CALIFORNIA—HERE WE COME !
Coronado Ferry Landing. Photo courtesy of Marv Feldman.
While Space A travel is fun and free, it is not suited for travelers with a rigid schedule—which we had at the beginning of our journey. To start this adventure, we flew Southwest Airlines from Florida to California—not knowing (as is frequently the case with us) where else we would go nor how we would return home!
Firstly (and the reason for this trip), many members of Carole’s family gathered in Los Angeles (LA) for a family function. There, we were “on the go” for our three-day stay, enjoying much quality family time (Carole’s niece and nephew flew in from Sydney). What a wonderful visit we had.
After our sojourn in LA, we headed south to San Diego, meeting an old friend for lunch one day and simply relaxing and taking in this lovely city (one of our favorites) with its “Eternal Spring” climate and stunning vistas. Yet another Great Adventure with random travel beckoned, so from NAS North Island (where we stayed at the Navy Gateway Inns) on Coronado Island (San Diego), CA, we caught a comfortable Navy C-40 flight to NAS Whidbey Island, WA—from the Mexican to the Canadian borders in less than three hours!
A TALE OF TWO ISLANDS—WHIDBEY AND VANCOUVER ISLANDS!
Marv with PBY Catalina, Whidbey Island. Photo courtesy of Carole Feldman.
WHIDBEY ISLAND (where we stayed at the Navy Gateway Inns) never fails to delight us with its natural beauty, lush thick Evergreens, sea lions and otters playing in the nearby waters, and picturesque villages. Although we have been here many times, each time we return our jaws drop from her splendor! Nonetheless, our wanderlust called and Whidbey positioned us well for our three hour Washington State Ferry trip through the magnificent San Juan Islands from nearby Anacortes to Sidney, British Columbia (BC), Canada—a day trip we had made a few years ago.
This time, we decided to explore, in depth, VANCOUVER ISLAND—the largest Pacific Island east of New Zealand. The charming little port town of Sidney, on the island, immediately felt more like Australia than the USA. In beautiful weather, we enjoyed delicious cappuccinos in one of her many sidewalk cafes, strolled to the end of the town pier, stopped to chat with locals, and headed to our cozy B&B in Victoria, BC’s provincial capital.
VICTORIA: What a beautiful city—clean, sparkling, fascinating location on the water—and we are so glad we spent more than just a day here. Our “Airbnb” (Bed and Breakfast) apartment was among the best in which we have stayed and this certainly added to our pleasure. Everything was perfect and the location fantastic—we were pampered by our hosts.
Carole enjoying a quaint waterfront eatery. Photo courtesy of Marv Feldman.
Exploring Vancouver Island’s largest city (about 350,000 people), we ventured into Victoria’s Chinatown (the oldest in Canada), discovered delightful and well-manicured suburbs, enjoyed a cruise on her Inner Harbor, saw float planes take off and land, dined on simple fresh fish straight from the sea, attended the annual Greek Festival, checked out a coal magnate’s magnificent castle and were warmly welcomed by very friendly Canadians everywhere. Superb weather added to our comfort.
Afternoon Tea in Victoria is an old English tradition. While The Empress Hotel is famous for it, we found the prices there had “shotthrough the heavens”. With some research, we found a wonderful alternative—just as elegant in atmosphere and delicious—and at a fraction of the price—the Venus Sophia (rather unusually named) was definitely a hidden gem.
Previously, we had visited Victoria on day trips only, taking in world-famous Butchart Gardens, but on this visit, we had the luxury of an in-depth visit for three days. Now time to discover more of Vancouver Island!
MEANDERINGS AROUND VANCOUVER ISLAND (VI)
Many of our family and friends have only visited VI’s port city of Victoria and while this city is very beautiful, they have missed some of the most spectacular scenery nature has to offer. With no particular destination in mind, we left Victoria by car and meandered to the west coast wilderness, immediately being rewarded with magnificent views along the rugged coastline before heading inland where we saw thousands of majestic giant Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees, stretching hundreds of feet into the sky. Passing numerous logging camps, we smelled the freshly cut trees—the logging industry is a multi-million dollar one. Taking the road “less traveled”, we marveled at gorgeous pristine mountain lakes and saw Bambi (baby deer) several times!
While we could have taken the Trans Canada Highway and reached the town of Duncan (our lodging stop for the night) in a short time, we took all day on the Pacific Marine Circle Route, loving every minute of it. There is something to be said for taking time to explore this region in depth at a “snail’s pace”, stopping for coffee and meeting locals who were amazed that we had come all the way from Florida to check out this very special part of the world. There was no better way to end our day than to dine on fresh fish at nearby Maple Bay Marina with Duncan’s yachties.
VI boasts of having Canada’s best climate (particularly in summer) and we agree, as we experienced perfect sightseeing and touring weather, especially for our east coast explorations. While we saw many hardy Canadians swimming and kayaking in Georgia Strait, the waters were too chilly for us (it is not Florida!).
Marv with First Nation Chief in Duncan, BC. Photo courtesy of Carole Feldman.
Most of the region once enjoyed prosperity through the coal, logging and shipping industries but many towns came upon hard times. Today, however, there is a booming tourism season with many towns cleverly “reinventing” themselves: Duncan—the City of Totems and its fascinating First Nation (native Indian people) Cowichan Native Heritage Centre; Chemainus—the City of Murals (some 42 vast colorful wall murals documenting the town’s history); Nanaimo—the revitalized port for ferries to the city of Vancouver.
Further up the east coast of VI are many delightful holiday towns, catering to families and retirees—in Parksville, we visited charming Morningstar Farm for wine and cheese tasting. And, like the numerous flocks of Canada Geese (called “Honkers” because of their loud noise) which passed over us everywhere in perfect Vee-formation, it was time for us to continue our own journey of exploration and discovery here.
TO THE (WILD) WEST AND PACIFIC RIM