Have you noticed we keep coming back to Victoria? This time we settled in for the month of December, curious to see if its winter season was really as mild as cold-phobic people like ourselves tend to prefer. This is Canada we’re talking about, after all. Wouldn’t you know, we discovered it really does live up to its reputation!
It’s in a sub-Mediterranean zone, not tropical, so in the name of keeping things extra comfortable, a basic set of wool clothing items, including a hat, coat, socks, and gloves, really do make a toasty difference. To give you some solid numbers, average daytime highs are typically around 46 °F (8 °C), with lows being about 39 °F (4 °C). Inland areas experience even higher daytime highs, due to Victoria’s many micro-climates, which can vary significantly depending on your proximity to the ocean. For example, when visiting the Westshore it will typically be 4-10 °C (8-18 °F) warmer than the inner harbor conditions. Not too shabby, right? I mean, just check out this overview of Victoria’s climate throughout the year. If beautiful seasons are what you’re wanting, Victoria has you covered. However, if you absolutely need access to lots of snow, then Mount Washington Alpine Resort is just a short three hour drive away. I personally want to see Victoria in the spring sometime; it seems to be the local favorite.
We rented a cozy little furnished house in Oak Bay, which was an easy size and set-up for our family. We appreciated the nice decor, soft beds, fluffy pillows, quality kitchen equipment, office for Brandon in a corner of the laundry room, and large playroom downstairs with toys and even a Wii. This is where Marie began her love of practicing handstands and transitioning into backbends, a skill set she has been diligently improving upon since then.
Brandon began a new project after we arrived — a family travel book, which is based on our insights and learnings from these past several years of traveling together. It will also have helpful logistical information for families who’d like to pursue more travel experiences of their own. Brandon has been dedicating many hours each week, totally engrossed and loving the process of putting it all together, and doing a fantastic job!
It just so happens that my voice teacher also lives in Victoria, just a few minutes drive from the house we were renting, so I enjoyed having some in-person lessons with her while we were in town. We even did casual recordings of all the songs I’ve been working on so far. It felt good to have been able to learn so many fun songs during the previous four months and to see the progress in my vocal skills as well!
Our family took advantage of an opportunity to go with some homeschooled children to attend the Goldstream nature house and salmon forest tour. The salmon run had just ended, and we heard a presentation about their life cycle. Because there were still so many rotting salmon carcasses lying around, we were delighted to see the many bald eagles who eat them, hanging out in the vicinity. We even saw a beautiful tree there which was over 800 years old!
We joined in a couple of potluck dinners at the home of our friends, Rod and Suki, to celebrate birthdays and holidays with them. We love their sweet family. There was always a fun group gathered, such as Maya and Brian’s family, and new friends we enjoyed getting to know, like the Gunderson and Lacroix families. We ate loads of delicious food together and enjoyed wonderful conversations.
One day we had the opportunity to meet the owners of the house we stayed at during our previous visit to Victoria. They prepared tea and cookies for us at their home, which was beautifully decorated for the holidays, and we had a nice time getting to know them.
We were so happy to have Maya and Brian’s family over to our house on a couple different occasions, and we also visited their house on our last night in Victoria. We so enjoy our time with them, and we all loved seeing how devotedly Aysia and their daughter, Veda, played together; such a great connection they have going. Our families even discussed doing a camping trip together this coming summer on Vancouver Island!
We also received a visit from our friends, the Kings, another traveling family. They found us in Costa Rica, at a time when we were oblivious to the fact that other families were actually choosing the same crazy lifestyle we were. As you might imagine, we were all pretty excited to meet each other. Since then, we’ve been with these guys on lots of adventures around the planet! Just for fun, here’s a flashback photo dating from the very early days of our family friendship. Aysia hadn’t even been born yet, she was still in a bulge form under my dress. :)
By the way, the cool thing about traveling families is, if you happen to become close friends with one, you can count yourself loved for life. Even if you move halfway across the world, you’ll only fuel their excitement to come visit you in your new destination! We do have a traveling fetish, after all, and it’s the time spent with our good friends both new and old that shines the most light into our journeys.
The Kings came to us directly from their home in Bali, as a first stop on their travel itinerary. We surprised Aysia with their visit, and had her open the front door for them unaware, while her dear friend, Miss I, waited on the other side. We improvised a casual dinner that night by getting sushi from Fujiya, which was half price because we were eating a bit later than most. It only cost $40 to feed all of us, and there was even quite a bit to spare!
The next day, our families went to see an impressive display of gingerbread creations at the Inn at Laurel Point, before heading to Tacofino for dinner, which we took back home to eat. We enjoyed homemade sipping chocolate later that night, with marshmallows and crushed candy canes.
The following morning, we invited our friends over to feast on a delicious brunch of eggs florentine with homemade english muffins, and relaxed over tea as they continued recovering from jet lag. We all took a drive on Lansdowne Avenue after that, and admired the beautiful big trees, homes, and spacious neighborhoods. Then we had a thriftventure at Value Village, to get cold weather gear for our upcoming ski trips, ours to Breckenridge and theirs to Big White. Afterward, we walked to a pizza place nearby called Famoso, with great food in a nice atmosphere. They also had salted caramel dark chocolate ice cream which tasted amazing. Brandon said it was the best he’s ever had! We bid a fond farewell to our friends the next day, before they drove to the ferry and continued on their route.
The majority of our time in Victoria was spent getting ready for the holidays. As we’d be celebrating in Breckenridge with extended family this year, we did a bit more holiday shopping than usual. One place we found good gifts was at a homeschool kids entrepreneur holiday market. Beyond admiring all the creative vendibles for sale and buying lots of items, ranging from delicious homemade fudge to homemade arnica cream, we enjoyed chatting with several of our homeschooling friends whom we hadn’t seen since we arrived back in town.
Brandon and I also went on a couple of shopping dates together. One time, we started with brunch at Willie’s Cafe and Bakery and then looked around the shops nearby, including in Market Square. We especially enjoyed Oscar & Libby’s, which has funny, quirky gifts. I found an adorable sloth tea infuser there, which Brandon bought for me. It drapes, ever so lovable, over the edge of my tea cup while immersing its lower half into the water, infusing a lovely brew.
Emily and I had a fun time holiday shopping together one night as well. I was happy to find a few cute clothing items for the girls during that trip, which they needed and which also fit their personalities so well. I love finding gifts the recipients will so thoroughly enjoy.
Of course, experiencing Victoria in December also includes opportunities to take part in many festivities leading up to the holidays. For example, we enjoyed free hot chocolate and cookies as we listened to elementary children singing carols in Victoria City Hall, after which we joined in with the audience for a sing-along. We also walked from our house to attend the nearby Oak Bay Christmas Light Up. It was a chilly night and our toes were pretty frozen by the time we arrived home (didn’t have our wool socks yet), but we had a fun time. We saw the lights, looked around the shops, listened to the live music, sang along to the carols, and saw Santa. One night, we even drove around on a self-guided tour to see all the houses around town with the best Christmas lights. Some were very elaborate!
Kate, Jeff, and Trinity, the family who owns the house we were renting, came over one afternoon, to put up a live Christmas tree, lights, and ornaments with us. They even brought out their extensive holiday storybook collection, which included a large picture book about Frosty with a date of 1971. There is something so captivatingly nostalgic about looking at those kinds of old children’s books; they even have a special vintage scent. Because our family enjoys books so much and we can’t travel with many hardcopies, this was a special treat. Afterward, we shared Oreo truffles together which we’d prepared the night before. We also went ice skating with their family on a different day, and Jeff, who used to be an ice skating teacher, gave the girls lots of helpful tips!
One beautifully clear night, we went to see the holiday light display at Butchart Gardens with our friends, the Shields. There were so many twinkling lights, very artfully done. Upon arrival the kids received free hot chocolate, in exchange for bringing homemade paper snowflakes. Brandon enjoyed hot pumpkin egg nog, and I tried the peppermint hot chocolate. We were glad to have our hot drinks as we walked through the extensive gardens on that chilly winter evening.
Excited about the abundance of excellent choirs in the area, we took the opportunity to attend a holiday choral concert. We chose a musical performance featuring the University of Victoria Chorus, Chamber Singers, Women’s Choir and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which was held at the elegant Christ Church Cathedral. There were 270 singers and the harmonies were enchanting.
I went to a holiday music concert with my voice teacher as well, performed by the Victoria Soul Gospel Choir. They do a combination of Motown R&B and Gospel music, led by Checo Tohomaso. The concert was given to benefit Learning Through Loss. It’s a community empowering youth, which offers education, support, and resources relating to grief and loss of all kinds, including any event that disrupts their anticipated life. It was a super high energy, joyous, and uplifting performance. As audience members we couldn’t help but dance at our seats and join in on the music.
We were invited to a holiday party at Maria Montessori Academy by the Gunderson family, who’s two boys attend classes there. We enjoyed the sugar cookie decorating station, and the many other delicious desserts on offer; I especially liked the chocolate peppermint cupcakes. The real Santa was even in attendance, made obvious by his rosy cheeks, authentic beard, and magic eye twinkle. Aysia made sure to take a turn on his lap, from which Brandon produced this adorable photo.
We attended a holiday potluck in Sooke, about an hour away, with some of our homeschooling friends at the home of the Quinn-Young family. What a great group, and it was so fun to talk to everyone! Marie and their daughter, Shaela, did a dance for us they made up and practiced together. We also tried Poutine for the first time, a Canadian dish made from french fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy, which was brought along by our friend Lynne.
We attended a mulled wine party at our friend Sheila’s house, where we chatted with many families from our homeschooling group, and some new friends. There was a gingerbread man cookie decorating station set up in one of the rooms for the kids, and a cool lego room downstairs. Sheila showed me her sizable garden as well. I especially enjoyed smelling the lemon verbena and lemon blossoms in her green house. Such sublime fragrances! As we were leaving, Sheila’s family gifted Marie a snow coat their daughter grew out of, to help us prepare for our time in Breckenridge. We are so grateful for their thoughtful kindness.
This post clearly demonstrates one thing for sure — Victoria folks really know how get into the spirit of the holidays! It’s been many years since we’ve spent December in a culture that celebrates the season in a traditionally familiar way to our own home customs. We savored the opportunities as much as possible, and thoroughly enjoyed all the festivities and the people who made them so special. When it came time to leave, a couple days before Christmas, we took the Clipper to Seattle and met Grandma Alli to catch a plane with her towards a new adventure, our extended family holiday in Breckenridge, Colorado!
What are your favorite December activities? Do you like to follow familiar traditions, try new things, or do a mix of both? Please share in the comments below.
18 Jan 2017
29 Jun 2016