A Taste of Luxury in Victoria BC

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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.

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Bazan Bay Sidney

 

 

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Two Rides in Klamath Falls, Oregon

20170908_171307Our first night out on this trip we stayed at the Running Y Lodge just outside of Klamath Falls. It is a beautifully laid out resort with pleasant young people running the place. We tried a bike ride on their three mile path surrounding the golf course, and while some of it was decent riding, it was steep, curving, and narrow in spots, not my favorite type of bike ride. However, it did give us a modicum of exercise after long day in the car.

The next morning we drove into Klamath Falls, where by dint of using the Google maps app, we located the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, where we parked by Wiard Park. This is a well-maintained mostly flat trail developed on an old railroad right-of-way that runs out of Klamath Falls to Sycan Marsh. We rode the part from Wiard Park to the very small town of Olene, a return trip of a little over 12 miles. After Olene the paving runs out, making for rougher riding. The trail goes through some modest housing areas just out of Klamath Falls but soon enters farming country with rich looking fields and lots of cattle. This is an appealing country ride, most enjoyable on a clear warm morning.

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Roaming the Napa Valley

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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.

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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.

Washouts on Livermore Bike Trails

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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.

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Getting to Know Lopez Island

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Spit at Otis Perkins Park

Last summer we visited Lopez Island and felt very much at home there. This summer our older son rented a house there for two weeks.It was in a remote part of the island and was not too comfortable. My husband and I rented Condo 5 in Lopez Village, which turned out to be most satisfactory. It was well equipped,  light, and airy. We were only able to rent this condo for three nights, so we spent the fourth night at  the Edenwild, the charming bed and breakfast owned by the amiable Anthony and his wife Crystal. Since we had stayed there last year, we were treated like old friends this year.

In fact, Lopez is not the best place in the world for our favorite hobby of bicycle riding because the roads are narrow, some have little shoulder, and there are more than a few hills. However, even people of our skill level can successfully ride there. The traffic is light and the people are friendly; waving to greet those one encounters is part of the island culture.

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Spencer Spit State Park

This year, we did two bicycle trips in the four days we were there, one to Otis Perkins and another to Spencer Spit State Park, in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, where we ate a picnic lunch while absorbing the glorious views and trying to avoid the persistent bees. On the way to the park, we stopped at the historic sight of Port Stanley School. The ride to this destination was peaceful and bucolic with attractive farms along the way.

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Port Stanley School

Our last full day on the island, we spent driving around to see some of the interesting spots that we missed last year. My husband’s great grandparents lived on the island, and some of his ancestors are buried in the churchyard by Center Church, a beautiful old church with a graveyard in the most peaceful spot I have ever seen. Our family of seven spent a long time looking for relatives and absorbing the serenity of the spot; even our teen-aged grandchildren were fascinated by this place. We followed this stop with a satisfying lunch at the Southend General Store and Restaurant and then a visit to the library and the local museum. Lopez Island is like a bit of England transferred to Washington State. It is a wonderful place, marred only by the necessity of depending on the ferry for arriving and departing.20160804_110106

 

The Arroyo Mocho with Water

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My husband and I spent Memorial Day riding the Arroyo Mocho Trail to Concannon Blvd. with a return on the Isabel Avenue trail. It was a glorious day with lots of people about, in a holiday mood, obviously enjoying themselves. We were greatly surprised to see the usually dry arroyo full of water, looking almost like a river. However, it was a great pleasure to ride along the trail with water bubbling close by. In fact, it was almost like riding along the Truckee River.

Some of the Livermore natives informed us that the water comes from faraway sources to recharge the groundwater. I found an explanation at this link. Where the trail passes under Stanley Blvd. there was about three inches of water covering the path. I wanted to go cross at the signal on the road, but my husband proved that the water was not too deep by walking his bike through it. Since I had on shoes with open tops, I rode my bike–it was sort of a splashy thrill.

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We had wonderful water views such as the one above all the way to Concannon Blvd., where Livermore assumed its usual dry but attractive aspect with lovely homes among the vineyards. And as is  a custom with us, we finished our adventure with a lunch at Garré Winery.

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An Enlightening Day in the Napa Valley

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Garden behind Brix Restaurant

 

Last Saturday, we packed our bikes in the car and headed for Yountville with our son and his girlfriend. We parked in our usual spot at Vintage 1870 and did our ride out Yount Mill Rd. to Hwy. 29 to Rutherford to Conn Creek Rd. to the Silverado Trail, and back down Yountville Crossroad to where we had parked the car, about 16 miles. Meanwhile our son and his girlfriend had driven into St. Helena and back to the spot where our son’s accident had occurred to suss out a place to park so that we could all take a look at it later.

We did our ride in record time because we had a 12:45 reservation at Brix, a restaurant just north of Yountville. Our lunch here turned out to be a delightful experience with a wonderful view over the lawns and gardens and outstanding food and service. My husband and I started with an asparagus prosciutto salad followed by a crab fondue, both of which we split. Our son had a steak tartare followed by an enhanced form of fish and chips while his girlfriend had a mixed salad followed by salmon on a bed of vegetables. We each had our own dessert, chocolate concoctions that were delicious, but we would have been much better off splitting a couple of these as we were all stuffed after this.

Driving to the scene of the accident, we parked and looked at the layout of the tracks; it is a complicated layout that runs over the road for a long way and at an odd angle. Although there is a warning sign, advising the walking of bikes, our son said that he thinks he missed the sign because of the heavy traffic and the construction going on, and because of the car that came close to him. However, looking at the scene of the accident, we could see why his arm was so badly injured.

We felt like it was important for us all to assess how the accident had occurred since we are enthusiastic cyclists and need to know what to watch out for. And best of all, we discovered a great new place to eat.

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