Jordan River

Surfing the South Island

Although Tofino is notorious for being the top surfing destination in BC, Victoria has a secret: Jordan River. The other weekend the wind was up, the sun was out and the boards were waxed so there was only one thing left to do – go surfing!

A quick 70km-or-so later, the car rolled to a stop next to a handful of others who were in on the secret. Amongst the wetsuits, flannels and dogs of the other surfers, we shielded our eyes against the sun and checked out the break. Shamefully, surfing isn’t my strong suit (yet), and so, as the boys suited up, I settled myself onto the hood of the car. Scattered up and down the shore, excited voices peaked with the waves and everywhere, people traced them with their outstretched index fingers. I walked along the shore to the edge of the point where even more people observed the surfers that split onto either side. Wave after wave presented a good enough challenge for the bobbing figures in the water. It wasn’t just surfers out there either, it seemed like very type of ambitious water-goer had come out to play: kayakers and SUP Boarders took turns delving into the swells and as I watched, people were suiting up and making their way into the break.

While basking in the sun, endless cars came and went, all with boards strapped to their roofs. Apparently though, while the sun was out, so were the locals’ teeth. Like Sombrio, the reputation that has stuck with Jordan River is that it’s a locals-only surf spot where the best waves go to the people who actually belong there. In a way, I guess you can’t blame them for wanting to keep the place to themselves – the boys were all smiles of ecstatic exhaustion as they finally cruised back in on their last waves.

Haunted Buildings in Victoria

Old buildings and ghost stories have long gone hand-in-hand and Victoria is far from an exception. Its alleyways, historical sites and old brick buildings are riddled with the footsteps of citizens and residents from long ago, some more so than others. Whether you believe the rumors or not is up to you. Here are a few of Victoria’s most haunted buildings and areas you may just want to avoid if you’re alone at night.

B.C.’s Parliament Buildings

Open in 1897, the Neo-baroque parliament buildings practically scream haunted. Considering the nature of the demise of their architect, Sir Francis Rattenbury, it comes as no surprise that he’s said to be seen wandering the corridors. He was bludgeoned to death in England by his wife’s lover and was then buried in an unmarked grave. Rumor has it, he haunts the halls of one of his greatest creations because he seeks the attention he was neglected by his anonymous resting place.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel

Another of Sir Francis Rattenbury’s designs, he has been seen pacing the halls of the elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel from time to time as well. Accompanying him are reports of a past maid who still cleans the sixth floor, and an elderly resident in her pajamas knocking on doors. When guests try to assist her to her room, she leads them down the hall and mysteriously disappears. If you don’t believe it, stay at the hotel for a night and try your luck at ghost hunting.

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Photo By: Lylie Kiev

Craigdarroch Castle

It is only fitting that Victoria’s most notorious castle should also be haunted. Although the establishment has notconfirmed the hauntings, rumors have prevailed – and there’s more than one. The most common include staff reports of a little girl seen running around the house, a maid still cleaning, a woman’s feet going down the stairs and haunting music from an unknown source. Some tourists have even reported a man’s legs ascending a hidden staircase that ends in a bolted door.

Chateau Victoria

Shaking up the grounds of where Miss Victoria Jane Wilson and her family used to reside in a historic white mansion, the Chateau Victoria Hotel and Suites has experienced incidents of unexpected, extra guests since opening. A regular at the bar, staff has attempted to wait on a well dressed, albeit old-fashioned lady only to have her disappear in front of them. There have also been incidents reported of the elevators stopping at every single floor despite none of the buttons having been pressed. It’s said they were riding the elevator with Miss Victoria Jane herself.

St. Ann’s Academy

If you’ve seen the movie, The Conjuring 2 then maybe paying St. Ann’s Academy a visit will be scratched off the list. Built in 1858 as a Roman Catholic Cathedral, the academy was converted into a convent school in 1886. On site remains the original cemetery, within which nine sisters are buried. Whether or not they stay underground is the real question. Guests have reported seeing nuns wandering the grounds, as well as the ghost of famous Canadian painter, Emily Carr.

Chinatown

You can bet the second oldest Chinatown in North America is chock full of history… and ghosts. What used to be riddled with opium dens and gambling halls, Chinatown was frequented by all sorts of characters. Fan Tan Alley, especially, gives off a seemingly intense paranormal energy. Perhaps that has something to do with the frequent sightings of the ghost of a man fleeing down Fan Tan Alley – Chung murdered his girlfriend and made his escape through the narrow street. For a reprieve, take a break under the Gate of Harmonious Interest. It is decorated with symbols dedicated to driving away the forces of evil spirits.

Bastion Square

This square is the starting point of Victoria as a city and has a reputation for being the most haunted area in the city. Bustling by day, the square tends to a different crowd as night falls. Nearly every building and the numerous alleyways that surround the square have had reports of some kind of paranormal activity. The old Supreme Court building resides on top of Victoria’s first gallows and jail, where many criminals met their demise and were buried on site. Matthew Baillie Begbie, “the hanging judge” has been seen wandering the area close to his old courthouse. He is said to also spend quite a bit of time hanging around the Maritime Museum as well.

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Photo By: Gord Handford

Market Square

Johnson Street and Market Square make for a pleasant sight these days. Its history, however, possesses a little less charm. Full of gambling dens, saloons and brothels, the area used to be the city’s infamous Red-Light District. Now, its 1800s brick buildings are brimming with the ghosts of the rough-and-tumble characters who used to frequent the area. Visit at night and there might be more than just the sound of your own footsteps echoing in the courtyard.

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Photo By: Gord McKenna

Roger’s Chocolates

A National Historical Site on Government Street, Roger’s Chocolates’ owners were so dedicated they never left, even after they died. Charles and Leah Rogers founded the shop in 1885 and together ran the store and created the chocolates that have become a successful, privately owned and operated retail brand. They reportedly used to sleep in the kitchen, which is where they have been said to still haunt. Allegedly a child’s handprint also mysteriously appeared on a window high above the door.

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Photo By: Jay Carrieres

Beacon Hill Park

Although a stunning park often flooded with hordes of people enjoying the trails, fountains and wildlife, there are darker tales and sides of Beacon Hill Park. Its twisted and extensive trails have been the site of many a duel, suicide and even murder.
The most infamous tale is that of the Screaming Doppelgänger: In the 1970s, a woman of dark complexion with long blonde hair was seen repeatedly standing on a rock in the park, right at the corner of Southgate and Douglas. Every morning for several months she stood, unmoving at the spot until eventually, people stopped seeing her. Suddenly, in 1983, a woman, this time of dark hair and light complexion, started being seen at the same location, unmoving, like the photo negative of the woman before her. She, however, appeared more phantom-like than her predecessor. On Nov. 15, 2983 a body was found in a shallow grave nearby the rock. It perfectly matched the description of the vaporous woman. Even to this day, visitors have reported seeing the dark haired woman sitting in what would appear to be meditation; until you notice her mouth is twisted open in a silent scream.

Laurissa Cebryk

Craft Beer Hotspots

Vancouver Island Brewery

It’s only fitting that Vancouver Island Brewery comes first, as it lays claim to the title of being the Island’s first craft brewery. From 6-employee/warehouse roots in Central Saanich, to a production team of over 40 in a shiny new brewery, it’s safe to say the company has grown in the last 30-or-so years. In fact, the familiar orca logo can be spotted in more than a few places all over the Island and elsewhere. They strove to create beers that reflect west coast life (“clean, fresh and natural”), which they did with flying colours. From the classic Islander Lager, to Piper’s Pale Ale, and Hermann’s Dark Lager, there are more than a few longstanding favourites. Pop by the brewery for a $10 tour and see the production first hand. Then, you can sip a sample and even keep the mug.

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Photo By: Tyson Elder – www.rocktographers.ca

Phillips Brewing and Malting Co.

Driving by the warehouse empire that is now Phillips Brewing and Malting Co. it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always that way. Many years before, a dedicated brewer took to the credit card applications and kicked off a one-man beer production in a windowless apartment. The company’s untraditional beginnings were foreshadowing for what was to come. With eye-catching labels, endless humour and unstoppable creativity, the beers and products that now pour from the brewery are far from just your classic lagers and ales. The iconic, malty Blue Buck is nearly a household necessity in many Vancouver Island fridges, and its runner-up pals aren’t far behind. Better yet, $6 is all it takes to be able to explore the legendary brewery, fit with samples and a souvenir.

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Photo By: Patrick

Hoyne Brewing

Despite lacking a tasting room, snagging a taste of Hoyne is more than an attainable feat. Perhaps its safer to keep the creation of these incredible sips a secret, anyways. With extensive experience in the art of craft beer, and having worked faithfully under one of North America’s first microbrewers, Adam Hoyne was no doubt qualified for the task of creating a namesake brewery. Fairly new compared to its brewing compatriots, Hoyne Brewing is already a staple in most local bars. One beer in particular, Hoyne Dark Matter, has given Guinness a run for its money, replacing it on a few taps. A splash of beer comes with a splash of wit in the form of labels that prep you via colour scale for all the flavours and experiences you can expect. If you like good beer, definitely give Hoyne a shot.

Category 12

Brewing is a science and it’s one that Category 12 is well versed in. In fact, it’s so dedicated to the science of brewing that their tasting room is known as “the Lab.”
Putting the “micro” back into micro brewing, perhaps more than many of the others on this list, Category 12 sticks to small-batch brewing of about 30 kegs at a time. For fine-tuning and maximizing flavour and quality, this is the tactic that has proven infallible. This also means that if you like something, get at it while it’s there. Using local-only ingredients, and with those signature small batches, at least you know the beer is fresh.

Driftwood Brewing

In 2008, the keys to Unit 102-450 Hillside were handed over, and Driftwood Brewery sprang to life. Within a few months, their beer was ready to hit the taps, which it did in a big way. After taking over its neighbouring unit, and then the entire warehouse space, the company has grown and for a great reason; one sip and you’ll see why. These big bottled beers are a delight with classy labels and a number of core flavours backed by tasty seasonals. Perhaps the best known from Driftwood is the Fat Tug IPA, which will have any hop aficionado rejoicing. They don’t do brewery tours (yet), but their shop is open from Monday-Saturday to top up a growler or pick up some bottles.

Lighthouse Brewing

From day one, Lighthouse Brewing has strived to upkeep that artisanal attitude. The goal was to brew amazing craft beer every day with quality and consistency, which is just what they have done. 1998 marks the first batch of Race Rocks Ale, a steadfast part of their growing brew collection. Bottles, boxes and cans are available in a multitude of new brews, all created with the same skill and passion of that first small batch. The nautical theme is merely the cherry on top of the perfection contained inside. Although taking a peek at the bounty isn’t an option, you can always swing by the brewery to fill up a growler.

Spinnakers

Spinnakers might just be the most extensive of all the breweries in terms of brewing and serving craft beer. Not only have they crafted their own artisan beers since 1984, they have a daily cask special, as well as a rotating Guest Tap. Besides just beer, there are barrels and sours, as well as ciders and blends. Pretty well all of them can come in cans, bottles or straight from the source, and they’re paired perfectly with food inspired by the flavours of the beers. If you have a hard time making decisions, a coin toss might be in order, as the beer list is loaded with options. Their brew shop is also a great spot to visit: You may just end up taking some extras with you though, as they also make their own chocolate, as well as beer and cider created vinegars, fresh-baked artisan breads and pastries and even beer jelly. Maybe extensive is even an understatement. Oh yeah, there’s also a growler filling station.

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Photo By: Jan Zeschky

Canoe

Unfiltered and created without the use of preservatives and additives, the beers handcrafted at CANOE are more than worthy of a pit stop. Naturally carbonated, the incredibly crisp flavours of the beer reflect the quality of both the brewing and the ingredients. Partnered with a lively restaurant in a stunning location with great food, the atmosphere of CANOE is pretty much unrivaled. Every day features a different beer or special, and there are often seasonal beers on tap worth giving a go. Schedule your beer drinking to coincide with any of the almost nightly live music performances to enhance the experience.

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Photo By: Eva Rees

Swans

Swans is a pretty well-known hotspot in Victoria, but not only for their beer. The pub is located in one of the city’s iconic heritage homes and is a combination of pub, brewery, liquor store and hotel. A classy logo and straightforward style, beer is not something Swans plays around with. They’ve been producing classic, British-style ales, alongside German and Canadian beers since 1989. Don’t mess with a good thing. Sip your way through a pint or two, or maybe try out a flight and then take your favourites to go. Some options are only available at the pub or by the growler, but there’s a solid selection of bottled goodies at their liquor store, some of which aren’t available on tap.

Moon Under Water

Moon Under Water creates beers inspired by European tradition, but with a Canadian twist. Ambitious in trying out different brew methods, the selection is varied in styles and flavour. There’s definitely a consistency though, and that’s in quality and deliciousness. Six perfected recipes fit with quirky descriptions and backstories give plenty of well-balanced options to test out. They recently added a barrel-aged sour program, so those in favour of the tarter side of things can bait their breath for samples of these patience-inducing brews. Partnering with the brewery is the pub-side of things. The small batch creations sip perfectly alongside a menu of classic pub fare and tasty creative additions.

Cowichan Bay Slow Food Region

Cowichan Bay Slow Food Region

Cowichan Bay is a tiny town on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. With only about 3,000 residents, it would be surprising that anyone who isn’t from the area should know its name; but they do. Foodies from not just Vancouver Island, but internationally have heard of, and flock to, Cowichan Bay. Why? In 2009, it was labeled as Canada and North America’s first Cittaslow town. Originating in Italy, the slow food movement branched out to take over the world and now rates towns on points spanning from friendliness to produce production. They’re dedicated to a movement that promotes living slower in such a fast paced world, alongside using healthy practices when it comes to producing food locally.They also seek to improve the quality of life in small towns (only areas smaller than 50,000 can qualify for Cittaslow recognition).

Fitting in its description, “Cowichan” comes from a local aboriginal word meaning “the warm land.” The area’s temperate climate is exactly what makes the mass amounts of artisan products and amazing foods possible. 10 years before its induction into Cittaslow, the movement began with the opening of the tiny town’s True Grain Bread bakery. The delectable scents that took over Cowichan Bay each morning were dedicated to the benefits of heritage and ancient grains. Soon after, the town became a treasure trove of handmade ice creams, artisan cheese boutiques, fresh seafood suppliers and plenty of other tasty finds.

Although Cowichan Bay remains to be the only true Cittaslow town in British Columbia, all of Cowichan Valley (Chemainus through to Mill Bay) followed suit. Now, the entire area is a hotspot for foodies of all kinds. Duncan features what has been dubbed the best Farmer’s Market in British Columbia, which, if you’re short on time, provides the perfect window into the richness the Valley has to offer.Spread throughout the Valley are numerous wineries, with more than a few relying on 100-percent estate-grown grapes. That’s a lot of homegrown grapes! Find yourself on a seat in any of the tasting rooms and you’ll be sipping your way to discovering why the area has been nicknamed “Canada’s Provence.” Bison farms, tea farms, homemade honey, artisan cheese, balsamics, distilleries, a cidery, a couple breweries and even home harvested and infused sea salt… The opportunity for discovery is endless. There are even places that are kicking back to the hunter-gatherer days and are rediscovering the art of foraging – a skill they’re often willing to share.

Far from just being about the food, however, the slow food movement also embraces and recognizes crucial aspects of a place that make a fantastic quality of life attainable: Culture, history, heritage and, of course, the land. Taking it slow gives visitors the opportunity to learn about what lead to the creation of the products, to get to know the faces and stories behind them and to really take the time to appreciate the little things.

Artisan Food Products

To many, the whole “artisanal movement” may seem like a passing fad. Maybe they’re even holding their breath for the day they can say “good riddance” to what, on the surface, appears to be either a hippy or hipster (it’s tough to say) movement. However, when you take a deeper look at what it really all means, there’s a lot to love! Just take a peek at the definition:

Artisan

[Arr – Tih – Zahn]

noun

A food or drink made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.

Personally, “high quality” sounds delightful, especially when discussing food. This generation of artisan has also seemed to take the concept a step further. To many, the term now encompasses the ideas of local and sustainable as well. These are two key aspects to consider in a society where people are becoming more disconnected with each other, their food and their cities/towns/villages/the land, and where their money goes. Is there anything wrong with trying to connect people back into their roots with a concept as tasty as food? Didn’t think so.

Victoria itself is a treasure trove for those seeking to spend their money on wholesome goodies made locally. Below are 9 places to find artisan eats within the city + 2 bonuses for if you find yourself on the road.

Melinda’s Biscotti

Find yourself knocking on this sweet little café’s door in North Saanich next time you pay Sidney-by-the-Sea a visit. Much like how the café that hosts this now booming biscotti bakery has grown from its humble garage beginnings, its claim-to-fame goodies have grown in flavor options and deliciousness. Melinda started with her favourite Italian biscotti recipe (almond), and, after discovering they were irresistible, decided they were too tasty to keep from the world. Now, there are 10 types to choose from, as well as gluten free options. Still baked with care in traditional Italian fashion, a visit to the café means you can pair a delightful, artisan treat with a lovingly crafted cup of caffeine. To top it off, they even make a rainbow of meringues, should your sweet tooth crave a different kind of goody.

Spinnakers

Spinnakers is the one that does it all. Many know the name for their craft beer, but that beverage is an article on its own. On the food side, Spinnakers has also carved its niche. Pay a visit to the Provisions Shop to discover vinegars crafted from their own beers and ciders, as well as artisan baked breads, pastries and savory snacks.
Intriguing to the taste buds are their unique beer jellies, which are definitely worth giving a go. For those with a sweet tooth, delectably crafted chocolates will certainly make the cut. Besides their own products, Spinnakers has proven to be a mecca for all sorts of other local-ish, artisan goodies such as Silk Road Tea, Vancouver Island Sea Salt and Natural Pastures Cheese. It’s a downright artisan treasure trove in there!

Roast Sandwich Shop

So maybe Roast Sandwich Shop is less of an artisan product to buy, and more of an artisan restaurant to attend. Either way, they’re making great food. The porchetta, roasts, meatballs, rotisseri chickens and salad dressings are all created and cooked right there in the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson. Using many traditional recipes and cooking tactics, everything landing on your plate is fresh to death and antibiotic and hormone free, sourced from nearby farms. Since 2013, they’ve been bringing Victoria (and now San Deigo) exceptional and sustainable eats. Even their packaging is 100% compostable.

Jenny Marie’s Crackers

For all those cheese and charcuterie plate needs, there’s a local cracker goddess coming in to save the day. Jenny Marie’s Crackers take baking back to the basics with 3 simple, yet delightful flavours: Thyme and Sea Salt, Lime and Pepper and Pepper and Sea Salt. These babies are created with care right in Victoria in small batches. Full of natural flavour, but free of preservatives, GMO’s and hydrogenated oils, these artisan crackers pair perfectly with tasty local cheese and Cowichan Valley wine. The 100-mile diet never tasted so sophisticated.

Island Nut Roastery

The tale behind the Island Nut Roastery is almost too sweet for their savory creations. Discovering a peanut butter grinder in their new bulk food store, the creators of Island Nut Roastery simply just had to give it a go. After a trial and error process with home-roasted nuts, they began to get creative with the nut butter output. Nearly any kind of nut imaginable has been roasted and ground, including those with funky glazes and intriguing mixes. Today, the products you’ll find on the shelves are Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, Almond-Hemp Butter and Hazelnut Butter (with Vancouver Island grown Hazel Nuts). Although widely distributed these days, they stick to their Island roots with locally inspired names and labels. Since the very beginning in 1984 to that jar you’ll pluck from the shelf, every butter has been created by hand in small batches without the help of preservatives, assembly lines, deep friers or additives

The Whole Beast

Artisan doesn’t necessarily mean vegan, vegetarian or even vegetables at all. Sometimes, it gets straight into the meat of things, just like the Whole Beast does. Filling an empty niche in Victoria, the Whole Beast is a shop dedicated to handcraft cured and smoked meats. The goal behind it was to be able to give the city homemade and traditionally prepared, artisan cured meats, without all the extras you get with the products bought in a typical market. That means no preservatives or fillers. They also are determined to only feast on local, ethically raised, hormone and antibiotic free meats, while using the entire beast. It’s all a part of the sustainable food movement. What creates better awareness and appreciation for something like a nose-to-tail product than a fine slice of mouth-watering salami? Aside from the meats, there is also a selection of sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles and mustard that is created in-house as well. After all, even a meat shop can appreciate a vegetable.

Pixie Chicks Spices

A caring mother, who was determined to feed her boys healthily even when in a rush, came up with these fine little jars of tasty magic. Efficiency is key, so the spices and rubs, which, by the way, possess no added preservatives or fillers, have a multitude of uses. They can be rubs, blends for soups/dips/salad dressing and pretty much whatever else you’d like, as well as a more flavourful finishing spice than the traditional salt and pepper. There’s also a selection of tasty, non-preservative addedsalts. Created in small batches within the confines of a commercial kitchen, Pixie Chicks Spices are convenient jars with all ingredients labeled for no hidden surprises. There’s even a list of instructions to boot. They also let you in on the secret ingredient: “a dose of love and sprinkling of pixie dust.”

Victoria Pie Co.

Imagine a place where you can get a fresh baked pie, just like the ones your grandma used to make. Well, it actually exists. Welcome to Victoria Pie Co., the city’s first and only pie company. Another artisan treasure located in the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson, this company is taking it back to the simple cottage days with traditional pastry eats. They work with many of the farmers that come to the market to create the menu of the day. That means each day you’re looking at pies reflecting what’s available locally and what’s in season. The sustainability comes from the fact that pies give the bakery the ability to use up ripe and imperfect fruit and veggies. Those neglected apples can still be turned into something beautiful! Although there are a few staples on the menu (Chicken Pot Pie and Apple for example), you’re definitely in for a tasty surprise any season of the year.

Circle Canning + The Chocolate Project

Circle Canning, yet another hotspot at the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson, is the city’s best source for artisanal, farm-sourced canned goods. Due to the fact that the company doesn’t ship, these old-school canning jars of perfect eats are in high demand. Before there were canned goods, however, there was chocolate. The same creators of Circle Canning actually started out on a different track. The Chocolate Project, though not an artisan product produced in Victoria, is too good to pass up including. When the owners realized how hard it was to come across fairly traded and sustainably harvested chocolate in Victoria, they went in search of companies in the world that did exactly that. Now, the shop is a treasure trove of the good stuff; each brand is dedicated to crafting the perfect bean-to-bar chocolate. It includes chocolate from countries like Belize, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary and Austria and there are now over 300 companies included in the store. You’re even able to host a chocolate tasting party. Yes please.

True Grain (Cowichan Bay)

True Grain Bakery is pretty much the OG of the artisanal movement on Vancouver Island. Opening in 2004, the bakery is dedicated to traditional, Old European baking techniques, partnered with the benefits of heritage and ancient grains. On top of that are sustainable practices (think local ingredients), a knack for using organics and farm-to-table partnerships. Follow the scent of freshly baked goods and load up on some carbs for your next adventure, but try to save some room – all of Cowichan Valley is a jackpot of Slow Food and Artisanal goods. Thanks to the dedication to community and slow production spearheaded by True Grain, Cowichan Bay was actually named Canada’s first Cittaslow region in 2009. With dedication and drive like that, you know it’s going to be good.

Dad’s West Coast Awesome Sauces (Mill Bay)

Put the Siracha away, it’s time to try out a hot new sauce that fits those spice needs. With her husband always in search of the best hot sauce, the creator of Dad’s West Coast Awesome Sauces finally took matters into her own hands and began experimenting. Eventually, she came across the perfect combination of peppers, plum, sundried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar (and a few things more) and a combination of hand-ground herbs and spices. Numerous bottles of brand hot sauces that didn’t make the cut were triumphantly replaced by a single jar of the homemade stuff. Now, there are 5 flavours ranging in spice bravery, as well as delectable rubs and mango chutney. Made from scratch with no artificial flavours or preservatives and a dash of sass, they’ll replace your go-to hot sauce in the fridge without a doubt. There’s even a list online of other recipes you can incorporate them into when you realize you just can’t get enough.

Hopefully with this list, though far from exhausted, it can be seen that the best, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s imported from an extravagant country across the sea. Even humble Victoria is a hub of gourmet production.

GOLDSTREAM: THE EPITOME OF “PNW”

Christmas seems to sneak up a little bit earlier every year. November 1st? Get those Christmas lights out, it’s just under 2 MONTHS away! Now, with Christmas just a few days out, those of us who still find ourselves muttering, “Bah humbug”.

10 Reasons to Visit Victoria in 2017

As British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria is an incredible, international hub of food, culture and art. Its temperate climate opens up the door to numerous activities and events, and there are endless opportunities to delve into and discover something new. If you’ve never been, or need some extra encouragement to go back, here are 10 reasons to visit Victoria, BC in 2017.

  1. Victoria knows how to throw a party

2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday, and you can bet Victoria is going to be getting everyone out to party hardy for their country. Eleven days before the big one-five-oh, a number of celebratory events will be taking place along the iconic Inner Harbour and multiple other locations all over the city. Don your red and white to pay a visit to the BC’s capital for this new notch in Canada’s belt as a country. Check out www.spirit150victoria.ca/celebrate-canada/ for a calendar of events and schedule.

 

  1. Young country, fancy old buildings

Despite Canada being only 150 years old, there’s a surprising amount of elegant, historical buildings to be seen. For a dash of history, Victoria is the perfect stop over. Peruse the BC Legislative Buildings to learn a bit about Canadian government and bask in Romanesque Revival architectural style. They’re especially stunning at night. On top of that, you can check out the Craigdarroch Castle, the Empress Hotel, Government House, Emily Carr House and plenty of others. Visit our Historical Places page.

 

  1. 365-Days of Outdoors (if you want)

Victoria experiences some of the mildest climates around, sitting under 30 degrees Celsius in the summer and rarely dropping below 0 in the winter. As a bonus, unless you head for the mountains, snow rarely touches the ground. This means golf courses stay open all year, hiking trails and parks aren’t buried in the snow and there’s no need to pile on 20 layers of clothing to go check the mail. There’s also surfing all year round nearby (but especially in the winter), a couple of ski hills within reach and fantastic beaches and swimming spots for those hot summer days.  Those craving that outdoor lifestyle can pretty much live under the stars and sky any time of year. Check out some of these great hikes!

 

  1. The colours and scents are both constant and endless

Thanks again to the moderate climate, Victoria is a haven of gardens and flowers. In fact, it has been dubbed the “City of Gardens.” Just try being cranky when you’re basked in the scent and liveliness of endless greenery and frequently flowering plants. With the infamous Butchart Gardens, as well as numerous other hidden treasures, there is almost no end to the blossoming beauty in the city. Downtown alone is lined with about 1,350 handcrafted hanging baskets starting in June, all the way to September. Many areas are turned into an enchanted winter wonderland over the holidays, making the gardens another example of the 365 days of outdoors Victoria offers. Discover Victoria’s gardens here.

 

  1. 3 weeks are dedicated purely to feeding people great food

Fresh food abound, Victoria is a hot spot for literally any type of cuisine, fit to any style of dining. If visitors and locals weren’t inclined to pay a visit to the delectable eats offered by the city, Dine Around and Stay in Town will surely encourage at least one restaurant outing. From February 17-March 5th, over 60 restaurants put together a special menu for patrons to choose from. Featuring 3-course menus for $20, $30, $40 and $50 per person, you can choose a menu showcasing incredible foods that suits both your belly and your wallet. It’s the perfect chance to experience a new restaurant with some of the best, handcrafted menus, or try out something completely new and get insight into the unique flavours they have to offer.

 

  1. Shopping tastes good

Victoria has an abundance of local farms that are constantly producing unreal products. Therefore, it is only natural that Victoria is home to a multitude of Farmer’s Markets. Although most run during the summer months only, the Victoria Public Market in the Hudson boasts plenty of artisan products year-round. Feel good knowing you’re shopping local, getting the freshest and finest products around and that plenty of samples await your shopping excursion. It’s a great way to delve into the local life and see what Victoria has to offer.

 

  1. Visiting vineyards doesn’t require a flight to Italy

Sommeliers rejoice; the Cowichan Region and other areas just outside of Victoria are home to numerous, incredible vineyards. Most are fit with wineries and tasting rooms, as well as restaurants full of the freshest, local goods. Pay a visit to the rooms to sample some of the finest selection of BC wines, crafted less than an hour outside of the city. Move over, Italia, Victoria is coming through with some fine sipping of its own.

 

 

  1. Day drinking is both easily accomplished and encouraged

Besides wine, Victoria has kept up with the microbrew fad that has taken over many parts of the world. Hop onto a brew tour or book a seat on a brewery bus and head out to sip your way through the day. There are numerous breweries in Victoria with tours and tasting rooms and many restaurants also casually feature their own beer. Some restaurants are even purely dedicated to showcasing different microbreweries from all over the place.

Highlights include: Phillips, Hoyne, Spinnakers, Canoe, Swans, VIB and Lighthouse.

 

  1. Animals love Victoria, too

Bound by the ocean, whale watching is a prime activity in Victoria. 3 pods of resident orcas liked the place enough to stay, as did numerous other marine animals. Sea lions, Gray, Humpback and Minke Whales, porpoises and plenty of marine birds join the orcas in the waters of the Pacific. Although you can take a trek into the forest or onto the sea to make some new friends, there are plenty of local animals right there in the city: Paying a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf usually makes for a meet and greet with the local seals that show off to entice you into sharing your lunch.

 

  1. Victoria is only the beginning

An incredible city unto itself, Victoria also acts as a gateway to the rest of Vancouver Island. The city is simply just the beginning. Mountains and local swimming holes nearby slowly entice you out of the boundary of the city. From there, the highway is your friend and more treasures wait. The beaches of Tofino, the forests of Cathedral Grove, the trails in Strathcona, the fishing in Ucluelet… Everything is within your reach as you head out from Victoria to the rest of what Vancouver Island has to offer. Visit this post about road trips to take from Victoria for more great adventures!

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Tour the Parliament Buildings

The Parliament Buildings are a landmark in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.  Construction of this great architectural building started in 1893 and was lead by a 25-year-old architect by the name of Francis Rattenbury. During Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, construction was deemed complete, however, details, refinishing, additions and upgrades were ongoing right up until 1915. Francis Rattenbury and his crew made an effort to use local materials, resources and expertise when building the Parliament Buildings, as during this time in B.C. it was important to both him and the government to support local businesses. Granite rock foundations were brought in from nearby Nelson Island, the site facades were locally imported from Haddington Island, and most of the local brick, lime and Douglas Fir were accumulated from areas around Vancouver Island.

The inside of the buildings are just as grand as the outside, which features a statue of Queen Victoria on the front lawn.  You can book tours of the buildings that will give you both insight and perspective on the historical significance of Victoria as the command center for British Columbia. The Parliament Buildings are also worth a visit at night-time, as the 3,300+ light bulbs that adorn the façade are lit up, casting a magical glow over the harbour.

The political governing body – elected by British Columbians – assembles in this house to pass law and make decisions affecting the future direction of the province.

Some of the nearby attractions include Beacon Hill Park, the history of the BC Royal Museum and the shops, boutiques and artisans in the downtown core on Government Street.

The BC Parliament Buildings provides guided tours Monday to Friday. Tours are provided in both official languages of Canada – English and French – and can be arranged in other languages when notice is provided.

BC Parliament Buildings are located on Belleville Street in Downtown Victoria’s Inner Harbour. (Telephone) 1-250-387-3046

10 Things to Revive your Holiday Spirit

Christmas seems to sneak up a little bit earlier every year. November 1st? Get those Christmas lights out, it’s only 2 MONTHS away! Now, with Christmas just a few days out, those of us who still find ourselves muttering, “Bah humbug” under our breath might require a little bit of help to get in the holiday mood. Read on for ten things you can do in Victoria between now and Christmas to get that jolly smile back on your face.

 

  1. Winter Wonderland in Centennial Square

Live music, toasty, holiday-themed drinks, twinkling lights, a polar bear and the jolly old man himself – Winter Wonderland in Centennial Square is the Cindy Lou Hoo to anyone’s holiday Grinch.  Better yet, taking a ride on the Ferris wheel, surrounded by the crisp winter air and holding on tight to a loved one gives a bird’s eye view of the amazing lights and displays downtown. Sit on Santa’s lap to make your Christmas request, and then skip on over to a food truck for a pick-me-up. The vibe is contagious, the joy – undeniable. Winter Wonderland is the perfect evening to shake off the Grinch inside.

 

  1. The Parliament Buildings

Although always dazzling with its 3,600 light bulbs, visiting the Parliament Buildings around the Holidays means you’re in for a special treat. Strings of red and green adorn the dome and front entrance in a delightful splash of holiday cheer. If you opt to peek inside, TV screens flickering with the Yule Log and a robust, decorated fir stretching up the center alcove of the building add a warm welcome. Outside, another massive Christmas tree shines its festive light onto the Inner Harbour, which is lined with shimmering snowflakes and other displays. The lit up walkway and boats are an absolute delight. If you’re not one for holiday crowds, checking out the Legislative Buildings at night are the perfect way to catch a quiet moment of stunning, holiday beauty.

 

  1. The Magic of Christmas at the Butchart Gardens

Twisting through branches and intertwined through festive displays, the already enchanting Butchart Gardens are even more magical as the holidays approach. Bask in the glow of thousands of twinkling lights as you hunt down the 12 Days of Christmas Displays. Then, spin through sound of carolers in the night on the Rose Carousel and cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate. Although Victoria hardly drops below 0 degrees, you might even be lucky enough to have a dusting of snow create a sparkling pathway for your extravagant, light up wander. To top it off, pull the ultimate Canadian maneuver and go for a skate at the rink in Waterwheel Square. With two months of installation time, the breathtaking displays will steal your breath and replace it with holiday cheer.

 

  1. Visit a Christmas Market

If the prospect of finding the perfect Christmas gift for those special people in your life has you struggling to shake the holiday stress, look no further than the Christmas Markets that take over Victoria during the season. Right up until Christmas Eve, spend a delightful afternoon in Bastion Square’s Holiday Pop Up Market. Perfect presents line the area, waiting to be picked up, wrapped up and placed under the tree for Christmas Day. Of course, the Victoria Public Market can be counted on for the perfect Christmas Market as well. Gift wrapping, wreaths, fantastic food and plenty of baked goods to fuel the present search await – finally, you can shake the shopping stress and sink into a chair with a Rum and Eggnog knowing that everyone on your gift list has been accounted for.

 

  1. Festival of Trees

Not even Scrooge could deny the beauty of a Christmas tree. There’s something about the garland and the glow of lights twisted through sweet scented branches that is contagious. So, why not go see 100-or-so at once? The Festival of Trees, which is shared between the Empress Hotel and the Bay Centre, ensures that no one goes without basking in the glow of at least one Christmas tree during the holiday season. Shimmering, typically according to a theme, are business and vendor-decorated trees that are available for visitors’ viewing pleasure. Better yet, spread the love of Christmas spirit by voting for your favorite, while making a small donation to the Children’s Hospital to bid your ballot.

 

  1. Gingerbread Showcase

Personally, my gingerbread house attempts never quite turn out like the picture on the box or in the recipe. Luckily, there’s a place to go to indulge in the sweet sight of perfectly constructed mansions of ginger, goodies and icing. Every year, the Inn at Laurel Point showcases the tasty work of professional and amateur bakers from across Canada, all in the spirit of supporting Habitat for Humanity. Far from typical box-house constructions, the cookie creations follow a theme and, well, are something that needs to be witnessed first-hand. The scent itself is guaranteed to have that stomach grumbling in preparation for a joyful, holiday feast. Just try not to drool on the displays.

 

  1. Free Horse-Drawn Holiday Trolley Rides

Is there anything more “winter” than a horse-drawn trolley ride that winds its way through Christmas light wrapped streets as delicate flakes twist through the sky? What if it were free? Until Christmas Eve, take a break from walking through the markets and holiday crowds to take a seat on a trolley and enjoy a festive classic. Surrounded by the mesmerizing clip-clop of horse’s hooves, the weariness of a busy day can melt into the sounds of holiday crowds, jingling bells, carols and laughter. Although you’ll have to share the trolley with more than just your loved one, the festive horses and candy-striped trolley are still a delightful and unique way to get yourself into the Christmas mood, all while seeing downtown Victoria in a new, twinkling light.

 

  1. The Ghosts of Christmas Past Walking Tours

Now for something a little less… Traditional. Like “A Christmas Carol,” Victoria is haunted by a number of Ghosts and gruesome stories that took place many years ago during the holiday season. Join in on 90 minutes of Yuletide hauntings that involve numerous locations of Victoria. Casting an entirely different glow on the holiday lights, after the tour, it will be hard to tell if you’re shivering from the cold, or from something else entirely. Of course, there are also the joyful stories in the Christmas in Old Victoria tour should you need to warm up a little post-tour.

 

  1. “A Christmas Carol” at Craigdarroch Castle

Speaking of “A Christmas Carol” and spooky locations, popping by the Craigdarroch Castle for a showing of Charles Dickens’ story is a great way to shake the Bah Humbug in you. The elegant, Victorian mansion sets the scene and the one-man show takes you back through the holiday classic story. Built in 1887 by coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir, the mansion seems to truly welcome in the ghosts of Christmas past and bring the tale to life.

 

  1. The Polar Express at the IMAX

All aboard the Polar Express! Taking a trip to the North Pole has never been so easy. A one-man show like no other, The Polar Express quickly stole the hearts of the many who watched it. Now, it can do it in a bigger and better way. Why not take in a favorite Christmas movie on the big screen, the REALLY big screen? It also plays in 3D! A touching, holiday tale about Christmas spirit, you’ll lose your holiday Grinch ways once and for all as you join in the journey, popcorn in hand, to meet the Jolly guy himself. There’s nothing like a wholesome, holiday tale to remind us what Christmas truly is about.

So, there you have it! Kick those Bah Humbug blues by experiencing Victoria in true, holiday style. Remember, Christmas only comes once a year, so take advantage of the fun and beauty while it lasts.