Monday, September 10, 2012

Victoria Day Drinking (day 3 of 3)

(Victoria, BC, Canada)

Even though we pretty much wandered aimlessly around Victoria on our third and last day, it was no less fun than the first two.  Other than our 6:45pm Clipper ride home, we didn't have any plans.  After two very full days, I was definitely feeling like it was time to wrap it up and go home, but there was still a little more to see and drink.  Thankfully yesterday's beer hike was long and spread out enough that I wasn't very hung over.

Since we didn't make time for a lot of the touristy shit in town on the first two days, we figured this would be a good time for it.  We packed up our crap and headed downtown, but there are no storage lockers at the Ferry Terminal (or anywhere else nearby).  Luckily we found a local motel desk attendant who took pity on us and held our bags for the day -- I won't divulge where because I don't want her to catch any hell.  (I gave her solemn thanks and $15).

Victoria Day Drinking (day 3) - choose your own route;
The Bard & Banker / Garrick's Head Pub / The Strath / Clive's Classic Lounge

View Victoria Day Drinking (day 3) in a larger map

We began around 10:30am at the British Columbia Parliament buildings -- the big, green-domed place that you see in most pictures of Victoria -- and took in some local history.  It's really beautiful inside and well worth the time.  You don't have to take a guided tour or anything, you can just come and go as you please.

From there, we walked along the water, past the ferry dock, and over to the Fisherman's Wharf Floating Home Village (here's a nice little glimpse by Alison) where we decided to kill a bit of time with another ride on a tiny Harbour Ferry.  The boat made several stops in and around the harbor before we decided to get off downtown, right at the foot of the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel.  Most people come here and line up for traditional Afternoon Tea service, but we just popped in and took a brief look around.  (We made sure not to touch anything, of course -- it is kind of like a museum.)  

Around lunch time we stopped into The Bard & Banker, a big, two-story Scottish style pub situated right in the middle of Victoria's main tourist area.  It's not hard to imagine this place being mobbed when a cruise ship or two is in town, but we got there early enough to find an easy, mellow vibe.  There were a few packs of tourists having lunch at the tables, but no one was sitting at the long, gorgeously crafted bar.  I grabbed a pint of the house beer, Service 1904 -- a stone-fired Scottish Ale (whatever that is) brewed by Phillips in memory of Robert Service (whoever he is).  We got a small plate of calamari, but for lunch proper, I had something much tastier in mind.

I first noticed The Melt's terrific menu of toasted sandwiches the day before, but we had other lunch plans.  Luckily, I wasn't too hung over today to stop in and try it out.  I only managed to take down one sandwich, but I wanted three more.  From their menu it looks like they use all fresh, local ingredients and it really comes through in the final product.  They don't serve beer (as of this posting), so that gave me a good excuse to visit a couple of the pubs we didn't get to on the beer hike the day before.

Just a block from The Melt, we peeked into The Strath, a booze store located at the base of Strathcona Hotel (and next to another big pub, The Sticky Wicket).  We're always curious about how much more or less alcohol costs in different parts of the world.  Mostly, we didn't find much difference with what we have in Washington, but one thing grabbed me and punched me in the face:  two shelves full of Cantillon 750ml bottles!  We don't get Cantillon in Seattle anymore for some reason, so Mandy and I told the clerk we'd be back shortly before our boat left to clean them out.  At less than $20USD a bottle, I wasn't joking.

We still had a few hours to bum around at this point, so I suggested we go check out Garrick's Head Pub, which I had read about in The Beer Geek's wanderings in Victoria.  I wouldn't say Garrick's Head is hard to find, but it is set back a bit from the main tourism thoroughfare.  It has a very central location without feeling central.  We were able to grab a small table out on their patio which overlooked a little street market.  We sat just behind a homemade jewelery booth and got in some good people watching while finally getting a taste of some Beachcomber Summer Ale from Vancouver Island Brewery.  It was good to finally try some of their beer since I wasn't able to get to the brewery in time on the urban beer hike yesterday.  I liked Garrick's Head Pub a lot -- it reminds me of places I'm most comfortable in at home.  It would've been nice to stay for a couple more beers and throw some darts, but we still had one more stop to make.

Behold the Japanese Ice Globe:  not douchey
Clive's was on Mandy's to-do list from the start of the trip.  It's a swanky craft cocktail mecca inside the Chateau Victoria Hotel.  It feels like a place that would only be open at night, but lucky for us they cater to day drinkers, too.  There was only one other person at the bar when we sat down -- a French dude who seemed to think he knew more about everything than anyone.  He was giving the bartender a hard time about too much ice or not enough ice or something and my blood began to boil a little bit.  This old fool was talking at none other than Shawn Soole, one of Canada's best and most respected bartenders.  Shawn must have been in a good mood.  I don't know him personally, but for some reason I was half expecting him to pull the guy's drink, give him is money back, and invite him to get the fuck out of his bar.  No such fireworks erupted, however.  Shawn was a gentleman and Frenchy left soon after without incident.  (And probably didn't tip.)

I honestly wasn't in the mood for a cocktail, but one glance at Clive's menu and you realize that there are some special things ready to happen behind that bar.  It's so full of ingredients I've never heard of that I felt that to NOT order a cocktail would be blasphemous.  I can't recall what I finally went with, but it was great and I do remember that Mandy's was served with a beautiful Japanese ice globe. That was cool.

After chatting with Shawn a bit, Mandy ordered another cocktail and I found myself being presented with a bomber of Lighthouse Dark Chocolate Porter.  This was maybe my favorite beer of the trip (I loved Driftwood's Fat Tug IPA, too.)  It was so rich and smooth that I almost had to excuse myself.  It also semi-made up for the fact that we didn't make room for Lighthouse Brewery on the previous day's UBH.

As with many vacations, I probably had the most fun and the hardest time leaving this last stop of the trip.  It would've been great to be able to relax and enjoy the atmosphere more, but we had customs to clear, crowds to navigate, and a boat to catch.  But not before one last errand!

With the deadline for our Clipper departure fast approaching, we darted back to The Strath and grabbed a shopping cart just inside the door.  (What's more fun than walking around a liquor store with a shopping cart?)  We headed straight for the Cantillon and proceeded to put every bottle we saw into our cart.  It seemed like a lot more than two cases, but we ended up with exactly 24 bottles and a bill that gave us goosebumps.  It was a lot, but it was worth it.  Who knows when we'll see it on the shelves in Seattle again?

Pretty good haul of Cantillon
The clerk at the counter got a pretty good laugh about the whole thing and boxed up our haul.  We said farewell and hailed a taxi to take us to the ferry dock.  Standing in line at the Clipper terminal with two full cases of 750ml bottles wasn't fun and stretched my meager arms about two inches, but it was a good hurt.  A case for us and a year's worth of gifts.  Not bad at all.

Once we were able to find seats on the Clipper and relax (as much as one can relax on those shitty boats), I cracked another Lighthouse beer that Bartender Shawn sent me home with (to pair with my square croissant turkey sandwich).  The ride home was hypnotic.  The brilliance of the sun setting behind Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains never fails to impress.

Square Croissant Sammy, available only on the Victoria Clipper
I remember noticing how quiet everyone on the boat was compared to the ride up.  Maybe it was the mood cast by the beautiful twilight view out the windows or maybe everyone was silently reflecting on several days worth of fun.  Or maybe, like me, everyone had been out walking and drinking all day and had a good buzz on.  I guess it could've been all three.

No comments:

Post a Comment