Saturday, December 28, 2019

Adventure 49/50: Let's go to Victoria!

When I was a kid the epitome of class was a trip to Victoria, BC, aboard the Princess Marguerite. Anyone who lived in Seattle then will remember the jingle:

Take a princess to sea
Have a crumpet and tea
It's fun aboard, all the way
Sail away for the day, hey hey hey
Let's go to Victoria on the Princess Marguerite

image from
She was a lovely, 2-funnel steamship, with decks and passenger lounges and even CABINS that one could book. It was like having a little ocean liner that just steamed back and forth between Seattle and Victoria. And though I only sailed on her 3 or 4 times, I remember her dearly.

Victoria Clipper V image from Clipper Vacations
She has long since stopped sailing, and been replaced by faster vessels running the route. The latest is the Victoria Clipper V, a high-speed catamaran that makes the trip in under 3 hours. As part of my 50@50 project, I wanted to go up to Victoria to see the Butchart Gardens Christmas displays and the Maya exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, so a weekend trip on the Clipper seemed the perfect fit.

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For the most part, it was -- we got a nice pair of seats near the window (which stayed fogged up most of the way, but what can you do), and the trip was comfortable both up and down. We even saw "local celebrity" ORCAMAN -- a guy on a jetski wearing a wetsuit and an orca fin, speeding along next to the ship. I loved that the captain called him out -- though I would have been even happier to see real orcas.

One problem however was unexpected -- if you don't upgrade to "Comfort Class", you get held up when you try to get off the ship. We were lucky -- our extra 25 minutes of waiting while the Comfort Class passengers got their luggage and realized that they indeed needed their passports, and the distracted Clipper attendant chatted with them rather than directed them to the immigration officers who were standing waiting -- all of that happened inside a building, rather than the majority of passengers who were standing waiting outside. But I guess all of us in "steerage" were all lucky because it didn't rain.

But once we were allowed out of the pen we were FREE! We hustled outside and walked toward the Empress hotel. We wandered through the lobby, admiring the decorations, and then strolled up Government Street, browsing in the shops along the way. My number one destination was the Button and Needlework Boutique in Trounce Alley -- an Aladdin's Cave of stitching supplies.

I could have spent thousands there -- so many charts and threads and kits -- but I was mindful that I have more kits and things in my basement stash than I can really accomplish in this lifetime. So I satisfied my shopping urge with a small pair of folding scissors, some needle threaders to carry with my little project pouch, and a pocket-size book of embroidery stitches as I want to learn how to embroider more in 2020.

Another favorite stop was the glorious PERVERTED Ice Cream store, which makes gorgeous ice creams. Their standard menu is amazing, but I couldn't resist one of their holiday specials, the Vixen: black peppermint ice cream with black chocolate drizzle, rolled in crushed candy canes and served in a black cone. The bright sunlight makes this photo quite faded, but the cone and the drizzle were nearly black, and the ice cream was a very dark charcoal. Festive, gothy, and delicious -- perfect!

Eventually we headed to our hotel, the Coast Victoria Hotel, where we had booked a view room. Our room was lovely -- we had a view of the harbour (not the inner harbour, but still pretty), a nice comfy bed, and a little balcony. AND, because the hotel is owned by ANA, a Japanese hotel conglomerate ... IT HAD A TOTO WASHLET. I do love a fancy toilet...

In the afternoon we headed to Butchart Gardens to see the Christmas lights (sparkly!), grabbed some dinner and some supplies back in town, and then sat on our balcony all bundled up enjoying the view.

The next morning we got up and had a delicious breakfast at Nourish, only a few blocks from the hotel. The restaurant is in a house and has lots of lovely vegetarian and vegan dishes -- but also meaty ones. We were giggling at a diner at a nearby table who was complaining that the menu was mainly "vegetables on toast" before leaving for a suspiciously long time to quiet a screaming child.

Fully sated, we went to the Maya exhibit at the Royal BC Museum (rowr!), and then did some more wandering around. I managed to talk myself out of a new fountain pen and notebook at Munro's Books, Wil managed to talk himself out of some not-quite-perfectly sized gore-tex shoes at MEC. We were, however, unable to resist fancy chocolates at Roger's Chocolates (who could???).

We walked up to Chinatown and the celebrated Fan Tan Alley, where we *should* have had noodles at Fan Tan Cafe, but we weren't hungry at the time.

We did, however, stop in at Patisserie La Roux because the cakes in the window were irresistible. Just look at this chestnut cake. It was denser than I expected and crazy rich. Delicious!

Wil had an amazing cheesecake -- almost inverted, with the oversized crumble crust on the top and  the cheesecake below.

Some more browsing, walking, nosing around, and a drink at the Bard and Banker, and we decided to get a late lunch at the Sult Pierogi Bar before heading back to the ship to go home. We had passed this place a number of times -- and given that we have equated pierogis with Canada since our trip to the Spirit Spheres several years ago -- it seemed a good choice to wrap up our visit.

In the end, well, it was just okay -- we had 4 different types of vegetarian pierogis: a standard garlic and cheese one, a spinach and jalapeno one, a kimchi and tofu one, and a "seasonal" one with stuffing and sprouts. But it did the job, and we headed back to the harbour for our trip home.

Again we got decent seats, and this time hustled to get off the boat before the Comfort Class folks with their luggage -- so we were on the couch covered in cats within 45 minutes of the boat docking. A great end to a great weekend.

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