I had to make an airport run with Maggie to Vancouver last weekend and was hoping to get a ride on one of the new “Coastal” ferries but no such luck.
The Spirit of Vancouver Island (one of the old ‘new’ ferries) was quite crowded so we made our way to the Seawest Lounge where you can sit out the trip in quiet and comfort for an extra fare of $10.
That might seem a bit much when you’ve already paid your regular fare of $14.25 but you get more than peace and quiet. Normally I would buy a newspaper, coffee and a muffin or a sandwich and that would come to around $7.50. In the Seawest for the $10 you get a seat and table to yourself plus all of the major newspapers and all of the coffee, tea or cocoa you can drink plus complementary muffins, sticky buns, cheese and crackers, apples, oranges, bananas, carrot sticks and orange juice. My only complaint is that it would be nice to have a few more salad options.
Originally Maggie was flying Zoom but as you probably know they went bust so we had to switch her ticket to Air Canada. This was no problem and the price was almost the same. Unfortunately I filled in the ticket information wrong on the internet and we had to go to the Air Canada ticket office in the airport to get it corrected. This was accomplished with minimum hassle.
Maggie’s flight didn’t leave until 8 at night and we had lots of time to kill. Fortunately my cousin Cindy and her husband Alex live in Ladner and they picked us up and took us to Steveston for a late lunch.
I’ve lived in B.C. for most of my sixty years but had never been to Steveston, a small fishing community that is a half hour drive from downtown Vancouver and is famous for its seafood. Steveston was once home to 15 fish canneries (one is currently being revamped as a museum) but now is better known for its wide variety of eateries. You can get Greek, Mexican, Japanese and more and there are plenty of seafood specialists all around.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and Steveston was heaving. There are several restaurants right on Fisherman’s Wharf with views of fishing boats and the Fraser River.
We were lucky enough to get a table for four without waiting and by a window. There is plenty of seating on the deck but the tables were all taken on this day. Shady Island has a rustic feel to it and the atmosphere is casual but the food and wine are a blend of pub food and fine dining.
Steveston is famous for its fish and chips and you have your choice of salmon, cod or halibut. The last mentioned is my favourite so Maggie and I shared a double order with a side salad. Cindy went for the prawn wrap and Alex for the spicy prawn sandwich both of which came with creative salads of mixed fruit and vegetables. I can’t remember the exact types of sauces the prawns came with or the names of the dishes but Alex declared his to be excellent and Cindy was quite happy with her wrap.
The halibut was superb with a medium (not oily) batter and crisp chips cooked in the skins. With a bottle of wine and coffee all round the bill came to $66 before tip.
After lunch we walked along the pier and admired the view and the passing river traffic which included ocean-going freighters.
For information, accommodation and transportation visit http://www.bctravel.com/vancouver/richmond/attractions.html
After seeing Maggie off on her flight to London I spent the night at the Comfort Inn on #3 Road, Richmond. The hotel was recently completely refurbished and boasts spacious, comfortable rooms with huge Queen-size beds – four pillows to a bed – cable TV, free internet access and coffeemaker. Business suites are available and there is a large swimming pool and free shuttle to the airport. Current rates start at $85 a night.
Richmond Comfort Inn has a licensed restaurant and a beer and wine store but no pub. There isn’t much to do in the immediate vicinity (one Italian restaurant). I started walking towards the nearby River Rock Casino and after about four blocks came across Bobby G’s Pub in the Abercorn Best Western.
This comfortable small pub has a real old-world charm to it and indeed there were several British couples enjoying a pint.
I ordered a draught lager and got talking with the other guy at the bar. He turned out to be a former race-car driver who competed in the CAMRA sports car series in the 1960s. We spent the next hour discussing the merits of road course versus oval racing.
After a solid night’s sleep I made my way to Tsawwassen by bus. Vancouver Transit has a great system whereby when you pay your fare up pops a card with a magnetic strip and time on it. You can use that card like a bus pass until the time indicated. The price for three zones – downtown to the ferry – is $5.00. You have to change at the Ladner Exchange and I found when I got there that I had a 35-minute wait for the bus to the ferry. Fortunately there is a McDonald’s a few minutes walk away. I sat outside with Diet Coke and fries and waited for the bus to go by. I then had time to get to the bus stop while it turned around at the exchange.
This time I had plenty of crosswords to do and the ferry wasn’t too full so I passed on the Seawest Lounge and found a stool and table on the main deck.
I decided to take the local bus into Victoria because I wanted to try the new ‘express’ service that Victoria Transit has started between downtown and the ferry.
I was in the queue when the first bus arrived bearing the number 72. People were already boarding when a second bus arrived bearing the number 70 and the word ‘Express’. Naturally we in line turned and headed to this new bus only to be told by the driver that he would be changing his number to 72 and that the bus in front was now the 70 Express. So back we went.
Victoria Transit has dropped the two zone idea so the charge is now only $2.25 all the way to downtown.
The 70 Express stops only once in Sidney (5th Avenue) and at the McTavish Road Airport Car Park before hitting the Pat Bay Highway. It stops at Elk Lake and Royal Oak and then at all the usual stops on the way into town. The trip took a little more than 50 minutes. A saving of between five and ten minutes but the 72 leaves the ferry terminal ten minutes ahead of the 70 and actually arrives downtown first. The only thing you save on the Express is a few minutes and the trip through Saanichton. If you’re not in a hurry and don’t mind the extra stops you might just as well take the 72.
The full price from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria, including ferry and gas surcharge, was $21.50.