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Beautiful Victoria, British Columbia

August 3, 2018

By Kath Dedon

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I know. It’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been kind of hot so most of our dinners have been grilled protein and a salad. Simple! I just haven’t made anything “blog worthy” until just last weekend. That recipe will be posted soon. In the meantime, here’s a recap of our quick trip to Victoria (where it was beautiful – sunny, and 15 degrees cooler than Seattle!)

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Last week we made a very enjoyable quick trip to Victoria, British Columbia, and we stayed at a fantastic new Airbnb that I want to tell you about.

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The view of “The Gorge” from the deck of our cottage – so peaceful!

Peaceful view.jpg

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GMC Projects, Inc. is a family business owned by our friends, the Milne family. One of their latest projects is Portage West which is located right on the Gorge Waterway, known as “The Gorge” in Victoria. The property was an Econo Lodge when GMC bought it. The company has done a magnificent job turning an old motel into beautiful, modern studio and 1-bedroom apartments. One of the buildings is finished and is renting up. The other two will be done soon.

The property also includes 10 cottages that GMC has transformed into beautiful vacation rentals. Each cottage has a living room, dining area, fully equipped kitchen, bedroom (with the most comfortable bed!), bathroom and a private deck with a full view of The Gorge.

We rented one of the cottages, the Nomad, for our two nights in Victoria. It was one of the best places we have ever stayed. The Milnes have thought of every little detail to make the cottages very comfortable. Things like: the bedside table lamps have an electric outlet – perfect for charging a cell phone overnight; there were more than enough hangers in the closet to hang our clothes; I needed a pair of scissors and, sure enough, there were a couple of pairs of scissors in the utensils drawer in the kitchen. Besides the bath towels, there are towels available to take to the beautiful pool.

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The living room in the Nomad cabin

 

The dining area

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The kitchen

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We loved sitting in the comfortable Adirondack chairs on the deck with coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening. It is SO peaceful! There are Canada geese and ducks on the water. We even saw a sea otter sauntering along on the beach on the other side of The Gorge!

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The view from the kitchen

View from the kitchen

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Lots of Canada geese!

Canada geese

 

I highly recommend Portage West if you’re ever looking for a peaceful place to stay in Victoria!

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There are several ways to get to Victoria from Seattle. The fastest, and most fun, way is to fly Kenmore Air from Lake Union to Victoria’s Inner Harbor. Bob and I took Kenmore Air on our last trip to Victoria. The 45-minute flight is absolutely gorgeous; the flight path is over Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Beautiful!

The Victoria Clipper is a high-speed catamaran that takes 2½ hours to go from Seattle’s waterfront to Victoria. Bob took it years ago when he went to Victoria to be a crewmember on a friend’s sailboat in the Swiftsure Race. He said it’s “okay”. It is kind of pricey. I’d like to try it sometime, just for the experience.

If you want to take your car, you’ll have to take a ferry but you still have options.

You can drive across the border at Blaine, WA, to enter Canada. From there, it’s about a 40-minute drive to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. The crossing to the Swartz Bay terminal in Sidney (just north of Victoria) takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes. It’s a beautiful crossing and the BC ferries are MUCH nicer than the Washington State ferries. They feel like little cruise ships. Once in Sidney, it’s about a 30-minute drive to Victoria.

You can also drive 2 hours north to Anacortes, WA, to take a Washington State ferry to Victoria. It’s a beautiful ride that takes a little over two hours cruising between the San Juan Islands. The ferry is comfortable, but not as nice as the BC ferries.

A third ferry you can take is the Black Ball Coho ferry that operates between Port Angeles, WA, and Victoria. Reservations are highly recommended for your car if you’re traveling during the high tourist season in the summer.

Reservations are not required if you walk on. You can pay a daily rate to park your car in one of the parking lots that are near the ferry terminal. That’s exactly what we did last week.

As of this writing (2018), you need cash to pay for parking. The rates that we saw ranged from $10 – $15 dollars a day. The “day” begins and ends at midnight. If you park at noon, that’s the first day. The second day starts at midnight. If you come back on the third day at noon, that’s the third full day. We chose a $12 lot. So our 2 nights away was 3 full days for parking. We owed $36, but we didn’t have the right change so we ended up putting two $20 bills in the envelope to pay.

So how did we get to Port Angeles? We started out on a Washington State ferry.

The Fauntleroy ferry dock to Vashon Island and Southworth is about a mile from our house. We wanted to catch the 8:45 ferry to Southworth to have ample time to get to Port Angeles in time for the 12:45 Coho ferry to Victoria. Sometimes there are long waits for the ferries, so we got to the dock at 8:00 which turned out to be way too early. But you never know.

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On the dock, waiting to drive aboard the ferry

Ready to board the ferry for Southworth.jpg

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The ferry ride to Southworth is about 30 minutes (on the ones that don’t make a stop at Vashon Island). Without any traffic issues, it’s about a 2 hour drive to Port Angeles from Southworth. Traffic was surprisingly heavy but we didn’t encounter any slowdowns so we got to Port Angeles at a little after 11:00. We parked the car and then walked to the ferry terminal to buy our roundtrip tickets.

After getting our tickets we walked to Kokopelli Grill for lunch. Bob had halibut fish and chips and I had fish tacos. The restaurant was nice; our lunches were okay. I would order something different or try a different restaurant next time.

The Coho was quite crowded. We found some seats inside. Bob went exploring and found better seats on the aft deck. It was a great place to sit on a beautiful day. There was a cover for shelter from the sun and a great view.

Arriving in Victoria on the Coho

Arriving in Victoria

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The sailing time to Victoria is 90 minutes so we were at the dock in Victoria at 3:15. Lorne had said he would send one of the GMC employees, Bill, to pick us up. (Thanks, Bill!) So after going through customs we were off to Portage West.

After putting our luggage in the cottage, we headed to the poolside party hosted by GMC. They were celebrating the promotion of one of Lorne and Muggs’ sons, Jordan, to CEO. It was a wonderful party; it was catered with plenty of delicious passed hors oeuvres and there was a delightful Cuban band. It was great to see Lorne, Muggs, most of their grown children (the 4th one, a son, was working on a movie in Vancouver) and their grandchildren.

It was still light after the party. We took a short walk to a nearby Rexall to buy a couple of things. I paid in cash to get $10 Canadian for a bus ride the next day.

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Our plan for the next morning was to catch a city bus across the street and go into the “Inner Harbor” area of Victoria. You can pay the bus driver $5 Canadian to get an all-day bus pass. We thought we’d go to the harbor area, find some breakfast, and then take another bus to Butchart Gardens.

However, before we left, Bob ran into David Milne who offered to give us a ride. (Thank you, David!) We asked him to take us to Blue Fox Café which sounded like a great place for breakfast. Well, apparently it is good and very popular. The line stretched way down the street to get in. Moving on…

David drove us to a nearby place, Jam Café. Its line was just as long as the one at Blue Fox.

I asked David to just drive us to the Inner Harbor and drop us off and we would find a place. While we were stopped at a stop light, Bob spotted Swans Brewery and Pub and asked David about it. David said it’s good; at night it’s a popular place to hear music. It looked like it was open so we thanked David, hopped out and went in.

Swans had just opened for lunch and we were the first customers so we got a great table in their glass-covered sidewalk seating area. The windows were open and it was very pleasant. The menu offers a lot of great-sounding choices. Bob had the “peameal(a type of Canadian bacon) sandwich and I had an especially good burger without the bun.

By the time we were finished with lunch we decided that we didn’t have enough time to do justice to Butchart Gardens. The bus ride was about an hour each way and it would probably be insanely crowded midafternoon on a beautiful summer day. We had dinner plans with Lorne and Muggs, so we couldn’t plan on staying into the evening.

We decided to walk over to the Royal BC Museum. We have been there many times, but they always have different featured exhibits.

Our first stop was at Thunderbird Park, the museum’s collection of totem poles that is just outside the museum. Bob feels that no visit to Victoria is complete without a visit to Thunderbird Park. It is spectacular!

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At the Royal BC Museum

Another totem pole.jpg

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We then went to the current exhibit, Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs. Wow! It is a fascinating exhibit. Some of the artifacts are 4,500 years old! We spent at least 2 hours in it. We really enjoyed it, but when we were done we felt that we were “museumed-out”. We didn’t go to any of the other excellent exhibits. I spent my Canadian $10 on a board book for Laura and Byron’s baby boy, due in November!  

 

We walked down to the dock to see the Duen, a tall ship that’s available for 3-hour cruises in the summer. We enjoyed talking to a young woman who is one of the crew members. She invited us aboard to look around. It would probably be fun to cruise on it sometime.

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In this photo the Duen is at the end of the dock. There are a couple of water taxis (“L’il Toots”) at the dock in the foreground.

Inner harbor of Victoria

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From the Duen we walked over to catch a Victoria Harbor Ferry (We call it “L’il Toot”.) to go across the harbor to the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort. It was easy to get a cab from there to go back to Portage West.

Lorne picked us up and took us to their new home, the penthouse of a beautiful apartment building in Victoria. Their home is spectacular! It has outdoor balconies with seating that goes all around the outside with a view of the Inner Harbor that is way more than 180°. They can watch the ships coming and going and other activity in the harbor, but they are up high enough that it is really quiet.

After visiting on their balcony with glasses of wine, it was time for dinner. We went to one of their favorite restaurants, Glo.

I can see why they like Glo so much. It’s a waterfront restaurant and it has a great menu with a lot of variety. It’s also very popular so it was crowded, but Lorne had made a reservation so we got right in. I really enjoyed the Tan Tan City Salad (“Moroccan inspired salad with blackened sockeye salmon, chopped dates, roasted almonds, avocado, goat cheese, seasonal mixed greens, orange segments + fresh mint in a key lime dressing”!)

Lorne gave us a ride back to Portage West and we enjoyed sitting on the deck before calling it a night.

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Saturday morning we took a cab to Hotel Grand Pacific to have breakfast before catching the Coho ferry across the street. It was lovely sitting outside on a beautiful morning.

Bob enjoyed his eggs benedict!

Bob's eggs benedict at Hotel Grand Pacific

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We were one of the first to board the Coho and were able to get a front row seat inside.

Front row seats on the ferry

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Once we got into the Strait we didn’t have the clear weather we had had on Thursday. It was cool and a bit foggy. The fog got thicker as we approached Port Angeles. The people who were outside on the bow were ushered inside. A crew member went to the bow to watch for other boats and the Coho blew its fog horn at regular intervals.

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Bob supervising the loading of the cars on the Coho

Bob supervising the loading of the cars

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Bob on the bow

Bob on the bow as we leave Victoria

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Lone crew member on watch as we approached Port Angeles in the fog

Lone crewman on watch in the fog

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We were at the dock right on schedule. As we were walking in to the terminal, we spotted a gull with a little fuzzy chick on the pier. I had never seen a baby gull before!

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Can you see the fuzzy chick just to the left of the gull’s tail? Talk about camouflage!

Gull chick on the Port Angeles dock

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After a quick pass through customs, we got our car to head home.

We had lunch at a great little Thai restaurant in Sequim, Sawadee Thai Cuisine. We had eaten there years ago and it was just as good as I remembered. Bob thought it was right off the highway, but it’s a short drive from the highway and easy to find. It’s obviously very popular and was packed with people. We were able to get a table and the food was worth the moderate wait.

Sawadee Thai Cuisine in Sequim

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After lunch we continued home. We stopped at the 7 Cedars Casino because Bob wanted to get a closer look at the totem poles and other carvings there. They were interesting to see and it was a good little break in the trip. We had heard that you can watch artists carving totem poles. That turned out to be true, but they aren’t there on the weekends.

 

At Seven Cedars Casino

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Some of the totem poles at Seven Cedars Casino

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Seen at Seven Cedars Casino

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The rest of the drive to the Southworth ferry dock was uneventful. Again, traffic was heavy but we moved along at the speed limit the whole way.

Of course, when we reached the dock we found we just missed getting on the ferry that was loading. But the best attitude to have about catching the Vashon/Southworth ferry is to realize you’re going to get on the “whatever” ferry. The schedules are sometimes a bit “loose”. It was a pleasant afternoon to sit on the dock for 45 minutes waiting for the next boat.

We were home again by about 6:30 after two lovely nights in Victoria!

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Victoria

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2018 6:44 am

    Kath, what a joy to read for an old resident of the PNW such as me. We used to boat through most of the waters you covered as we moored at La Connor. The Canadian Gulf was our playground back them. Thanks for sharing your visit.

    • August 4, 2018 8:03 am

      Thank you, Ron! Glad you enjoyed reading it. When our girls were teens we had the opportunity to use a friend’s sailboat and we enjoyed cruising the Gulf Islands several times. Great memories!

  2. August 4, 2018 10:01 am

    What a lovely spot. Great kitchen view. It did take me a while to see that chick.

    • August 4, 2018 12:06 pm

      The chick is really hidden in plain sight! Thanks for your comment, Lisa. 🙂

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