West Coast Travels - May 2017

We took a few weeks away from home and went to the west coast.  We had a good time.  We did something different in that we just settled into a ‘cabin’ in Parksville and then had a relaxed time at a B&B in Oak Bay, Victoria.  Before taking the ferry to the island we spent a few days in Vancouver reminiscing over the things we enjoyed when we lived there in the 1970’s.

I don’t have an actual story to relate, but rather several things that we did or that happened to us whilst on the trip.  I decided to put it down in point form.  Sort of lazy, I guess, but I didn’t have to thread a story through the whole thing.

This was a time away where we were not out for sightseeing.  We went to places that we knew well. The goal for me was to do lots of reading and writing and I did that.  Consequently, you will see comments about food and coffee in the following.  That’s how we filled in time between our sitting around and being self absorbed in whatever we were doing.  It may sound boring, but it wasn’t.

I hope you’ll enjoy the read.  I’ve included a few images I made along the way.


Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park looking east toward Lasqueti Island

2017.05.31

Vancouver:

  • Where else in the world would the bus sign say “SORRY, Not in Service”.
  • On the corner of West Cordova Street and Homer Street a couple stopped to take a photo of themselves in front of a store when people, including us, arrived from all directions at the same time.  As we all accidentally got in each others’ way at once, out came five, coincident “I’m sorry” exclamations.  I turned to the couple taking a photo and said, “How can you tell we’re in Canada?”  They laughed out loud.  I probably should have said, Only in Canada, eh?
  • We discover that school band kids can be well behaved.  A bus load from Edmonton stayed at our motel in North Vancouver.  They were quiet, didn’t interfere with us at all, and were nice when spoken to.
  • Stanley Park is timeless.  It still looks the same and brings the same pleasure when walking around and through it.  Walking along the sea wall is still the best.
  • No matter how warm it is right in the city, when you walk along the sea wall exposed to the ocean it is cooler and it is always windy, to some degree.
  • Vancouver is a big city.  Lots of people, lots of noise, a collection of characters, and, in the Gastown area there are many floating around in a drug haze, often with weird behaviour.  I’m saddened when I see people in this state.
  • The buskers abound and some of them are very good musicians.
  • The old CPR train station is now a transportation hub and it looks wonderful.  It is comforting for an old guy to see old things retained and cleaned up.  The last time we were in this station was in 1972 when we caught the CPR ‘Canadian’ at Christmas time to travel to Calgary.
  • Multiculturalism is all around, but I’m not certain integration is working.
  • The rain hit on Thursday, and I mean heavy rain.  As we moved from car to coffee shop and car to store during the day, we were reminded of the challenge of getting out of the car and getting an umbrella out of the back seat before getting too wet when we lived here in the 70’s.  We had forgotten about this short, but uncomfortable adventure.  Invariably, it occurred whilst trying to get from the car to a theatre or concert in a heavy, west coast rain.  We would be dressed in good clothes which quickly lost their form and crispness when wetted.  It was a continuous struggle.
  • The old man oft times is walking around with his fly open, having forgotten to finish dressing after going to the bathroom.  No one brings this to his attention;  they think,
    Just another old guy with his fly open.  I’m never going to be like that! 
    HA!  Guess what?
  • Walking down the streets of Vancouver we seem to be invisible.  Few young people step aside for us.  Yet, when on the bus, youth are clambering over themselves to get out of their seats and let one of us sit down.  The latter habit is a very nice gesture.
  • On our last day I met up with a fellow who I’ve only known from a distance.  He is a good friend of my cycling friend in England and is a keen and capable cyclist.  I very much enjoyed meeting him in person and we had a good visit.  I brought along my book called My England that I wrote a couple of years ago.  I believe he recognized almost every picture I had in the book.


On to Parksville:

  • Taking a ferry trip across the Georgia Strait gives one an hour and a half to survey a unique collection of cultures, languages, and age group idiosyncrasies, if you, like know, like, what I, like, mean.
  • Country Pies in Coombs, BC, makes the best British meat pies I’ve had since I left Britain.  The two places in Calgary that I know to get steak and kidney pies are Simple Simon Pies and Bon Ton meats.  At both they mince the filling and that just isn’t right.  Country Pies keeps the filling full of chunks of steak and kidney and it is delicious.  The pastry is perfect as well and that is hard to accomplish when making a meat pie
  • When travelling in BC during May, you should plan for something to do when it is wet outside.  I did.  I have done a lot of writing and some reading.
  • I’m not sure whether I met a redneck jerk or a controlling socialist last night in a parking lot, whereby he decided to give me a lesson on my parking skills by sliding his truck in so close to me that I couldn’t open my car door.  HIs feedback when questioned was, “Well, you should learn how to park.”  Just for the record, of the twenty or so parking spots in the lot, only five were in use before we arrived.  I guess BC has these guys as well.
  • In a used bookstore I found a book on Teddies.  Sons, Sean and Cameron both got Merrythought Teddies from Grandma Vincent.  They got theirs in the 70's, but the version they had were made in the 60's, according to the book.  I'm not sure what that means.  
  • In a Qualicum Beach store I saw a Le Creuset pot for $400.  We have the same one that we bought in 1972 for $60.  Good grief.  
  • We’ve tried them all and can now confirm that Parksville is in the doldrums when it comes to finding coffee houses that can make good espresso coffees.  We’ve tried a latte in every one of them here.  No smoothness, no chocolate overtones, no coffee foam art, nothing.  Some of the food is good and when you read any reviews on these cafes the only comparison done is about the food.  We are looking forward to Victoria and its environs.  We know we can find good espresso there.
  • As we remember from when we lived on the coast, 12 degrees above in the coastal air feels colder than 12 above in the prairie air.  We know it is the moisture.  The moisture does soften the skin, but my goodness, it does help the cool air penetrate.
  • There is something special about walking on a beach when the tide is out.  Evidence of sea life is everywhere, although the wee beasties are hiding under rocks in the sand and in the little tide pools left behind.  It is a great place for a walk.
  • Renting this cottage and having it as a home base has been perfect for us.  I’ve got some writing done and both of us have done a lot of reading as well.  Reading for entertainment, not for learning something.
  • We visited a relative in Courtney.  We haven’t seen each other for about sixty years, for goodness sake.  What a joy it was to connect with him and his wife.  We covered a lot of ground during our visit, talking about families and time past.  The time together was too short and we’ll have to get together again.
  • We knew this would happen, but it seems to take us off guard every time we come to the coast.  Within about three days of arriving on the coast our bodies start to feel tired—continuously.  Every time we sit down we doze off.  Sleep at night comes easily and I seem to be able to sleep in to whatever time I want.  We first encountered this when we moved to Vancouver from Calgary in 1969.  It is a nice feeling.  It takes a couple of weeks, but it does pass.  We’ll be on our way home by then.
  • Parksville seems to have hard water.  I was surprised.  When we lived in Vancouver, the water was naturally soft.  I guess I expected all the west coast water systems to be the same.


Travelling to Victoria:

  • There seem to be an abnormal number of angry old men on the island.  These over sixty year old men, when driving, have little patience for any behaviour of other drivers that is at all an inconvenience to the old guys.  Not only do they honk and shake their fist, etc., but they have a most vehement look on their face.  Maybe their blood pressure will be their undoing.  I know I’ve been guilty of this from time to time.  What a good lesson it has been for me, witnessing these guys out here.
  • We’re into our B&B in Victoria.  Actually it is out in Oak Bay.  It is a classic old house and it is huge.  It is not as nice as having our own cottage, but we’ll give it time and see what we think.  So far, it is definitely quiet.  You see, it is an attractive place for old folks.  Evidently we fit.
  • First supper in Victoria.  We went to the Penny Farthing pub on the recommendation of our B&B host.  She showed us the menu and they had lots of gluten free options.  However, upon walking into the pub we discovered its popularity and the noise that comes with that.  Les had to yell in my ear to give me her opinion that it was too noisy.  I was just deciding to leave as well.  So we did.  We ended up at the Oaks Restaurant.  The place was a sea of grey hair and the music wasn’t loud.  The food was excellent and it was priced right.  Our waitress was delightful.  Clearly, we are its target market.
  • In the Oaks restaurant at 7 pm, their Friday night entertainment started.  It was a Celtic band and they were good.  A couple got up to dance on a part of the floor that was a bit open.  They had grey hair and danced well.  Then, when the song finished, the man gave a little bow to the woman, country style, and instead of walking her back to the table, they both turned an walked quickly to their respective bathrooms.  Les and I noticed that at the same time and both burst into laughter as soon as their bathroom doors closed.  I guess dancing, at a certain age, causes more than emotions to flow.
  • First morning in Oak Bay, Victoria.  I can’t make my morning coffee at the B&B and Les is still asleep, so I went out looking for a coffee house and a place to catch up on this collection of thoughts.  I have to confess, I’m at a Starbuck’s.  There are two other independent coffee houses nearby, but neither of them was open.  I know, I know….this is counter to my normal persona.  Nevertheless, it is quiet, in that:

    (a)  the music is kept unobtrusive, both in style and in volume.  People come and go, quietly.  Even the young people that come in here seem to be able to talk to each other without shouting.  There is a table of about six guys of my vintage sitting across the coffee house from me in conversation.  I can hardly hear them.  Why is it that we older folk with failing hearing can converse at a reasonable level, but so many young people, whose hearing should be good, need to talk with significantly raised voices?  This is a conundrum for me.

    
(b)  the latte I’m drinking is typically Starbuckian, read bland with not much coffee flavour, but at least it isn’t tearing my stomach apart like so many have on this trip.  Les and I think this is the price we pay for being spoilt by the well trained baristas at the old Java Jamboree in Cochrane.  So far on this trip, the only coffee house that met that standard was Revolver in Gastown, Vancouver.  I am looking forward to going to Hey Happy Coffee in Victoria.  In the past it has been great.

  • Yes, Hey Happy Coffee was good.  However, Revolver Coffee House in Gastown, Vancouver, still wins the ‘wee Jacky’ test.
  • While Victoria has its share of functional but formless new homes, there is a much more concerted effort by many to continue the style of design that makes Victoria seem like home.  These are being built mostly on old district lots where the ignored old houses have deteriorated to a point where they are hardly liveable.  The good thing is that these ‘new’ homes replacing them are being done in a style that doesn’t make them stand out with excessive glass windows and flattened post-modernist roofs.  They are being built with eye-soothing form and an appeal that makes them look like a home rather than a hotel.  Somewhere there are architects who can take tried and proven style and use modern materials to create comfort to the body inside and comfort to the eyes outside.  I applaud them.
  • We have been using Apple Maps on our iPhones to get around using public transit.  Both here and in Vancouver it has been a wonderful and accurate source of information.  The bus routes are correct and the times given are spot on with the local published information.  It even tells one how much time the walk to the bus stop will take.  We don’t have to carry any maps or schedules with us.
  • We went to the Victoria Highland Festival yesterday afternoon.  It was similar to Calgary’s and we enjoyed it.  It was sunny and warm and I got a bit of a burn.  Never mind—there was no rain.  I’ll tell you, there were some different characters wandering the grounds.  I should have spent some time getting some images of people, but I was caught up in watching the activities so I put my photography studies on the side for the afternoon.
  • We had planned a slow trip home via the Monashees, Nakusp, Kaslo, and Cranbrook, but the forecast for those days on the road is now for rain.  We may just make a fast-track for home.
  • The music in coffee shops continues to irritate us.  I guess there are two factors involved.  One, the volume.  When we have to raise our voices so we can be heard over the music, the music is too loud.  Two, the music selection.  One of the problems when you like music and have been or are a musician is that when there is music playing you can’t help but listen to it.  For some it might be like white noise background, but for me, I can’t help but listen to every note.  The trouble is that the notes I hear these days in coffee shops are not to my taste.  If it was truly background music, played at a much lower volume, I could tolerate it, just, but it is loud and ruins the ambience for me.  I realise I’m not the market anymore.  The larger coffee house market folk are much younger and have a whole different genre of music running through their heads.  The other day, I picked up a magazine aimed at coffee house owners and read about their recommendations for music and sound systems.  Conclusion, there is no hope for me.  I will continue to be overwhelmed, in a bad way, with the music of the day.  I wish I could be around to hear the now 30 year olds complain when they are 70 and trying to enjoy a coffee while exposed to the music of the day in 2057.  I think the whining will be about the same as mine today.
  • The weather over the Victoria Day weekend has been marvellous and it is hard to drive away from it and the coastal air.  Nevertheless, we are ready to be home.  We’ll catch the ferry at Sidney, stay overnight in Hope, then start the long drive home.  Wouldn’t you know it, there is a wind advisory out for Wednesday.  The worst being in Alberta.  Oh good.


The Road Home:

  • We had booked the 3pm ferry from Swartz Bay on the island.  Although we could have left earlier we had to stick to that reservation or pay extra to get out of it.  It was a good thing that we did book ahead, because the ferry was full.  I guess a lot of other people decided to stay the extra day to avoid the long weekend crowds on the roads.  That all went well and we ended up in Hope as planned.  The winds were as forecast, from the southwest and strong.  There were gusts forecast of up to 100 kph and I think that happened.
  • Driving home quickly is hardly conducive to interesting documentary.  What’s more, the days were mostly miserable, overcast with heavy cloud and raining.  There was a little snow thrown in for good measure.  The main thing to mention has to do with food and coffee, so I’ll give my two cents worth on that.
  • The next morning we were up and out early, taking the Coquihalla to Merritt and Kamloops.  At Merritt we were a little peckish and so stopped at the Kekuli Cafe and Coffee.  The cafe was very well laid out, clean and brightly painted.  It is a cafe set up by people from a reserve adjacent to Merritt.  The server was very pleasant.  They have several dishes with bannock.  I just had some bannock bites.  They were deep fried bannock bread and were delicious.  They have Timbits beat, that is for sure.  They serve full meals and I’ll make sure I time my next visit so I can try out one of their dishes.  I liked their approach as written alongside the cafe’s name.  “A First Nations dwelling used as a place to gather for all.”
  • Lunchtime needed to happen around 11 am because we had breakfast so early.  I knew of a place I’d eaten at before in Salmon Arm, so we aimed at that.  Surprisingly, the parking lot was full, as was the restaurant.  I asked one of the patrons why the place was full at 11 am and she said people were gathered because a large residential area nearby was without power or water.  The wind storm had evidently taken out a significant power line somewhere in the neighbourhood and folk wanted food and warmth.  We left and headed for Sicamous.  There we couldn’t find what we were looking for, so carried on to Revelstoke.
  • We have been trying to get back to one of our favourite places when travelling between Vancouver and home, and that is the bistro located in a cutesy old house on the main street of Revelstoke.  The last couple of times travelling through Revelstoke our timing has been wrong and the place was never open.  However, this time it was.  Since the last time we ate there the place has changed hands and is better for it.  The food and service was great.  Highly recommended by us.  Their latte was even above average.  
It is called Main Street Cafe.
  • We stopped in Golden to gather ourselves, mentally, before tackling what was forecast as some very bad weather and roads for the rest of the way home.  The Bacchus Bookstore was open so we had a tea and, of course, ended up buying a book.  I don’t think we have ever just had something to eat and drink there.  A book always seems to come out with us when we leave.  Credit goes to the owner/buyer.  This time we bought, This is That:  Travel Guide to Canada.  Yes, the book is written by the same folk that created the satirical comedy show This is That which is aired on the CBC radio every week.  It is funny, but probably seems more so if you are a Canadian.
  • The weather from there on was bad, as forecast.  There was lots of snow on the side, but the day before had been very warm so the roads had enough heat to keep the snow from accumulating.  The temperature also stayed above freezing so we didn’t have to worry about icy roads.  We stopped for supper at MacLab in Banff and then got home by 9pm.  A long day, but I’m glad we did it that way.


Stanley Park Seawall Stroll


Granville Island Food Market


Revolver Coffee House - Gastown:  When you see a coffee house set up like this you can almost be assurred of good espresso


Rainforest Pathway


West Coast Rainforest floor


Oak Bay Marina Bistro - Just a couple of blocks from our B&B.  Nice.