Victoria with Kids- the book!

Victoria with Kids I am so excited to share my news…I have written a book!!  Yes, you read that correctly, A BOOK!  And not just any book, but a book that is near and dear to my heart.  It’s a travel book, called Victoria with Kids- eat play shop.  Tag line, an essential guide for cool parents and their children.

This book is chock-a-block full of information.  The kind of family fun information that I am always seeking on any of our travels. Like:  What touristy stuff is worth doing?  Where are the playgroups?  Where is good to eat, but quick, but good??  Is there a playground near by? What about somewhere to shop??

Right?  That is the stuff you want to know.

So this book has that. It is broken down into neighborhoods, so parents can easily and immediately find the good stuff, and don’t have to waste precious time searching.

There is also write ups on beaches, little mini kid hikes, one day classes, and even date night ideas…and more!!  It’s perfect for families visiting us, or even grandparents that live here, but need so ideas (hint hint- dad).

It is available right now on Amazon and Ibooks as an e-book…coming to soon to print!

 

Fisherman’s Wharf- An extremely lovely day

 

Fisherman's Wharf with Kids

It has been such nice weather lately, which is a real treat because we can all get outside with our little ones.  And not just ‘tolerating’ it outside, but really enjoying the great outside.

This, and I haven’t done a ‘lovely day’ in so long- which is why I started this blog in the first place.  Now all I do is rant!  So, here is a recent Lovely Day…

Hank I went to Fisherman’s Wharf in James Bay with my lovely Niece (Hi Niece!) and her little man  Teddy.  This is a really great thing to do in Victoria with kids!

This place has it all.  Playground, coffee, food, entertainment, a cool wharf to walk on, sometimes seals to feed, boats, seaplanes, water taxi’s and more!

We started at the playground.  Woodchip, big climby rope thing (for older kids), a steep slide, and a couple of those boingy car things.  Really it’s a park for older kids, but our kids are so little it doesn’t matter.  They just sat around and ate woodchips and were perfectly happy.

There is also a massive field with rolling hills (perfect for rolling down) around this park, so there is plenty of space to run (or crawl).

After this we went to Mocha House for a coffee.  If you go from the park, walk down towards the water to the left- Mocha House is down there in the bottom of the glass condo building, not on the wharf.  The staff there were cracking our kids up plus they have some really funny things for you to read while you wait for your coffee.

From here head down to the wharf.  It is totally stroller friendly.  However, if you have a toddler who is not buggy bound you will have a heart attack as they will run willy nilly and probably almost fall into the ocean a thousand times.

There is plenty of places to eat.  The taco place is really good!  Barb’s is ok. Touristy, but if you want fish and chips on the wharf that is where you will go (if you go back up past the park look for FAS, they have THE BEST fish and chips).  You can get ice cream at Jacksons.

Sometimes there are a couple of big black and white seals that people feed (they hang out by the taco place- however, people do not feed them taco’s).  It’s fun to watch them appear out of the depths of the water.

Amelia the boys and I sat in the sun and watched some buskers making music and tried to resist the salty vinegary french fries that we could smell.

If you want, and this is cool for a longer day, you can catch a water taxi.  They take you a few different places.  Downtown, the Songhee’s, I think even on a little tour.  The kids usually love it (but if they don’t, you are stuck on a boat)!

There is a nice walkway that snakes along the water to get you downtown.  It’s also fun to go look at the funky houseboats on the wharf.

And that’s it.  The only thing it’s missing is a place to shop!!!

Willows Beach & Estevan Village, Lovely even in the Rain

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Well, if you live in Victoria like me, you will agree that the weather has changed! The rains have started. It has been POURING! And since my poor little blog is in part about fun things to do with your kids in Victoria I have been negligent in posting- because what the heck do you do in the rain?? I suppose this will be the challenge for me over the next few months. My instinct is to curl up with a good book and read all day- but as I have children this is NOT HAPPENING! So stay tuned, I guess, for some creative ways to entertain children in crummy weather.

This past Sunday was no exception. Cabin Fever was setting in hard core, so we decided to suit up and get out. We went over to Willow’s Beach in Oak Bay. It was really only sprinkling so it wasn’t so bad…and once you are out there and engaged it’s easy to ignore the rain. Willows Beach is a pretty great all season beach. There is a play ground there, with a big and little kid area. There are swings for both age groups. There is a giant field to run around in. There is a little tea room- where you can warm up on brisk day. And of course there is that beautiful long sandy beach to roam around on.

On this day we found a stream that must have been an exit point for all the rain that the city received. It cut a thick path through the sand and into the ocean. Hudson had a ball mucking around in it, making giant sand avalanches drop into the stream by stomping sand down the small embankment, and by sending little bark pieces down in the rushing water to float out to sea. We helped some other kids gather sticks and small logs and try to build a damn. Baby Hank was even entertained by putting small stones on a log and crawling hell-pell towards the ocean.

After Willows Beach you can (and we did) walk up to Estevan Village. Here there are places to Eat and to Shop!

We went for a Hot Chocolate and Mini Cupcake at Crumsby’s Cupcake Cafe. This is a great great place to go with kids. It is Victoria’s only cafe with a good sized dedicated play area. There are ton’s of cars and trucks, a little kitchen area, a train table, books and more. The food is really good and fresh. The room is charming as charming can be. However, don’t be fools like us and go on a rainy Sunday…it was MENTAL in there!

Also in Estevan Village is Bungalow Gifts- which is for the mama’s. They have kitchen stuff, gift stuff, greeting cards, paper, and all sorts of home stuff that is fun to look at (and buy). Next door to that is Buddies Toys, which is one fab toy store. One of those stores where their merchandise is well curated. You won’t find a bunch of crap here! There are a few other shops and restaurants here as well…so it is a fun block to poke around!

Here is a map of the area and some pictures of our Lovely Day!

An Hour at The Ogden Point Breakwater!

The Ogden Point Breakwater just outside of downtown Victoria is a lovely way to spend an hour or two. It is a low commitment trip (depending on where you are coming from). We live just a few minutes by car from here, so we can just go for an hour and then come home- and it’s not big deal.

The breakwater does not fulfill my eat, shop, play criteria (it lacks the shop element)- but it is forgiven because there is nothing about this excursion that is a hassle. Here is what it has going for it:

  • Free and Easy Parking
  • A sand beach that is adrift with drift wood and pebbles
  • A stroller friendly walk that ends up at a light house (it’s around 20 minutes round trip- more if you take the low level or have a slow walker)
  • For those more adventurous (and without a stroller) a walk along the wild side
  • A cafe to warm up with a hot chocolate and a treat
  • The chance to see- tug boats, cruise ships, sea life, murals, a light house, big waves, fog, fishing boats, a helicopter, people fishing from the lower level

We went on a foggy morning which made everything seem so calm and still. It was really beautiful, and a bit erie. There are two area’s to walk on. The top and main level is smoothly paved and has railings along either side. This is perfect for a stroller and for responsible toddler walkers. The lower level however is compiled of giant stones slabs. There are gaps between each slab- most small, but some are huge! You can hear the ocean slapping, gurgling, and crashing between the gaps down below. From this level you can also spy starfish, barnacles and clusters of mussels clinging to the walls in between the gaps. When a bigger boat goes by the wake can send a gyser of freezing salt water into the air.  It is fun to hop from one slab to the next (but can be slippery- so look out!).  There are always guys fishing from these levels- one time we saw someone catch and club a fish right in front of us. It was a bit gruesome, but neat to see. On this day we ran into some fisherman who had seen a pod of whales swim by them the day before! Of course my eyes were riveted to the ocean hoping to see them again. But they did not show up.

On the end of the Breakwater is a lighthouse , which makes a fine destination. On the way back we walked back along the top- where you can see the tugs and pilot boats in the protected harbor.  Sometimes there are seals poking around in this calm area as well.

Right at the entrance of the breakwater is Ogden Point Cafe, which is a good place to get a little snack and warm up when the weather is cold.

After this you can spend some time beachcombing on the little sandy beach.  There are always interesting finds down here.

All in all a lovely couple hours!

 

Banfield Park- A Really Lovely Playground in Victoria BC

Here is what makes a lovely day in my eyes. Well, lets clarify, a lovely day with kids. First, there has to be a good destination for them. Second, there has to be a good destination for me. Be it a shop or two, or maybe just a good latte and probably a treat. And total bonus if there is some good eats and we can wrap it all up into a nice picnick package!

Here is one of my favorite playgrounds in Victoria BC- plus it’s fantastic surrounding area ‘amenities’.

I’ll separate it into Eat, Play, Shop so you can see what is so fantastic about this little trip to Vic West.

Eat: Let’s start with Eat, because who doesn’t like eating?? We went on a Sunday and got to experience Fry’s Bakery Pizza. This stuff is so good! It’s italian style of pizza- thin crust, few toppings (but fresh and quality). They use local ingrediants and it’s all cooked up in a wood burning oven.  There were around 4 choices, plus a kids cheese pizza.  There are a couple of sweet check clothed tables outside…but we took ours to the park. They are open from noon until they sell out of Pizza- so go early and maybe have a back-up plan.

If you go on a non-Sunday they sell THE BEST crossiant in Victoria. This is no lie. They also have a few other pastery type things as well as bread. And, rumor has it they make sandwiches now.

They are closed Monday & Tuesday.

Right beside Fry’s is The Spiral Cafe. They make a good coffee, and are very kid friendly. There are some toys, a couple of high chairs, and what have you. They sell Mount Royal Bagels and lot’s of other treats.

Play: So, take your pizza/sandwich/coffee/muffin across the street to Banfield Park. This is a great park with two structures (one for littler and one for bigger kids). It’s all fairly new and sturdy. There is a swing set with baby and big kid swings. It is in a big field so there is lot’s of room for your kids to RUN around. There is a walkway at the bottom of the park that takes you along side The Gorge. If you take a right on the trail (towards town) you will get to a cool old trestle that you can walk across. It’s a around 10 minute walk to the trestle and then another 10 or so to go across…you are looking at 30 to 40 minutes round trip…so know your crowd. You can definitely take a good quality stroller or bike on this path- which will cut down on walk time.

Shop: A few shops down from the Spiral is a kids consigmnent store. Sailor Jacks. They have a  selection of clothes, toys and baby gear.

If you walk up one more block there is Impressa Antiques- which has an ever changing selection of shabby chic type furniture.

All in all Banfield Park and the surrounding area score pretty high on our ‘Lovely Day’ meter. Food, Fun, and Shopping- what a great way to spend the day with Kids in Victoria!!

 

Saturna Island

One of my main motivation’s for starting this blog was to write about places we go. I found it so helpful when I was away and would find a blog that would let me know about things to do with children for whatever area I was in.  It really cut the guess work out trying to figure out where to go!  So, here is a little post about our two days on Saturna.

Saturna is one of the Southern Gulf Islands.  It is accessible by boat from Victoria (Swartz Bay) or Vancouver (Tsawassen).  It took us just over an hour from Victoria to get there, and just over two hours to get home (it Island hops on the way back).  I would bring your car, as you will be doing a fair amount of driving to go check things out.

It would be ideal to get a pimp cabin when staying on Saturna. There is not a whole lot to do, so you will probably hang out at home a lot…so a great home base is important!  I have heard that the local’s like to keep their Island to themselves (not in an unfriendly way- they just don’t want gob’s of tourists)- so if you get a hot tip on a great place guard it!  There are a few listed here though…VRBO.

There are a few place’s to spend your money.  One is a nice little grocery/liquor store & cafe not to far from the harbour.  They have good baked goods and a pretty decent supply of produce as well as your main supplies.  In the summers there is a market here on Saturdays too.  Saturna Winery is a nice place for a walk, and they have a restaurant which is rumored to be quite good (however, it was closed both times we were there).  Down in the harbour is a pub, a little store where you can buy snacks, books or rent DVD’s.  There is also a converted bus cafe (Wild Thyme) that is well worth it.  They use local ingredients where possible and everything is DELICIOUS!

And that is about it!

But there are lot’s of outdoorsy things to do. On our first day we went to Boat Pass (in Winter Cove National Park)- it’s around a ten minute walk from the parking lot- with a pretty smooth trail that was stroller easy (until the last part- we just carried Hank from here).  It weaves beside the shore, and has boardwalks to get you over swamps!  Boat Pass is actually a really narrow channel between Saturna and another little island.  When the tide is right water whips through it creating a massive current. It’s pretty cool.  Sometimes you can watch boats navigating it (quickly).  Hudson loved it!

Another nice little trip is to East Point Park.  Again, a stroller appropriate walk- for the most part.  It is so picturesque here!  The golden wind swept point  juts  into the ocean, and from it you can watch the fishing boats come in, and often see seals bobbing about.  Here is also home of the  little Saturna Museum which has some neat artifacts.  A whale scull, some model ships, and some stories of the olden days. If you bramble down the cliffs you can go into the sandstone caves.  We played red light green light on the point and really ran Hudson well.

If you are feeling like walking on the wild side, you can head to the Campbell farm.  You might just see the heard of wild goats that roam around.  Those guys are beastly!  Pack a lunch and walk down to the beach.  This is a longer walk though and not stroller friendly- and there is a possibility that you are not supposed to be there. My dad just goes, and if he’s see’s anyone he asks if it’s ok…so far he has never been denied…

It’s also nice to just drive around and take in  the sea scape and country side.  There is a huge variety of homes.  Everything from richy rich vacation properties to crumbling hill-billy shacks.  There is lush of farm land, barren wind swept beaches, deep dark forests and sunny and sandy ocean front perfect for frolicking (man it’s cold though).  I’m sure there are boat and kayak rentals and things like that- but we didn’t explore any of these kind’s of things.

When we were there it was a pretty typical West Coast weather- periods of rain and lot’s of drizzle with the sun breaking out every so often.  In one of these sunny breaks we walked down the hill from our cabin and picked a whack of blackberries, and Hudson and my Dad made us all blackberry jam.  The way my dad makes jam is so nothing like the way I make jam.  I hover over the pot, stirring stirring stirring, and checking- rechecking the recipe.  Then stirring. Then worrying.  Then stirring stirring stirring. It’s fast and furious and a bit stressful.  But then my dad, he just put the berries in the pot with some sugar- gives it a stir, and goes and has breakfast while they are cooking.  Maybe he got up a couple times to check on it. Then he ambles over to the pot, declares it ready, and him and Hudson jarred it up (with sterilized jars of course).  I would NEVER let Hudson near the boiling sugar jam area.  But he was great…ahhhhh, my sweet dad!

 

Here is my Dad’s Mellow No Pectin Blackberry Jam Recipe:

  • 6 cups blackberries
  • 4 cups sugar

Put in pot, slowly let boil over a not too high a heat.  Stir a bit to keep from burning.  Cook it down for quite a while (20 minutes at least).  Then when it doesn’t come together when you fun your finger through a blob of it on a frozen plate it’s done.  Jar it in sterilized jars, and just let the heat from jam set the seal.  Listen for the pop pop pop, and you are done.  Maybe have some breakfast while you are doing this!

All in all Saturna is a great QUIET place to get away. It was really nice being there with other people (not just us).  Bring your car, bring food to feast on, bring your rain gear & your swim suite (you never know what you will get)…don’t stay too long if you have little kids, and go explore.