Pre-Spring Visit to Victoria

Already the middle of March, but due to our dreadfully cold winter and frequent snow storms, the tulips, daffodils and other bulbs have not even started to poke through the ground. A most depressing situation, especially since we were cutting the lawn in February last year. What better time to spend a few days in Victoria, BC’s coastal sunshine capital. This year, our plans were to visit the Parliament Buildings, Provincial Museum, craft breweries and partake in Afternoon Tea.

We booked 4 nights in one of the penthouses at our timeshare – Worldmark Victoria, which is an exceptional condo, right on the shores of Victoria harbour.

View from our balcony

On arrival, we had a reasonable day (no rain), so I sat on the balcony watching the Port Angeles ferry arrive and depart, a number of seaplanes landing/taking off and a multitude of other small boats plying their trade, up and down the harbour.

Each penthouse has a private hot tub on the balcony

Monday was our first full day and it wasn’t the best weather, to be honest, it poured all day. We decided in indoor and driving day was in order, so elected on some shopping for Judi, followed by a craft brewery tour for Andy.

Our first stop was the corner of Bridge Street and Hillside Ave, which just happens to be one of my favourite areas of Victoria. The photo may provide some hints, but you probably guessed why!! – 2 of my favourite breweries reside on this corner – Hoyne and Driftwood. We found parking in front of Hoyne, so they were the first stop.

None of the craft breweries in Victoria are licenced to sell beer by the glass, so you are unable to sit and enjoy some liquid refreshments. At Hoyne, they happily provide small complimentary samples, or a taster flight of 4 beers. They request a $5 cash donation for the flight. No new beers were available on tap, but they did have a limited release Dry Rain Double IPA in bottles, so I departed with one of them and a Dark Matter (stout).

Next on the agenda was Driftwood. This is a very small, but well decorated tasting room, where we chatted with another couple and the chap behind the bar. After my usual taste of Black Stone Porter & Fat Tug IPA, the chap asked if I had tried their new English Special Bitter, or more precisely their take on an ESB. Wow, spectacular beer and nothing like I expected, it was actually fairly hoppy, with more than a little hint of citrus. Couldn’t leave without some Fat Tug, so filled a growler and also picked up a bottle of the ESB.

Next on the brewery tour agenda was Phillips, where I picked up a growler of Longboat Porter and Judi got some Ginger Ale. That concluded our tour for this visit, but Lighthouse, 4 Mile and Spinnakers are on the agenda for the next visit to Victoria.

On the Tuesday, we considered visiting the Parliament Building, but when I called on Monday they advised that due to school groups, the guided tours were only available at 09:00 & 16:00, but Wednesday had tours at 09:00, 10:00 & 16:00. Judi doesn’t do 09:00 very well, so we opted for Wednesday at 10:00. The weather was raining off and on, so I decided to brave the elements and planned to walk around the harbour, and check out the Johnson Street bridge replacement, a poorly implemented project that has been featured in the local news. Didn’t take a camera with me due to potential rain, so no harbour photos this year. However, the rain abated and I continued walking, eventually reaching the Westbay Marina, probably about 4 + miles from the condo. Unfortunately, the rain started shortly after I started retracing my steps, needless to say I was soaked upon returning to the condo. Thank goodness for the hot tub!

Wednesday, we departed the condo about 09:30 on yet another dull, grey and overcast day, but at least it wasn’t raining for the short walk to the Parliament Buildings.

BC Legislature

BC Parliament Buildings

I will complete a separate post on the Parliament Buildings. On departing the Parliament Buildings, we had planned to visit the Provincial Museum, but none of the special exhibits were of interest. We really wanted to see the Terry Fox exhibit, but it doesn’t open until April.

The Iconic Empress Hotel

Above is the newly renovated Empress Hotel. Note the hotel is now completely cleaned of the ivy, which prior to the renovations had almost completely covered the front.

Gorge Cruise

We wandered down to the marina to check out Victoria Harbour Ferries, noting they had a 1 hour cruise through the inner harbour, up to the Gorge. The cruise departed in about 45 mins, so we headed up to Government Street for a quick cup of tea. The cruise is a little on the pricey side at $30 each, but it was most enjoyable, with only 1 other passenger.

It starts at the marina directly in front of the Empress Hotel. Departing the marina, it heads along the waterfront towards the Johnston Street Bridge, with the Captain providing an excellent commentary on the trials and delays in building the new bridge.

Our small harbour ferry

Passing under the Johnston Street Bridge you enter the upper harbour, which is predominantly industrial lands, with 1 functioning shipyard still in existence. A number of the older BC Ferries, I worked aboard, were built at Victoria Machine Depot, which was located in this area.

Point Hope Shipyard – Fast Ferry for new Vancouver – Victoria service

Once you pass under the Bay Street Bridge you enter an area of old industrial lands that are being converted to commercial/residential.

This used to be a functioning sawmill

We then continued up the channel, which narrows significantly, continuing up to Gorge Park at Tillicum Road Bridge. The Gorge has residences on both sides, with most having private docks.

Cruising up the Gorge

On reaching the Tillicum Bridge, the Captain turned us around and we retraced our route back to the dock.

Afternoon Tea

Another iconic activity in Victoria is partaking in one of the many Afternoon Teas. Most have no doubt heard of Afternoon Tea at the Empress, which is rather pleasant, but we wanted to try one of the others. Of the almost 12 that I found, I short-listed them to Point Ellice House (O’Reilly’s Restaurant) and the White Heather Tea Room. Point Ellice was our first choice, but unfortunately it was closed for the winter. Therefore, we made a reservation at White Heather, which is located in a regular store front on Oak Bay Ave.

On entering the Tea Room, the first thing I noted was the brilliant white and starched tablecloths on each table. We were shown to our table, which was one of the two tables by the window. Our waitress brought over the menus, explaining the options, including the many types of tea. Since we skipped lunch, we opted for the Big Muckle Giant Tea for 2, which is served on the traditional 3-tier stand. The selection of teas is extensive, with about a dozen black teas, a couple of green teas and a number of flavoured tea. We opted for the Queen Mary, which is an English Breakfast.

Proper cups & saucers – Fine English Bone China

The tea was served in a proper Brown Betty Teapot. After the requisite brewing time I poured Judi’s tea – OMG, it was “peely wally” or closely resembling dish water. It was OK for Judi, but I prefer my tea substantially stronger. The waitress was most apologetic and quickly returned with a new pot, with a double serving of tea leaves. After the brewing time, I poured an excellent pot of tea.

3-tier tray for the Big Muckle Afternoon Tea

On reading the menu, I noted many of the items have cheese, which for me is an issue. However, the waitress worked it out, substituting options with no cheese. While the 3-tier tray normally comes with savoury treat on the bottom, scones on the middle and sweet treats on the top, we got a separate tier each, then the sweet treats on top.

Judi’s tray of savoury treats & scones

The savoury treats consisted of a selection of finger sandwiches and pinwheel sandwiches – smoked salmon, ham, egg, cucumber, etc.

Andy’s tier of savoury treats & scone

Unfortunately, most of the scone options were savoury, with cheese, so I was limited to a single scone. The sandwiches were very tasty and ultra fresh, with all baking completed daily on site.  The scone, for me was rather sweet, just not how mother made them. They also did not provide clotted cream, which I consider an Afternoon Tea staple.

Selection of sweet treats

In summary, the service is exceptional and everything is fresh. Unfortunately, the scone was rather disappointing, which for me is one of the highlights at Afternoon Tea. Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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