Over the last year, I’ve taken a “celebrate everything” approach to life. Shortly after getting married, we sold our house, moved across the country, started new jobs, and dealt with more than our fair share of change. Being in a new location gave us a new perspective on weekend trips, so we had a lot of “firsts” – first trip to Hawaii, first trip to Vancouver, BC – and if it wasn’t a first, we joked it was our first trip as a married couple, like our trip to Portland, OR or San Diego, CA. It was also a year of other firsts, like starting the Seattle Vegan Cookbook Club and sharing my recipes for the first time, and each of those was a little celebration in itself.
With our first anniversary as a married couple, Kyle and I decided to celebrate! We took the a ferry from Seattle, WA to Victoria, BC for a quick weekend getaway. As always, we found awesome vegan food thanks to Happy Cow reviews, and experienced this beautiful city the best way we know how – on two wheels and by foot.
The Victoria Clipper is a fast ferry that shuttles tourists between Seattle and Victoria at 30 knots (or about 35 MPH). They really own the market on water routes between the cities, so we didn’t really have to shop around when it came to transportation to the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The trip, each way, is shy of 3 hours, so we really only had 30 hours in Victoria…and we certainly made the most of it!
We docked just before noon on Saturday, and went straight to our hotel to drop off our overnight bags. To our pleasant surprise, the Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour already had a room for us, and they upgraded us to a suite with a harbour view! While the hotel isn’t right on the water, we could see ships coming in, and had a view of the Olympic Mountains just south of us, back in Washington State. We eventually peeled ourselves away from this view in search of lunch.
We had signed up for a biking tour of Victoria later that afternoon, so we were on a bit of a time crunch for lunch. Victoria has a few vegan buffets, so we knew this would be a quick option, and chose Green Cuisine in Market Square. Apparently, the Victoria Fringe Festival is hosted here (among other locations), so it was a little extra crowded and lively. We passed up the bounce house in the middle of the square and stayed focused on lunch.
I never know what to do at buffets. Should I pick a theme? Should I assess all options before committing to any selections? I did neither, and just grabbed random samplings of food, including a bowl of lentil curry soup, some veggie sushi, a falafel, some “chicken” tikka masala over brown rice, lasagna, steamed veggies, and a single sweet potato fry. My indecision stretched to dessert, so I got the pumpkin chocolate cake AND the berry crumble.
After loading up our plates, we paid by weight before grabbing a table in a little indoor-outdoor area. Even though I thought I kept the portions reasonably sized, it added up quicker than I realized so we spent $40 CAD on buffet food, or about $15 USD each. Not outrageous, but certainly not a steal for scooping your own food out of buffet pans. While the temperature of a few items were a bit off (some cold, some just inconsistently warm throughout) the taste was great. To master a few different culinary spice profiles for totally different meals in one kitchen always impresses me (how didn’t the lasagna smell like curry? why didn’t the sushi pick up those falafel flavors?) Kitchen magic.
Like a good member of the Clean Plate Club, I finished everything, including the chocolate pumpkin cake I saved for last. It really intrigued me and I can’t wait to try making something like that! The pumpkin added a creaminess that also helped with a more fruity sweetness vs. the sugary sweetness of many frostings.
After our lunch, we tried to hail an Uber, and realized it would be a while, since Uber hasn’t made it to Victoria, BC yet. Although we were tight on time, we were able to walk across town back to the harbour in time for our eco-friendly bike tour with our guide, Will, from The Pedaler. We spent two hours riding through neighborhoods, and stopping to learn about Victoria’s history. We visited the harbour and learned about BC’s Legislature, continued to Chinatown, Fernwood, then up the hill to Craigdarroch Castle, took in some beautiful flowers at Government House, and got some breathtaking views of the Olympics on the way to Beacon Hill Park (including the tallest totem pole in the world!) before winding our way back to the starting point. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon seeing the city!
That bike ride certainly worked up our thirst though. Luckily, there were a number of small stands along the harbour offering squeezed-while-you-wait drinks. You can’t get much fresher! I got some fresh-squeezed lemonade with sparkling water, and Kyle got limeade, then we continued to walk around the harbour a bit until it was time to retreat to our suite for a bit before dinner.
Our dinner restaurant was a combination of proximity to the hotel, the hopes of finding something a little swankier, and the recommendation from our bike tour guide. We walked to Be Love, and found a pretty popular restaurant filled with happy veggie lovers. We took two seats at the bar and reviewed the drink menu with all sorts of cocktails and a few home-brewed kombucha offerings. Kyle had not one, but two, Chaga Bourbon Sours. The man who once didn’t like mushrooms now orders mushroom cocktails! The chocolate bitters probably swayed him too.
My tree nut allergy is always a bit limiting at vegan restaurants. Nuts find their way into sauces, cheeses, and burgers, and sometimes my options shrink down to “the one without nuts.” While I usually save Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants, I went with the Meze Platter packed with falafel, quinoa tabouleh, baba ghanoush, grilled sweet potato flatbread, steamed greens, and my favorite spice blend – za’atar, I was so impressed with the depth of flavor in the food – I wasn’t sure a restaurant with such a broad menu could do this type of cuisine so well.
Kyle ordered the Summer Gnocchi – house made potato gnocchi with tomato ‘cream’ sauce, roasted summer veggies, shaved cashew parmesan, arugula salad, and grilled garlic focaccia. Maybe the mushroom cocktails had something to do with it, but he’s never been so happy with an entree!
We were on a roll here, and Kyle convinced me to get dessert. I got the Raspberry Cacao Mousse with cacao nibs and Kyle got a raw cheezecake with blackberries and a ground cherry (or Cape Gooseberry) on top. A perfectly sweet end to a wonderful meal!
On Sunday morning, we grabbed some fruit and headed towards Beacon Hill Park from the previous day’s bike ride. We walked through St. Ann’s Academy – formerly an all-girls Catholic school, and now a world heritage site bordering Beacon Hill Park.
After eating breakfast at a picnic table, we wandered through the 200 acre park admiring the design, flora, and unique features. As we came around a bend, we saw a few peacocks strutting around and seeming to coexist nicely with all the humans.
On our first trip to Portland, OR, we saw a huge Monkey Puzzle Tree at the Hoyt Arboretum. We’ve since found one in Seattle, and saw handfuls of them around Victoria! From far away, these trees look like wired Christmas garland bent into a tree-like shape. Up close, you can see how this tree got its name. It grows in such a unique way, even a monkey can’t figure out how to climb it. It looks like spiders are the only ones that can make sense of this thing.
After making our way down to the rocky beach looking out into the Straight of Juan de Fuca, we made our way back to into town and found the Victoria Public Market. Housed in an old Hudson’s Bay Company building, this market is really quite modern. They had live music, a demo kitchen (or cooking school?) and a handful of vendors, but our favorite was just inside the front door – The Very Good Butchers! This organic, vegan shop offered a modest menu, and while we didn’t want to fill up, we certainly needed to eat something. I ordered The Very Good Burger, and Kyle got a “side” of Mac ‘N Cheez with some BBQ jackfruit. The portions were generous and the food was delicious!
After lunch, we made our way back to Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown. Our bike tour guide confirmed that Pure Lovin’ Chocolate was amazing, and recommended we go. The store is located right at the entrance to the alley – from the Pandora Ave side. Pure Lovin’ has a display case filled with carefully crafted confections, and a few displays with other treats. The mom-and-daughter shop focuses on high end truffles, and once you taste, you’ll agree they are worth every penny. We got a variety of cremes, peanut butter cups, and fruity truffles, and then found a spot to sit down and try a few. They were really rich, so we saved some for the ferry ride home!
Once we couldn’t handle another bite of sugar, we walked around all the little shops in the area. Between Chinatown and Market Square, we found plenty of interesting places to explore. We stumbled upon Amanda Jay – I remembered seeing this on Happy Cow, so we checked it out for a bit. Later we saw a sign for vegan wallets outside Oscar + Libby’s, so we had to go in. Recently, I’ve realized that it’s been months since I’ve carried a purse. I used to have (too many) Coach bags, and I’ve given away most of them. Looking at a wall full of vegan bags, I realized, I actually really needed a bag – made from ethical materials. This shop carries Espe Bags and I found one that came with a second one inside – best deal ever!
For our grand finale of this wonderful weekend trip, we went to the Fairmont Empress for Afternoon Tea. We had a beautiful bright window seat overlooking the Inner Harbour, and got to enjoy two different pots of tea over vegan scones, tea sandwiches, and sweets. The food was just wonderful, and it was the perfect way to celebrate our first year as husband as wife.
After tea, it was time to head back to Seattle aboard the Victoria Clipper. Until next time, Victoria!