Sunday, 16 April 2017

Victoria’s Butchart Gardens has an Easter treat for kids plus lots of flowers in bloom

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Find the bunnies
     This Easter at Butchart Gardens near Victoria B.C.,  kids could go on a treasure hunt for 10 ceramic Easter bunnies and get a treat at the end. The event runs from Friday, April 14-Monday, April 17 and we headed there on Sunday to take advantage of the sunny warm weather. There were lots of kids trying to find the ceramic bunnies which were strategically located to give you a full tour of the gardens.  We loved the show of colourful flowers which included many gardens of hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils.  We also appreciated the many colourful trees in bloom which added immensely to the display.
The Sunken Garden is particularly scenic now
     One of the staff we spoke to mentioned that they thought the gardens were about 2 weeks behind due to the cool spring and winter weather along coastal B.C. this year.  There were some early rhododendrons in bloom as well as crocuses which traditionally would have bloomed weeks ago. We also enjoyed spotting some delicate fawn lilies in the Japanese Garden. 
Tulips were in bloom in several gardens
    Of the trees in bloom the Magnolias attracted the most attention due to their large white blossoms. Camellias also offered flowers of delicate shades of pink. If you feel like the cool spring weather needs to be left behind and you need some colour and signs of spring, a visit to Butchart Gardens will be sure to lift your spirits. If you have kids be sure to search out their ceramic Easter bunnies over the Easter long weekend. For more information see:

The Italian Garden was a popular spot to sit and enjoy the sun

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Terry Fox Exhibit at the Royal B.C. Museum is sure to inspire-Don`t miss it

   by Keith and Heather Nicol
   On Thursday, April 13 we visited the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria to see the Terry Fox exhibit which opened the day before – 37 years to the day after Terry dipped his leg into the Atlantic Ocean in St John`s. Although he didn`t know it at the time Terry Fox was embarking on what would become one of the most famous runs in Canadian history-The Marathon of Hope. The exhibit was developed by the Canadian Museum of History in conjunction with the Terry Fox Centre. 
Seeing the van Terry Fox used for his cross country run was a hghlight
 This exhibit not only has lots of memorabilia related to his 143 day run but also many personal stories related to the people he met along the way.  We enjoyed seeing the iconic Ford E250 Econoline Van which  became his home away from home for his run to raise money and awareness about cancer. The exhibit has many videos, artifacts and photos about his run which also tell the tale of Terry`s selflessness and determination which would eventually capture the imagination of all Canadians. For many he is one of Canada`s true heroes and it is a fitting story to tell on Canada’s 150th anniversary. 

Terry starting off in St John`s Newfoundland
      We particularly liked the story of his interaction with 10 year old Greg Scott who also lost a leg to cancer. There is a poignant video of Terry and Greg sharing an afternoon swim after a tiring day of running. “I had the most inspirational day of my life today”  Terry told the people of Terrace Bay, Ontario that evening.  
Terry with 10 year old Greg Scott
      Although fundraising was slow to start, Terry reached his goal of raising $1,000,000 for cancer research as his run traversed Ontario through the summer of 1980. Unfortunately his cancer returned and Terry was forced to end his run near Thunder Bay on September 1 after running 3339 miles. Although Terry passed away on June 18, 1981 his life lives on through the annual Terry Fox runs held across Canada. They have now raised over $700,000,000 for cancer awareness and research! If you are traveling to Victoria, B.C. this summer be sure to catch this exhibit of one of Canada’s most inspiring citizens. The exhibit runs until October 1, 2017. For more information see:
The exhibit was popular with kids on the day we saw it.

Monday, 3 April 2017

We had a great season of cross country skiing at Mount Washington

  by Keith and Heather Nicol
   It was a sad day when we cleaned out our ski locker at Raven Lodge on Sunday, April 2 to end the 2017 cross country ski season. Raven Lodge is the base of operations of cross country skiing and snow shoeing at Mount Washington near Courtenay, B.C on Vancouver Island. The year saw lots of relatively cool weather which was perfect for us since we like to classic ski and this meant we could use grip wax for much of the winter. Often temperatures at Mount Washington are around zero and this means that waxless skis work best for those people that don’t like to get into finicky waxing conditions. But waxable skis are faster and more enjoyable to ski on so this was a real bonus. 
Heather skiing with scenic Mt Albert Edward in the background
 I was involved in teaching cross country skiing a couple of times a week and this year I seemed to have more lessons especially from people from Victoria.  One memorable lesson involved 4 skiers – 2 from Victoria and 2 from Phoenix, Arizona.  The 2 couples were originally from India and I am not sure if they had ever seen snow. At first they said with alarm” Are these skis suppose to slide”? My normal lesson plan went out the window and we spent the first 30 minutes in front the lodge gingerly moving very slowly around on the flats. But by the end of the lesson they were all going up and down a small hill laughing and smiling. One was even tucking as she went downhill! What an improvement. 

Keith skating on packed powder through the meadows
    So next year if you have thought about trying cross country skiing or snowshoeing then check out Raven Lodge at Mount Washington. They have over 50 km of trail groomed for skating and classic skiing as well as many snowshoe trails. Raven Lodge has great mountain views and inside you can have a bite to eat, book rentals and lessons, buy day tickets and even have a sauna.  Lets hope next winter brings the same great skiing to Mount Washington.  For more information see:  
Raven Lodge is full service facility at Mount Washington

Sunday, 19 March 2017

We enjoyed the St Paddy’s Day dance at the Big Yellow Merville Hall

by Keith and Heather Nicol

    On Saturday, March 18 we attended a contra dance at the Big Yellow Merville Hall for St Paddy’s Day.  The Funtime Fiddlers seem to attract a large following since we had also attended their Robbie Burns Dance in January and in both cases they had to set up more tables and chairs for the 100 plus people that showed up. What we really appreciated about the evening was the wide range of ages that attend from young children to teens to adults. You change partners during lots of the dances and people don’t necessarily come as a couple or paired up. 

Heather heading to the Big Yellow Merville Hall

The dances are either circle or line dances  and June - the dance caller- had a great way of explaining the steps needed to do each dance.  The night usually starts with a 15 minute warm up period  when June goes over the basic steps that most dances will use. So don’t feel that you have to be a Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers to attend since learning the dances is easy to do on the spot.  The Funtime Fiddlers play a range of lively jigs and reels as well as waltzes and polkas in between sets. If you are looking for a family friendly event or want a chance to learn some new dances we recommend checking out the next contra dance in Merville since they offer several throughout the year.

The Funtime Fiddlers played lively jigs and reels

  Merville is located on the old island highway just 12 km north of Courtenay, B.C. For more information on the next contra dance contact:  or  

The contra dances attract a wide range of ages

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Vancouver’s Seawall between Third and Second Beach makes a fine winter walk

by Keith and Heather Nicol
A kayaker paddles just off shore
    Coastal B.C. has been hit hard with cool weather and snow this winter so when the forecast for the Feb 11-13 Family Day weekend looked sunny and “warm” we decided check out the seawall on our most recent visit to Vancouver.  The seawall is roughly 10 km in length and we have biked around it many times in the past (see: but we have not walked the section between Third and Second Beach for ages. Since the temperatures were still cool in the shade we wanted a route that was mostly sun exposed for our early afternoon walk and this fit the bill perfectly. We were joined by our daughter Kristie, her boyfriend Eric and our son Michael. We parked near the Teahouse at the Third Beach Parking area in Stanley Park and although we had to negotiate some snowy sidewalks to start we were soon on the snow free seawall.  
Lots of walkers out enjoying the seawall
The tide was low which exposed some nice areas of flat lying rock and we saw a sea kayaker out enjoying the light wind conditions. There were many other people out walking sections of the seawall and roller bladders and cyclists as well. For those people who have not walked the seawall there is a nice separation between cyclists and walkers so you don’t need to worry about collisions. We also enjoyed spotting the winter ducks in this area and we saw several Common Goldeneye, many colourful Surf Scoters as well as the more common Mallards and American Widgeon. Once we reached the pool at Second Beach we decided that this was a good turnaround point and headed back along the seawall. This route was about 2.6 km return so is doable by a wide variety of people. Stanley Park is a great asset to Vancouver and the seawall must be one of its most popular attractions, especially on sunny winter day. For more information see: 
We saw several pairs of Common Goldeneye along the shore