Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On the Road: (Pacific Northwest, 2011) Vancouver, Victoria

I've been on the move the past couple of days. The weather hasn't been the best--it rained in Vancouver, where I did little more than walk around the Yaletown and Gas Town neighborhoods. In Gas Town, I happened to walk by a steam-powered chiming clock that was just indicating the hour; it appears to be famous. The highlight, however, was an all too-short visit to Stanley Park, which is lush and beautiful, much like Golden Gate Park, although it seems considerably larger and it has some genuinely forested areas. I should have planned to spend more time there, but that's the downside to spontaneous travel--sometimes you miss opportunities. During my brief visit I did a little casual bird watching at the Lion's Gate Bridge overlook, where I saw Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Black-capped Chickadees, White-crowned Sparrows, Downy Woodpeckers, a beautifully bright Yellow Warbler, and what I think was a Black-throated Grey Warbler. The Downy Woodpeckers here are greyer than ours, their caps more orange.

I crossed over to Vancouver Island in the afternoon of the 18th and drove down from the port near Sidney and out to Sooke, to the West. I found a quirky, inexpensive B&B in an old (1870) house with character and a character for a proprietress. She sat me down in the kitchen and wouldn't dismiss me until all the formalities were thoroughly taken care of. I had hoped to do some bird watching in the area, but nowhere recommended turned out to have anything of special interest. I missed seeing the larks known to live in the area that are now very restricted in range, although I checked for them at the little cemetery by the airport where they are said to hang out. I stopped at a good winery, however, on the way down from the ferry port, Church and State, where the very friendly and helpful Lyndell poured the entire line for me to taste (I asked about the somewhat odd name--"it's all about balance," she said with a smile). They make an excellent Pinot Gris with real character from Vancouver Island fruit and some good wines from Okanagan Valley fruit, notably a good 2008 Chardonnay and a 2006 Meritage. Awinery worth looking out for.

When two years ago I made a road trip like this one (heading east across the country, going as far as Ohio and back) the food along the route was generally appalling. In contrast, I've had good luck with food on this trip. Interesting Read Island Oysters at Blue Water Bistro in Vancouver and dinner last night at the Sooke Harbour House (an inn and a restaurant; 1528 Whiffen Spit Rd., (250) 642-3421). The dining room at the Harbour House has a good view over the ocean with forested islands as a backdrop. I wached the fog engulf them as I ate. The staff were notably professional, attentive, and enthusiastic about the food and the wine. The wine list is fabulous. I had a very tasty white blend called Blind Trust (Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Blanc) from Laughing Stock Vineyards, and tasted several other wines; talking about wine with the waitress and sommelier, they kept bringing me tastes. I was particularly impressed by an island rosé of Pinot Noir. Clearly some very good wine is being made here. The weather seems to be difficult, though. Lyndell at Church and State said they didn't even pick the fruit last year because the summer was so cool, and the grapes appear to be well behind schedule this year, too. On my way out, I took a good look at the vines and was startled to see that they were just flowering....

I had an excellent salad made from local greens, local herbs, and edible flowers. It tasted like my garden. I followed that with mussels, clams, and gooseneck barnacles in broth, garnished with shungiku, and had a salmon main dish with an array of garnishes (including turnips, pesto, and shrimp-stuffed crayfish) that kept offering surprises. Excellent. I was tempted to stay another night, just to enjoy the restaurant again. Today, I spent a little time checking out spots that were recommended for birding near the Inner Harbor at Victoria, but there was nothing to see. All the gulls appear to be Glaucous Gulls and Glaucous-winged Gulls. I write this as I wait to board the ferry bound for Port Angeles, north of Seattle. I plan to make a quick move south, making it to the Portland area again tonight, if I can, but I suspect I'll peter out early.

1 comment:

  1. I went to University in Victoria and lived there for about 8 yrs. It's nice to read about your visit; makes me homesick for it all. The Sooke Harbour House. Yummm.


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