So we sped off the ferry in order to get to the hotel, check in and then find the whale watching office. But it took a bit longer than we expected, and then we hit some one way roads and no left turns. Well, needless to say, my husband's French-Canadian background kicked in. I won't translate what he said. :)
We reached Five Star Whale Watching Expeditions and sped around the block looking for parking. Not a fun thing to do when you're already 5 minutes late! Finally, Marc let me out while he went to park the car. When I reached Five Star's office, the man behind the counter said we were scheduled for the NEXT trip out...in 2 hours. Yikes! Somehow I was sure the gal had said 2 pm on the phone. And I had that terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach--the kind that says 'oh boy, did you screw up...and Marc is going to be sooo happy to find out he just sped through town, cursing and getting lost.'
Then the very nice fellow behind the desk said he could get us on the 2 o'clock tour! YES!!! Marc showed up after finally finding a parking spot and off we went down to the boat dock to board a 45-passenger catamaran. On the way to the dock I let it slip that we had luckily been squeezed onto the 2 pm tour. Jeesh, honesty can be a bitch! hehe I think it's a good thing they did squeeze us in. I have a feeling I would have been swimming in the bay.
The cruise was breath-taking. We sat outside at the bow, the wind whipping at my hair, the sun on my face, the smell of the ocean all around us, while glistening diamonds covered the surface. We hit a few choppy patches and the boat bucked, slapping the ocean and sending huge sprays over the back end, uh...stern. In some areas the currents clashed and swirled and it looked like we were speeding over mini-whirlpools.
For three hours we looked for whales. We saw sea lions, seals, porpoises, many different species of birds (seagulls, bald eagle, cormorants and more), lots of seaweed...uh, driftwood...a couple of buoys...
But no whales. :(
I was disappointed, as were many of the people on the trip. In the end, the only whales we saw were the photographs that one of the gals showed us and the whales on my bookmarks, which I left near the coffee and hot chocolate. However, I did enjoy the trip and the time 'off', so it wasn't a complete waste, but it was the whales--in particular, the killer whales--that I wanted so dearly to see.
Although I completely understand that Five Star and the other whale watching tours can't really guarantee we'll see whales, I was surprised that with technology these days there wasn't a more reliable way to know where they were hiding. And yes, there was a part of me that thought those darned whales should have stayed where they were that morning and waited for me! :)
Oh, well. Now I have an excuse to come back. (Not that I ever really need an excuse to come to Victoria.)
My reward last night was a delicious dinner at Vintage Wine Bar & Grill. It's a gem of a restaurant that I think must often be overlooked since it's in the Super 8 Hotel on Douglas Street. And they don't serve your ordinary Super 8 fair.
Marc had the grilled 8 oz. AAA New York Steak with a wild mushroom demi-glace, shallot mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies--broccoli, paper-thin onion rings and what I am sure was panfried squash (perhaps spaghetti squash).
I had the Pacific Seafood Linguine, which was absolutely heavenly. The linguine was tossed with a delicate white wine sauce, spinach, grape tomatoes and red peppers, and then topped with a generous portion of mussells, clams, halibut and prawns, and sprinkled with shaved parmesan.
We also shared one of the best Caesar salads I've ever had. The Vintage Caesar is made with hearts of romaine, shaved fresh parmesan, double-smoked bacon, parmesan crisps and foccacia croutons. The homemade creamy Caesar dressing had an extra bite of anchovy, just the way I like it. In fact, I had it for supper again tonight! :)
While we were waiting, our attentive waiter Gordon treated us to some tapas--amuse-bouche, pan-seared tuna 'kissed' with wasabi aiolo on a flatbread croustini. Delicious! We finished our dinner with a dessert that was almost sinful--a coconut & pineapple creme caramel, light and fluffy, served with whip cream, pineapple crisps and presented with flair. I wish I had my camera! Maybe I'll have to go downstairs to the restaurant later and order it again...uh, just so I can get a picture of it, of course...
Great service, relaxing ambiance, generous portions and concoctions by a talented chef--what more could you ask for? I give Vintage Wine Bar & Grill...5 ankhs! :)
My day in a nutshell: I saw more sea creatures at suppertime on my plate than on my whale watching trip. But all in all, it was a divine day!
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention