A Taste of Luxury in Victoria BC

20170914_194705 20170914_194754_LLS

Views of the back of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel at dusk

We chose to stay at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel for our three days in Victoria because we like this lovely area of Victoria, and I was fascinated by this sumptuous hotel that has been constructed on the site of an old Tudor-styled hotel that previously stood here. This is an elegant hotel with beautifully furnished rooms and wonderful bathrooms with separate tubs and showers plus heated floors. There are three restaurants: a pub, a formal dining room, and a café that we found perfect for a simple breakfast. We ate at the pub two nights, and the third night we ate dinner in our room which was furnished with a very small galley kitchen, re-heating leftovers from our pub dinners. The spa-like swimming pool pictured above is warm and good for easing a cyclist’s aches and pains. In addition, there is a free garage with easy access where we were able to leave our bikes locked in the car. And since we could catch an elevator from the garage to our room, we did not have to bother with valets. So although this hotel is upscale, it is comfortable and not at all stuffy. However, it is not inexpensive to stay here.

One day we rode along the  waterfront to Cadboro Bay Village where we had coffee and then turned up Sinclair Road to visit the University of Victoria. This was a big mistake; I could see that it was steep, but I kept expecting to turn left off of it on the road indicated on my phone. However, that road was at the top of the hill, one that was impossible to ride and almost impossible to walk. When we reached the campus, we found a pretty, leafy university with the bustle of students changing classes. We made our way to Henderson Rd. which turns into Foul Bay Rd. , an interesting street with a good bike lane giving us a nice long coast down to Oak Bay Avenue and Oak Bay Village, a charming old-fashioned area with restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and practical shops. It is like some of the shopping areas that I remember from my childhood before strip malls started to mar the landscape. As we have several times before, we ate lunch at the atmospheric Penny Farthing Pub. After lunch we browsed at a bookstore and bought a couple of items at a most attractive food store. Then it  was a short ride up the end of Oak Bay Avenue down Newport back to Beach Drive and the hotel.

Another day, we parked at the shopping center at Cordova Bay and rode the Lochside Trail from there to Sidney, a pretty route traversing interesting neighborhoods and some farmlands, and  at points next to the Saanich Inlet. Sidney is a pleasant small town with lots of eating places and bookstores. It is also the place where one catches the  ferry to Anacortes. This is an easy ride of about 18 miles all together. When we returned to the shopping center, we had a pleasant lunch outside at Bill Mattick’s Restaurant and Lounge, which is located right next to a golf course and surrounded by attractive landscaping.

This area was the highlight of our vacation. Although we have been to Victoria and Vancouver Island many times, a visit there never fails to delight us.  The pace is slower than that in our own SF Bay Area, and the people are warm and friendly. Although it is not the same, a visit here is a bit like a visit to England.

20170916_131125

Bazan Bay Sidney

 

 

Advertisements

Some Thoughts on our Rides in Napa and Livermore

20170806_120645

The Grapes are Hanging Heavy on the Vine

Napa

I have not posted in a while because we have not ridden in new areas, but now I do have some comments to make about some of our rides. Last week we did our Yountville to Rutherford to Silverado  and back to Yountville on Yountville Crossroad ride. It was a lovely ride through the ripening vineyards. The only problem was the rough surfaces of some  of the roads. We had to observe where we were placing our wheels on several roads but especially on  Rutherford Road. Although the ride was still fun, the road surfaces do add an element of danger.

The week before that we met some friends for lunch at the CIA at Copia. We parked in the lot by Starbucks at Redwood Road. We then rode the Vine Trail to Yountville for coffee and then back to Redwood Road where we continued down Solano Ave. and made a left turn behind the Chablis Hotel to get briefly on the trail that runs across Napa. I have mentioned before that I don’t like this trail because it runs through some unattractive areas of Napa,  and it crosses several busy streets. We rode this trail just until we crossed over  Highway 29 on the bridge and then turned right on California Street. We rode in the bike lane down California St.,  turning  left on E. St. with a partial right on Hayes, a left on Yount St., a right on Yajome, and then a left on Vallejo which leads to Soscol Ave. Riding straight across Soscol, we turned right into the parking lot from River Terrace and then wound around behind the Oxbow Market to the parking lot of  Copia. Since the  ride across Napa was mostly on a bike boulevard it was easy  and fun with a nice view of some old Napa houses that have been beautifully restored. After lunch we reversed our trip across Napa to return to our car. Since the cross Napa ride is only about three miles, it was easy to do after a filling lunch.

Livermore

A few weeks ago we rode the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore. The last time we rode it in the late winter or early spring, there were several flooded spots. To our dismay, this time we discovered that the rains have left severe damage in many areas, particularly between Stanley Blvd. and Livermore St. When we reached  the first underpass near Stanley Blvd., we hesitated. A homeless man told us to ride on through because he sees cyclists do it all the time. We should have known better than to have listened. We started down the trail but soon dismounted and then had to slog our way through thick sand. A couple more times we had to cross through sand and debris. My husband commented that the ride was like Omaha Beach without the gunfire. The ride down Concannon was the usual fun downhill coast, but we knew to turn right on Murdell Ln. because that section of the Isabel Ave, Trail is out. Where Murdell hits E. Stanley, it is possible to ride the Isabel Ave. Trail back to the beginning of the Arroyo Mocho at Jack London Blvd. Livermore needs to signpost their trails with better warning signs. Now there are signs only right at the obstacles. They are not sufficient!

20170703_104758

 

Roaming the Napa Valley

spring flowers

A couple of weeks ago, we spent four days in the Napa Valley to celebrate our 59th wedding anniversary. Although Calistoga is not the most centrally located town, we chose to stay there at the Stevenson Manor Best Western because this hotel is a bargain for this pricey area. It is not luxurious, but it is certainly attractive, clean, and comfortable with constant work going on to upgrade it. The breakfast is a bit above average for an accommodation of this level, and we were pleased to find the other guests to be a friendly bunch.

We did four bicycle rides during this stay which we were fortunate occurred within a break in the rainy weather that we have had this year. These rides were ones that we have done before and that I have written about on this site. Our longest ride was from Yountville to downtown Napa, and I just want to mention this ride because we found the bike path that runs from just south of Trancas Street diagonally across Napa to be one that we would recommend against using. It crosses several busy streets without four-way stops, and it runs through neighborhoods that are not particularly appealing. It does, however, end in downtown Napa, where we cycled to the new CIA restaurant at Copia, a pleasant place with memorable food. Coming back we used a bike boulevard that started at the end of this path and followed that across a good part of Napa through some interesting old neighborhoods along quiet attractive streets. When this bike boulevard ended, we just sort of used our instincts to return to  the wonderful Vine Trail that runs back to Yountville. Most streets in Napa are bicycle friendly.

20170401_121440

Patio at Ottimo

As always in the Napa Valley, we ate very well. In Yountville, there is a new restaurant called Ottimo across from Bottega, where the salads are served in jars and the panini are small and extraordinary. It is wonderful to sit out under the olive trees after a bicycle ride and enjoy the beauty of this area; I find it easy to pretend that I am in Italy. We ate two lunches at this spot.

Another restaurant that we truly enjoyed was the St. Helena Bistro, a small place on St. Helena’s main street that has an eclectic menu. We especially enjoyed the crispy calamari and the salmon tacos. And on our last night, we ate at Veraison,  a fairly new place on the main street  in Calistoga. We were seated in the window where we could watch the passing scene and savor our moules frites.

All in all, I would say that if you do not have the wherewithal for a trip to Europe, a trip to the Napa Valley is a good substitute. Despite lots of traffic, it is a pretty, relaxing place to roam and to linger over excellent food.

While the World is Still Asleep

Product Details

This book by Petra Durst-Benning, a German novel in translation, is a wonderful book for anyone enthusiastic about cycling. Set in the late 19th century in Berlin, it is a history of the beginning of cycling as well as the story of three young women: Josephine, Clara, and Isbelle. This book, the first of a trilogy, focuses on Josephine and the importance of cycling in her life and in her era.

To her good fortune, Josephine is shipped off to the Black Forest to recover from a cough caused when she tries to rescue her brother from a fire. There she is cured when she discovers the joys of riding a bicycle in the fresh air of the forest. Returning from her sojourn in the Black  Forest, her love of cycling causes her problems as well as pleasures as she interacts with her friends and neighbors in her Berlin neighborhood.

The book also deals with feminist issues as the families of the three girls actually see them as so much coinage to benefit the families, but these are three strong women who rebel against the constraints imposed on them by their families, thus getting themselves into some risky situations but ultimately achieving their own goals.

The book is a fascinating read, but the first parts can be rather confusing because the story is not told in a linear fashion, but eventually it settles into chronological order, making the flow of the narrative much smoother. As a cyclist, I loved this book, but I am not sure how I would have felt if I were not passionate about cycling. The second book in the trilogy seems to be about growing champagne grapes, not one of my enthusiasms, but since I enjoyed this book so much I will give it a try.

 

A Valentine’s Day Bicycle Outing

20170214_115539

For Californians, we have had a hard winter, so now in the middle of February, it is a pleasure to observe the resiliency of Mother Nature, the emerging blossoms and even the oft troublesome (for those of us with allergies) mustard weed. In the Napa Valley, where the Napa River has historically been prone to cause problems, we were not surprised to see the river at a high level as well as all the creeks running with water like rivers, and full ditches and rivulets everywhere. But all of this rain has turned the landscape green and lovely.  We were a little bit worried about mudslides or washouts on the roads, but we did not have any trouble.

We did our usual Yount Mill Road, Hwy. 29,  Oakville Crossroad,  Silverado Trail and back to Yountville Crossroad with one deviation, recommended by a pleasant woman in the Yountville tourist advice center. We took Finnell Road off of Yountville Cross to come back into town. It was a gorgeous short detour with vineyards growing right up to the road and attractive houses along the way. This kind of pretty, quiet country road is a cyclist’s dream.

20170214_121902

Having finished our ride, we headed for downtown Napa where we had reservations for lunch at the CIA at Copia, a new restaurant that has opened at the Copia facility next to the Oxbow Market. The interior is contemporary and spacious, and the service and food were both good. I had the lamb sirloin tartine for my main course, and it was outstanding. With the pots de crème dessert, I felt that my lunch was the perfect complement to a lovely day.

20170214_131510

Washouts on Livermore Bike Trails

underpass

Last Monday, we rode on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore and planned to complete our riding circuit on the Isabel Avenue Trail. However, although we had a satisfying ride, we came across many obstacles. I had expected this underpass beneath Stanley Blvd. to be flooded, but we found many places along the Arroyo Mocho that were signposted and in bad condition. Some of the underpasses such as this one could be avoided by taking an alternate route and crossing a street at a signal. But there were other areas that we simply had to slog through. All of these places were signposted on the spot, but there were no signs at the beginning or end of the Arrroyo Mocho. And the signs that were placed on the trail were put in the middle, making it hard to ride around them in the areas where one could ride. It seems to me that the Livermore Recreation and Park district should also have information and alerts regarding the trails on their web site.

Monday was a cold but clear day, and it was beautiful riding in one of California’s up and coming wine producing regions. The Livermore Valley isn’t exactly the Napa Valley yet, but it has its own beauty and many wineries for those so inclined to visit. When we turned onto the trail that runs along Concannon Avenue, the sky was a clear blue with a few puffy white clouds hanging above the hillside vineyards, making us feel at peace with our sometimes overwhelming world.

However, we had another surprise awaiting us when we reached the end of Concannon, ready to turn onto the Isabel Avenue trail to circle back to our car. A good part of the trail has been leveled along with the bike lane on the road. We managed to push our way through the mud to reach the bike lane on the edge of Isabel, Hwy. 84. The shoulder or bike lane is wide there, and we felt comfortable riding it, but it did have a lot of gravel and debris in it. It needs a good sweeping.

When we start out on these bike rides, particularly at this time of year, we are never sure what to expect. Sometimes it is surprises thrown out by mother nature, many times inconsiderate people on the trails, and occasionally a malfunction in one of our bikes. But as in life, the unexpected can make things more interesting and enhance our memories.

arroyomocho

A Wintry Ride on the Napa Vine Trail

20170106_123139

After having our New Year’s Eve day ride cancelled because of serious family illness, it was with thankful hearts for a quick recovery that our small family cycling group of my husband, a son, our grandson, and I set off on Friday January 6th to ride from Yountville to Napa. It was cold but clear with water running briskly through the small creek alongside the trail. The path was practically deserted and except for a little mud at the beginning, clear of debris from recent storms. We rode down to Redwood Rd. in Napa, had coffee at a Starbucks there and then rode back. There are still about three intersections where the signal system has not been integrated with the trail, and one must use caution at these.

Using Open Table to make reservations for lunch, we decided on Brix in Yountville, which turned out to be a good choice. Although the menu was not as extensive as we remembered its being in the summer, we were all pleased with our choices: stroganoff, black-eyed pea soup, and duck confit salad. But the star of the show was the dessert that I ordered: s’mores, which came with chocolate graham crackers, squares of chocolate, house-made marshmallows, and a petite pot with a flame to roast the marshmallows. We each took a turn and had one s’more. It was a lot of fun as was the whole day except for the traffic going home.

20170106_142238