Mini Adventure: Wentworth Villa

In an effort to keep my mini-adventures interesting I often search for upcoming, preferably free, activities that could be interesting and provide some exercise. The Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum seemed like a perfect match. Two free tours were being offered on each weekend day over two weeks – maximum ten people per tour. I checked with my weekend adventurers who were definitely interested before registering the three of us through Eventbrite. Which nearly found me dropping the whole thing due to the ridiculous process for a free event. Too much information was requested, all three names, addresses, emails and phone numbers were requested (blood type optional) if we wanted confirmation and to print the tickets. Only after all this had been provided did we discover we did not have to print anything, nor were we asked our names on the day we attended.

To ensure a good walk I drove to my sister’s house to put in what we thought would a pleasant 45 minutes. A miscalculation meant we had time to spare to walk further down Fort St. then back up. Fort Street has been known as Antique Road since at least the 1970s. Sadly, most of the quirky stores have since closed their doors as interest in all things old started to wane some years ago. There are now only 2-3 stores left. Wentworth Villa, further up Fort Street, had been one of those quirky shops. I had even visited it once many years ago.

The pink paint was not the original colour; it was chosen to showcase the exterior workmanship.

Central hall. Visitors rarely went beyond the door to the private areas of the home. However, aesthetically pleasing stained glass does give a glimpse of the lovely banister on the stairs beyond. (There are only two stained glass windows, the other is in the attic! No easy access had the renovators think it was there purely for looks.

Only two families ever owned and lived in the Villa. Built in 1863 for Captain Ella, his wife Martha, who would eventually have seven children, and Martha’s aunt. Despite the grandeur quarters would have been quite cramped! Some of the family lived in the house until the 1930s. By the 1940s the home was a bit run down, back taxes were owed and Wentworth Villa was purchased by Faith Grant and her husband – paying 25 years of back taxes. Renovated, with plenty of living space, the antique store next door, and the Grant family were soon relocated to Wentworth Villa. Over time the only changes to house were an extension and paint. It was an antique store until 2012. Sold in 2011 to developers it seemed likely the once grand home where Fort St. met Cadboro Bay Rd. (Over time Fort St. was extended and Cadboro Rd. starts at the border of what is now Oak Bay) was slated to be converted into high end suites. Yet another piece of Victoria’s history lost to the almighty dollar.

The door from the other side.

Note the wood floor in the next room is covered – these are floorboards that are laid across the foundation before the walls go up. Floors were often left unstained in the centre of the room as rugs were used to cover that area.

Fortune must shine on the home as it was sold in 2012 with the purpose of renovating it to become a jewel of the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum. We were taken through the house by Stefan, one of the extremely knowledgeable members. Although he did not say, I was under the impression he is one of the main people involved in ensuring all the work is completed as closely to the original structure as possible. This meant sifting through family photos from the Ella family, one of whom serves on the board, newspaper articles, and of course the fantastic B.C. Archives. After threes years the house has been fully restored and available for visitors.

As soon as I saw this I asked which cemetery it was stolen from. (I had learned of what happened to many missing stones) Ross Bay, the oldest cemetery in Victoria. Our guide said their renovators were quite surprised to discover tombstones used as paving stones. There are others, none as intact as this one. With names and dates in hand, researchers discovered the story of this, and other, individuals whose stones were found. Their stories are included in the history information boards.

Although we have many heritage designated homes in Victoria only four are open to the public. Emily Carr House, and Ross Bay Villa, and Ellice Point House have all been carefully restored, two with the furnishings of the original owners, one refurbished to appear as it would have been when first built. The plan for Wentworth Villa is to refurbish one room in the style of the Ella family. As their mandate is to show as a Museum of Architecture many of the renovated rooms have, or will have, models and information of various homes of architectural interest. In addition to these there is extensive information mounted on the walls about the process to renovate, the families and history of Wentworth Villa.

Royal Doulton sewer pipes. Ships from England used these pipes as ballast then sold them upon arrival to Victoria as no longer needed.

The architects and renovators could not find any blueprints or reason for why there is an arch from this room to the next. Nor did the very small space in between appear to have any functional use.

One of the finials removes while the roof was being repaired; when the initials carved on it were discovered the decision to make a replica to replace it was made and put the original on display.

Of course, all of this work is expensive, visitors will soon be charged to, and the extension put in by the Grants has been renovated as an intimate, acoustically sound, concert space. I checked out the seats – comfortable! The intention is to invite a variety of musical artists from Vancouver Island to perform. Concert goers will get quite a hit to the wallet though, $40.00 seemed to be the main ticket rate. Not terribly expensive if one considers the cost of movies these days. Our one hour tour stretched to nearly two – the passion of our guide was infectious as well as extensive! His mention of a few other familiar homes was interesting – one of which my daughter had lived in. Check out their growing website, http://www.wentworthvilla.com

bottom of one of the posts holding the house up.

Right hand side of the photo is where these posts were in the ground.

After our walk and two hours at the Villa we were all very hungry. With the house on the outskirts of Fairfield we headed down to Cook St. Village, to me the heart of Fairfield,where there are many choices of eateries, a few I have been fortunate to have already tried. Knowing there would be choices my daughter could have we headed to Bubby’s Kitchen. This place seems to be always busy. We were quickly seated at the end of the communal table (I think these are a great idea) and handed breakfast and lunch menus. My sister was disappointed to be told her choice of smoked salmon croissant had run out of croissants and found her half order Westcoast Benny on a tea biscuit expensive and not as tasty as she had hoped. I had the Falafel Naan Wrap. With French fries at the insistence of my sister – she wanted to share them. I was very pleased with the choice, after our server made the suggestion when I could not decide between that and another dish. Only ate half – carried the rest in a recyclable box for my dinner later. (No recollection of what my daughter had, just that she also took home leftovers)

Those boxes became a nuisance at times. I proposed we head to the ocean at the end of the street before veering off to Moss St. in the hope of seeing the cheery blossoms in full bloom. Moss Street is the best place for visitors in Victoria during cherry blossom season. They were still not in full show mode. Then to Rockland Ave where there are many grand old homes as well as the Lt. Governor’s House. We took a short stroll through the public park inside before wending our way back to the street. We had planned to find one house mentioned during our tour, too bad we recalled the street incorrectly. No matter, we were in very familiar territory, the weather was only slightly chilly and windy, and we were feeling hearty.

Keeping a watchful eye on everything.

On the way I discovered a little wonderland on the edges of one home. Such a delightful sight.

By the time we returned to my car we had walked nearly 14km! (I faithfully wore my knee brace until back at the car – it only helps a very little) No wonder I was tired. My daughter and I put in another 2km shopping before heading home. Another stress free, very little driving, adventure.

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Wedding Wednesday: 94 Days

It came as a bit of a shock to discover I have not written anything about wedding plans when it seems I have been doing something for it every day. It came as a surprise when the days left were 100 – and now we are in the final stretch! Although some of do by dates for a few items had to change I think my daughter is on track. We did not factor in her getting sick!

Her wedding dress fitting, which will take at least two visits, had to be changed. The first to figure out how to shorten an A-line dress with a scalloped hem. There can absolutely be no seam across the front. Fortunately the back section does not need any alterations other than two buttons for bustling. (Or something) A friend of hers helped with photos the other day to show the shoes she will most likely wear. The dress still looks lovely on her, albeit still too long despite the 4″ heels. I keep worrying about the height of those heels onboard a boat.

I cannot show the wedding dress so here is the sheath of mine. I hope I have enough time to bring it in – cannot work on it until the week before the wedding with it in Kingston and me in Victoria!

In addition to changing the fitting, my daughter also had to change a meeting with the vendor coordinator. No need to spread cold germs. Perhaps feeding her garlic a week before the wedding will ensure she will not get sick. (She is s nurse, part of the job) Timelines are now being given more attention – vendors tend to need booking by now and larger chunks of money paid. I shudder to think what it must be like in larger cities where everything is written in stone. I made the mistake of making a list yesterday of what still needs to be done, I nearly had a yikes moment. Little bites at a time.

One of those bites is of course what guests will eat. It has been a long time since I had to plan anything for 50+ guests, and I am quite sure my daughter never had to consider 90 to feed. She had one very helpful co-worker assist with numbers and dollars to come up with a menu and enough food. The one worry was maybe too many platters and not enough of each. At times I wonder if I am overstepping my role as MOB; this meant that making suggestions to cut or replace items, and have fewer choices mad me thinking I was out of place. However, as with so many things, a second pair of eyes is always a good idea. I may have even managed to cut the cost by $400-$500.

Not that I expect there will be anything left over once everything is added up. Thank goodness my only job is to forward expenses paid, and to pay, to another daughter to input in a spreadsheet. The Knot, a great site for brides, does have a budget page and it appears some items have already been added, but none of us are accountants so money issues tend to be a bit hit and miss at times so long as there is no running out of it! It truth, although not written down anywhere it seem the bride is pearly in control of the purse strings.

I took charge of the centrepieces in Jan/Feb, managing to buy nearly everything needed for the bride’s vision. There was only moment of panic when she asked for another photo of the mock up I did, she thought it had too much purple in it. Or, the wrong purple. She has assured me that everything is good, and she will have a better idea once her sister visits in April. Some of the flowers and lights had to be purchased in Waterloo. Now to find nine more bags of blue glass beads. I am hoping they will show up at one of the stores in Kingston – the stones I bought are getting heavy!

At my end of the country I was happy to finally book a one way flight for my youngest daughter and a Via Rail ticket. The latter was a headache because I booked that for the wrong date. Despite all my attempts the fee was not forgiven. This was new to me – I never had to pay a fee for making Rail changes before. Only my sister has a return flight so I booked morning Via Rail tickets for both of us to have time to see Toronto. She has never been there. If I can fit in Casa Loma I will be happy. If not, I will most likely be staying in the city at least one night with my two daughters who do not live in Ontario. Which means I keep checking Via’s Discount Tuesday’s for cheaper tickets on July 3rd. I am nearly at the realization this will most likely not happen. Regular price, yes. Ka-ching. (Not my dollars)

Mini Adventure: Happy Holi

For something completely different from my usual local adventures I decided an outdoor, cultural experience sounded like an excellent mix. The University of Victoria Indian Association had an open invitation to the public to attend their Festival of Colour celebration. As it is unlikely I will ever visit India this seemed like a perfect alternate to participate in an event I have only seen in pictures, documentaries and travelogues. Of course it was geared to students by the fact it was held on the grounds of the university. However, that was not about to dissuade me – two of my daughters, me, and my parents, were students of Uvic. (I do not recall such frivolity)

Except for the shots of me, my daughter and my sister, all the unknown smiling faces happily posed for me.

guess who! We knew some of those baggy clothes would eventually come in handy. Somehow my camera survived.

Clothed in white, to let the colours pop, wearing a pair of sandals (with socks because the temp was in the low teens) that did not matter if the colour would not come off, and ready for getting messy, I set off with my daughter and sister. Although we arrived shortly after the event was slated to begin it appeared to be in full swing. We were there for about two hours, I was possibly the oldest participant. This brought about some interesting reactions when young men approached to smear coloured powder on my face with a “Happy Holi” or gently toss it. Which brought to mind the reason for the celebration, and the culture behind it.

Time to let loose before exams and papers in April.

What is Holi and why is it celebrated by wild swirls of colourful, perfumed powder? There is a lot of information on the Net that tells the tale far better than I can. However, some basic facts: Time to mention that this year Holi was on March 1st and 2nd,; I have no idea why the Uvic event was held on March 17th. It certainly coincided with a number of celebrations. Lots of green for anyone hoping to partake of St. Patrick’s Day activities later, or Naw Ruz (New Year’s for at least three faiths), and of course the first day of spring. Holi – Festival of , celebrated by Hindus, is an important observation of the arrival of spring, good harvest and triumph of good over evil. A lot to pack into just two days. Although these days there are many colours used to celebrate Holi, usually synthetic, gulal – made from flowers and herbs – originally came red, yellow, green and blue to represent a significant purpose.

I love that I captured the shot below of the blue faced girl. (Also my sister in the sunglasses)

The dunk tank looked verrry cold and did little to wash off the colour

A note about the synthetic powder, perfumed gulal has become very popular – not great for anyone with allergies. Synthetic is safer on the skin, but like the natural ingredients, is not easy to wash off. I saw one young woman wearing a (p)leather jacket that I was loathe to mar. There were also sweaters that would most likely maintain the marks of good luck forevermore. Not exactly good clean fun.

We noticed a group of future students clutching folders, walking along with parents (is that helicopter parenting?)- either the parents were saying no bloody way, or looks like a relaxed school. There was a perimeter that participants of the celebration never crossed. Somehow I doubt such restraint occurs at larger Holi gatherings!

One of the times a line was started. The Macarena was popular when it was played (the students would have been very young children when it was popular – they all seemed to have the right moves). Lots of modern Indian music – very danceable.

Food also plays an important role, sadly, we left before what I could smell cooking was served. I love Indian food and rarely have the opportunity to eat it. Unfortunately, my sister does not like it and my daughter can only eat it if there is no gluten. K think if it had not been advertised that refreshments would be served, as well as having that heavenly aroma in the air, I would not have felt rather cheated. Also hungry. After two hours or so of fun, dancing and enjoying the sun it was time to head home to wash the pink, green, blue, yellow and red out of our hair and clothes.

everyone had a great time.

The next day, despite having a shower as soon as I got home, I am still finding colour in my ears; and the one article of clothing my daughter most likely wanted to come clean now has a lovely rainbow hue.

Mini-Adventure: Witty’s Lagoon, Metchosin, Vancouver Island

The morning started with crisp air, pale blue sky semi-shrouded in grey-white cloud. Where had the double digit temperatures disappeared to? Ah yes, although clocks may have been set to spring forward Mother Nature was sticking to her timepiece. A quick telephone call to discuss when to meet with my sister – not solely based on the 8c – ensured we would most likely be finishing up our beach hike as high noon approached. As I had also suggested heading for lunch to the local, and afar, favourite Mychosen Cafe I was hoping a later arrival might be in our favour so we would not have a long wait for a table. I also woke my daughter up to ask if she wanted to join us – she did! I was definitely not going to be unattended.

We did not head out until just past 11:00! At first I thought that would be a rather late start, however, being only a ten minute drive away it really was not. Driving to the lagoon is fairly straightforward, the parking lot is off of Metchosin Road, with Mychosen Cafe barely a two minute drive further down the road. More on that later. This time I did not second guess taking my sturdy stick. I had taken my usual precaution to read up on the trail I expected we would be taking. One warning is that the trail can get muddy and slippery in some areas, along with narrowing at times I decided throwing caution to the wind would be asking for trouble. My sister and daughter think I tend to over prepare, I always carry water and a snack with me, plus a small emergency kit. I would rather have it with me and not need it. Fortunately, if anyone did suffer a fall or anything else there are usually several people walking the trail. Many had Alpine poles. I had my stick and my knee brace. We were ready to plunge into the forest.

Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park has two main trails, the Beach and the Lagoon, that branch off from the Nature Centre situated at the beginning of the walk. Both trails are classed as moderate. The trail slopes down towards a bridge and platform where the lovely Sitting Lady Falls can be viewed. (I later discovered there is better viewing from the Lagoon Trail, sadly not until we had finished for the day) Before we could see anything, other than a stream merrily heading beside, then under us, we could hear the Falls. Much like my love of lighthouses, trains and the ocean, I love waterfalls. Moss covered rock walls, ferns clinging to the sides, slick logs choking sections, the Falls were many feet below us, pouring into the relatively serene lagoon below. By far not as majestic as many Falls it was still pleasant to view. Sometimes a walk in a park does need grand gestures from nature.

The trail continues its downward spiral, indeed muddy and narrow in places, hikers here seem to have an unspoken code that allows passing without crowding. Several good mornings and hellos along the way provided a pleasant acknowledgement of spring finally in the air. From the Falls we entered into the cooling environs of green forest. We discovered one ancient arbutus, entwined around an ancient, craggy Douglas fir nestled in the cradle of the arbutus limbs.

A variety of soft mosses, blackberry spines still without new shoots, many shades of green dappled by the sun. Oh yes, the sun! We could hear and see birds – the haunting call of a raven, the triumphant call of return from Canada geese overhead, seagulls in the distance, ducks paddling in the lagoon, crows giving chase to something. There are 160 species of birds in the park – birders flock the area.

As we continued to wend our way down, it is always at least a slight decline going – steeper in several areas – I started to pick up the slight decay and renewal of forest with an undertone of ocean. Despite our many stops along the way we were soon entering marshlands before the trail opened onto the beach access. Slivering waves, kissed by sunshine, its rays enticed a bare cheek to lift the face to the far reaches of ocean and deeply inhale the salt, algae and tiny, damp stones that meet the finely ground sand. First beach day! Picnics appeared, children with boundless energy hopped from giant, ocean smoothed logs, dogs joining in the delight of the warming day. (For me the only negative the whole time was the dogs – they are not allowed on the trail or beach from June to September)

the ultimate in log cabins

50 Shades of Blue

We chose to walk along the beach at the narrow line where small stones meet the soft sand; although a little trickier at times so much more enjoyable to feel and hear the skitter or pebbles underfoot, or the soft shush of sand as it slipped around my shoes. Shells dropped by seagulls are plentiful, shining purple whorls insides are all that are left inside. A piece of blue glass, always a treasure when my children were young, a small, pale, quite dead, crab. And always the glitter of the ocean as it gently lapped the shores. Beyond, snowy mountains and still the pale blue sky from the early morning. When summer arrives families, teens and many others, will crowd the beach and go swimming in the shallows. For now it is the ducks and seagulls who rule. I wish I could have filmed one very funny seagull high-stepping its way across a sand bar, even as the water became deeper it appeared this gull was not about to ruffle his under feathers as he stretched his legs and twinkle toed it’s way to that eventual dip where swimming took over.

Too soon our stomachs reminded us that it was lunchtime, we reluctantly turned around to traverse uphill, the same slippery, muddy spots waiting to challenge us. Going in the opposite direction there is a whole new perspective. While we took our time to enjoy everything in reverse Lunch beckoned.

One young boy had an ice cream sandwich that was nearly as big as his face! I will have to share a treat with someone next time.

Seems everyone else had a similar plan. Mychosen Cafe opened in 1987 and quickly became a reason to go for a drive to the wilds of Metchosin. I have probably eaten there maybe ten times over the years, not once was I disappointed. Hopping busy, we were told to expect a 25-30 minute wait for a table. This despite being after 1:30. A good reason to carry snacks. Alright, there really are not too many choices when in Metchosin. The Sugar Shack is the ice cream and bakery that belongs to the cafe, or there is Mychosen Pizza. (Heading home I did see a newer place on the next property) Patrons do not mind waiting. You can visit the goats in the Critter Corral, check out the various fowl, or chat with a neighbour – even if you have never met before. Metchosin is still very much a country place.

The wait was worth it. The menu could be considered too extensive if they were not practically the only place in town. Gluten free choices are available (not good for anyone who cannot tolerate possible cross-contamination), several salads, French onion soup(nearly ordered that), of course hamburgers, sandwiches, wraps, breakfast and dessert. There is also a dinner menus for after 4:00pm. Choices, choices! I decided on the Metchosin lamb Greek Wrap with a 1/2 order of fries and 1/2 order garden salad. Garden salads are far too often disappointing, a chunk of iceberg lettuce, tomato and maybe a slice of cucumber, all with bottled dressing. Not at Mychosen. A fantastic mix of lettuce including baby red, beets (these have never seen a can), carrot, cucumber, croutons and one cherry tomato. (I do not like tomatoes so that was fine) I chose their raspberry vinaigrette house dressing. This was enough salad to have as a light meal. However, I still had the lamb burger wrap to tuck into. Yum. Nicely seasoned lamb, generous, wrapped with feta cheese, tzatziki, lettuce, & cucumber wrapped in a warm tortilla. The fries were fine, not heavily salted. I liked them better when I had half of my wrap and chips for dinner. The servings are that generous. No need to cook that night!

Another weekend adventure to rejuvenate the soul, exercise the body, and discover, or rediscover, a little more about where I live. I invite everyone to take some time to discover the hidden or forgotten jewels in their area.

Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Sixty kilometres from the British Columbia Legislative buildings is the Sheringham Point Lighthouse, in Shirley BC. From where I live in Langford it is roughly a 45 minute drive that goes through Sooke and Otter Point before reaching Sheringham Point Road, anchored on either side by the red, Shirley Community Hall and Shirley Delicious. Although only a few minutes drive down the narrow, windy road to the first Regional parking lot a sense of the wild begins to calm anyone in need of a break.

People in Shirley know who the visitors are. I had barely pulled into the small parking area when another driver motioned for me to roll down my passenger window – had I mistakenly entered private property despite the signs clearly indicating a path marking the entrance to the Lighthouse? Not at all, he wanted to inform us there was another parking lot closer to the Lighthouse! We thanked him, indicated we were planning to walk the trail, and headed out. Anytime I go on on a hike into the woods I try to be somewhat prepared. Particularly this early in March.

Sturdy footwear, layered clothes – hat, gloves, a small bag to carry water and a snack. I also have a whistle on my keychain to scare off any grumpy bears or hungry cougars. I also look at a map to determine the type of trail: easy, moderate, difficult. Based on the ‘easy’ I had read I chose to leave my stick at home, in my car. I also do not go on hikes alone in an isolated area. I was with my sister. The trail was closer to being moderate than easy with its rises and falls that were covered in soft, springy moss, leaves, and mud in some areas. Considering I have been wearing my knee brace for hikes from now on I will take my stick.

There are two routes to the lighthouse, we chose the approximately 1.1 km, direct trail. Sure enough, there is another parking lot at the top of the gated entrance to the Lighthouse. The area is locked between 9:00am to 5:00pm, a precaution against vandalism and thrill seekers meeting an early death. The cliffs are steep and unforgiving. The vista is breathtaking. Peeping through the trees we came upon the first glimpses of the lighthouse jutting 20 metres up from the sheer rock. Every time I am lucky enough enough to visit a new place with a lighthouse I am awed by how these simple structures could withstand the fury of the ocean and warn sailors to steer clear. As we approached the cement steps and path to the structure I was stopped by the heaving sound of waves crashing on rocks – and this was a relatively mild day for wind. Trees and shrubs are windswept back, as though combed into a pompadour. Daffodils carpeted small areas, a sunny welcome in unforgiving territory if a wrong step is taken.

A bee was also enjoying the lovely, slightly stunted, sunny daffodils

Sheringham was built in 1912, (one of 12 to serve the area after many shipwrecks). Automated in 1988, declared surplus in 2010, the lighthouse was declared a heritage site in 2015, giving the Lighthouse Society (est. 2004) the green light to begin restorations in 2016. The land and the lighthouse are now protected as a community park, free to all visitors. After we managed to pull away from the enthralling view, the breaking water against the rocks and shore, the many shades of blue to grey of sky and sea we slowly made our way back to the relative quiet of the trail with thoughts of lunch beginning to form.

My goal was to introduce my sister to the craziness of Shirley Delicious. A wonderful, quirky restaurant that serves fabulous, delicious food, and great Fernwood coffee. I had warned that the place is very popular and usually extremely busy – we arrived before noon. Indeed it was hopping. The owner was flipping paper coffee cups, playing with the music and acknowledging everyone with a quick hello, quip, or handing over coffee – all with a smile behind his South African accent. I do not get out there often, and am always bouyed when I do. I had one of their focaccia sandwiches (they were all only $9.00) each has a silly name, of course I cannot recall what mine was, all that really mattered was that first bite. Warm, soft, perfectly seasoned focaccia bread filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, although I am not a fan of cranberry sauce I was intrigued by the combination with the light touch of chutney and brie plus fresh greens. Heaven. Except for the tomato slices. I hate tomatoes. These are eat with both hands sandwiches. Right away we knew we would need boxes to pack away at least half. Recyclable of course.

Now we know where the dragons are.

The air was too damp to sit outside – an absolute delight, and necessary if planning to stay to eat, during warmer weather. Take a walk along the paths, look down and around. There is much to delight the eye before or after your meal. A mini-Sunday adventure. I was home after only four hours. My body and soul were full.