Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Canada - Day Five - Tuesday 8th October

Quite a leisurely start to the day today – breakfast was at 8.30am.  We met Michelle from Victoria Tourism in the Café of the Parkside Hotel, and had a very informal breakfast and excellent coffee.  After storing the luggage with the hotel, we walked to the Robert Bateman Centre, ten minutes or so from the hotel on the harbour.  Robert Bateman is an artist who lives on Saltspring Island – just off of Vancouver Island.  This centre is new, but in a beautiful old building.  It only opened in May, and although the galleries are finished the gift shop isn’t.  Oh what a shame – can’t go shopping!  I had never heard of him, but his art work is fantastic.  Most of it is wildlife, and it is so good you actually feel as if you are in the picture.  He is 83 years old – and to be honest looks younger than I do.  Perhaps I ought to move to Saltspring Island if that’s what the air does out there.

The assistant curator gave us an insight into what the centre is all about – so much more than just the art.  He wants to educate children into the great outdoors again, and get them to appreciate nature rather than TV’s and computers.  His philosophy is that if children grow up to love nature, they will want to help preserve what we have.  Sounds good to me.  Saying that, they have embraced technology in the galleries, with his full complement of circa two and a half thousand paintings on a ipad thing that you can scroll through and transfer onto large flat screens on the wall.  That way, you can see any and all of his paintings instead of just the hundred or so that they have room for to hang on the walls.  One of his loves is birds, and several of his bird paintings have a plaque next to it that you can wave in front of and hear the call of that particular bird.  You can also pick up a smartphone, or download an app on your own, to wave in front of a QR code on the plaque and it will instantly bring up all the information you would ever need to know about that particular painting.  Technology and nature working in harmony.
From here we walked to the Coast Harbourside Hotel, right next door to where the Orca Spirit Adventures have their office and dock.  Their lovely sales manager, Charlene, met us and said we would instantly forget the rooms that she was going to show us, but we would not forget the lunch.  Optimistic words!  The rooms were all the same, the only difference being the view.  Harbour view or not.  There was nothing wrong with the rooms, they looked very comfortable but not spectacular.  She was right about them being forgettable.  We then went to lunch in the Blue Crab Bar and Grill, which is part of the hotel and has views out over the harbour.  Wow, and was she right about the lunch.  After goats cheese salad, scallops in a chilli and lemon butter sauce with couscous the size of pearl barley and white chocolate bread pudding I felt I was only able to waddle out of my seat.  I would say that meal was the best I have had on this trip so far.  Apparently even the Fairmont send people to this restaurant as it is known as one of the best seafood establishments in Victoria.  I couldn’t agree more.  I tried, but unsuccessfully, to get the recipe for that sauce!

We then met the LA Limousines minibus that took us back to the Parkside Hotel to collect our luggage, and head out on the journey to Campbell River.  The driver Edison, think light bulb or lighthouse to remember his name, also found it difficult to draw breath on the three hour or so journey.  He had lots of stories to tell, and lots of information to give.  As we headed out of Victoria the scenery changed into quite a mountainous one.  We headed up the mountains (think hills rather than hairpin bends) until we got to a lookout at the top.  This overlooked Victoria beyond the strip of ocean that we had just gone around.  We could see the airport and Butchart Gardens.  It was such a lovely day again – the sun was shining.  Edison pointed out that the mountain range we could see in the distance was actually in the USA (Mount Baker, the volcano was not in sight today) and were part of the Olympic Ranges.  The clouds came up to that point, and usually got no further leaving Vancouver Island in sunlight.  Nice.

We travelled for around an hour and a half, and then stopped at a local vineyard at Lake Cowichan.  Averill Creek Wineries was owned and run by a Welsh Doctor.  Are there are locals here??  He has thirty odd acres of vines, that they were actually going to start harvesting tomorrow.  Anyone looking for a job?  Every grape is picked by hand – there should be around sixty five tonnes of them.  We had a very good explanation as why their wine is better than everyone elses.  No stomping or crushing grapes here – they all have to be treated very carefully to retain their flavour.  We then went into the shop to have a tasting of six different wines.  They were all good – BC wine has a very good reputation, but they don’t make enough of it to export so it rarely goes outside of Canada.  This part of Vancouver Island apparently has a Mediterranean climate, so is ideal for grape growing.  After six glasses, albeit small glasses, of wine we all got back in the minibus for the further two hours to get to Campbell River.  I heard Edison telling Denise that there used to be lots of wildlife on the highway until they put fences up either side except for places where they naturally crossed.  Then I heard him telling Denise that they couldn’t stop that unless they made a bridge for them to cross.  Perhaps it was the wine, but I can’t see how you can tell an Elk to go over a bridge rather than cross a road.  I must have fell asleep at that point, but when I woke up he was still talking.  Wonder what I missed!  He was very good at name dropping celebrities that he had driven, and how discreet their company was.  Wonder why he was telling us then?

We arrived at Heron’s Landing in Campbell River just in time to drop our bags and then go out for dinner.  Today seems all about food.  We were driven ten minutes down the road to the Rip Tide Pub, where we met the sales manage for Knights Inlet – where we are off to tomorrow.  I had a Bison Burger – first Bison for me.  I really wasn’t hungry, so feel I didn’t do it justice.  During the meal the couple that own Knights Inlet popped in to say hello- lovely couple.  I hope the lodge is as good as the perceptions that I now have!  We will see tomorrow.

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