Filling up on and in Victoria, B.C.

DockArt

Three days. It's not a long time, but three days with no schedule, no place to be except with each other and nothing but our own feet to take us wherever we felt like going was perfection. Downtown Victoria, British Columbia was the backdrop for our mini wanderlust. It was my first trip to this fair Canadian city and our first time away from both kids in a very long time. I fully admit that I almost bailed in the airport security line up on Thursday. I do not like leaving my babies, but there were too many people in the line behind me and I had my new LUG Weekender bag to break in so... on the plane I went.

When we were planning this trip a few weeks ago, I crowdsourced my friends on Facebook for recommended hotel accommodations. They came through like I knew they would, and we decided on the beautiful waterfront Inn at Laurel Point. Our room was huge, we had a nice big balcony overlooking Fisherman's Wharf and could watch the float planes take off and land every morning in the harbour. We ate dinner at Aura, the in-house hotel restaurant Thursday night and it was delicious! Scallops cooked to perfection and a creamy mushroom risotto for me and the pork sampler for The Consort (my new nickname for my husband, which I might shorten to TC in the very near future-see below).

Friday morning we woke up and headed out to explore our surroundings. One of the nice things about downtown Victoria (and there are a lot of nice things) is that you don't have to go far to find a place to eat. And most places in the downtown core are well within walking distance from the major hotels. Our very friendly airport shuttle driver told us that Victoria has the second highest restaurant count per capita in North America (after San Francisco) and after walking a good part of the downtown area for three days, I believe him.

WildBuddha

We ate at some very cool and funky places. Breakfast and coffee at Wild Coffee. A place that spoke to my soul with the handmade wood furniture and giant Buddha head greeting you as you walked in. Lunch and chai at the family owned Varsha in Victoria's historic Chinatown district (which is really just one block). A waterfront walk and dinner at the Blue Crab, complete with, you guessed it, ALL THE CRAB!!

But I really want to tell you about Rebar. This restaurant, located downtown in Bastion Square, was recommended to us twice. Once by my friend Sarah, who raved about it and then again by a very friendly Victoria local who, upon seeing our obvious touristy-ness, stopped his morning bike ride, pulled up beside us and proceeded to give us recommendations for breakfast, lunch AND dinner for Saturday.

Rebar

One block later we walked into Rebar and I swear to God, this place will be forever etched into my palate. I knew I was going to like it immediately because of the floral oilcloth tablecloths and the garage-sale-Elvis-tile-collage art piece on the wall. TC and I both ordered the Smoked Salmon, Dill and Creamcheese omelette and the juice of the day, a Smiling Buddha. I have no other way of describing this gastronomic experience other than this: every bite of this meal, and drink of the juice was like having multiple mini food-gasms in my mouth. I am not kidding, I actually moaned it was so good.

RebarJam

And then our waiter brought over their house-made peach and pear jam to accompany the sourdough toast and their spicy ketchup for the roasted potatoes and I moaned some more and may have thrown in an 'Oh my GOD!" for good measure. It really was that good people and I may have had dreams about it that night as well. Moral of the story, go eat at Rebar whenever you are in Victoria.

Our friendly cyclist recommended two restaurants for dinner. Zambri's for, as he put it, "The best italian food in all of Canada. " or Cafe Brio, a Canadian/Italian/local fusion cuisine, with an awesome wine list. I liked the look of Cafe Brio on their website and TC called and made us a late dinner reservation . The cafe had a wonderful old world ambiance to it and it did not disappoint. I chose one of their featured wines, the Trebella Meritage blend from the local BC winery, Church and State Wines. It was a beautiful wine, deep, fruity and smooth, just the way I like my reds. I may be hitting up their wine shop soon and ordering some online! The other nice option at Cafe Brio was that all of their dishes, from small plates to entrees, are available as half-sizes and half price as well. I ended up having half-orders of the Romaine Hearts salad and the Roast Duck Breast. The Consort had the Mixed Green Salad (with a surprise pickled celery ingredient) and the Seared Rare Albacore Tuna. Having the half orders also ensures that you leave plenty of room for desert, and you HAVE to have the Poached Pear and Chocolate Ganache. Trust me.

The food, the wine and the company was so good at Cafe Brio that I neglected to even think about getting pictures of anything. By the time we were done eating, the rain had stopped outside and we decided to walk the 20 minutes back to our hotel and soak up our last bit of Victoria. It was a bit of a chilly night, but full bellies, a warm hand to hold and loving hearts made for a beautiful walk along the waterfront.

VictoriaNight

Just so you know, we did do other things besides eat while in Victoria. We shopped at great local stores like Sitka and The Milkman's Daughter. We picked up some tea at Silk Road and a sampling of their new spa line as well. We found little gems like Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown and a local leathersmith who is now making TC a custom leather key holder. On a whim we walked into Miniature World located in the Empress Hotel and were rather blown away by this weird and wonderful attraction. And we took no less than a bajillion photos of all the teeny dioramas.

MiniatureSideShow

Victoria really was exactly what The Consort and I needed. A short getaway to fill our buckets right to the brim, to focus on ourselves, talk about how this past year has changed us, and make plans for a future that has four simple rules:

Simple, loving, graceful, and grateful.

DockArt

 

n~

Natasha's Pick of the Week: Vancouver

This past weekend was a first for our little family. It was the first time Natural Urban Dad and I have escaped from left both our kids and the first time they had a sleep over at NaiNai and YeYe's house.  We headed off for a nice romantic getaway to the lovely city of Vancouver and they set up their sleeping bags in the family room at my in-laws place and had a camp out with their grandfather. To be completely honest, I thought that leaving them for the weekend would have been harder on me, but it really wasn't. They gave me enthusiastic hugs and kisses goodbye and then went back to jumping around on their new sleeping bags. The dog cried more the day before when I left her with my sister!

Vancouver was the perfect spot for us to go to for our first little getaway by ourselves. For one thing, we did not pay a thing for our flights or hotel thanks to all our unused air miles points (SCORE!), and we did not need a car thanks to the lovely Canada Line Skytrain system that runs from the YVR airport all the way downtown to the Waterfront Station and Canada Place. We stayed at the Delta Vancouver Suites hotel, a decent place smack dab in the middle of downtown and well within walking distance to everywhere we wanted to go.

Natural Urban Dad did his undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia and so Vancouver holds a very special place in his heart. He has told me over and over that every time he is there he feels the pull of this city and its metropolitan essence.  Maybe it is the tides??

I do know what he means though, we are both Capricorns. We love the water and the mountains and were else (in Canada at least) do you get the majesty and tranquility of both?

We spent most of our time in the happening downtown neighborhoods of Gastown and Yaletown.  Good eats, good shopping and some pretty cool architecture as well. On Friday night we had dinner at Chill Winston, a restaurant and lounge/bar in Gastown that has a lot going for it. Great location, great food, cute servers and a super fun atmosphere with a very eclectic and diverse clientele. We walked around after dinner, checked out the view into the harbour and then found a nice little organic cafe and had some tea and very yummy key-lime cheesecake.

Saturday we SLEPT IN!! It was lovely! When we finally got out of bed and ready for the day we headed out to Howe Street upon the recommendations from the hotel staff and had breakfast at a great mom & pop restaurant called Scoozis. It was so good and quaint and just what we wanted and I am not exaggerating--THE BEST HAM I have ever tasted!! Check it out next time you are there.

We then headed off down Granville Street and ended up doing some shoe shopping at the Fluevog store. It was a nice score, because it just happened to be the weekend of the World Famous Fluevog Sample Sale. Natural Urban Dad choose some very dapper blue suede shoes (yes, he picked them all by himself) and I scored these babies!!

Next we had an awesome sushi lunch at ShuRaku. You have to go to this place, the food was amazing, the very boisterous welcome you get when you walk in the door, in Japanese of course, was a very nice touch AND the Chef made me my favourite maki roll even though it was not on the main lunch menu! After lunch we toodled around some more and browsed the many furniture and design houses we passed, always on the look out for great signature pieces for our eventual new house!

We did a loop back to Gastown and hit the main Fluevog Shop and to my utter surprise, Natural Urban Dad bought me another pair of shoes!! Seriously people, LOOK at how awesome they are!! CHERRY RED Mary Janes and the Fluevog name for them is "The Benatar". I HAD to have them!

We went back to the hotel for a quick change and 'nap' and then headed out again, this time to Yaletown, where we had reservations for dinner. We strolled down the streets in Yaletown and passed many a small shop specializing in various forms of personal grooming. There is the Bombay Brow Bar, the blo Blow Dry Bar, Frilly Lilly for all your waxing needs, NOIR Lash Lounge and so many others, offering every kind of grooming you can imagine, including the "manzilian" for the very brave boys out there! I guess in Yaletown, you must be rather hairless (except for the lashes) to be a hipster!

We found a great store on Hamilton Street called Bernstein & Gold and stuck up a conversation with the owner, also a father of 2 who has never been away from his kids. He has a very eclectic shop, selling everything from imported (and very cool) bicycles, to Italian glass chandeliers and bamboo tables. He ships worldwide too!

Now I do love me a good hat and could not resist heading into the Goorin Bros hat shop. I found a great modern cloche hat that will be perfect for summer and we also discovered that Natural Urban Dad is really not a hat guy.

Dinner was the highlight of our Saturday! We ate at the amazing Blue Water Cafe. I can't say enough good things about this fine dining establishment. For one thing we had an absolutely amazing server. She suggested the yummiest cocktail for me, the Jacob's Ladder, our first ever raw oyster tasting (not icky at all!) and an absolutely delicious white wine to accompany my halibut meal (The Noble Blend from JoieFarm Wines). The food was delicious, the atmosphere relaxed (we were in one of the private dining rooms, so it was a lot quieter than in the main dining room), the backgorund music perfect and the company rather sexy. It was the perfect date night and one that we really needed to have!

After dinner we headed back to Chill Winston because I really wanted to have their Banana Split feature dessert (hello coconut ice cream and salted caramel sauce!!). And see, it really hit the spot!

We walked back to our hotel arm in arm, I got a lovely foot massage, we watched Kill Bill Volume 1 on Tv (yeah, yeah, not that romantic I know) and went to bed a very happy couple ;).

Sorry for the super long post, but it really was a great weekend and I highly recommend getting away, even for just a night if you can. It does a marriage good!!

Thank you Vancouver! <3