saturday at 3PM for $10 per person.

Dinner: Pub Fare to Rival the British

Victoria is well-known for its British charm, and fortunately for food lovers, this charm carries over into the restaurant scene. For an authentically “Victorian” meal, be sure to sample some of the city's top-notch British-style pub fare.

Old Vic Fish and Chips, at 1316 Broad Street, is the oldest fish and chips joint in the city. Since being taken over by a new Welsh owner they have added more authentically British menu items like their giant Yorkshire pudding filed with a roast beef, and have earned rave reviews throughout the local blogosphere. For English classics like shepherd's pie and steak, and Guinness stew, visit Penny Farthing Neighbourhood Pub in Oak Bay at 2228 Oak Bay Avenue.

Recognized as the best Irish pub in North American, you'll want to visit Irish Times Pub, 1200 Government Street, outdoor patio, and live music seven nights a week.  Representing Victoria's rich Scottish heritage is the Bard and Banker Public House, 1022 Government Street, serving the fine whiskies.

Victoria Food Tours:
             
             A Taste of Victoria
             Off the Eaten Track
             West Coast Brewery Tours


                                                                             “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” 
                                                                                                          Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
            
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What is a Carillon? you may ask!  Where can I see one?  Where am I able to hear one?


   A Carillon is defined as such:

“…a musical instrument that is typically housed in the bell tower of a church or municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to produce a melody, or sounded together to play a chord.”


At the corner of Government and Belleville, outside of the Royal BC Museum, and across the street from Victoria's Legislative building, rising 90 feet into the air, stands The Carillon.  The Carillon was a gift from Holland, acknowledging Canada's Centennial in 1967, and given in recognition of those Canadian soldiers who fought and died liberating Holland during the Second World War. 
 
The 62 bells, can be heard every hour throughout the downtown.  If you're visiting us over the Christmas holidays be sure to visit the Carillon in early December, when the bells chime out favourite Christmas tunes.

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                                                                                      FOREST BATHING
                                                                                                   OR
                                                                             SHINRIN-YOKU FOREST THERAPY
                                                                        

Developed in Japan as preventative medicine Forest Bathing simply means "taking in the forest."
Have we peaked your curiosity?  Read on for some great hiking or walking adventures in Victoria's beautiful forests.

Witty's Lagoon

This seashore park contains a diverse landscape with woodlands, freshwater creek, salt marsh, sandy seashore and rocky headlands providing habitat for an equal diversity of plants and animals. Forest trails, sandy beach, nature centre and rich bird life make this an ideal destination for the whole family.

Features
Nature centre
Large salt marsh, excellent for bird watching at any time of year, and sand dune ecosystem
More than five kilometres of trails through woodland, past lagoon and marsh
Sandy beach overlooking rocky headlands and offshore islets
Sitting Lady Falls
Trail Rating: Moderate 
Size: 58.21 hectares
Location: Metchosin Road in Metchosin
Established: 1966
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Things to Do

Start at the Nature Centre

CRD Regional Parks staff and volunteer naturalists can answer your questions and point you in the right direction on the trails. Pick up a brochure, and check out the interpretive displays on the lagoon's natural and cultural history. The nature centre is located near the main parking lot. For directions, see "How to Get There" below.

Nature Centre Hours
12pm – 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays.

Sitting Lady Falls
Enter through a dark woodland of immense Douglas-fir. Bigleaf maple is common here, too. The trail slopes downhill alongside Bilston Creek. The creek tumbles toward a waterfall, then spills over volcanic rock – a trickle in summer, and a thunderous cascade in winter. A wooden viewing platform offers a place to rest and take photos.

Lagoon

The narrow trail, which is uneven in places and muddy after a rainfall, leads to the lagoon, where fresh water meets salt water. The calm, nutrient-rich waters are warm and shallow, valuable as nurseries for animals that tolerate both salt and fresh water, and feed on the microscopic life flourishing here.

Salt marsh

Further on the dirt footpath, which is uneven in places and muddy after a rainfall, lies the salt marsh, a tidal zone bordering the lagoon. Many of the plants found in the salt marsh are critical for the wintering waterfowl that feed in this area.

Birdwatching

Witty's Lagoon is a birder's paradise-over 160 species have been documented in the park. Listen for the rattle call of the belted kingfisher, and the songs of orange-crowned warblers and dark-eyed juncos. Bring your binoculars, but remember to respect the habitat and birds that use it.

Beach

From the main park entrance, a 1.2 km moderate forest trail leads to an expansive beach, one of the few sandy beaches with great tides on southern Vancouver Island. The trail to the beach is uneven and narrow in places and muddy after a rainfall. Formed from the nearby eroding bluffs, the beach is also habitat to many sensitive sand-dwelling plants and animals, adapted to the unstable environment of shifting sands and changing tides.

Tower Point

The rocky shore at Tower Point can be accessed from the beach at low tide or from the Tower Point entrance. In this intertidal zone, a wide range of fascinating plants and animals are well adapted to the harsh environment of changing tides. Harbour seals play in kelp beds and sea lions pass by on their migration route each spring.

Tower Point user-friendly trail
Follow the 500m (one way) flat footpath with mixed gravel and dirt surfaces for ocean and mountain views. The trail to Tower Point can be muddy and slippery in the rainy season. You can also take the side trails to the picnic areas in the field.


Mount Douglas Park 

With year-round activities and experiences, Mount Douglas Park contains the largest urban forest on the Saanich Peninsula, with more than 21 kms
of trails

At 1.88km2 (188 hectares), the park contains the largest urban forest on the Saanich Peninsula. You can explore this forest on more than 21 kms of trails. 

Take an easy stroll or make it a strenuous climb-there is much to see along the way. Look for:

Marine life on the beach
Wildflowers
Birds and animals in the forest
Fish in the creek
Lizards and lichens among the rocks

At the Summit enjoy the spectacular view of the ocean and Mount Baker

Watch for:
Seals
Orcas
Waterfowl


Forest bathing is a gentle, meditative practice of connecting with nature. Simply being present, with all of our senses, in a forest, can produce mental, emotional, and physical health benefits. 

Interested:  Follow the link to find more:    https://www.victoriatrails.com

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OUR VICTORIA
 
Set against the back drop of our lively Inner Harbour, with the seaplanes splashing down, and taking off, and the behemoth cruise ships increasing our summer population exponentially, Victoria is still a picture postcard.  

Despite our rapid growth, with our beautiful gardens, grand flowering hanging baskets that line the streets, our heritage buildings, and our many parks to meander through, Victoria still retains it’s charm.  Listen to the sound of the horse and carriages making their way past the iconic Empress Hotel and the entertainment that plays out every evening on our downtown streets. 

Downtown Victoria is also a place where we live and work.  It’s a thriving, busy, exciting community and has, as you would expect, all the sounds that urban city living offers. 

My husband and I grew up in Vancouver.  We raised our family there, worked there, and had a great community of friends. We both have travelled extensively, exploring options to make a change, but always with an eye on "landing" in Victoria.

We are city dwellers, me in particular.  I like the hustle and bustle, the short walks to theatres, shopping and all the things I need and crave.

When the time came to sell our company, downsize our North Vancouver home, and make the move, we were giddy with excitement and anticipation of a new lifestyle.  We've lived in downtown Victoria for 6 years and it was the best decision we could have made.  Except for work, we rarely use our car.  We shop locally, (2 blocks away, and they deliver).  Restaurants that offer menus from around the world are within walking distance, and visually I don't think there is a more beautiful place. 

Come Visit Us, you won't want to leave!

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"It represented relaxation and quiet and because it was
 blue, it just jumped out against the background of the
 water and Olympic mountains"
 

These are the thoughts of Chris Hamilton on his iconic chairs on McMicking Point at McNeill Bay, along Beach Drive.

Chris built the blue chair for a former girlfriend and at the request of his now wife he was asked to get rid of it.  Hamilton drove the chair around in his truck for weeks until he happened upon a great resting place for the chair, and a great idea.  For fear of rejection from the homeowners in the area, Chris waited until dark one night, then carried the chair on his back down the path and across to the rocky point.  And there the blue chair remained until high winds destroyed it one stormy night.  

Hamilton didn't realize the importance of the blue chair had on it's visitors until a frequent user Belinda Thomas, wrote a letter to the Oak Bay News, lamenting its disappearance, Thomas wrote  "The chair has had such an impact on me... over the past year I have gone to the blue chair to have a mind chat about what was going on in my life". 

Reading Thomas's published letter, and realizing the importance of the chair for those who retreated there for solitude and contemplation it was now Chris Hamilton's wife who urged him to build another chair.  Chris did build another chair, this time painted red.

This is a great story, but what makes it even better is that when Chris took the new red chair down to its spot at McMicking Point, someone, and no 
one has ever found out who, had replaced the original blue chair destroyed in the storm with another blue Adirondack chair.  

These are the kind of stories that contribute to my love affair with living in Victoria.
 

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ABKHAZI GARDENS      

THE GARDEN THAT LOVE BUILT    

 Prince and Princess Abkhazi
 
Their story begins in the 1920’s in Paris when Marjorie (Peggy) met the exiled Georgian Prince Nicholas Abkhazi.  Prince Abkhazi, who was born to the Georgian monarchy in 1899, was exiled to France in the early 1920s after Russia's invasion and the Bolshevik Revolution.  Peggy whose parents had died was travelling the world with her adoptive parents and while in Paris met the Prince.  It was in Paris that the strong bond between Peggy and the Prince was forged.  After the deaths of her adoptive parents Peggy returned to Shanghai and it would be years before Peggy and the Prince would meet again.  

During the Second World War Prince Abkhazi was a prisoner of war in Hanover, Germany, Peggy was sent to an internment camp in Shanghai where she kept a secret diary of her experience which was later published under the title: “A Curious Cage."   
When the war was over the Prince and Peggy started corresponding.   Peggy made the decision to move to Victoria to join friends, the Prince followed and in 1946 the two were married.

The Prince and now, his Princess bought a bare, rocky lot in Fairfield.  With hard work and a labour of love they transformed it into their own oasis.

Often referring to the garden, “as their child”, and the “garden that love built", Abkhazi Gardens gained much notoriety, and was featured in Freeman Patterson’s 1989 book, “In A Canadian Garden.”

Prince Abkhazi died in 1988, and the princess kept his ashes in a red urn. It was Princess Abkhazi's dying wish (she died in 1994) to have her ashes scattered in the garden along with the ashes of her late husband.

Today, you can visit the garden, set on 1.4 acres overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic Mountains.  Take a stroll and enjoy the stunning internationally renowned collection of rhododendrons. 

Tranquil and intimate is how The Teahouse at Abkhazi Gardens has been described.
You will enjoy four star service and exceptional food in an incredible setting.


https://www.tourismvictoria.com/see-do/activities-attractions/garden-parks/abkhazi-garden





IT’S MARCH, WHERE WOULD YOU RATHER BE?
In Victoria, of course!
Victoria, B.C. has Flower Power

 38th Annual Victoria Flower Count
March 3rd to March 9th, 2016
 
 This March, while the rest of Canada digs out from under the snow and contends with ice storms and frigid temperatures, we in Victoria will be spending our time quite differently. Under vivid blue skies in the warm sun, we will be found out in the gardens and parks counting our beautiful flowers and blossoms. 
 
So why would we want to spend our time counting the flowers you might ask? It's quite simple really, because we can, and we've been doing it for decades. 
 
This year, from March 3rd to March 9th we celebrate "The 38th Annual Victoria Flower Count", a very big deal in this neck of the woods. Last year we counted an astounding 1,392,393,203 blooms, beating the previous year’s record flower count of three quarters of a billion flowers.
 
This would immediately make one think, “Come on, how is it humanly possible for the good people of Victoria to count a gazillion flowers?”
 
One might imagine hundreds of gardeners out there, with pencil and paper in hand, counting every flower one by one, "Oh look Martha, there's a flower here, 80 blossoms over there on that tree, 26 beautiful blooms on this bush, so let's see, so far I have a total of 107, no wait wasn't it 105, oh dear me I have lost track, Martha my dear we have to start over, AGAIN, OK here we go, that's one flower..." 
 
The process I was picturing seemed more like an exercise in frustration and futility than fun. The “aha” moment arrived when I found a guide for the counters that helped me understand the process. So it isn’t really the presumed painstaking process of counting each and every flower one by one, as this is just for fun after all, but as in any sport, there are official flower counting rules, regulations and guidelines to help estimate the number of flowers, blossoms and blooms.  
The rules follow these guidelines:
Trees full of blossoms, for example get a count of 250,000 to 750,000 depending on the size of the trees. The same goes for bushes. 
 
How to count:
         •       Small tree full of blossoms = 250,000 blossoms
         •       Medium tree full of blossoms = 500,000 blossoms
         •       Large tree full of blossoms = 750,000 blossoms
         •       Small Heather bush = 500 blossoms
         •       Medium Heather bush = 1,000 blossoms
         •       Large Heather bush = 2,000 blossoms
 
Participants tally and submit their numbers to the media who provide a daily update throughout week, until every last flower has been counted and a grand total for the year is tabulated.
 
Victoria's Annual Flower Count draws thousands of visitors to their web site from every Province across Canada, 27 US states, and over 20 countries around the world. 
 
Counting flowers is just one of the ways we highlight and brag that Victoria is Canada’s tropics in the winter, the Florida of Canada, so to speak.  We can also kayak, cycle, fish, scuba dive, sail, windsurf, golf and hike all winter. While this is all fact, it is also shameless self promotion, because we want you to visit Victoria and stay in one of our beautiful vacation rentals. So if you would like to take a break from the ice and snow why not come to Victoria and you too can spend a leisurely sunny afternoon with us counting the flowers and more.
 
2016 looks to be the earliest year (in the 9 that I have lived here) for the cherry blossoms to appear.  On February 3rd, I saw a post on Facebook that was a picture of View Street between Douglas and Blanshard that was absolutely pink; it showed both sides of the street lined with bright pink blooms.  I thought it had to be a picture from last year that someone posted this year to be cheeky.  I was wrong.  I drove down Douglas St. (which had nothing to brag about in the flower department) and then I looked right up View Street, and sure enough, there was the exact scene in the photo that was very honestly posted.
 
 
"The Victoria Flower Count"  www.flowercount.ca  can be found on Face Book, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and can of course be found on YouTube.   
 
The flower count is organized by regional chambers of commerce, the Butchart Gardens and Tourism Victoria.
Everybody can participate. Submit counts to 250-360-BUDS or online at Victoria Flower Count.