Tuesday 13th May
Mike: It was lovely to arrive at out hotel right on the harbour, to find a really nice big suite with separate rooms, kitchen and all, much to Al's delight! All very happy! Victoria is a small and very pretty town, on a picturesque harbour-setting. Easy to wander about and explore we spent the first day or so doing that checking out local attractions, including the IMAX doco which I happily slept through!
Alison: After a very early arrival in Victoria, it was lovely to find ourselves in a beautiful, roomy hotel suite. We wandered through the drizzle towards the Imax, stopping at the Spagetti Factory for lunch, before going on to see a fascinating documentary on Egyptian mummies, which the kids and I found very interesting but Michael happily slept through! We got back to the hotel and I decided to cook something for dinner, so the kids and I headed off for a long walk to the nearest supermarket. It was 20 minutes walk each way, but we found ingredients for tacos for dinner and some fresh veges was a joy - I'm getting really sick of North American cuisine's focus on meat and starch and very little fresh fruit and veges. Anyway, after dinner it was an early night, to be ready for whale watching the next day...
Wednesday 14th May
Alison: In the morning we wandered across to Beacon Hill Park which was quite beautiful with the Spring blossoms, ducks and Canada Geese for the kids to chase and a sweet Petting Zoo, where the kids had a lovely time grooming the goats etc.
After lunch at a local diner (usual muck which the kids and Michael enjoyed thoroughly) we headed off for our whale watching tour. This was a highlight, with our informative marine biologist giving us lots of information about the sea lions, elephant seals and orcas we saw. We even saw a bald eagle sitting on its nest on a rock. We were very excited to spot the J Pod of Transient Orcas and our wonderful skipper managed to keep pace with them as they progressed along, showing themselves for a few minutes and then diving low for another 10 minutes or so, until they popped up again. He managed to predict their movements so well that they popped up just near us and actually swam directly for us and under the boat - amazing photo opportunities!
That night we headed off for a decent meal and managed to get into the beautiful French restaurant Matisse, which had a fabulous fixed menu of 4 courses for only $49, so we had 2 of those and a few appetizers for the kids which worked very well. Rachel was in heaven when she got to eat goats cheese for entree and later share my crème brulee, whilst Tom slept peacefully on the sofa at the entrance to the restaurant after he'd finished his first course! It was very impressive how they catered for the kids in a very up market and potentially snooty restaurant, instead being warm and accommodating.
Rachel: When we went to the Imax we watched a movie on Egyptian mummies. It was about how people have discovered how to translate the hieroglyphics written by the ancient Egyptians. There were also robbers who robbed the tombs and took all the things and sold them. We also went whale watching. After being on the boat for around 30 minutes we saw some Steller Sea Lions on the Race Rocks - there were heaps of them!!! After an hour on the boat we saw a huge group of Orcas / Killer whales. It was freaky when all the Orcas came swimming to our boat but it was also amazing and exciting. We learnt some facts about the whales so here they are.
1. The male Orca's dorsal fin can get up to 6 feet tall
2. The males dorsal fin is not fully stable until it is about 20 years old
3. Killer whales need to eat at least 200 pounds of food day
4. The killer whales travel in groups known as pods which usually have at least 6 whales.
5. The transient Orcas travel in packs so they can catch their prey such as seals more easily, where as the resident orcas eats fish so they are scattered around a lot more.
We enjoyed whale watching heaps!!!
Tom: We saw the killer whales up so close it was astonishing. I learnt that:
1. Orcas are black and white.
2. They stay with their mums.
3. Transient whales eat seals.
4. They don't mind boats.
5. The males live till about 50 and the females till about 70.
6. Orcas are the biggest type of dolphins.
We also saw some sea lions on a rock and we could hear their noises - one was really grumpy. Our guide was called Rachel and we had a great time. They also had a hot chocolate machine so we had a lot of yummy hot chocolates!
Mike: Next day we decided to go out whale watching which the area is famous for, and a bit like bear spotting in the Rockys we were told whales hadn't been spotted for a little while, but I assured all on our boat we'd find them... and boy did we!! Wow whales are the most beautiful creatures to watch, and we were increeeedibly lucky as at one stage they literally swam right up to and then under our boat which is apparently very rare! Majestic, huge, graceful creatures swimming in a tight pod of 6 - this was a truly once in a lifetime experience that just took our breath away... woooooooow!!
For dinner we stumbled on a French restaurant just near our hotel, and some quick research revealed their fabulous reputation, so we wandered along in hope without a reservation. Greeted warmly but with a no, fully booked, neeeever one to give up I persisted just long enough that voila people at one table left and we were duly seated!
God that was lucky as this was the best meal we have had yet by a stretch!! Superb leek and potato soup, two bries pie, bouillabaise to perfection, lovely bottle of French white, rounded out by a supeeerb cheese platter, this was to die for!
Thursday 15th May
Alison: On Thursday we drove carefully on the wrong side of the road to the lovely little town of Sooke where we had a gorgeous lunch overlooking the bay, and then drove into the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park which was a spectacular series of deep rock pools where people bathe in the summer in the albeit freezing melt water. The kids loved clambering over the rocks as you can see in the photos. Then we headed back to Victoria and had a relaxing evening.
Rachel: We went to a national park and we went down to the rocks. It was fun exploring and doing all the little rock climbs.
Mike: Next day the sun came out in all its glory and this revealed just how beautiful this town really is, one of those places where a dose of sun transforms it. Perfectly timed as had hired a car for the day, we headed off to a little nearby fishing village called Sooke, and ended up at theeee most beautiful little place sitting on the water, with a just beautiful vista of water, pineforests, then the local hills in the distance and beyond that the mountains of neighbouring Washington State... woow! Again yumm food.. but here to be honest one simply had to eat the view!
Once back home we rounded out the day by heading out for a drink to watch the sun set, just across the road at a nice little outdoor bar overlooking the harbour, a lovely end to a really nice time in a beautiful part of the world.
Now off to Seattle, catch up with old friends with kids same age as ours, and even go check out a pro-baseball game, it just keeps rolling on.. long may it continue!!