Tuesday, August 23, 2016

James Bay Tea Room - Victoria, BC

Upon the recommendation of a tea friend, our first tea room destination was at the quaint little James Bay Tea Room and Restaurant on Menzies Street located in James Bay the oldest neighborhood in Victoria, British Columbia. This spot was ideal for our family, as in addition to Afternoon Tea, you could order off the menu. Since Cedar still professes to not be a fan of afternoon tea, he ordered a big plate of pancakes.

The tea selection was varied with colorful tea cups of different designs. The tea pots were wrapped in knitted tea cozies also in varying colors and styles. Tea room decor featured assorted pictures of the royal family and other historic English notables along with decorative plates and British flags. Cozy and quaint.
Angelica had the best of both worlds! She ordered off the luncheon menu and selected the homemade asparagus quiche served alongside a fresh salad. She was also able to sample various tea time treats from the afternoon tea trays that the rest of us selected.

The tea tray held an assortment of savory tea sandwiches on the bottom tier, in the middle were toasted crumpets and English scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, while the top tier had a fun variety of delicious little desserts.
Finger Sandwiches

Scones with Fresh Fruit Cup
                                                       What a fun casual stop for tea!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Craigdarroch Castle

Considered Canada's Castle and designated a National Historic Site, this 28-acre estate is located in Victoria. Construction was completed in 1890 as the home for coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his family. His wealth is reflected in the exquisite collections, the stately Victorian-era furnishings, amazing woodwork throughout four floors, and delicate stained glass windows. Sadly, Robert passed away before it was completed so only his wife Joan and three of his daughters ever lived here.
The tour is basically self guided with docents available to answer questions. Each room is a showcase for the amazing collections displayed here.

Ouiji Board

Over the years the property was used as a Military Hospital to house terminally ill soldiers after WWI, Victoria College, offices for the school board, the Victoria Conservatory of Music and finally from 1969 onward the Craigdarroch Castle Historic House Museum.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nanaimo Bars - Canadian iconic dessert

When preparations for this Canadian adventure were being made, and Nancy learned that the ferry would be taking us into Nanaimo, she mentioned that she wanted to try an authentic Nanaimo Bar. Are you familiar with them? or ever tasted one?                                                                                   According to history, the first published recipe appeared in a 1952 cookbook coordinated by the Women's Hospital Auxiliary. The recipe is on display in the Nanaimo Museum. As with many recipes, several variations can be found as cooks like to tweak a recipe and make adjustments according to their tastes. 
The first time Nancy heard about Nanaimo Bars came from this recipe that appeared in The Bountiful Collection, a cookbook published by the Penn Cumberland Garden Club in 1980. Whenever she makes a recipe, she always pens a note about the overall success (or not) of the recipe. This one is marked, 'delicious! rich!'.
Then, with the arrival of the Internet, this recipe for Squamish bars was shared by Nancy, from BC, in an on-line tea-themed group. She posted that it 'might be my favorite bar and I make it at Christmas time. Again, it is very rich so I just cut it into smaller pieces. Enjoy this yummy! It also freezes well.' Another variation on the Nanaimo Bar but maintaining the basic concept: three layers a crispy bottom, soft icing filling, and a chocolate topping.

And this is the ultimate Nanaimo Bar recipe shared by Tourism Nanaimo. For a larger printed version, here's a PDF file, here.

Did you know that Nanaimo Bars were served at the White House State Dinner in 2016? Perhaps they'll be served in Sweet Remembrances one day soon!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Setting Sail for Nanaimo, or finding yumminess

The second leg of our Canadian journey necessitated a hop onto the ferry. Leaving Vancouver (the city) on the early morning ferry, we set sail from Horseshoe Bay for a 60 nautical mile jaunt or slightly over an hour and forty minutes, with arrival at Departure Bay, in Nanaimo.
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia is home of the famous Nanaimo Bars, a no-bake, triple layered treat of yumminess. Nancy casually mentioned this as we traveled through Nanaimo and shortly thereafter, eagle-eyed David spotted a small sign for them. The van quickly pulled into a small mall in search of a restaurant or bakery that might have posted the sign. With success we pinpointed the Hearthstone Artisan Bakery. They have freshly made Nanaimo Bars and we eagerly purchased several traditional bars and three peanut butter crunch bars. All made in house from scratch.

The clerk happily cut them all in half for us and while chatting with her, we learned about the Nanaimo Bar Trail where we could taste test Nanaimo Bar Cocktails, Truffles, Fudge, Milkshakes, Cheesecakes and other traditional Nanaimo Bars at 39 different locations! #NanaimoBarTrail

We were pretty darn excited to find one location on our quick hop through Nanaimo (it was stop number 10 on the sweetest trail in town).
We were on a constant lookout for this specialty Canadian treat and later found these chocolate covered Nanaimo bars in a bakery in Victoria. Adding yet another layer to an already yummy sweet treat, making a good thing even better!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Totems at Stanley Park

Stanley Park is an amazing and  huge (1,000 acre!) city park with standard playgrounds, bike trails, a sea wall walking path, rose garden, aquarium, lighthouse, statues and more, much more. We spent our time at the Totem Poles, considered one of the most popular tourist areas in BC. Totem poles are unique to the north west coast of British Colombia and parts of Alaska. Some of the totems in this collection date back to the 1880s. Carved from red cedar, they tell a story or reference an event, perhaps real or mythical.

Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens

In the heart of Vancouver's large Chinatown is this classical scholar's garden.  These secluded urban garden-homes are landscape masterpieces which embody the best of Chinese arts, gardening and philosophy.
Specifically crafted to "slow your steps", these paths are designed so the entire path is never seen to incorporate an aspect of something hidden and then revealed.
Of course, a complimentary hot oolong tea was offered and enjoyed in the educational courtyard.
This is the outer courtyard which borders along the public park. I loved that this garden had the private scholar's garden which you entered for a donation but it also had a large public space which everyone could enjoy regardless of your budget.
The public park and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical gardens blend seamlessly together, separated by the jade green pond, intentionally cloudy to intensify reflections.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Olympics - 2010 that is

As we got into the spirit of the 2016 Summer Olympics we visited the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, BC. This venue held the ski jumps and also the skiing/shooting biathlon.
With shouts of "U-S-A" we watched Cedar and David shoot at a target 50 yards away. There's always something for everyone on vacation!

The remains of these winter Olympics sit eerily quiet and desolate. The old ski jump stands alone, forlorn and forgotten. The only activity to be found was at the shooting range where a handful of tourists had landed. Our group of 7 swelled the crowd when we arrived.
This stately rock sculpture greets you upon arrival. It is an Inukshuk (named Ilanaaq) and was the symbol for the Vancouver 2010 winter games. Inukshuk means 'likeness of a person" in the Inuit language.  For centuries, stone figures built in the shape of the men by the original inhabitants of North America have guided lonely travelers in North America and the Artic along the right paths to food, water and shelter.  Inukshuks represent strength, leadership and motivation.

The large plaque below explains the history and purpose behind this symbolic and majestic statue that reflects the spirit and soul of Canada. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Plant Life - Sea to Sky Gondola

Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Hemlock feature prominently in the British Colombian Canadian woods.  'Course we are partial to Cedar.
Living With Cedar

The Sea to Sky gondola had many trails and one of the trails was well labeled with lots of information about the abundant plant life. 

Berries that could be eaten. And medicinal plants of note.

And the uses of mosses and lichens for diapers and padding. There was a lot of educational information posted along the nature walks coupled with discovery activities that were available for children to participate in to receive token rewards.