Thursday, June 10, 2010

Victori-as, Part 1: lines, lines, everywhere lines

So, if you remember back that far, last Memorial Day weekend we took Thatmom away to Vancouver. It was shortly after Thatdad died and even though she was deep in mourning, Thatmom still looks back on that trip as one of the high points of the last year. So much so that she wanted to return to Canada this year. And frankly, she's decided we should spend every Memorial Day weekend in Canada. Not very patriotic, but I'll be quick to agree because of the sheer beauty of the area. I know I have Canadian readers, so I'd love some suggestions for next year's trip!

Even though we were only there for a brief weekend, we did so much that I'm just going to have to break it up into installments. Even still, you'll have to bear with me because I have a lot to share. We'll start with the first day, our arrival day.

Last year it was just three of us. This year Thatbrother and UDubb joined us. I scheduled our flights so we could leave from our respective airports and meet up in Seattle for the final leg of our flight, into Victoria.

We have AMAZING luck with rental cars. Seriously lucky. 9 times out of 10 I book through Costco which gives us both a discount and a free upgrade, so it's always cheap. But there must be something about Thatboy and I that's especially cute, because the rental agents always go above and beyond for us. We were supposed to have a Ford Taurus, but the rental agent took a look at us, gave us a wink, and when we got to the spot, there was this behemoth waiting for us. Sure, it was no Ford Flex, but there was plenty of leg stretching room.

After spending the whole morning traveling, we were all starving. So we headed to our first location - lunch! Not realizing how cold it was going to be (Vancouver weather was perfect last year) we joined the line at Red Fish, Blue Fish.

And there's a reason for the line. Red Fish, Blue Fish prides itself on using 100% sustainable oceanwise seafood.

The restaurant is hidden away on the wharf, in a little tin stand that is all kitchen. The hidden location doesn't stop the line from forming. Even in such windy cold weather.

Even when the seating is all outdoor in the elements.

But you just can't beat the view.

Thatboy and I began with the tempura battered pickles. Because honestly? I love fried pickles. They're one of my all time favorite foods. And I don't get them that often because they're not the healthiest food choice. But I make sacrifices for a really good treat. And these were a really good treat. Crispy and soft, sour and perfectly spiced.

Thatbrother and UDubb started off with some of the seafood chowder, which seemed to have a sort of Thai base. It was a good choice for a cold day, and Thatmom was given a sample by the kind chefs - which she promptly used to scorch her tongue. Silly Thatmom, we don't shoot soup!

Whoops, sorry to disturb you Thatbrother. Go back to your lunch.

We all got Tacones for lunch - cone shaped tacos in fresh grilled tortillas. UDubb got the edamame tacone and Thatbrother got the albacore tuna tacone. They devoured them, which is unusual because normally they share one meal between the two of them.

Thatmom and Thatboy both got the BBQ Wild Salmon Tacone. Thatmom was a little thrown off by the fact it was so cold outside, but later that night on reflection thought it was a really excellent meal, delicious and the best fish she had on the trip.

I went with the chipotle shrimp tacone. And I knew I'd like it - shrimp? I like. Chipotle? I like. And tortillas? I like. This was excellently prepared and exactly what my empty stomach needed.

Sated, we headed over to the hotel. Located just past the downtown area on a relatively residential street, we had a two bedroom suite at the Oswego Hotel.

The hotel was beautiful, with fresh apples for the taking everywhere. And I especially appreciated the giant pitcher of ice water in the lobby with fresh fruit flavoring it - but more on that later.

We definitely enjoyed the view from our balcony. This is the daylight view, but we also enjoyed watching the sunset from here.

Thatbrother and UDubb needed a nap, so we left them at the hotel while Thatmom, Thatboy and I went exploring.

Victoria is an interesting mix of the "First Peoples" (The Native Canadians) and Colonial Great Britain.

There are two landmarks which Victoria is known for - the GORGEOUS Parliament building:

And the Empress Hotel - built when Victoria was really nothing more than the place where the sewage went. In fact, the entire area is built atop a "garbage foundation" much like Disneyworld being built atop swamplands.

We revved ourselves up on some local coffee and browsed the downtown shopping scene, making sure to hit up all of the knitting stores Thatmom researched before the trip. Eventually we made our way down to Victoria's Chinatown - the second oldest Chinatown on the western coast.

You know you're in Chinatown when even the phone booths looks like pagodas.

Victoria's Chinatown is home to Fan Tan Alley - the narrowest commercial street in North America. At one time it was the home of opium dens and gambling saloons, now it houses record stores and boutiques.

Thatmom felt that this must be what Diagon Alley probably looked like.

We were reminded that the United States is not the only country with an ugly history of racism when we came across the Chinese Public School. The school was created after children of Chinese origin were banned from attending English public schools.

With all the walking around, it's no wonder we were hungry for dinner! And we had made plans to meet up with Thatbrother and UDubb at the restaurant early, since they didn't take reservations.

We weren't the only people with this idea. The line for Brasserie L'Ecole begins lining up half an hour before the restaurant opens. Necessary since there are only about 14 tables in the restaurant. I have to apologize for the following pictures, since the restaurant is cozy and darkly lit, not the best atmosphere for pictures.

Thatmom had the sole meuniere - a tender buttery fish dressed with capers.

Both UDubb and I ordered the steak frites - a beautiful steak topped with a gorgonzola butter. Our "frites" came on the side since we both requested "fancy fries" - fries tossed with truffle oil. And somehow I managed to miss getting a picture of them. Maybe because we both devoured them so quickly? And then talked about those french fries for days afterward, as though they were another member of our little family.

Thatboy had the shortribs. I've been steering clear of shortribs since I've been so disappointed lately, but Thatboy's shortribs were absolutely delicious. Some of the best I've had.

Hey look, that's a finger! You know what that means? It's Thatboy's dinner! Thatboy had the lamb rib chops. Just like me he's quick to pick out the lamb or duck on a menu and make it his own.

We wanted to end with something sweet, so we ordered the flourless chocolate torte, which was Thatbrother thought tasted like a balance bar - very rich. We were each only able to take about a bite.

We walked back to the hotel from dinner, enjoying the fact that it stays lighter so much later north of Southern California. Then we sat on the balcony enjoying the sunset before we realized it was ridiculously late and we should all probably get to sleep!

Stay tuned for a trip back in time - duh duh duuuuuuuhhhhh!


  1. Fun! Brings back some memories for me!

  2. Victoria is one of my favourite places. For your next visit as far as restaurants... connect with an on-line magazine called EAT It is free and will give you some excellent ideas on foodie places to go in Vancouver as well as Vancouver Island. Also hook up to Edible BC. Personally I am a big fan of Saltspring Island and the Sunshine Coast.