Monday, April 19, 2010

Nanaimo's Lighthouse Pub & Bistro

It was not a great performance for Nanaimo’s LIghthouse Bistro and Pub this week, and a crying shame too, because the restaurant is in an incredible location and might be something quite special. It’s right on the Nanaimo waterfront looking out on Protection Island and a working-boat marina (the pleasure craft are around the point in another bay). The evening started hopefully enough, I had to walk through various dragon boat teams warming up for their weekly practice just to get into the restaurant “Alright,” I thought, “Dinner and a show,”

The bistro downstairs is probably a little more elegant, but I chose the pub upstairs so I could watch the hockey game. I assumed the pub was connected with Victoria’s Lighthouse microbrewery, so I was hoping for a good solid craft brew. Instead I was informed they had Canadian, Bud, Kokanee and some other watery blonde imposter.

I ordered the special, halibut and chips and though the fish was fresh it was also dry, the batter was tasteless and the cole slaw congealed. The fries were cold, the gravy too dark and corn starchy. Even the waiter was a little twitchy.

A visit to their website showed they do everything about the same as their beer and food. The site hasn’t been updated since 2009 and the web design company even spelled their own name wrong.

All in all a bit of a disappointment, but I'm willing to give them another try, so long as the Dragon Boaters do too.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Surfing Tofino, the Ultimate West Coast Experience

I took my first ever crack at surfing this week, thanks to a glorious turn of weather on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Tofino is close enough to my home in Parksville on the island’s east Coast that we can comfortably squeeze in a short 2 night jaunt. It’s just over a two hour drive, spectacular, though a little hairy too. March is a good time to visit the coast with it’s migrating whale populations, storm surges and potentially spring-ish weather. They don’t call it shoulder season here, they call it ‘regular season’ instead, but the hotel rates are close to half of what they are in the summer and the crowds are far more manageable.

We picked up our gear from the good people at Pacific Surf School, located at 430 Campbell St. in downtown Tofino. There are many surf shops in town but we like this one the best, with its helpful and knowledgeable staff, great location and quality gear. It probably has one of the finer websites in town and it’s also right next door to the coffee shop / bakery where you can stock up on sticky buns before you load up your gear.

We headed to north Chesterman beach a few miles down the coast. It had been pretty stormy in days previous, though this day was bright and sunny and fairly warm for mid-march. As a result the surf was pretty intense, or trashy as the locals might call it.

We probably should have opted for the lesson at the Surf School, or at least some instruction in wetsuit application. Of the four of us, two adults and two children, two of us put their wetsuits on backwards and three of us put them on inside out. Our youngest even tried to put his leg in the armhole It took me three nearly completed attempts to finally succeed, and then I realized I had to pee.

The ocean was amazing and comfortable to be in, thanks to the wetsuits. I enjoyed paddling around and splashing in the waves, but there was no way I could get up on my feet, my bad shoulder so weak and painful that I could barely push myself up to kneeling. It didn’t matter though, just to feel the power of the ocean and frolic in the waves on the surfboard was an incredible experience. We were all grinning from ear to ear and the kids actually did much better than we adults, as usual.

We had a picnic lunch on the beach and enjoyed the spectacular setting of this West-Coast treasure, promising yet again to take more advantage of the beauty we live so close to.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

2 Nights at the Terrace Beach Resort, Ucluelet BC

The Terrace Beach Resort is located on a rocky coastline to the south of Ucluelet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, BC. The town is a short and spectacular 3 hour drive from Nanaimo’s Departure Bay ferry terminal. Thought of as Tofino's ugly sister, Ucluelet’s relative obscurity comes down to the fact that nobody can spell or pronounce the town’s name, and has nothing at all to do with its setting or services.

The resort consists of a number of buildings holding ocean-view lofts and suites as well as 10 small cabins, all with ocean glimpses through the huge fir and cedar trees around Terrace Bay. Our cabin had three floors, 4 beds and a kitchenette, so the value was very good for our two families. The private outdoor hot tub was more than welcome after our blustery nature walks and surfing adventures.

The architecture and engineering is to be commended, with the entire complex being raised on concrete footings and wooden pilings, giving it a bit of a treehouse effect in the heart of the rainforest. The main building is clad with shiny aluminum, an aesthetic departure from the traditional cedar planking of the West Coast style. The cabins are built with local wood in a rustic fashion, some of the beams reaching 8 by 18 inches wide. The rooms are well-appointed and comfortable, though the main attraction lies outside the cabin’s doors.

The resort is literally on the doorstep of the Wild Pacific Trail, a series of short and easily walkable coastal trails around the Ucluelet area. This is west-coast rainforest, best described as unstoppable. There is an eagle nest in one of the trees on the property, and we were awoken by the sound of their early morning cries. We were here in mid-March, just days after the annual Whale Festival took place, and we could hear what my companions swore was the call of the whales at night. In daylight we could see their spray off the shore, though none of the grey whales breached as they proceeded with their annual migration.

March is storm season on the West Coast, and the surf can be spectacular on this rocky part of the coastline. It’s also low-season in the hotels, so the resort was far from crowded, and the rate was roughly half what it would be in July and August. Though we had a chance to surf Chesterman Beach we would have enjoyed more time to explore this wild coast and some of the other many opportunities for adventure and attitude adjustment available here, just steps from some of the last untamed beauty on the planet.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Vingo's back on Vancouver Island Time

It may seem as though Vingo's blog, and the directory connected had been all but abandoned these past few years. On the contrary, while the blog has been quiet we've been steadily adding to our list of the Island's finest websites on an almost daily basis. As of today we've reached a total of over 627 individual links, comprising everything from fishing charters to home services to first nations arts and culture to family fun, b&b's and everything in between.

My name is Dan LaRocque and I've steadily and singlehandedly built this site starting in July 2007. We were off the island for a year, driven to Ontario for family obligations, but we're back, wondering why we ever left, and looking forward to exploring this fine island in an even more in-depth basis for many years to come.

Besides my work as a web developer and search engine specialist I am also a mobile Apple computer service tech, travelling up and down the Island on a regular basis, performing Macinstosh computer upgrades, training and support. I go from Victoria to Campbell River to Port Alberni, Ucluelet and back to my home base in Parksville.

I've lived on the island for 10 years. My youngest son was born here. Both my children play hockey and we spend our winters driving to most of the arenas here on the island, including JDF, Racquet Club, Powell River, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Fuller Lake and everywhere in between. Our summers we spend camping, hiking, biking and exploring the spectacular and grandiose outdoors, arts, restaurants and culture this Island has to offer.