One of the things I love about writing is the community we create through our blogs, and I’ve (virtually) met some wonderful writers over the last ten years. Some of them I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person too! Recently I ‘met’ a really lovely lady named Kristy who writes at Gastronomical Sovereignty and Taste Buds. Kristy and I have a similar attitude to food – local, seasonal, organic, small scale – anyway, we really hit it off.
Kristy was one of the first people who sprang to mind when I decided to run a series of guest travel posts called The Place Where I Live. I think one of the best ways to get to know folks better is to learn a little bit about the place they call home, plus it’s a great way to collect a super resource of insider knowledge for all sorts of places you might like to visit one day. I’ve got a few more posts lined up over the next couple of months, and if you would like to write a guest post about the place where you live, please do get in touch. The more, the merrier!
And now, without further ado, over to the lovely Kristy!
Hello beautiful readers of April’s blog!
My name is Kristy Lynn and I am an “ethical” food lover, freelance writer and activist. I’ve run a food blog for the past year and a half called Gastronomical Sovereignty which stemmed from my struggle with food ways – moving from an overall carnivore to a strict vegetarian to an “ethical” eater – and the very personal yet very political issues of that. There is a strong emphasis on local, seasonal, small scale, organic, free-range, unprocessed, happy food. I’m also careful to keep in mind that local or organic, etc… doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ethical. There are still many issues within those categories. So I try to take a holistic approach that’s inclusive of what I consider to be “ethical” food. I also try to have a laugh time and again. Laughing is important. Wine helps. I also co-run a sister blog called Taste Buds with my friend Haydn that follows the same kind of thinking but plays a little more with the boundaries of good eating. He’s funnier than I am too.
I was so stoked when April asked me to do a travel piece on the city where I live. I struggled a little bit in narrowing down the content because I really do believe I live in one of the best cities in the world. That being said, this is what I came up with; I hope it encourages you to think about coming to my little corner of the world. Here we go….
Living in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada has its perks: the West coast lifestyle (some call it lazy), mild Winters, more micro-breweries and restaurants per capita than anywhere else in North America, fantastic outdoor recreation, and some of the best wine the world has to offer. In that respect, visiting isn’t so bad either.
If you’re thinking of a vacation in the coming months why not consider our capital city of B.C.? Having lived here for 6 years I’ve certainly had the opportunity to experience some of the island’s highlights. So let me help you out!
Looking for a place to stay is often one of the most daunting tasks of planning a vacation. What neighbourhood should you stay in? What price point seems reasonable? Is it going to be clean? With respect to the first question, there’s no doubt about it – downtown is where you want to be. Victoria isn’t a huge city and so by staying downtown, you can save yourself a lot of cash by walking everywhere. Most of the busses migrate through downtown as well so if you want to see some of the other areas of the city it makes for a quick commute. The Cook Street Village, Beacon Hill, and even James Bay areas that surround the downtown are all beautiful and fairly central locales if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the core.
Depending whether you come in the on, off or shoulder seasons, the price point of most hotels vary anywhere between $85.00/night to over $300. Depending on your budget there are multiple avenues you could go. My first advice is, Craigslist is your friend. Victorians use Craigslist like I wear my pyjamas – a LOT! Look under “Vacation Rentals” , “Sublets”, or even “Housing Swap”. You can find some great deals on this site, just make sure to carefully research the area and rental company or person.
If you don’t mind a short walk from downtown you can probably save yourself a few bucks and stay over the blue bridge (a Victoria icon) by checking into Spinnaker’s Guest Houses. These charming suites are ocean front property hosted by one of the most local companies in the city – small-scale localism is a key lifestyle choice on the island. Not only will you be greeted by a gourmet breakfast basket delivered fresh to your room each morning consisting of baked goods made from scratch on site, fresh squeezed juice and a local newspaper, but you’ll also receive a complimentary home-brewed beer and truffle tasting in their restaurant – all of this but a stones throw from everything downtown Vic has to offer.
Okay, so you’re been travelling all day, you’re checked in, and now you’re hungry. Where do you eat? As I mentioned above, Victoria boasts more restaurants per capita than any other city in North America, save for San Francisco. Whatever you’re in the mood for, Victoria has it. That being said, here are my top three places to chow down.
1. Canoe BrewPub. If you want casual gastro-pub fare, this is your spot. Don’t be put off by the sketchy-funny-little side street it’s on – Canoe makes some of the best beer the island has to offer as well as some of the best pub style food you can put in your gullet. The service is always great and if you show up when the weather is good, you can lounge and chow on one of the most impressive waterfront patios in the city. And don’t just stop at the burgers – their seafood is some of the freshest, cleanest, and most succulent I’ve ever had. If you show up later in the evening, there’s always live music to shake your booty to and it’s always hoppin with young folks as well as an older crowd. This is a spot you want to check out.
2. Ferris’ Oyster Bar: Upstairs. Ferris’ has two levels – a downstairs which features pretty casual cuisine and an upstairs. I dig the upstairs. It’s elegant yet casual and the atmosphere is absolutely intoxicating. Exposed brick, local art, candle light, and a menu that features raw oysters, small plates as well as entrees, and a solid wine list makes this culinary destination a regular on my map. It’s great for just having a few drinks or dining the night away.
3. The Superior. If you like your food local, your music live, and your art eclectic – you’ve found your niche. This place is hidden to even most locals but hip with a capital H. Listening to jazz, sharing dishes from their ever changing small plates menu, and toting your wine glass around with you as you check out their art gallery makes The Superior the place to be. Make sure you call for reservations because the room gets busy and you want to eat here. Word has it that they make a pretty darn tootin’ good brunch as well.
Okay! So now you’ve eaten, you feel rested – let’s get on with the trip! What should you do while you’re in town? Sure, there’s the obvious stuff like go whale watching, check out the museum, maybe make the trek into Saanich area and pay the very pricy admission fee to get into Butchart Gardens – but what if you want to check out a couple things the locals really enjoy?
First and foremost, if you dig wine, take yourself on a wine tour up through Duncan and Nanaimo areas. Avoid the program tours. So many of the superb wineries on the island are just too small for groups of tour buses to get into. Rent a car and take yourself. You can find a list of all the wineries here. Make sure to call ahead to confirm their existence because if you’ve ever done a wine tour before, you’ll know that they come and go like bumblebees. I recommend specifically checking out Venturi Schulze and Averill Creek Vineyards.
Wine not your thing? How about a petting zoo? Beacon Hill Park is located just seconds from downtown and is one of the prettiest parks in the city. Pack a picnic, a frisbee and hang out for the day. In the centre of the park you’ll find a by-donation petting zoo – keep walking, you’ll hit one of the premier beaches and walkways in Victoria, Dallas Road.
So you wanna move, do you? Vancouver Island is an infinite outdoor playground for recreational enthusiasts. Spots for hiking, camping, swimming, etc… are endless. Some of the closest and most worthwhile though are Goldstream Provincial Park where you can hike up to the top of Mt. Finlayson enjoying two different waterfalls, an abandoned gold mine, and incredible views; The Sooke Potholes where you can wade around in the shallow, family friendly pools at the bottom or make your way to the top where deep naturally formed pools have existed for centuries – bring a lunch and make a day of it; The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail on the West side of the island is excellent for whale watching, surfing, tidal hopping, hiking and camping with multiple drive-in as well as hike-in sites; and lastly, if walking isn’t your thing, you can cycle the Galloping Goose Trail all the way up to Sooke!
So you see, Victoria is paradise. For accommodation, for food, and for activities. Why do you think I live here? For more information on visiting Victoria you can contact Tourism Victoria or shoot me an email – I’d love to hear from you!
Thank you for this wonderful post, Kristy. I hope to get to Victoria one day very soon!
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