Victoria & Vancouver, BC, Canada
Escape from Paradise with Ingrid Lemme-Chalut
First published in The Montauk Sun, August Issue 2023 Edited by John Lomitola
As you might remember, my last two stories featured our full transit through the Panama Canal (June issue), up the west coast and then Alaska, the last frontier in the July issue. Both destinations were part of our 27 day back to back cruise on Holland America’s beautiful MS Eurodam.
The Pacific ocean had been rough during the two sea days after our last stop in San Diego, but while we were cruising up the west coast, the ocean calmed down and the temperatures slowly dropped into the lower 50s from formerly subtropical conditions. It was late April and warmer clothes were now essential for our daily walks around the ship and at our upcoming stops in the ports of Victoria and Vancouver, BC; Seattle, Washington, US; and certainly thereafter onto Alaska.
A large group of bird watchers were on board who didn’t mind the cold in expectation of closeup views of whatever Mother Nature was willing to display. Interestingly most of them were not interested in photographing them, they rather wanted to savor the one fleeting moment in time through their elaborate telephoto lenses for themselves. Kindred spirits they were, indeed.
Victoria, BC, Canada
As HAL’s service team had suggested, we’d dressed in layers as it was still chilly when docked in Victoria. It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperatures were expected to rise. Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada and surrounded by the Salish Sea, which comprises the Juan de Fuca Strait, Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia. Victoria has been named, both, the ‘Most Romantic City in Canada’ and one of the ‘Top 15 Friendliest Cities in the World’.
Instead of seeing Butchart Gardens, one of Victoria’s busiest national historic sites, we had decided to hop on one of HAL’s tour buses, and drive up the scenic coastline to the Abkhazi Garden, ‘The Garden that Love Built’.
The Prince and Princess Abkhazi began creating their garden in 1946, the year they married and settled in Victoria, after living separate lives touched by privilege and tragedy.
Peggy Pemberton-Carter met Prince Nicholas Abkhazia in Paris in 1922. Prince Nicholas, the last surviving son of an ancient line of kings of Abkhazia on the Black Sea, had been living there in exile since escaping the Bolshevik Revolution.
The Prince and Princess settled in Victoria, began to develop their one-acre property and build their home. They continued to improve the garden throughout their forty years together and in 2000 The Land Conservancy purchased the property to preserve it.
It is blessed with dramatic glaciated rocky slopes, magnificent native Garry oaks and gorgeous vistas. The garden flows around the rocks, with Japanese maples and rhododendrons which have grown to an impressive maturity with carpets of heather, irises and day lilies.
The highlight of this excursion was definitely the ‘Royal Abkhazi High Tea’!
I am a tea drinker and would die for a hot cup of English tea and freshly baked scones with house-made Clotted Cream, with or without a berry preserve! But the precious collection of colorful tea pots, cups and saucers, the smoked salmon Blinis with Crème Fraiche and the intricate raspberry mousse tulip cups made my heart sing. abkhaziteahouse.com
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Our next stop, Vancouver, was going to be another special port for us and not only because a mild and sunny spring day was anticipated. We were going to meet up with Carolee and Warren, a couple of friends, cruise buddies, that we hadn’t seen in years and who live in Steveston, a suburb of Richmond and about half an hour from the cruise terminal in Vancouver. We had met them 4 years ago on HAL’s old Rotterdam during a repositioning cruise that we boarded in Rome and brought us back home across the ocean. Repositioning cruises are an economic way of traveling while avoiding at least one flight and relaxing at the same time.
We were having breakfast at The Lido, HAL’s awesome hot and cold buffet restaurant, when we approached Vancouver the next morning and were stunned with the views of Vancouver’s modern harbor front as well as our Captain’s 180 degree stern in, eloquent docking maneuver.
The Port of Vancouver is the fourth-largest port by tonnage in the Americas, the busiest and largest in Canada, and said to be the most diversified port in North America. Vancouver is well known as an urban center surrounded by nature, making tourism its second-largest industry. “Vancouver is a wonder city,” Canadian author Stephen Leacock once wrote. “It has the combined excellence of nature’s gift and man’s handiwork.” Major film production studios in Vancouver and nearby Burnaby have turned Greater Vancouver and nearby areas into one of the largest film production centers in North America, earning it the nickname "Hollywood North”!
Carolee and Warren not only picked us up from the cruise terminal but took us then on a 6 hour overview tour of Greater Vancouver that included a ride through the city, up to the famous Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and more. There’s no way you can see everything that this diverse city has to offer in one day, nevertheless in 6 hours, but let me assure you that the trip along the Trans Canada Highway 1 and the views alone were worth the ride!
Lynn Canyon Park opened to the public in 1912 has been a popular destination ever since. The main attraction, the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge towers 160 ft across a beautiful canyon boasting raging waters, waterfalls and deep pools below. The bridge is quite narrow and crossing becomes a little nerve racking when there are several others trying to cross at the same time as the bridge swings, lightly through. The view from the middle of the bridge is the best! lynncanyon.ca
It was close to lunch time when we arrived back in town at Granville Island, but first we took a quick walk through the famous Public Market. Home to more than 50 independent food purveyors, it clearly contributes to the island’s appeal as a renowned culinary destination.
In the Net Loft Shops and in the Artisan District, many of Canada’s best artists and designers can be found. granvilleisland.com
Warren & Carolee took us for lunch to ‘Tap & Barrel’ that offers, besides priceless harbor and bridge views, seasonally inspired, locally sourced produce and Ocean Wise sustainable seafood. This includes beer made at BREWHALL, their very own award-winning craft brewery best known for its brewing innovation and collaborations. The food alone would have been worth the ride and Brewhall’s Neon Lights Pale Ale a find, declared my husband. tapandbarrel.com
Of course we wanted to see the pretty little town of Steveston, Richmond that Carolee and Warren call home. Richmond is a city in the coastal Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada. It occupies almost the entirety of Lulu Island, encompassing the adjacent Sea Island where the Vancouver International Airport is located.
The Virtual Tour of Steveston Village and Fisherman's Walf in Richmond British Columbia, Canada below includes scenes of Steveston Pier, Fisherman's warf, Gulf of Georgia Cannery, as well as the Fraser River around Vancouver BC.
The old fishing village of Steveston on the southwestern tip of Lulu Island is now home to several museums and heritage sites, as well as a charming working harbor for fishing boats. Currently, London Heritage Farm, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and the Britannia Shipyard National Historic Site in Steveston highlight these parts of Richmond's diverse history. Interestingly Richmond has an oceanic climate. Because it is not as close to the mountains, it actually receives 30% less rain than neighboring Vancouver. It rarely snows in winter, and the summer temperatures are mild to warm.
Carolee and Warren Mckenzie’s close-by home was delightfully bright and colorful. Carolee is an inspirational artist who studied art, interior design, and drafting and has decorated their stylish home in Steveston with her abstract acrylics and water-colors.
“But they are decades old…” referring to her incredible water-colors, indicating that she’s moved on to the abstract. Carolee is as versatile as her art, unpredictable and surprising with every new room we enter. She cooks, bakes and decorates. Carolee and Warren are one of the fortunate couples, like us, who met later in life and love traveling and cruising, also like us.
On our last but not least charming stop, it was High Tea time at Stevenston Bakery in Stevenston Village by the harbor. Hemant, the owner, is a classically trained Master Baker who started his career by learning about sourdough leavening in the heart of San Francisco. He also apprenticed in the Napa Valley before returning to Vancouver. Folks have been coming to Steveston Bakery for almost three decades to enjoy the wonderful breakfasts, the hearty homemade soups, and the huge sandwiches.
We came for fresh coffee and some of their decadent, delicious desserts, but unfortunately had to cut our lively conversation with the Master Baker short as MS Eurodam was calling.
Let me just close my story here by sharing that our friend Warren wasn’t just a terrific tour guide but he must have been a race car driver in his younger years. He got us back to our cruise ship on time…Barely.
Until next month from the mountains of North Carolina!
Yours in travel…
Escape From Paradise, Travel-writer & Blogger www.EscapeFromParadise.net
Travel Columnist for the www.MontaukSun.com, published in print from The Hamptons to Manhattan
Scout for 15 Emmy award-winning, national cooking & travel TV show www.aTasteofHistory.org