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Tuesday, August 31, 2010


It's nice to see a sense of humor from the City of Oak Bay Recreation Department. This sign is posted on the entrance to the beach at MacNeil Bay. This beach is usually nearly deserted - it's really only a narrow strip of rocks and sand below the esplanade. Earlier this year MacNeil Bay hosted a visiting Gray Whale thoughtfully recorded by N. Wemyss and posted to YouTube by NorthOlbo.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Can You See It?

When I took the camera down from my face the gentleman visible sunbathing just left of centre in the above photo waved and pointed again. I walked over a little closer and he continued to point to the rocks just below him and then I saw something move. To the right you can see the Harbour Seal pup that had hauled itself up on the rocks to rest. Its dappled coat fits in so well with its surroundings that if it had not moved I doubt I would ever have seen it.

The point of land jutting out in the above photo is Holland Point, along the shoreline below Dallas Road in the James Bay neighbourhood. The ocean is the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the mountains in the background are on the Olympic Peninsula in the USA.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

You Are Invited... the Ross Bay Villa Lawn Party. Above is Ross Bay Villa, one of the few remaining houses in Victoria dating from the 1860s. It is also one of the few that is essentially intact. Ross Bay Villa has been undergoing restoration for some time now under the auspices of The Land Conservancy, a non-profit, charitable land trust that works throughout the province of British Columbia. The Lawn Party is to celebrate the completed restoration of the dining room and will take place from 1 pm until 4 pm on Labour Day Monday, September 6, 2010. Admission is free. House Tour and Cream Tea will be $7 each. Ross Bay Villa is located at 1490 Fairfield Road across from the Ross Bay Cemetery. I'll be there!
63% of the people who kindly voted in yesterday's poll suggested I should go and photograph Craigdarroch Castle again and the result is to the right. I think it was worth the trip. Thank you to everyone who took the time to give me his or her opinion.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

One more....

Many thanks to the 25 visitors who participated in yesterday's poll and left comments. This was very helpful. The overwhelming preference (72% at this point) was for the bottom close-up of the castle from the corner rather than the straight-on view from further back. (See yesterday's post) This is the reverse of what I expected since I assumed the inevitable distortions arising from the super-wide angle view would turn most people off. Anyway, here's a third view of Craigdarroch Castle and another question. I like this perhaps better than the two views I posted yesterday except for blown out sky over the right side of the photo. What do you think - is it worth another trip to the castle to shoot this one again under a clear blue sky?

Shoot this one again?
No free polls

Friday, August 27, 2010


Canadian Geographic Magazine is having a photo contest for pictures of National Historic Sites, which is one of the reasons this blog has been experiencing a quite a few such photos lately (Fort Rodd Hill and Craigflower Farm to name two). Here's another National Historic Site located in Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle. I went up there yesterday and took photos of its exterior from every different angle. Above and below are the two views I prefer. Please use the poll below to help me decide which is best. Thanks!

Do you prefer the above or the below?
Below free polls

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beacon Hill Bouquet

I notice that I am much more interested in flowers in the spring, especially wild flowers. I suspect this is because they are so refreshing after winter's duller colors and gray days. A recent trip to Beacon Hill Park however reminded me that summer's blooms are just as beautiful.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum

Here's another facet of life in Victoria I have not explored before. The trim building above is part of a hospital complex put up in the 19th century to care for military personnel. The entire complex now houses the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum. There is a nominal charge/donation for entry and a wealth of well-displayed artifacts and documents relating to the history of the military on this base from its founding in 1865. Arranged in a series of rooms in chronological order, displays and dioramas provide fascinating glimpses of military life from long ago to the present. It's well worth a visit especially if you want to understand Victoria's history and the important role played by the military.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Craigflower School II

Scottish immigrants such as the MacKenzies (proprietors of Craigflower Farm) had great respect for education. The literacy rate in their native Scotland was very high compared to neighbouring England and teachers were respected members of the community. This goes a long way towards explaining the relatively genteel quality of the teacher's sitting room pictured below. Other rooms in the upstairs part of the school building were bedrooms for the teacher's family and for student boarders.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Craigflower School

Craigflower School was originally known as Maple Point School because it was built on Maple Point. This little outcrop where the Gorge narrows was named Maple Point because of a large maple tree that grew there. That tree is visible in all the early photos of the school well back into the 19th century and it is large enough in those old photos to see that it must have been there long before the school was built, long before the first colonists came to these shores. That maple tree, though aged and hollow, still grows on the school grounds and is the gnarled tree on the left in the above photo. When those first colonists arrived, Maple Point had been occupied by native peoples for about 4,500 years, judging by the shell midden that lies beneath the grass in the above photo. To the right of the school is a stand with the school bell on it. When the school first opened it had no bell but shortly afterwards this bell was salvaged from a wrecked steamship and put to service in the school.

Here are a couple of photos of the restored classroom inside the school. On the left we can see the student desks each with its slate and cloth to erase. On the right we see the classroom from the teacher's perspective. Another slate is on the lectern along with a slate pencil. I had always assumed the kids wrote on slates with a piece of chalk. But no, they used a slate pencil - a thin rod of slate with a pointed end. As you can see from my ABC, it works remarkably well and erases easily.
Though the school building is quite large there is only this one small classroom because the building also housed the teacher, his or her family and many of the students. Craigflower School opened its doors in 1856 and served students until 1911. We'll have a look at some of the other rooms tomorrow.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Craigflower Manor

Craigflower Farm was initiated in 1853 to provide food for the fort, the growing colony and the ships of the British Navy. In that year the foundation was laid for Craigflower Manor, intended for the manager of the farm, Kenneth MacKenzie, his wife and large family (4 boys and 4 girls). The house was completed in the Georgian Revival style after the arrival of the MacKenzies from Scotland and they moved in in 1856. This is not the oldest house in BC but it is the oldest house in this style and one of the very earliest to remain standing today. It was extensively restored and furnished with period items but suffered from a fire last year. Though the fire was small the damage from smoke and soot was extensive throughout the house and all of the artifacts have been moved into storage to allow the structure to be cleaned. Consequently it is not possible to view the interior. However, there are photos of many of the interior rooms before the fire on the BC Heritage website. There's lots of other interesting information there as well about life in early Victoria. Wikipedia also has a good article about Craigflower Farm and School. And, about 18 months ago I published a few photos and a bit of information on this blog. Craigflower School, a separate building, was not damaged by fire and I was able to go inside and look around at the restored classroom and other rooms. I'll post some photos of this tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Upper Gorge - Craigflower Manor and School

This photo is meant to serve as an introduction to the next few days' posts. Here we are looking up the Gorge from the Craigflower Bridge. To the left just out of the frame is Craigflower Manor, one of the earliest extant colonial houses in British Columbia, built in 1856. Off camera to the right and behind me is Craigflower School, the oldest schoolhouse in western Canada (1855). Together they constitute a National as well as a Provincial Historical Site. During my visit I was fortunate to encounter a guide both informed and patient who took me inside both of these old buildings and gave me some insight into their history. Thank you, Cailin Glenn, for the great tour. Between them, these two buildings provide a wonderfully evocative snapshot of life in Victoria's earliest days and tomorrow we'll have a look at them as well as what's behind their doors.

Friday, August 20, 2010

NOT the Coit Tower

Whilst riding around the Fairfield neighborhood the other day I decided to visit Moss Rock Park, a small rocky hilltop, also known as Fairfield Hill. Photographers are a bit like goats in wanting always to get to the highest point available. Anyway, while I was up there I noticed a very tall strange looking tower that I hadn't really noticed before. Aha, I thought, the Coit Tower! Then I remembered that the Coit Tower is in San Francisco. After leaving the Abkhazi Garden (also in Fairfield) a few days later, we decided to try to get close to this mystery tower. It's in the Rockland neighborhood, off Laurel Lane, but it's not possible to get to it since it is surrounded by private homes. It's a water tower, 128 feet tall, built in 1909. It's no longer in use though for 25 years it bore a 22 foot neon flame that celebrated the centenary of the City of Victoria. This information comes from the Rockland Neighborhood Association Heritage Walking Tour. It's an interesting structure. The photo to the left was taken from Moss Rock Park to show this tower. (Click to enlarge.) The large gray house to the left of the tower is Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gourmet Garden

I've posted about the Abkhazi Garden and its romantic past before but I revisited it the other day for a wonderful surprise. Not only is it a spectacular garden with hundreds of rare and beautiful plants, but it offers outstanding food. After wandering in the garden for an hour or so we decided to try the lunch menu. It's hard to find superlatives adequate to describe how good their food is. That's tomato soup on the right there, but what a soup! Garnished with spicy little (chive?) flowers, fresh goat cheese and a drizzle of basil oil...splendid is an understatement. The pasta was also superb.
Visit this place - for the flowers and other plants and for the magnificent garden in which they grow, but make sure you arrive in time for lunch. It's beyond delicious. You can read a little about the Abkhazi Garden on The Land Conservancy website, by clicking here. Other information is available here.
The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed the bottled sparkling water above with the cute name "O de Vie." I had originally ordered Perrier but decided to try this since it was local. It's drawn from an aquifer in Vic West. Great water! Yay Vic West!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ogden Point Sundial

While I was at Ogden Point I checked out the sundial that is set into the sidewalk near the Ogden Point Cafe. Depending on the date, one stands in different locations and where one's shadow falls on the dial indicates the time. The photo above was taken at 12:06 pm. According to the instructions, one is supposed to add 19.6 minutes for August first. If one also adds 1 hour for daylight savings time then this dial is fairly accurate though there is considerable room for error due to poor posture or odd head/hat shapes....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Photogenic Victoria

Thinking about the difficulties of photographing Fort Rodd Hill (previous two days' posts) has made me realize that there are places in this city I return to often because they almost always yield good photos. Fisgard Lighthouse and Gonzales Hill are two places that come to mind immediately. Here is a third - the Ogden Point Breakwater, pictured above.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fort Rodd Hill II

The primary purpose of the military efforts at Fort Rodd Hill were defensive and during most of the life of the fort the main threat to the Esquimalt-Victoria area was by sea. The batteries pictured yesterday were sited and aimed to defend the approaches by water to this area. The above gun is pictured as placed in the Upper Battery in 1897. Large guns such as this were intended to fire on large ships. To the left are the guns of the Belmont Battery, designed to protect the fort from smaller boats that might slip under the big guns' field of fire. But what if it was night - how would the large guns be aimed? That innocent looking boathouse to the right is a fake. It houses an immense searchlight, one of many that could be rolled out and aimed over the water if needed.
Residents and visitors to Victoria alike will find this site well worth a visit. As noted in the National Historic Sites information brochure,
...Fort Rodd Hill represents all the defensive locations of the V-E (sic Victoria-Esquimalt) Fortress, and was only one of a system of forts and related works. Fort Rodd Hill is one of the world's best preserved - and most complete - examples of its kind, consisting entirely of original structures, with minimal restoration.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fort Rodd Hill

Yesterday's photo of the Fisgard Lighthouse is the default photo for this area although there are actually two distinct National Historic Sites at Fort Rodd Hill. The photogenic Fisgard Lighthouse of course gets the most attention. For photographers, the other National Historic Site that you walk through on your way to the lighthouse, Fort Rodd Hill, is a greater challenge. It's not very dramatic or colorful and in place of the sentimental and inspiring connotations of a lighthouse on the rocks, the rather gloomy cement battlements hugging the ground give rise to inescapable associations with conflict and bloodshed, although Fort Rodd Hill was only intended for defense. Nevertheless, those holes in the walls were for riflemen to shoot through should the Fort ever have been attacked. The big guns pointed out over the water, guarding the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour, and we'll have a look at them tomorrow.
The top photo is inside the Lower Battery. The photo to the right was taken inside the Upper Battery where a few wooden guns have been provided for visitors to aim through the embrasures. Below is a wider view of the Lower Battery. The small red-roofed building on the right of the battery was the canteen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fisgard Lighthouse Revisited

Fisgard Lighthouse is perched on a rock to one side of the entrance to Esquimalt Harbor. Those of you who follow the news are aware that a large ship full of Tamil refugees has been approaching our coast for several days now and I thought that with any luck I might get to see the Canadian Navy escorting that ship into the harbor, thus giving my photos a newsworthy relevance generally lacking. Well, I don't know what the navy have done with that ship but they didn't bring it in while I was watching so you'll have to settle for another shot of my all-time favorite subject, the Fisgard Lighthouse.

Note: Apparently I was too late since the ship in question was brought in early in the morning. Click here to see a video news broadcast that gives further information.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I found this lovely old sun dial yesterday afternoon in Beacon Hill Park. Who can tell me what time it was when I took this photo? (No prize but I will put a gold star beside your name in my private records if you give me a correct answer. Wrong answers will get a silver star. Non-participants all get bronze.) Bonne chance!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More Summer Please

Our summer so far this year has been brisk and refreshing (COLD!) except for about three days in early July. It seems to be warming up now and maybe we will soon be getting a bit more of the kind of real summer weather we were getting last month when I took this photo of my daughter, granddaughter and a friend at the Sooke Potholes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gonzales Observatory and Gonzales Bay

I am still engaged in another project but I also realized this morning that I have not fully exploited my sunrise trip to Gonzales Hill Park a few weeks ago. Above is another shot of the observatory that I like and below is a view of Gonzales Bay (directly below) with Clover Point further back. The background mountains (on the left) are the Olympic Peninsula in the USA. This view is almost identical to one I took about 15 months ago.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Similkameen River

I am a bit engaged in another project today so I am sharing another photo from the holiday I took earlier in the year to the Similkameen River Valley. There's nothing dramatic about this photo but there is something about horses standing in a river that is very peaceful. Hope you enjoy this.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Night Market on Ship Point

Ship Point pier forms one side of the Inner Harbour and it is transformed on summer weekend evenings to an outdoor market specializing in art and crafts. There is some very beautiful work for sale here from fairly simple things such as T-Shirts and candles to wonderfully intricate jewelry and sculptures. At one end or the other there is usually a musician. It's well worth an evening's browse and when you're tired of shopping you can stroll over to the causeway for some entertainment from the buskers.

Just a note to say that I enjoyed tremendously the exotic Tibetan meal I had last night at The Tibetan Kitchen but the photos I took do not do justice to the food so I will have to return again, an inviting prospect, before I can share this place with you. In the meantime I invite you to check it out yourself. It's right downtown on the corner of Broughton Street and Douglas.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Smokey Sunset

I mentioned a few days ago that our atmosphere here has been very polluted lately with smoke from the many forest fires burning on the mainland. While the smoke had abated somewhat by the time I took this photo there was still enough left in the air to provide this nice red sunset over the Inner Harbor. That's one of the little harbor ferries making a late trip on the right.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mmmm 3 - Persian Food

Continuing our culinary tour around the world via Victoria eateries, I dined Middle Eastern style last evening in the Side Dish Restaurant, Persian Food specialists. Above is the vegetable stew I had, which came with saffron flavored Basmati rice and salad. The stew had all sorts of good things in it like eggplant, zucchini, and yellow split peas and was garnished with crispy potato sticks - and it was a very tasty meal. The Side Dish Restaurant is located in the heart of downtown at 1008 Langley Street.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Oak Bay Marina

Visitors to this blog will have noticed that many of the photos include boats of all shapes and sizes, not surprising for a coastal city on an island. Some people live on their boats but most boat owners must find places to moor them while they live and work elsewhere. This is one of the largest marinas in the greater Victoria area, called the Oak Bay Marina. This photo was taken about a week ago before our atmosphere became polluted with smoke. Much of the province of British Columbia is experiencing forest fires right now due to extremely hot dry weather. The smoke from these fires now lies over this area like a dense smog.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mmmm 2 - The Noodle Box

Yesterday's post was Central American food at Hernandez. Today's delicious item is a recent lunch I had at The Noodle Box on Fisgard Street in Victoria's Chinatown. It seemed a bit pricier than Hernandez but there was a lot of tasty stuff in that bowl, called Cambodian Jungle Curry ($10.75). That fresh lime and those slices of fresh mango garnish were the perfect complements to the creamy, spicy sauce covering the noodles and tofu. There's lots of other good South-East Asian street food on the menu, too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hernandez - Mmmm!

Anyone who eats out in Victoria probably already knows about Hernandez so this post is for other people like me who are about two years behind the trends. Pictured above are the five soft, fresh corn tacos with beans, salsa, sour cream and fresh cilantro that I had for lunch yesterday. $5 for 5 of these babies, a great bargain. I'm not a great fan of restaurant food but you won't get food like this anywhere else in Victoria unless your mother or wife is from Central America. Absolutely delicious! It's right downtown, 735 Yates Street, inside an office building arcade.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

BC Day 2010

The Monday of the August First long weekend here is called BC Day. Its main reason for existence is to provide another long weekend during summer. However, it also celebrates British Columbia so it was fitting that the event I attended was held on the grounds of the historic St. Ann's Academy, which opened in 1858. The couple enjoying a peaceful picnic above are on the grounds just to the right of where a large crowd was enjoying the music of some truly stellar performers, including Zinnia (left) with the band Momentum. There were food and information booths and activities for the kids including face-painting (right).
Below, some young girls dance to the music of Ed Peekeekoot, Alan Moberg and Ms. Peekeekoot. This trio really reminded me that we have some great musicians in Canada writing and performing genuinely Canadian music.