Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Spot of Tea!

On our second day in Victoria we went to experience one of the institutions of Victoria which is having high tea at the Empress Hotel. 


We were welcomed by our most attentive (and very tall!) server Ray, who sat us down in some nice comfy chairs and went to get our first course.  When I booked the tea, I was asked whether there were any food allergies, so I said pineapple for Craig just in case.  So when the fruit salad arrived, it was a bit disappointing to find a big chunk of pineapple in Craig's fruit salad.  Not a minute later, our server came over, most apologetic about the pineapple, and took Craig's salad back and returned with a specially made pineapple-free salad.

Next arrived the tea tray, which really was one of those "ooh...aah" moments, as everything not only looked good to eat, but was so pretty too!

Mmmmmm...sooooo good!


The half eaten sandwich plate.  At the front we had BC smoked salmon and cream cheese which was AMAZING, on the left at the back was chicken with mango chutney, in the middle is cucumber and horseradish and on the right is mushroom with truffle oil.  There was also a carrot and ginger and cream cheese one.


Golden raisin scones with strawberry jam and cream. 


 The top plate was sooooo good.  In the middle was a chocolate fudge cake.  Behind that is earl grey shortbreads, to the left is battenburg cake, which I hadn't had before, and really liked.  To the right were chocolate tulips filled with a chocolate ganache and an italian cherry soaked in something flammable, and in the front was lemon curd tarts with a tiny meringue swirl.


All in all, the tea at the empress was well worth the money.  The tea was a lovely tasting tea, the food was amazing, and the service was excellent.   Only problem is...I've just got really hungry writing this!


One of the first things we did in Canada was head to Victoria.  Victoria is actually the capital of BC, though it is only a very small city, but it is where all the government stuff, both provincial and federal, happens.  Aside from this aspect, it is a very pretty place to visit.  Going in the middle of winter meant that we had our run of places that we wanted to go, as well as cheap and really nice accomodation.

We left Vancouver early on tuesday morning.  To get to Victoria, you need to get a ferry from Tsawwassen, which is a good distance from Vancouver itself.  Thankfully, there's a new train line from downtown that makes it a heck of a lot easier to get there.  Once we hit the end of the train line, we hopped on a bus, where we saw this horrendous piece of branding

It's hard to see because I was taking through a rainy bus window, but that is a McDonalds.  In a church.  With fake stained glass golden arches.  Ok, it's not as bad as Starbucks in the Forbidden City, but still wasn't very impressed. 

Once we got on the ferry, the weather started to clear up as we got closer to Victoria.  There's some wonderful little houses around the coasts of all the islands.  Each house has its own jetty or landing, and the houses look like a wonderful place to live if you like to escape busy life. 

Once on the island, we caught a bus from the ferry terminal to Victoria proper.  The island is very pretty, and was really giving me that feeling that I really was somewhere else, mostly because the vegetation is so very different from the native forests in Australia and New Zealand. 

This is the BC legislature building.  It is a lovely building with a commanding presence in a small city.  At night it is all lit up by lines of fairy lights strung along the major lines of the building.

The Empress Hotel, which was built in the early 20th century, is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria.  They do an excellent high tea there, and the decor is gorgeous. 

Just across the road from the Empress is this guy.  He is, of course, Captain James Cook.  Captain Cook reached Canada on his third and final voyage and did a lot charting of the northwestern North American coast, as well as trying to sail through the Bering Straight, something that he never achieved. 

These eagles are everywhere, all painted by different artists in different styles. 

This one is in the style of one of the local First Nations tribes.

We discovered that Darth Vadar has an unknown talent. 

I have decided I really like Canadian post boxes.  You certainly can't miss them, and they are a lot prettier than the average Australia Post ones. 

And here are the two beautifully lit up buildings at night.  Above is the legislature, and below is the Empress.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

So far in Canada

Just a very small post to give a rough idea of what I've been up to in Canada so far.  Most of these things will have blogposts of their own, but until I get those written, this will have to do!

So, I'm in Vancouver, and it's getting really exciting here at the moment with all the Olympic preparations!

Craig and I took a tour around Chinatown, which was both very informative, and very tasty, as it included plenty of taste tests of yummy Chinese snack foods.  This is the Milennium Gate, which stands at the western end of Chinatown. 

We went to see our host, Peter play the dame in a pantomime.  This costume was actually less disturbing than seeing Peter in streetclothes with the full makeup on.  And if you're wondering, those fake boobs are an H cup!

I went exploring around Vancouver's Granville Island.  My explorations also included a tour of the public market, which was very interesting, and like the Chinatown tour, tasty! 

Next, we headed to Victoria for a few days.  While there, we went to the museum, attempted to go whale watching, had high tea at the empress, and visited the bug zoo, where I held all sorts of creepy crawlies.

I made a new friend.  This is Muk Muk.  He is the official sidekick of the official mascots of the 2010 Olympic games, and he is supposed to be a Vancouver Island Marmot.  Yes, you read right, the mascots have an official sidekick.  The sidekick has almost become more popular than the actual mascots.  He is certainly the cutest!

And the most exciting thing recently was that we got to see, stand next and TOUCH the Stanley Cup.  For those non-Canadians reading this, it's like being next to the AFL cup (if you care about AFL), or perhaps the Trinations Cup.  I was also rather excited by the fact that they had mounties in the red uniform there too.  It was very exciting.  There was also a hockey player there named Bret Hedican who at one point had played for the local team.

More posts to come soon I hope, once I've got my photos sorted out, and taken a few more photos in some of the places around here.  Much more exploration to come, and hopefully some Olympic adventures too!

Monday, February 1, 2010


January 27th was shaping up to be a really long day!  It started in the morning, when we left Hobart for Sydney and Honolulu.  Of course, nothing is ever easy, and we were stuck in a traffic jam for a good bit of the drive to the airport.  But we did get there on time, and so the longest day ever began.  We left Hobart at about 10:30 a.m. to fly to Sydney where we would wait for 7 hours for our next flight.

We found ourselves a quiet little corner of the airport where we could lie down and relax and so spent the next 5 and a half hours trying to fill in time, by watching dvds, random film crews and reading.  We were both a bit fascinated by the Airbus A-380.  When it was sitting at the gate, it was just a BIG plane, but it was only when it started to taxi out with the tiny little ant-men next to it that we really got just how big the thing was!

Poor Craig...this was somewhere towards the end of the long wait, and we were both getting kind of bored.  Nevertheless, we eventually got called to come through the extra security for USA flights.  We were originally a bit concerned about the full bag checks, but I think after going through the security in Hawaii on the way to Vancouver I prefer the individual search option, it was actually fairly efficient, and we weren't delayed at all out of Sydney.

The flight was uneventful, fairly turbulent, but at least mostly empty.  Once we arrived in Hawaii, where it was once again the morning of the 27th, and we'd only had a few hours of sleep each.  We couldn't get into our hotel room until the afternoon, so we headed out to the nearby mall, which is the world's largest open air mall.  I don't think we saw all of it!  Wandering about like zombies was about all that we could manage, but we did find some nice ways to pass the time.

One of these that we stumbled upon was a performance by the Royal Hawaiian Concert Band.  It started with a shell/horn call, and a welcoming chant very similar to what the Maori do in New Zealand.

Then there was a singer, who sang anything from Hawaiin traditional songs to jazz.  She had an incredible voice, I could really imagine her getting down in a gospel church.

The band also came complete with a hula dancer, though she wasn't wearing the traditional grass skirt and coconut bra. 

This for me sums up Waikiki:  Palm trees and a big limo.  It was actually very pleasant area, tacky, but not nrealy as tacky as I thought it would be.  There are some really lovely parks and gardens in the centre, as well as the beach and the marina.

This is one bit of tackiness that we did come across.  Of course, Obama, being from Hawaii, was popping up everywhere, this was the only life size cut out we saw.  Aside from that, there were tshirts, bags, bobbleheads and mugs, to name a few.

Day Two:  After a long and very deep night's sleep, Craig and I headed out to find the aquarium.  This is not it, but just one of the cool murals around.

We did find it eventually, and while it was small, it was a really nice aquarium with lots of lovely tropical fish and local species as well.

Much as Nemo tried hide, we found him!

And some jellyfish!

This is a Hawaiian Monk Seal.  They are extremely endangered, only about 1000 left.  They're funny animals, and the other one in the tank had a liking for hanging upside down in the water, which I unfortunately didn't get a decent photo of

Waikiki Beach with the historic Royal Hawaiian hotel in the background

Craig and I bought a new camera in Hawaii, so I spent the time getting used to it by taking photos of the wonderful tropical flowers.  This one is a hibiscus.

A beautiful catamaran in full sail off Waikiki beach.  Didn't see too many surfers because the surf was really small.

 A lovely frangipani from a huge tree.

A yellow hibiscus with a red centre.

This is another historic Honolulu hotel, the Surfrider.  It was really very impressive, though it seemed more plantation style than the other older buildings in the area.

And so we came to the end of Hawaii.  Overall I really enjoyed Honolulu.  It was quite a pleasant place.  The two things I liked the most was how friendly the locals were, and how good the customer service was.  For me, the thing that needs the most work is the airport.  It's really old, and for the most part, open air, which is not overly pleasant in 80%+ humidity.  It's also run quite badly, and it's a bit confusing.

The next day we left Honolulu for Canada.  The experience of flying out of the USA was not the most pleasant, as ALL checked baggage is hand searched and repackaged by those who search them, so the bags may return in a way that wasn't how you left it.  The actual security screening was quite badly organised, and the guy who screened Craig's stuff gave his document wallet to another passenger.  Thankfully the lady noticed and ran back with it, but still, if they're going to insist on pulling a person's bag apart they should try and give the stuff back to the right person. 

Anyway...we're now in Vancouver.  So far I'm liking it very much, though blog posts will have to wait till I've taken some more decent photos.  Off to Victoria for a few days tomorrow, so see you all when I get back!