Tag Archives: Vancouver Island

Fly, Stay and Play in Comox

Comox is Just a Quick Flight Away

I am so very fond of traveling to Vancouver Island and do so at least several times a year. One of my favourite reasons to go is always the BC Shellfish Festival and I am looking very forward to it again this year. Last year I flew over for a day for quick visit as well, and managed to get in a whale watching tour, dinner at Locals an overnight and even a tasting and tour at Shelter Point Distillery. With Harbour Air you are there in less than an hour, so I may just have to repeat this this season!

Harbour Air

Easy peasy to jump on Harbour Air from Coal Harbour and it’s a gorgeous journey even on a cloudy day.

The Old House Hotel and Spa

We were picked up and transported to the Old House Hotel & Spa provided by Ambassador Shuttle Service. The hotel offers roomy accommodations with kitchens, fireplaces, soaker tubs and has Oh Spa on the property, as well as an outdoor heated pool, hot tub and lush historic gardens, all at a reasonable price.

After a quick freshen up we wandered over to Locals Restaurant, right on the property where Chef Ronald Pierre prepares uber local foods from Vancouver Island producers. Love the local Tannadice Farms pork and super fresh seafood here.

That next day we headed out on the Big Animal Encounter Tour with Pacific Pro Dive & Marine Adventures  and cruised the waters in search of marine animals in Desolation Sound. We immediately saw whales and then stopped for a BBQ and cruised the day away in style, running into several more whales, seals and wildlife; truly a special adventure.

Heading back to shore we were just in time for the Happy Hour Tour and Tasting at Shelter Point Distillery. Shelter Point Distillery, is the second single malt distillery in Canada and one of only a handful of distilleries that grow their own barley and distill on the same site. We ripped out into the fields and did a tasting outside.

Shelter Point Distillery

I even had to pick up a bottle for Michael before we headed back to the float plan and back home to Vancouver.

Don’t miss this year’s BC Shellfish Festival…..

Sooke Harbour House

Staying in Sooke – Fall at Sooke Harbour House

I adore fall and find there’s nothing better than a stroll on a  coolish day when the sun is still shining, yet there’s a crispness in the air and a need for an extra layer to insulate one from the impending chill. This is the best time to get away in British Columbia and really take the time to watch the foliage turn colour and the land claim back what’s left in the fields to refurbish its soil.

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Vancouver Island often calls me and I feel so at ease there as I sync/sink into the slower pace almost right off the ferry I take from Tsawassen. It’s a 90 minute  ferry ride to the other side, and another half hour or so until the road brings you to Sooke, and then the trail to Sooke Harbour House, where I recently had a most memorable stay.

Sooke Harbour Hous was built in 1929 as a simple  two-story farmhouse inn with a dining room for visitors. In 1979 Frederique and Sinclair Philip, purchased the, it five small guestrooms, but no private guest bathrooms, and only a small dining room. The couple continued to renovate though to 1986 when they built ten additional far larger guestrooms, then renovated the initial five in 1988 and added 13 rooms in 1998, bringing the total to the current 28. The hotel is known for its luxurious, spacious rooms, superb hospitality, top notch dining and gorgeous gardens, all which are maintained to this day, attracting locals and visitors from all around the globe.

Sooke Harbour House

I stayed in a most spacious room, which was a bit wasted on me as I was solo, but I did my best to use up the most welcoming space, taking a bath in the mid-room tub, sprawling out on the couch to read and occupying the majority of the king bed throughout the night. It was almost too much, but I managed.

Sooke Harbour House

I had met Frederique Philip at a Feast of Fields in Duncan a few year’s back and was thrilled she was joining me for dinner. One could not hope for a more entertaining and knowledgeable dinner companion. While the food was foremost, she unveiled stories of her journeys and the history of Sooke, acting as a fitting backdrop for a remarkable evening.

My photos do not convey Chef Jonas Stadtländer talents properly as the lighting was getting trying as the evening went on and we sampled leisurely through the pairing menu. Stadtlander’s father, Michael Stadlander, led the kitchen at Sooke in the 80’s and it’s quite special to see his son come up the ranks and join this highly regarded resort, with his own approach to the area’s local cuisine.

Local is an absolute that stands out at Sooke, and always has. While farm to table, field to table, foraged and free range are words that are now splattered on menus as often as drinks are splashed on them, Sooke Harbour House always had this mandate. The restaurant followed the seasons and the chefs that came and went from their took this style of cooking with them. Frederique and Sinclair were pioneers in this field, and did not just influence those on the Island, and throughout British Columbia, but created practices that shaped the local movement throughout North America and beyond.

Sooke Harbour House

Highlights of the dinner included the Roasted Pork Belly, balanced with mustard-braised lentils, lovage pork jus, asparagus and morels; these wild mushrooms had just come into season and were superbly dense with earthy flavours.

Sooke Harbour House

Grilled Albacore Tuna came with a Sooke-grown wasabi (held by Fredrique above), a strawberry ginger glaze, tempura radish greens, and radish and foraged sea asparagus, another example of exquisite local ingredients enhanced by international techniques. A Kettle Valley Riesling balanced out the mild spiciness in the dish.

Sooke Harbour House

Cowichan Valley is not far up Island from Sooke and a Pekin Duck had been brought for the next dish, duck breast dish with a savoury jus, buttered spring leeks, tortellini and red and golden beets. Perfectly cooked, quite tender and a stellar pairing for the Pinot Noir from Tantalus Vineyards.

The meal was fulfilling on so many levels and as I drifted back to my room for a final hour or so before that king size bed called, I thought of all the memories that had been created in this very space over the last century and how rare a place this still is to this day.

Sooke Harbour House

In the morning I strolled the property and peaked into some of the other guest rooms (the empty ones of course) and had a breakfast before I had to venture out. A wedding was to take place that day and the prep was well under way. Many more memories were being made as I looked on, and I absorbed many of my very own.


Holiday Season Getaway at Victoria’s Magnolia Hotel

While there’s much to do in Vancouver during the holiday season, there’s a certain special vibe across the straight, in Victoria. I nipped over for a few night’s in November for a sneak peak of the Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s Christmas in Victoria package, available until January 2.


Why not leave the car at home and fly over on the Helijet as flights start at $159 this time of year and they’ll drop you off at the hotel if you ask nicely (kids under 12 yrs fly for free)! There’s so much to do downtown this time of year, and you can do it all on foot.

The Magnolia is right in the heart of downtown Victoria, minutes from the harbour, shopping, holiday lights and sites and fab dining experiences.

Book a Diamond room and you’ll find oversized beds, soaker tubs, cozy gas fireplaces and lots of indulgent treats such as the hot chocolate and baileys for before bed.

There’s two very cool routes that the hotel has put together for this time of year; one is the Tapa Trail and the other the Festive Trail.

The Tapa Trail includes the following. I have have been to a few that I have starred and therefore can give them thumbs up, but I’ve heard good things about all.

*The Magnolia’s Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar – Mediterranean inspired. Enoy Venetian style cicchetti (Italian for small bites) at the bar.  619 Courtney Street Twitter @cicchettibar

*Chorizo & Co – Love love love this spot! Great chorizo sausage from a family recipe, tapas and paella parties. 807 Fort Street Twitter @ChorizoandCo

Bodega Bar Spanish cuisine from pinchos to a Barcelona board featuring Spanish charcuterie. 1210 Broad Street

Tapa Bar – Meat and seafood and veggie dishes to share. 620 Trounce Alley

Northern Quarter Bar – live performances – meat or cheese boards. 1724 Douglas Street

The Drake Eatery – British pub style and local craft beer. 517 Pandora Avenue

Perro Negro – Located above Ferris Grill. wide range of cocktails, sherry and wine from Spain. 536 Yates Street Twitter @perronegrotapas

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*Little Jumbo Restaurant – Stellar cocktail list an inventive Canadian cuisine. Do not miss the duck fat fried frites! 506 Fort Street – photo from their website.

*10 Acres Bistro Smaller plates made with loacal, seasonal ingredients 611 Courtney Street Twitter @10acresbistro


Additionally through the holiday season the Magnolia Hotel’s Festive Trail captures the town’s spirit. Take in a performance of Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker, try outdoor ice-skating, a Ferris Wheel ride in Centennial Square, free horse-drawn trolley ride, visit the Festival of Trees at The Bay Centre, head to the Inn at Laurel Point for Gingerbread displays or check out the IMAX Polar Express adventure at the Royal BC Museum. Check in with the hotel’s concierge for more. The Hotel’s Catalano Restaurant and Cicchetti Bar will do a holiday feast on December 25 as well.

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Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s Christmas in Victoria package starts from $189 per night, and includes a special gift of a $25 voucher, per day, to use towards in-room dining, Spa Magnolia, Catalano Restaurant, mini-bar treats or parking. The price includes a continental breakfast as well.

To book Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s Christmas package call 1-877-624-6654 or visit www.magnoliahotel.com.


Pictures from 2009 Mt. Washington Food Festival

From September 3 to 5, 2010, Vancouver Island’s Mount Washington Alpine Resort located three hours and 30 minutes north of Victoria, BC, celebrates the finest of Island fare at the Mount Washington Alpine Food Festival. With products from the farms, ranches, waters, and kitchens of the Comox Valley and beyond, guests are invited to meet the chefs, learn some new culinary skills and taste fabulous food throughout the two day affair. Festival highlights include an Alpine Marketplace, cooking demonstrations and classes taught by local and guest chefs including Food Network Canada star Chef Anthony Sedlak, and the kick-off event, the Alpine Cocktail Reception: a gourmet grazing event featuring the music of Chilean-born virtuoso Rodrigo Figueroa playing a mix of Latin and Blues-inspired melodies. Accommodation packages for the event start at $327.00 CDN / $322.00 USD and include two nights’ accommodation in a one bedroom condo, tickets to the cocktail reception, gourmet gala dinner, two cooking classes, two buffet breakfasts, five tickets to the Alpine Marketplace and one mile high chairlift ride. Individual event tickets are also available. Mount Washington is Vancouver Island’s premier ski and snowboard resort in the winter months and the playground for mountain bikers, hikers, and alpine enthusiasts in the summer. For more information visit www.mountwashington.ca.

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Fall Deals Abound in Parksville-Qualicum Beach

Parksville-Qualicum Beach, BC Accommodation and dining prices have fallen with the autumn leaves in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area of Vancouver Island. From now until mid-December you’ll Dine Right, Sleep Tight enjoying excellent savings from luxury resorts and restaurants, such as Pacific Shores, The Beach Club and Tigh Na Mara Seaside Spa Resort.

Visitors can get three course meals for $29 at such high-end restaurants as The Landing, the Pacific Prime Steak and Chop Restaurant and The Creek House and a two-night luxury stay for as little as $149.

A survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association shows 79 per cent of Canadians experience increased stress this time of year. A mini winter vacation in November and early December is the perfect prescription to recharge the batteries before the heart of winter sets in. The area has 19 kilometers of sandy beaches, an abundance of parks, and the country’s mildest climate.

Not even the best festooned Christmas tree can compete with the giants of nearby Cathedral Grove and a walk along scented forest trails lined with living Christmas trees. After an autumn stroll, nothing beats a gourmet meal and cozying up in front of a fireplace.

Local community events and craft fairs exude small town ambiance and Christmas spirit, as well as offering great gift ideas. Some upcoming events include:

Qualicum Beach Moonlight Madness (Nov. 19th)

Craft fairs: Silver Sleigh (Nov. 20-21), Coombs Country Craft Fair (Nov. 22), Kris Kringle Craft Market (Nov. 26-29), and Christmas Craft Explosion (Nov. 26-29).

Milner Gardens and Woodland is lit up with Milner Christmas Magic the first three weekends in December.

Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church puts on Bethlehem Walk, a re-creation of Bethlehem with live animals, artisans and craftsman and over 250 people in period costumes (Dec. 12-15).

Santa Claus Parade (Dec. 4)

Festival of Trees (Dec. 7-18)

Parksville-Qualicum Beach is less than a tank of gas away from Victoria, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. And with Dine Right, Sleep Tight, getting-away this season won’t break the bank.

For more information on Dine Right Sleep Tight visit the Specials Page on www.VisitParksvilleQualicumBeach.com

Sea Cider Pours for Parkinson’s

Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse hosts 3rd annual Pouring for Parkinson’s event, on Tuesday, November 10th, 6pm-9pm, 2487 Mt. St. Michael Rd, Saanichton, BC  V8M 1T7

Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse, in partnership with the Victoria Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Centre, is hosting its 3rd annual Pouring for Parkinson’s fundraising event on November the 10th.  The evening launches Sea Cider’s month long fund raising initiative, Pairing for Parkinson’s, to support individuals and families touched by Parkinson’s disease.

The event is an opportunity to enjoy a relaxed evening of cider, live music, and abundant hors d’oeuvres with silent auction while raising funds and awareness for the VEC.  Tickets are 35.00 dollars each or 60.00 with a 25.00 tax receipt.

A musical trio from The Stomp Club will entertain with their signature retro swinging gypsy jazz, while guests graze on pairings designed by Ottavio Italian Bakery & Delicatessen and Steve Walker Duncan of Ambrosia Catering. The evenings offerings will feature artisan cheeses, hors d’oeuvres, and delectables such as blue cheese cheesecake and crab apple sorbet paired with Sea Ciders own traditionally fermented ciders.

Open since 2007, Sea Cider is a certified organic farm and ciderhouse located 15 minutes north of Victoria on the Saanich Peninsula committed to artisan cider making, practicing organic agriculture, and strengthening and supporting the local community.

The Victoria Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Centre is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening clients’ and families’ ability to manage the effects of Parkinson’s and epilepsy by providing reliable information and services to enhance quality of life for those touched by either disease.

For more information on the event and on Pairing for Parkinson’s, contact Dionne Jennings at Sea Cider by phone at (250) 584-4824, by email at dionne@seacider.ca, or visit www.seacider.ca.

For further information on the Victoria Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Centre, contact Executive Director Catriona Johnson at (250) 475-6677, by e-mail at cjohnson@vepc.bc.ca, or visit www.vepc.bc.ca.

For information on The Stomp Club, visit www.thestompclub.com.

For information on Ambrosia Catering and event services, visit www.ambrosia.ca

For information on Ottavio’s Italian Bakery and Delicatessen, visit www.ottaviovictoria.com

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Getaway to Victoria and Sooke in style

From Tourism Victoria

Visitors to Victoria, BC can experience the best of downtown city life and the tranquility of an ocean retreat in one trip with a new package offered by Victoria’s Abigail’s Hotel and world renowned Sooke Harbour House. Valid until December 15, 2009, the two-night Island retreat package, called “Vancouver Island at its Best” offers guests one night at each five star property. Nestled in downtown Victoria, just steps from the Inner Harbour guests at Abigail’s Hotel will receive one night in a premier Coach House room featuring a four poster king size bed, wood burning fireplace and jacuzzi soaker bath, gourmet breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres compliments of the chef. Upon arrival at Sooke Harbour House guests will check into a deluxe ocean view room complete with stone fireplace, private bath (jetted or soaker tub), in-room breakfast, complimentary garden and wine cellar tour and use of the on-site Infra-red sauna. Although where you choose to start your Island getaway is up to you, one thing is certain, that the surrounding beauty of the picturesque downtown harbour and sights and sounds of the wild West Coast will delight the senses and lead to the envitable – restoration of the body and soul. Package rates start at $635 CDN / $589 USD based on double occupancy and are not available for on-line bookings. For more information visit www.abigailshotel.com and www.sookeharbourhouse.com.

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The Vancouver Island Feast of Fields is celebrating twelve years. This year’s event will be held on September 20, 2009 and for the first time is returning to a previous host farm, Providence Farm. Located in Duncan, 45 minutes north of Victoria, BC, Providence Farm provides programs for people who are encountering barriers to education and employment. On their 400 acres, visitors to the feast are armed with a wine glass and napkin in hand, and invited to wander the picturesque farmland sampling the gourmet offerings of over 50 of the island’s top chefs, wineries and micro-breweries while enjoying a delightful day in the country. Feast of Fields is an idea originally crafted by renowned chef Michael Standlandter when he partnered with Jamie Kennedy to create an event that drew sophisticated urbanites out to the farm. Feast of Fields is an annual fundraiser for FarmFolk/ CityFolk; a BC organization that works to promote ethical and sustainable food systems and develop relationships between local chefs and farmers. Partial funding will go back to the host farm as they embark on the St. Anne’s Garden Club Building Project – a natural stone wall. A Feast shuttle bus is available to take visitors from Victoria to the event for $5 CDN / $4.60 USD. Tickets for this years feast are on sale now. For more information visit www.feastoffields.com.

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