Birthday Weekend in Victoria

I'm continuing my older posts, catching up slowly on all the stuff that's gone on so far this summer. I'll try and get new one's in as well, and jump back-and-forth as time allows. Continuing the surprise visit, Justine had booked us to head over to Vancouver Island. It was actually the weekend after my birthday, and was on Dad's birthday, so we had lost to celebrate. We had a fun time exploring our provincial capital, and had perfect weather for doing so.

The provincial capitol, in the bright sunshine. We really had marvellous weather.

The provincial capitol, in the bright sunshine. We really had marvellous weather.

View from the ferry docks, back to the famous Empress Hotel.

View from the ferry docks, back to the famous Empress Hotel.

Justine had booked us on the morning ferry from the mainland to Swartz Bay on the Friday morning. It was an uneventful ferry crossing, with the weather being perfect. Justine had found us a great AirBnB condo downtown, near the old and historic Chinatown, so we headed there to drop our bags and get settled. The place was a very funky loft - just perfect for what we needed. As walking distance from everything. 

Water taxis and the Empress.

Water taxis and the Empress.

Ready to head out on a little adventure.

Ready to head out on a little adventure.

We walked around downtown a little bit, enjoying the perfect weather. We explored the harbour area, then decided to take a harbour tour on one of the little, colourful water taxis. We bought tickets, and had a short wait before it was time to head out onto the water. On the tour we discovered that this weekend was a big regatta/sailing race that brings in boats from all around, which was one of the reasons the city was so busy. It made for a very festive looking marina, with all the boats decked out with flags on their masts, ahead of the race on Saturday morning.

We toured around the harbour for a few hours, checking out quite a few different parts of town. The tour guide was quite good, and we had some nice views of the city. The tour took us past a couple of marinas where there were all sorts of different floating houses. Some were quite unique; some were tiny and creative while others were large, full homes. The full range was present.

Float planes, marina and the Empress

Float planes, marina and the Empress

Purple martin houses out in the middle of the harbour.

Purple martin houses out in the middle of the harbour.

After the tour we wandered about, had a drink and generally relaxed. We went back to the condo and got ready for dinner. Justine had heard about a cool restaurant down by the water, not far from the hotel so we headed there. We were hoping to sit outside, but the wait was like an hour and a half, so we went into the bar. We got lucky and managed to score an actual table, so we counted ourselves lucky and just decided to stay there for dinner. The food was good, the beer was great, and we had a really nice evening.

Afterwards we walked up and into Chinatown, and explored the narrow streets and some of the interesting shops, before heading back to the condo and calling it a night.

Saturday morning I was up early, and went for a run along the harbour. It was really nice, and I was able to get my run in before the rest of them were really up and about. 

We had heard about the sailing race, and the harbour taxi driver mentioned that the race started around 10:00 (I think), and that they did a pancake breakfast in one of the parks near the water, where you could watch the start of the race from. So we headed out that way, and had some massive pancakes, and enjoyed the various waves of starts of the different classes of boats. It was pretty cool.

The start of the race, with the warship firing off to get the festivities going.

After all the boats were headed out on their race (multiple days for some of them), the coast guard did a bit of a search and rescue show, with a helicopter pulling a dummy from the water. It was pretty impressive.

The afternoon was relatively uneventful. We wandered downtown and made a stop at Phillips brewery for a tasting. Saturday evening we had our big dinner out, at Justine's favourite restaurant in Victoria. She had been talking about this place for as long as I've known her, so I was happy she was able to get us a reservation for the combined birthday dinner. 

Dinner was excellent - good food, good wine and we had a very fun night.

The birthday dinner.

The birthday dinner.

Sunday evening we had the ferry home, but we still had a full day to explore so we decided to head out of the city for a bit. Our friend's Alex and Fergus has just had a new baby, so we stopped in to see them for a bit at their new home just outside Victoria. We dropped Mom and Dad in Sidney to explore while we had a quick visit. It was really nice to see them. 

After our quick visit, we picked up Mom and Dad and drove out to East Sooke Park, a somewhat remote park on the ocean west of Victoria. We had a lovely afternoon hiking along the ocean, and enjoying the afternoon and more amazing weather. Sadly it couldn't last, and it was time to head back to the ferry for the trip home.

I had to take Mom and Dad to the airport early Monday morning for their flight home, and I also had a early flight for a work trip. The two weeks had flown by, and we were sad to have them leave, but we had an amazing time while they were here. It was an excellent birthday surprise!