Only updated sporadically.
I don't know most of these businesses personally, but suggest some as standing out from the crowd in Victoria. (Others I will critique, including for unsafe driving behaviour, which suggests they don't have good values thus aren't great people to deal with.)
Information in this list may not be up to date.
Salt Spring Island information moved.
(The nature of business in Victoria is driven by government as a major employer, isolation from the mainland (combined with the local fiefdom mentality of some governments), substantial military presence, marine industry, tourist industry, and the high proportion of retired people - many with English backgrounds. Many entrepreneurs are trying to fill niches, which is encouraging in a city full of government employees.
However, many have a serious attitude problem, exemplified by wanting me to pay in advance for the inventory carrying cost they don't have - and even worse in one case, an electrical parts store that wanted to add a surcharge on list price.)
(I include a few interesting parks and historical sites, and some notes of assistance
to visitors. I added some businesses that I have not visited, just because they seem
to be entrepreneurs trying to fill a niche.) I will include specific problems, or
identify locations not representative of a chain, to help foster change for the better.
- DEPARTMENT STORES
- HARDWARE/BUILDING SUPPLIES
- THEY JUST DON'T GET IT (SIGNAGE)
Victoria has many old buildings, in varying conditions. Some are well kept, some aren't. Motels are
a special problem, because many rooms sit empty so may get musty over the damp winter.
Advertising may use terms like "deluxe" which does not mean a large room or new building, only certain furniture (perhaps stuffed into a small room to qualify it as "deluxe" - the Travellers Inn chain seemed to do that, but it went bankrupt). I am leery of the stars rating system.
Also beware that some motels were using US dollar amounts on their signs, when it was worth more, and neglecting to make it clear (many do and some also provide the Canadian dollar amount) - the Fountain Inn is one whose signs were potentially misleading in various ways.
There is a trend of established motels associating with a chain, which improves their overall occupany rate. Association gives the customer greater assurance of reasonable facilities (depending on how consistent the chain is, of course).
Some motels are being renovated into rental studio suites, as new motel rooms come on the market. In the summer of 2013 business was better for more expensive hotels than lower-priced ones.
I suggest avoiding the motel on Douglas south of Finlayson, as old and of troubled management.
Beware that some hotels are adding a "surcharge" for joint marketing costs. As of May 30, 2011 I know that:
- the Laurel Point Inn does charge, claiming to be clear about it.
- the Accent Inn and Blue Roof Inn don't, repeat: do not.
The hotel/motel business in Victoria is seasonal - summer of course being very high demand, thus limited vacancies and much higher prices. In winter prices are as low as half of summer prices, and some motels offer their units as bachelor/studio apartments in the winter. One consequence of low winter demand is that some rooms may be stuffy from being closed up for too long in a damp climate.
In apartments, Brown Brothers Agencies is average, not performing well enough, and the combination with the Hansen family who own some apartment buildings such as Catherine Court and Island View is poor. The Hansen's are cheap and have maintenance people who are incompetent or worse, "penny wise and pound foolish" in the old English expression - their cheapness costs them money in later repairs, redoing poorly done work, and of course ultimately rental income. Even the best Brown Brothers managers I've encountered don't understand enough building technology to choose and monitor contractors well.
Devon Properties is probably a better agency, many apartments in McKenzie/Quadra, Hillside, and Oak Bay areas.
Also beware of the standard contract defended by the local apartment trade group - lots of onus on the customer but lacking the reverse such as a committment to safeguard customer's personal information.
Camping/RV locations of note:
- the large Goldstream provincial park has reservations and n/c showers, though price seems high. Camp sites include open, shrub-protected (including 67 & 107), large, dual, and tent-platform geometries. It will be very busy in July and August, and had serious security problems a few years ago.
- the more basic provincial campground at Bamberton Park about 10km up the freeway toward Duncan, close to Mill Bay, is worth considering instead. The park has a beach within walking distance of the campground (they charge for parking in the lot above the beach). It is closer than Sooke, with stores about 5 km further north in Mill Bay. It is a bit secluded thus I suggest wariness if one is the only camper there.
(On the way to Bamberton from Victoria there is a campground + cabins operation on the Malahat section of the highway near the gas station. Might be a KOA just before it.)
- Deertrail Resort in Sooke has opened 64 sites at the rear of their property, many along the Sooke River. Most are best suited for tents but some can fit trailers or motorhomes. Running water, toilets and unspecified other amenities are provided. (Source is a newspaper story.)
- there is a beachfront RV park in Metchosin southwest of Victoria off the road to Sooke.
Here in an area overpopulated with marxists, mercantilists and mystics, decent philosophy sections are rare. (Munro's deserve mention - see below.) However, there a few medium sized used bookstores worthy of mention, along with other noteworthy bookstores:
Beacon books in Sydney was well organized a few years ago. However it is not worthwhile unless you want to spend a few hours in the neighbourhood on foot, because of the very awkward split of one-way and two-way sections on Beacon Street. The bookstore is on the north side of the street in the two-way section, so you have to approach Beacon from a side street to the east of the store then turn right to park near it - and put your flashers on while parking else some unattentive driver does not give you space to make the maneuver. (The bookstore thinks the street arrangement is good!? Previous experience is the staff are not customer oriented.)
Some parking is available behind stores on the north side of Beacon, with access to some stores - perhaps to the helpful little hardware store, not to Beacon Books.
Somewhere to the east of SaveOnFoods there was a specialized nautical/map book store, Compass Rose (www.compassrose.com ). Worthwhile if you can handle the Sidney street mess. As well, a section of Tanners in Sydney has maps and charts. (Tanners also has a reasonable newstand, otherwise nothing else to recommend it in the face of the street mess in Sydney. (There is a large side street to the right at the far end of the parking lot in front of Safeway - anything to the right on it is accessible, and you can turn right behind Safeway to go back west to the community centre and a traffic light between it and Safeway.)
(You can easily get into the community centre and the Safeway parking lot from the highway, and back out at traffic lights, and to the 7-11 by turning left one street early and going around the block.)
Wells Books on Fort Street in downtown Victoria is a nice well organized used book store, but lacks visible signs for overall sections so customers can get into the right section of the store before their parking meter time is up (they have good signs for sub-sections). Russell Books, also on Fort, is very well organized (check those large section signs then the shelf sub-sections signs) with much stock, though weak in philosophy. Main store and upstairs by separate entrance, without indicating what is where (I think fiction is upstairs, philosophy downstairs).
If you are downtown, Munro's new-book store may be worthwhile. Much better real philosophy section than Bolen's, and good staff. Unfortunately they lack directional signs to find departments in a full bookstore - the worst lack of signs I've seen in some time - and their major section signs are hard to read and not complete. Unfortunately their location is one of the worst sections of downtown to access quickly - lack of parking on their street and short one-way streets in the section are major barriers. But they have a good atitude.
For those on the west side of Victoria, Penelope's used book store on the Old Island Highway in Colwood is clean and well organized except for having little signage to show where sections are - the owner refuses to improve. (Fortunately it is small enoug that you can quickly get help from staff who are attentive.) The philosophy section is small, the automotive manuals and military history sections sizeable.
I recommend avoiding Bolen Books on Hillside Avenue, because they do not stock a full range of books and their attitude is exploitation instead of producing (in particular I note their attempt to use government force against Amazon who delivered a book in two weeks that Bolen could not get in a year of claimed trying.
For those out near Brentwood, Page's is adequate. Clean and neat, but they did not finish putting up their section signs.
There are several antique book specialists in Victoria. One is in Oak Bay's too-busy too-little-parking retail strip.
For new books in stock, you might brave downtown parking (rumour is that there is some :-) and dodge the parking meter checkers to visit Chapters. Quite large, and you you can look books up on a computer terminal (they do have staff to help you as well :-).
Alas, the Magazine House store in the new building at the corner of Old Island Highway and Helmcken
in View Royal has closed. A nice note from Dennis, Dale, Helton and Michelle was on the door. It was excellent, with good stock and dedication to the business. The manager cared about the business. She could special order for you.
Honourable mention to a used music store: Joy McLeod at www.pacificcoast.net/~dacapo advertises used printed music for all skill levels.
Scrubby's Laundry Service is a fine coin laundry, run by people who care, with extra services and dry cleaning dropoff. #4 at 50 Burnside Rd W, Victoria, 250-389-1626, http://www.scrubbys.ca.
(While waiting, besides whatever drinks/snacks they have, Arts Bakery two doors down is very good, and there's a 7-11 two blocks up (and Brady's next door but not great). Or have them do your laundry while you visit/dine elsewhere - make the most of your time.)
For those "out west", Westbrook in the strip mall with Western Foods, 776 Goldstream, is worth a look. Anyone who is sharp enough to offer Internet service in a laundromat is at least on the ball. :-)
And I hear there's an incredibly nice coin laundry behind the McDonald's restaurant in Sooke.
There was an intriguing sign on Quadra at [Tattersall? - one of those streets that changes name several times as it crosses Saanich]: Magoo eyeglass repair. I did not check the business out before it disappeared from that location. (Mr. Magoo being the bad-sighted old guy from a comic strip - today's trivia qiz is "which comic strip?". I forget.) Elsewhere I saw an eyeglass repair shop but forgot to write it down, check the Yellow Pages.
My favorite crafts person advises that Button Boutique on Johnson downtown not only has many buttons but also has nice threads for sewing/needlework.
Stevenson's Shoe Clinic was trying to provide better fit for awkward feet. 714 Fort St Victoria, 383-8615.
For hard-to-fit shoe sizes, the business at 1834 Oak Bay Ave, listed as Custom Shoes and other names, 595-5555, has capability to custom make shoes, and seems to care.
New Balance have a wide selection of sizes, and now that they own Dunham their wide sizing is available for some hiking and work boots, never enough. Unfortunately they are associated with FrontRunners who don't "run to the pump" to help potential customers.
Viberg boot on Boleskine west of Douglas have capability to make heavy duty work boots, now wider than before, seemingly really dedicated to their work. They are slowly moving into lighter more fashion-oriented boots, probably high quality but expensive.
I recommend avoiding the "Walk in Comfort" shoes stores because they use old mailing lists.
Capital Iron in downtown Victoria has much outdoor clothing, some very good but expensive such as the yellow rain hat, but dumbed down their selection and didn't care about that.The outdoor store in north Langford is not responsive.
Robinson's on one of the short pieces of Broad street downtown has good selection and are helpful, but Ms. Robinson is peddling the "shop local" fallacy.
Two tailors I'd try if I had a need are T.K. Tailoring inthe Royal Oak Shopping Centre (off the side street Viewmont), and the one in the PX store by the main gate to the Esquimalt navy base (on Admirals Road).
MPR Printer Repair (formerly Island Laser) disappeared from 739 Kings Rd in Victoria, and are not in the phone book. They repaired printers and
sold refilled toner cartridges. (The refills of theirs that I've used are the first no-name ones I've had that were troublefree.) Murdoch Bateman was the key person there. 388-5557.
Announce Printer no longer has a storefront, you have to phone them at 250-474-1901 and they'll deliver. They offered refilled toner cartridges and used printers. They have hard to find large color inkjet refill kits if you must do the mess yourself. (They should be in the phone directory, address may be on Douglas as they are up in the back of a retail complex.)
For many years London Drugs has been a good place to buy computers and accessories.
Despite the small size of the computer department in a store, they have much of what you want and are easier to get good information from than the bigger stores. (It has also been a good place to have camera film developed and printed.) However, London Drugs is slowly fading - long waits at cash registers are now common, prices are not as good as they once were, staff not as knowledgeable, and access is awkward at many locations. The founder died, his successor died, hopefully London Drugs won't. (The combination of WalMart, Shoppers Drug, and good independent computer stores is now available - London Drugs may be shifting its focus to city locations with their limited vehicle access.)
The big box office supply stores are variable as sources for computers and accessories - they
tend to have holes in their stock that their bureaucracy takes months to fill despite strong sales of the item, they often just have more of the same product rather than broader selection, and local management varies. I was impressed by the Staples location up the hill west of Home Depot in north Langford but the trend of decline and improvement respectively compared to the Victoria location has been realized - Langford is hopeless. Five messages left for Nick regarding an order resulted in zero calls back - and no one else knows what is going on. I was avoiding the Office Depot location on Blanshard due to poor staff performance, but recently found it much improved in attitude and selection.
CAUTION: some of the big box office supply stores sell 6x9 inch envelopes - those have not qualified for regular postage rate in Canada (they do in the US) because 5.9 inches was the maximum in Canada - yes, I had an evelope returned by Canada Post because at 6 inches it did not have enough postage on it! And watch the common Canada Post envelope size of 5.9x9.6 which is too long to meet US requirements. (Given standard paper sizes in Europe and North America I have no idea what the extra length is good for, except to push the envelope (pun intended :-). The new postage rates introduced in early 2004 seem to accept the 6 inch dimension but appear to have incorrect information on sizing to the US - getting such detail advice out of Canada Post was a time-consuming task and the answer was convoluted (depending in part on which direction the mail was crossing the border) so my default position remains to purchase only 5 7/8x6" envelopes.
There is a local chain (Munk's) and a few outlets of a national chain as alternatives to OD and Staples, smaller but perhaps better service (the outlet in the Hillside Mall was well run a few years ago).
I've soured on the postal outlet in the small crowded expensive Shoppers Drug Mart location on Tillicum - their attitude has deteriorated. If you really want Shoppers Drug Mart there is a large one in Esquimalt that doesn't have the barrier to entry that some of their new stores have (such as the one in Langford). But don't expect the basics - they've gone too heavily into food items.
The Type n Write shop on Quadra St. has an intriguing name, but I have not visited them.
Future to the Back: The Tesseract name is back, labelled as v2, supposedly some people connection to the older inacarnations. East of Douglas on one of the streets like Broughton or not far north of it.
(Tesseract were smart people. But somehow they became CompuSmart which reverted to Tesseract before it failed. I suspect the various incarnations after the original were owned by managers from the original, not the founders.)
DTI seem to have sense, and a three-year warranty. They make to order and have some used parts. Locations include downtown, Colwood Corners, and Sidney.
I've checked several others but they are all either disorganized or uppity (ill-informed staff who want to argue with customers instead of listening) or are selling used computers loaded with unlicensed software (thus only honestly usable by someone who already owns software licenses and needs replacement hardware). I specifically avoid Boomer's and Gizmo's, though Boomer's cleaned up the store and attitudes, then moved to Douglas street and got out of used equipment, and the red-haired boat guy at Gizmo's Langford seems decent.
Up in Duncan, Tinkers had little used stock but a booming service business and good attitude. (Near the corner of the north-south boulevard the train station is on and the east-west street you enter Thrifty Foods from - at the north end of town, you can see the Thrifty store from the main highway.)
While the Radio Shack/The Source/whatever now store on Bay Street in Vic West is spacious and has some good staff, I recommend against it because of the attitude of Meagen who has some authority over other staff - she is not responsive and tries to hustle the customer to go away. As well, the parking area is hazardous as drivers enter the rows too fast (the parking company is good at ensuring people parked there are shopping at the stores but not at ensuring public safety).
WI-FI (wireless Internet)
Try most libraries in the Greater Victoria area, McDonald's, Starbucks, Serious Coffee, some restaurants like Ricky's and Moka House, and London Drugs. Esquimalt's public Wi-Fi is available at city hall and the recreation centre. Langford's is available at the traffic circle in the "beautiful downtown Langford" mess, and at the recreation complex west of the West Shore Mall, but can be flakey.
Wireless service and laptops etc. are reducing viability of Internet kiosks. There may still be one in Westbrook Laundromat in the strip mall with Western Foods, in Langford at 776 Goldstream, 478-1249, and Dynaprint on Blanshard at Johnston downtown (I have not been there, but it should be an alternative to the game-oriented Internet cafe nearby where I would have security concerns (that one may have disappeared). And all public libraries have terminals, n/c with library card (BC OneCard may work for visitors, otherwise ask for temporary access as many libraries are agreeable.
Unfortunately Gwynn's Cellular Service disappeared. They had technical knowledge including antennas and phone repairs. Next choice is Victoria Mobile Radio on Tennyson St, who had medium knowledge but a service department plus a selection of accessories, and seemed helpful - BUT they've becom useless. An employee thought a Lock password was for voicemail. Another company on the skids to failure.
Inland Electronics (formerly Queale's) on Government Street near downtown has a reasonable selection of electronic parts. Some of them are
hidden, so ask about the secret compartments you could look in. Staff have been helpful, were declining, but have improved recently. A business with potential but stuck in a rut as to what they stock, and deteriorating customer serve.
Troy Electric at 3131 Delta - off Burnside past the Goose trail - has power tool parts. 382-7442
ABC Electric went out of business.
Victoria Camera Service is worth the hassle of parking in downtown Victoria. Thorough
work, realistic advice and estimates. (Check address - they may have moved eastward.)
Custom Stamp in VicWest just off the Bay Street bridge seem to know their job, of marking products including address stamps.
Wal-Mart has better service than most department stores in Victoria, and opens early. The old store in the Town & Country shopping centre was awkwardly laid out with inadequate signage, the new store makes the same mistakes of bad layout (aisles placed so as to be blocked by columns, poor signage) but has a reasonably good full grocery department - unfortunately it is in a poorly laid out mall with underground parking rather than free-standing. (Those competitors who are afraid to compete honestly with Wal-Mart should see a real Wal-Mart store!) The new store in Langford is laid out better and now has fresh food - but stocking and signage remains variable, the manager "just doesn't get it". WalMart Canada does not perform as well as WalMart USA, either way Sam Walton is gone and bureaucrats are taking over. But the CEO responsible for the foregoing has been promoted to a higher position in WalMart.
The Bay is an institution in Canada, fairly upscale now. Unfortunately were associated with a department store chain that would rather try to use government force against a competitor than perform for customers - Zellers, who have lobbied zoning authorities to turn down applications by Wal-Mart. (I will give Zellers credit for trying to improve, in staff and signage for example - the best signage I've seen in some time, though with errors but at least they are trying - in contrast to the Linens or such store next door (which went broke) and even to Safeway who continue to dilute their previous efforts.) Zellers has been purchased by Target stores, so may improve (Target stores in the US are generally open and clean.)
The West End Gallery has some better than average paintings, thus better than most
public galleries. Located at 1203 Broad St. Victoria, NE corner, north side of Eaton
Centre. However, most is not nearly as good as the following:
They hosted Len Gibbs, a romantic realist painter living in Victoria - a successful
painter who made a living from his art for decades. (Good art sells.) Check their web
site (linked from my Art & Music page). (One source of information on Len Gibbs' work
is a book "Images" from NC Press Ltd. in Toronto. It has stories written by others, and
notes from Len about each painting. Reproduction is average (the challenge in books is
getting the color to approach the intensity and subtlety of the real work). Len paints
people, and a few animals. His faces are very well done, most of them concentrating on
an activity but with a look of serenity that is represented better than in Vermeer's
paintings. But I have not seen any smiles, even when one would expect a smile from the
theme. His people are emphasized with light, perhaps not as skillfully as Vermeer's
but not obtrusively done as by lesser artists. The backgrounds are realistic but not
detracting (except perhaps for the girl playing piano - the reflection of her hands in
the polished piano material is very strong, attractively so). (The model for that
painting is young Margit Juhasz, who was the featured soloist at the 2000 edition of
Victoria Symphony's "Splash" concert on the inner harbour.) Len Gibbs deserves wide
recognition for his skill, his financially successful career, his recognition of the
viewer as worthy, and especially for his positive people art. (He is quoted as saying
that he knows a painting is good when he gets a large cheque for it.)
The West End Gallery has a significant amount of glasswork. What I saw in a quick look
was mixed, to my tastes. I think glasswork needs to catch the light and present images
in ways that only a mostly transparent material can, rather than trying to resemble
colorful pottery or beads and such. Glass can be made with smooth curves and swirls,
which are attractive if done well - it must be good sculpture not just gimmicky.
The Victoria area does not lack for car shows. (Naw, I won't say that's because there is nothing else to do, though it resembles eastern IA - more likely the result of more retired people.) Look for Glass on the Grass (a Corvette show in early May), Canwest Mall Canadian Tire location in July (it filled their lot, and many old cars were spotted in the general parking areas of the mall & Superstore), Admirals Road Canadian Tire in July (Mustang emphasis), the Mopar show in late August, Ft. Rodd Hill park in Colwood (Cadilllac club in July, British in mid-September). Up island in Duncan, perhaps a 40 minute drive, the annual Antique Truck show may be worthwhile - usually around the third weekend in July. While the A&W DriveIn in Esquimalt has been replaced by a sit-in restaurant, it may still host cruise-ins. Francelli's Saturday night gatherings in the Royal Oak shopping centre are no more, due to misbehaviour of some participants and refusal of organizers to acknowldge problems.
There may be cars in Beautiful Downtown Langford early Saturday evening, I don't see how there is enough space but the mayor wanted a show.
The Times Columnist often prints a list of car clubs. Cruzin magazine has long lists of events. And http://www.timscartalk.ca/events-2 lists events.
Western Speedway has circle track racing, demolition derbies, and maybe short-strip drag racing.
Take the Langford exit from the Malahat freeway north toward Highlands and watch for the large parking lot with the go-karts and RV park. Most Saturday evenings April through October, with the drag racing after mid-afternoon on Sundays and a few Fridays after 5pm. (Signage at the facility seems out of date.)
The short road racing course was eliminated from the Western Speedway location, years ago. Try www.victoriamotorsports.org for information on current road racing, gymkana, slalom and similar activities.
Other tracks on the Island include drag racing (Saratoga Speedway at Black Creek, Island Drag Racing Association at www.angelfire.com/bc/idra) and an offroad racing park near Port Alberni (www.islandoffroadracing.com). There was an attempt to build a multi-racing facility on Spruceton Road south of Nanaimo (the Mountainaire Recreational Sporting Facility).
Ballroom dancing might be found at the Les Passmore Centre
Also look for the String of Pearls big band (I have not checked them out).
And check the Victoria Ballroom Dance Society.
The new Oak Bay Beach Hotel offers dinner theatre September through April.
Many parks, canoeing, and a growing trail system. (Called the Galloping Goose
Trail in honor of an old train service from Victoria to Sooke.) It begins in VicWest,
crosses the Gorge on a trestle and proceeds north to the Trans Canada Highway, where
it forks north to the Schwartz Bay ferry terminal and west to Langford and Sooke
(where it heads north a few miles into park areas). Only a few miles in
Victoria, a shared section near Cordova Bay, and the Sydney end are paved, but most
of it should be suitable for most bicycles (I'd expect high wear and damage on the
skinny touring bicycle tires.) Bicycle rentals, skate rentals, repairs, picnic
lunches, and other services are available near the south end at Selkirk Station
store, 383-1466 or www.switchbridgetours.com. Some parking is available off of Quincy off of Helmenken north of the freeway west, and with outhouses near the Island Freeway-Old Island Highway junction (enter via Atkins near Thetis Lake park). The Provincial Capital Commission publishes a trail map. Some transit busses operating near the trail have bicycle racks. Saanich publishes a map book of the more significant local trail systems in Saanich - some connect to the Goose/Lochside trail system, others are in residential neighbourhoods (the guide book does not cover many routes that go through neighbourhoods using small parks and school-access lanes, such as via Judge Place.
The Gorge waterway is nice - you can walk along its north shore from Admirals' Road well past Tillicum. A few hours after tide change you can see substantial water flow through its narrow part under the east side of the Tillicum bridge. (Some guidebooks claim the trail begins at Harriet - wrong, it begins in a park a few blocks west. Also note that while the trail appears to continue eastward in front of the apartment complex that leads only to a small viewing point with no exit.) You can take the sidewalk east along Gorge Road to the Galloping Goose trail at the bridge then either go across the trestle to the south and wander westerly through park and along streets to Craigflower from which you can get to the Tillicum bridge or the Admiral's Road bridge thus back to where you began the trek. Or go north along the trail, westerly along the freeway, then south on Tillicum or Admirals (at McKenzie).
And the shore walk southeast of downtown is nice (drive Douglas street south, or walk
southwest from the inner harbour past boat and helicopter areas then east along the
A little known park runs from behind the Tillicum Mall (where it is labelled Colquitz
River Park) to Admiral's Road near its intersection with the Trans-Canada Highway (where it is named Cuthburt Holmes Park). It has reasonable walking trails through the trees.
Way out in south Metchosin there is a park called Aylward Farm - large
grassy areas with a trail to the water. Take Rocky Point Road well past Rocky Point.
(Unfortunately the government has the two big points occupied by things you wouldn't
want to be near even if they let you - a prison and an ammunition depot.)
Along the way is a marina that seems well run - boat launch and rentals with fishing
information. But stay clear of Rocky Point - there is an explosives test range offshore.
Saxe Point park in south Esquimalt provides views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and nearby points. The west end is groomed and provides views across the harbour (road access off the south extension of Admirals Road). The undeveloped east end is McAuley Point, complete with the remains of defensive gun emplacements from 1878 through World War II.
The only real skiing I've found is at Mt. Washington, 150 miles north of Victoria, with so much snow they sometimes have difficulty opening right after a storm. (Rather the opposite of the problem many ski resorts on the coast have. ;-) It seems to be a capable facility, seriously in the ski resort business.
I have only used the cross-country part (aka "Nordic"). That part has a day lodge now, including a cafeteria whose food selection is quite large and varied for the size of the facility, though prices are somewhat high. They are trying - the menu included vegetarian and "oriental" dishes as well as bread pudding (not a coastal dish?), and the cook was studying a Mexican cooking book. That lodge has lockers rented by day or season, and showers.
There are many groomed trails but maintenance of them is not all it needs to be. Communication is not adequate for first time users or those who have not been to the facility since the lodge was built.
Apparently there is an established ski facility to the north of Mt. Washington, roughly in the Campbell River area, much smaller but worthwhile for experienced skiers.
In a market space of incompetent large stores, chain convenience store bureaucracies, and fading dirty un-motivated independent corner stores, the Helmcken Market stands out for its clean quality performance. Here are people who want to operate a grocery store.
The reasonable selection of produce is appropriately priced (if old its price is lower, for example - I do wish they had the supply ability of farm markets, this is not an outstanding store for produce but is unusually good for a convenience/corner store), the meat looks good, and they have the best selection of tortilla breads I've seen outside of areas of Mexican-connected population (tortilla is spelled "wrap" these days). Plus flowers, greeting cards, perhaps magazines and videos (I didn't pay much attention). The store is clean and organized - yes, the floor tile is chipped but this store does not have the dirt and clutter typical of small corner stores (it is larger and more spacious).
But beware the milk is over-priced, even by the standards of xenophobes who are willing to pay 15% more for brands with Island in the name even though they are sold by the same eastern-Canada bureaucracy. How much business do they lose because people decide they have to stop at another store anyway so don't bother with this one?
The Helmcken Market is wisely situated near a large group of workers who will find it convenient on their way home from Victoria General Hospital. The rest of us can take the Helmcken street exit north off the Trans-Canada Highway, or turn south off Burnside west onto Helmcken.
I recommend avoiding Island Farms dairy products because they pander to xenophobes by advertising "Island Grown" on Vancouver Island but "BC Grown" on the mainland, and are so bureaucratic they close their switchboard and order line at 4pm. They've also been short of product at times.
But Island Dairies has home delivery through independent delivery people (who are sometimes shorted product by Island Farms' bureaucracy, and may not operate over Christmas).
Thrifty's is a nice grocery store, with specialty items, though produce and bakery areas
are confusing in their attempt to be fancy, product location is sometimes disorganized - cheese in at least two places and organic produce mixed with regular for example - and the grocery floor itself has fundamental problems including lack of staff attentiveness. They are expanding to the mainland, but may not offer much above the IGA Market stores there except size. (I'll give special recognition to the initiative and creativity of those responsible for the jazz-blues cheese case decoration circa April 2001 at the Admiral's Road store - wow!) However I've seen shocking examples of bureaucracy, its promotional approach is pandering, and it makes excuses for local produce growers. Execution on the retail floor at the Admirals Road location is poor, despite a revolving door of managers it does not improve. But they did remove the clutter inside the entrances, making it easier to get in and buy things - what a revolutionary concept. Beware tough that they don't manage produce well.
Country Grocer in Esquimalt is a good combination of medium size, reasonable prices,
and service, but has serious consistency problems. In mid morning lineups are long because too many staff are on coffee break. After a revolving door of managers who did not improve it the current manager and front-end supervisor are trying. (A larger CG is in the center of Royal Oak mall - but signage is no better than the old one in Esquimalt, that is it is deficient. Am I the only person with the seemingly bizarre idea that customers want to find things to purchase, that they need assistance to do so, that they don't want to spend all morning doing it, and that a grocery store profits from having more items that customers want and can find? If I have to guess and chase around the store, why don't I just buy from a wholesaler? Both CG locations have a post office outlet - very convenient. See my "they just don't get it" story at the end of this page.) Apparently Food Country and Village Market are part of the chain, but I have not seen them.
(The Polish guy who was really trying, and told you so at length, has left the Dollar Store location in the adjacent mall in Esquimalt - which appears to have filled its stores after a long period in flux. (The main area of Esquimalt lost many businesses, in substantial part because the city council weren't cooperative. They are close to sizeable populations including the residences in Vic West, and the many workers commuting from the naval dockyards (though several blocks off-track for those commuters).
Save On Foods has two locations in the Victoria area. The store on the median between Blanshard and Douglas is a jumbled mess. The store on Bay Street west is much neater but a bit too small for what they are trying to stock, and lacking on-floor performance (an hour after opening the floor had litter on it in several places, that should have been picked up by staff walking by). As well, the parking area is hazardous as drivers enter the rows too fast. The company is a bureaucracy - another case of an entrepeneur not getting his values spread throughout his growing businesses.
Note that other stores are moving into the food market. London Drugs has basic canned and packaged goods oriented to quick preparation, some WalMart locations now have full grocery - in the very awkward Uptown centre and Langford). M&M Meats has many locations, with both uncooked and heat-n-eat foods including party trays. There is a Costco in Langford but I know not what is inside - there is something fundamentally wrong with needing a membership to buy from someone (it is a retail store after all).
And, as I predicted, Fairway Markets failed in its expansion onto the mainland. I didn't see what they could offer customers - their inclusion of oriental produce for example may be meaningful in Victoria but not on the mainland where oriental produce is plentiful, and stores were not well run. They now advertise English Foods, which might do well in Oak Bay.f
Many Fairway stores in Victoria needed better refrigeration equipment and/or better maintenance of same, new floors, and better attention to product freshness. (At least one of those has closed.) And their store in Nanaimo, while larger and nicer, had the worst layout I've ever seen. They have shown more attention to pricing and sourcing of produce recently. While heavy on oriental sauces, they lack many other foods I'd expect.
A few years ago, I noticed that The Market on Yates was out-performing the nearby 7-11 for quick food with service. (Reminds me of the astute 7-11 manager in Vancouver who pointed to the Safeway store across the street and said "there's my competition" - open 6am to midnight, with deli and better parking.)
I like to note food stores offering things outside the norm. A few I've noticed are:
- Starke's Deli in Sidney has European foods, especially meat and cheese, probably German orientation but had English cheese. Offerings include dishes to take out for lunch. Seem to be productive people.
- a Mediterranean store on Quadra south of McKenzie. I am advised they have dates and figs, which can be hard to get as many countries that can grow them would rather make war than produce food. (Fortunately good quality Medjool dates from California have been available recently.)
There is a "Fig Deli" store in this area, owner Yasser Youssef.
- Cook n' Pan Polish Deli restaurant at 1725 Cook St. Menu is reported to be "Eastern European" complete with sauerkraut, borsch, cabbage rolls, and perogies. Some items organized for takeout, plus cans/ jars/ packages of various foods. Apparently qualifies as a Polskie Delikatesy and a Polski sklep.
- I saw an ad for "Indian Food Market" with an address of #8 at 4011 Quadra St., which is probably near McKenzie (that's Indian as in "East Indian", apparently including fresh produce and freshly cooked meals to take away).
- those nuts from north of England (well not as far as the Shetlands) can have their haggis from Ronald Orr and Sons Butcher in Victoria, Sidney, and Brentwood Bay)
- Casa Nova cafe and bakery on Esquimalt Road has a Portugese flavour.
- For licorice candy go to the Wooden Shoe Deli at 2576 Quadra street (west side noT far south of Hillside), which has Dutch and Indonesian foods, as well as a few items of clothing (wooden footwear of course ;-) and music.
- The Dutch Bakery and restaurant on Fort Street downtown may have Dutch goodies.
- A small store on Burnside east of McKenzie sells south Asian ingredients in large quantities.
- The Bon Macaron Patisserie on Broad St. sounds like a French candy and pastry store, I don't dare go near it to see. Won't even visit http://www.bonmacaronpatisserie.com.
Some restaurants may sell ingredients in large quantities. I saw one in another city, they also rented videos from their homeland.
For fresh vegetables in Victoria, especially those favoured in oriental cooking, you might try the Chinatown area of Downtown Victoria, especially the east end both sides of the ornamental arch. Drive south on Government Street from Gorge Rd./Hillside St. If you see Pandora street you've probably gone a block too far south. Crowded but worthwhile.
Generally Victoria is a deficient market for produce, especially for people who've lived in the Vancouver B.C. area. The Red Barn way out West Saanich Road is adequate, their location at Glandford and Vanelman is too small though closer to most people.
But now there is a very good produce market, Rootcellar on McKenzie (www.therootcellear.ca) is the equal of anything in the Vancouver area. Good quality and selection, however prices have gone up, the store is more usable by people with mobility problems than it has been. It can be jumbled (why scatter tomatoes around instead of grouping them so people can find the type they want instead of assuming they don't have any?).
Red Barn is adequate, having difficulty with consistency of staff knowledge. Not worth the drive to Central Saanich, the smaller outlet at Glanford and Vanalman may be convenient.
There are coffee and tea specialty stores in Victoria, including Murchies on Government Street and Silk Road (probably also on Government Street - they give classes in tea).
And chocolate shops, one is Rogers just north of the Empress Hotel. Those accustomed to the old shops in Vancouver may be a bit disappointed, everyone else will probably be happy.
The Subway sandwhich shop on Blanshard not far south of Gorge/Hillside streets is open 24 hours. Otherwise it is below average for a Subway - staff not well motivated. The one on Gorge near Bridge is better, as is the one in Admiral's Walk mall in View Royal, and the one in Home Depot Langford.
The McDonald's opposite the Town & Country mall is open 24 hours a day.
And the Burger King on The Crawl in Colwood is open 24 hours. (OK, the street is officially the Old Island Highway and you don't have to use it at 3am to avoid the traffic - but may well want to avoid the usual morning and afternoon commuter rush hours.)
The 7-11 at Burnside and Harriet has deteriorated badly in attitude of staff to problems. I do comment 7-11 stores for serving Brazilian coffee, usually reddish, but they have backed off from it.
Brady's fish and chips to the west on Burnside is not what it once was, adequate if you are in the neighbourhood so it is convenient, make sure they understand your order.
Moka House coffee shop in View Royal is noisy. As is Serious Coffee on Old Island Highway, the one in Esquimalt is better especially the room upstairs. Don't many people want to talk in a coffee shop? Tim Horton's at Colwood corners is better.
The sushi or such place in the same mall is to be avoidedf because they do not provide a washroom.
Apple Tree in the same mall is adequate, they need to up their game at least one level. Service is variable, menu not broad enough especially for small portions.
The Burger King on Island Highway in View Royal is poorly run.
I've noticed many restaurants in Victoria (I rarely go to one), including East Indian, Polish and Thai. I drove by a Sushi one at Gorge and Government opposite the muffler shop. And the Juanita Juanana Cafe in the back (north) side of the Royal Oak Shopping Centre has a different approach to Mexican and Southwest US food - and a refreshing attitude.
An article on Adriana Ramirez’ restaurant, Adriana’s Cocina Mexicana, sounds interesting - she’s working at it. Newspaper reviewers rave about Mount Royal Bagels (Montreal style - they are also available at Georgies on West Saanich Road, who have quite a variety of foods but lacklustre management), Ooh La La Cupcakes (1391A Hillside), and Tropical Island (#1 - 3690 Shelbourne) who serve Thai and Chinese food in or out. Thai Siam has been recommended, also John's on Pandora for breakfast. And in the sea of specialty restaurants, one is probably unique: the Blue Nile "East African" restaurant.
For Chinese foods I expect there's much in Chinatown, elsewhere Wings on Gorge Rd West is dependable Western Canadian Chinese, and the takeout place on top thihwhile. Panda Express or such on McKenzie east of Quadra is adequate and convenient.
Ming House Chinese takeout near the top of the hill in View Royal started well but seems muddling, cannot afford to fix their equipment to reduce noise level. Does have online ordering, they claim (www.minghouse.ca). And at the end of September I found it had been closed by the fire department.
Sampan Express on McKenzie at Reynolds has potential, but has stalled below the level of performance it needs to endure. Their forks are the cheapest plastic ones I've seen, completely inadequate to spear vegetables such as choy that they use much of. Tip: you have to read their printed menu, the signboard omits much that they offer.
I suggest avoiding Denny's, and ABC Country on Douglas (the new additional location on Blanshard in the Accent Inn was better but someone burned it down).
There's no shortage of pizza joints, but Famosa might be worth checking out, claiming to serve thin crust Neopolitan pizza. A photo of their pizzas looks to me like a fancier version of Pizza Patio, a pioneer in Vancouver in the 1960s - their pizzas weren't thick, few people ordered them with more than three toppings. And I read of a Spanish-focussed restaurant, Chorizon and Co, at 807 Fort St, complete with a delicatessan counter, perhaps with Spanish music sometimes.
In Esquimalt, Zap Thai at 1207A Esquimalt Rd is a small very dedicated place. (If you want donairs and poutine Esquimalt is where to go, thanks to navy people from the east. Friends tell me that Chicken On The Run and its oriental food companion, at the curve near the east end of Craigflower are good.)
Kitty's Cafe in the Capitol City Centre Motel at 1961 Douglas St is good, variety in the menu, large portions. (It was Kitty's Hideaway in the motel at Douglas and Finlayson, something happened - I recommend avoiding what is there now.)
A brew pub noteworthy for being quiet (so you can talk - what a concept!) is "The Moon Under Water" at 350B Bay street, open Wed thru Sat 1130-1030. In an industrial area, so take security precautions at night when it may be empty of people.
la Taquisa Mexican restaurant is said to be different and well run.
Alas I did not stop at Blackie's cafe on the Pat Bay highway 17, while it was offering Saskatoon Berry Pie. Long gone. But Safeway stores are selling saskatoon-rhubarb pies - surely a prairie combination. (Saskatoon berries are common east of the Rocky Mountains. They are about the size of domestic (large) blueberries but with a signficant purple tone. The Saskatoon Berry Farm south of Duncan grows them on the Island, but I've not been satisfied with their quality.)
Out at Victoria International Airport, the Dakota Cafe in the Victoria Flying Club building by the control tower is worthwhile, good breakfast sandwich, may not still offer Vietnamese lunch on Tuesdays.
In nearby Sidney town, Thai Corner at 2359 Beacon Ave and Sabhai Thai at 2493 Beacon Ave offer choice. (Beware Beacon changes from two to one way, if you go deep into town you'll have to come back via streets to the north and south of Beacon.)
Along the way the former McMorran]s Beach House has a new owner who is featuring music, especially classical. 5109 Cordova Bay Rd, 250-658-5224.
An interesting combination is open in Langford, Portugese and South African emphasis with chicken, apparently. Nando's is in the Millstream Village Shopping Centre.
A friend reports that the Vietnamese restaurant in Langford centre west of Cloth Castle is good and economica.
Up Island, May's Asian Cuisine in Duncan is different - traditional Canadian version of oriental dishes served quickly to eat there or take away. Unfortunately it is fading. Meanwhile look for it on the main highway abeam the ice arena a bit off the street (access from the side street that goes past the arena if northbound (past adjacent restaurants), or from a driveway serving it and adjacent restaurants if southbound - after the side street going past the Thrifty's store).
** NEW ** A new place called "Hai's" is offering takeout Chinese food, at the top of the hill on the Old Island Highway in View Royal, in the Victoria area.
The VI News Group of newspapers distribute a Farm Fresh guide every spring, in their newspapers. Something for most people - even Saskatoon berries for those from the other side of the Rockies.
And out west in Sooke, Mom's Cafe on Shields Road gets good reviews. (Of course mentionning that it has an old jukebox got my attention. :-) Fare ranges from fish and chips to salads and wraps, all good except the fries are of lesser standard according to the reviewer. Air conditionning helps, Old Country music may or may not depending on your tastes.
I recommend against Albion seafoods because of repeated observations of their trucks driving too fast.
The Home Depot in north Langford near the Highlands has the best selection of hardware
and building materials in Victoria, and the best staff of any such store anywhere
- knowledgeable, helpful, and even happy.
Very long hours too - was open at 6:00 am most days, may have shortened hours. (A store for workers, not
bureaucrats. :-) Worth the drive outside the city just to experience and reward those
people. (From the freeway toward the Malahat take the Langford exit right toward
Highlands, and look ahead on your left behind A&W.) While most departments are good,
the fastener section is superb - better than a hardware store these days - and they care to take care cutting keys, which you can't even trust locksmiths other than Price's to do in Victoria anymore.
Its limitations are that it is not strong in primary building construction materials (it is
more suited to renovations and patios - probably calling itself a "home improvement" store now
rather than a builder's store - when opening at 6am small contractors liked them), some areas such as shelving are light, and they are declining. As
well, while its front section of aisles has reasonable signs at the ends of the aisles,
there is no clue at the front about locations of things in the rear section of aisles
- so you might assume they do not have certain things, such as shelving and flooring.
And unfortunately the Home Depot company is pandering to misguided environmentalists in purchasing its lumber.
I recommend against Slegg's building materials, because of employee and management attitude including speeding through playground zones. The best Slegg's store is in Sydney, the rest are variable.)
The Home Hardware in Vic West, on Bay Street - run by the people who had the outlet in the Hillside Shopping Center for years - morphed into a small Rona store. It has building materials but good luck finding things in the mess. Attitude of staff is mixed, some very good but others and the manager not realizing they need to improve.
But there is a new Home Hardware on Burnside West, between Tillicum and Harriet. Spacious, has parking, much staff - has potential, I'd prefer more hardware and less housewares (you can get housewares in the Zellers nearby). Fairly good selection of non-metric fasteners.
(There are Home Hardware stores in Oak Bay (a good selection of fasteners but good luck finding parking nearby - some behind but not for long vehicles), and Fairfield (near Thrify Foods in a strip mall).)
Lumberworld on Quadra south of McKenzie is worth checking when you are having difficulty finding something - their stock does not cover all subjects as someone burned their store down and Saanich government is impeding rebuilding. Probably no plumbing supplies.
In Canada, Canadian Tire is a source of automotive, housewares, sporting goods and hardware, with a better hardware section than many hardware stores. However, they work against what good signage they had and their stores in the Victoria area are very crowded. Be wary of the clever new products they sell, as they tend to have design shortcomings, and of the variable quality of their automotive parts (see Transportation for a better source).
For old building fixtures, including door hardware and lights, try General Salvage Ltd. on Jacklin Rd. in Colwood, between CanWest Mall and Sooke Rd. Their stock includes light fixtures and door hardware. 250-478-3255 or info@GeneralSalvage.com. They are in the basement of the building that used to housing Sally's Trading Post, a well organized uncluttered antiques and collectibles mall. *** Phone to check they are still in business.
Fastenal on Bridge St. have a wide selection of fasteners, and have meaningful aids in place to help customers find and order things. Some staff seem truly interested in helping the customer, others provide inaccurate information and insist it is correct instead of looking at the information and parts. [may have moved nearby]
But more helpful people work at Fastener Force, 8-625 Hillside, 380-2658, who have serious machinery fasteners.
Otherwise, the Home Hardware stores on Burnside and on Oak Bay Ave have good selections of fasteners most needed to repair things around the home, and prices more reasonable than Canadian Tire and Rona for small packages. Home Depot is worthwhile if in their neighbourhoods, especially the one in north Langford.
And for household appliance repairs, Royal Oak Vacuums seem to know and care. They have a good selection of bags as well, though not as connected to sources of bags as they should be (don't have ShopVac bags).
Cole's vacuums in the University Village area has been recommended to me.
For fire protection systems, especially for cooking areas, Western Canada Fire Protection on Station Avenue in Langford are helpful people.
Cougars live on Vancouver Island. With deer now residentin urban areas there is increased risk of cougar presence. (Normally cougars avoid people but may attack if defensive or too lame to hunt regular food, or of course if protecting their young.)
hThe Rexall drugstore chain lives on in Victoria. (The outlet on Admiral's Road near the Gorge provides portion packaging of medication for persons who may get confused. That's smart business.)
Rexall appears to be expanding. They now run the McGill & Orme store south of Mayfair shopping centre, which has a good but mixed attitude, and moved the Admirals Road store into a much larger space.
The Shoppers Drug Mart on Tillicum near Gorge has a good pharmacy and post office, but the rest of the store is bordering on being dangerous to move around in because the bureaucracy inists on adding food to the small store.
If you really want to shop at SDM, the stores on Blanshard north, Esquimalt Road, and in the CanWest/West Shore mall are much more spacious, though they don't get "The Big C".
The specialized SDM on Hillside across from the Hillside Mall has much mobility equipment and general supplies, and some ability to repair mobility equipment, but a bad attitude toward customers.
For mobility aids like walkers, wheelchairs, and electric scooters the independent store "City Wide" on Goldtream Avenue in beautiful downtown Langford has responsive knowledgeable people who sell, service, and repair mobility aids.
The Rexall specialty store a block east of Douglas off of Finlayson has many medical aid items, likely the best place to get small things.
A store opposite the police station in Victoria has much, but you have to take your chances on getting a good employee to help you. (I forget what its name is this year.)
Friends have expressed satisfaction with the medical clinic on the south side of Burnside between Tillicum and Harriet/Boleskine. A small Forbes Pharmacy is in the same building. The same people may also operate a medical clinic inside the WalMart store at the shopping centre bounded by Blanshard, Douglas, Ravine Way, and Saanich Road.
Vancouver Island Sleep Health Associates seem like dedicated people, providing advice on sleep problems including dental aspects, testing, and CPAP equipment.
South Island Optometry in Colwood have good doctors, modern equipment, and their general operation is at least average. (Watch out for staff hurrying, and push them to get broader selection of eyeglass frames.)
Floyd the barber on Admirals Road does good work. (By the railroad crossing. Some parking right on the street right in front.) On the west shore, the barber on Sooke Road is good (small building with a glass front).
My mother discovered an old cemetery, hidden away in Esquimalt between a Canadian
military center and the Gorge Vale golf course. It began as a Royal Navy Cemetery in
the 19th century, was taken over by Canadian Veteran's Affairs in 1947, and appears
to have been used within the last 10 years for military personnel.
Access is off Colville, an east-west street running between Tillicum and
Admirals Road, south of the golf course. Watch for the the Veterans Cemetery sign just
west of the playing fields west of the small convenience store. Straight in to the
Veterans Road sign then right behind the buildings. Careful you don't turn into a
military driveway. The cemetery is inside the golf course. (Access is essentially by
laneways with few opportunities to turn around, and golf balls could dent your vehicle,
so I suggest parking in the gravel lot outside the gate. I don't know when the gate
is open (I found it open at 6pm on a Thursday and mid-afternoon on a Saturday) but you
can search the Internet or phone the Canadian Veterans Affairs department.
Thanks to Ernie, here is a link to a list of persons buried there, and a very brief history:
In some listings it's location is given as HMCS Naden, a name used for many buildings in or associated with the naval base - the cemetery entrance is east of a satellite building north of the intersection of Admirals and Colville. (I never understood
the use of a ship designation for a building, but then I never tried to understand
military tradition - only effectiveness which is their purpose.)
As well, there is a naval military museum up Admiral's Rd. to the south, at the main entrance to the navy base, take the exit signed for the CANEX store). (The CANEX store, now called something else, isn't much to visit and seems expensive, but is a small department store within walking distance of many. It is on the edge of the navy base but accessible with care (make sure you take the correct driveway). In recent years the museum was only open to groups (so find several friends and form a group :-) but is now open as part of the afternoon guided tour of the base. (The newly instituted base tours are on Fridays as I write this (February 2004) expanding to additional days in the summer. The morning tour uses your feet, the afternoon a bus beginning at the museum. Tours are escorted for security and safety, valid photo ID required. Information 363-4006 or 360-7060.)
(Formal entrances to the navy base include in the dip on Admirals and at the west end of Esquimalt Road. The dockyards entrance near the intersection of Colville and Admirals is probably for the ship heavy work facilities used for both commercial and military work.)
And, if you are into cemeteries (well, not literally I hope), I challenge you to find _both_ of the cemeteries on the periphery of Victoria airport. (Hint - what function do hedges perform, given their height and density.)
The Old Cemetery Society probably knows. Really, there is one in Victoria - its a historical society whose activities include tours, research, talks on local figures, and maintenance. (I hear Ross Bay Cemetery has history.)
Industrial Plastics, now consolidated on Oak street between Town & Country (aka Uptown) and Mayfair shopping centres is a "hold your nose and go to it" store. They have much in general plastics, with huge gaps and great variability from month to month. Recently they've got back into molding products signficantly (have the excellent Smooth-on line of silicone/urethane products) but were out of "fish boxes", not too much large tubing, too much clutter of gimmicky items, in a poorly laid out store. They are now into inflatable boats and related and have a good selection of hose material upstairs. Staff knowledge of plastics basics varies widely). Not the IP/Plastics Shop of old.
BC Shaver and Hobby on Fort Street in downtown Victoria have small size metal, plastic, and woodpieces (their emphasis is scratch-building models - an impressive array of airplanes hanging from the ceiling).
I recommend against Trio concrete supply company because a high proportion of their trucks are being driven too fast.
A good panoramic view is available from the rocky outcrop called Mount Tolmie, not
far southwest of the University of Victoria. (It's better than the view from the
much higher Mount Douglas.) Go east on Cedar Hill X-Road and turn south on Mayfair
Drive. Parking available at the lookout.
Views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca are available from the drive east of Ogden Point south of the downtown area, from the undeveloped park in south Esquimalt (the one with WWII gun emplacements), and from the park at the south end of Fraser St. in Esquimalt.
A nice sand spit is available in east Colwood. (Turn off on the south side of the
recreation center on the Old Island Highway.)
For a small taste of the rockiness and wildness of the west coast, drive northwest on Interurban and turn left at Camosen college onto Hector, which loops through hill and dale back to Interurban. That area of hills and gullys, forests and little farms shows how steep gullys can be but is tame and safe compared to the real thing.
I am advised that the salmon spawning at Goldstream Park is a worthwhile show. Freeman King Visitor Centre, typically mid-October into January, complete with eagles, phone 391-2300 for current details.
I fired Hodges Insurance on the Douglas/Burnside corner due to deteroration in performance (address may be on Douglas but they are up in the back off of Burnside).
HUB Barton on Island Highway in Colwood are much better.
South Island Optometry at "Colwood Corner" has good equipment and doctors, generally quite good service though a tinge of bureaucracy. The Shelbourne location has more equipment but more bureaucracy and can't get a proper range of frames for glasses.
Huber's locksmiths and engravers on Burnside no longer does good work, has limited key selection, and a poor attitude.
A person I was led to believe was the owner/manager of Acme locksmith shop downtown gave incorrect information on a common key blank-lock configuration and had a poor attitude toward listening to a customer. The owner thinks they are perfect. (Acme's Colwwod location was helpful but burned down.)
I go to Prices Locks (downtown and preferably Langford) and the Home Depot in north Langford (but they don't have a good selection of key blanks).
Beware of the Axxess key copying system, now in local Canadian Tire stores. Every time I've had a copy from it over the years it was poor quality, and I can see why given a design detail of the system. (Yeah, I learn slowly. ;-)
Finding a good source of sheet foam in the Victoria area is challenging. Thompson's is useless (the man with the scottish accent is ignorant and pushy, doesn't want to have dialogue with the customer - appears they lack stock and are run down). Young and Franklin in Esquimalt were good to talk to but never called back. MccGeachie's in Langford are overwhelmed but you can discuss real needs with them. The Foam Zone in Saanich seem like good people but have limited stock. For modest sized sheets I'd first check the camping areas of Canadian Tire and WalMart, plus look for yoga mats for thin narrow sheets.
For storing your excess stuff, Adams Storage Village has been the class and innovator of the field, but are deteriorating - they don't want to hear about their computer problems and need to learn about playground speed zones.
House of Tools On the Old Island Highway in Colwood changed to KMS Tooks, who recently moved to Vanalman street between Glanford and H17, still no signs to guide customers to where particular products are, so you need your personal guide around the store while you go through your shopping list. The new store seems worse for stock and finding things than the old, nd is weak in specialty automotive tools, except it has more space to demonstrate large shop equipment. In contrast, a similar store in NE Calgary had good signs. Most KMS Tools locations aren't well run but Kamloops has potential. KMS is a company in need of new owners, Stan Pridham should retire to his old car hobby.
(Keith's Rant: I don't understand why businesses forgo most of their potential profit. (I think the increased sales would result in much more profit by avoiding simple customer-facilitating things (since fixed costs are usually high thus profits highly leveraged on small changes in sales).
"High N Tools" disappeared from Burnside road in Saanich, had a good selection of new and used small tools, trying for good quality. A few used items verged on collectible vintage, and there was the odd item like dispensers for those rolls of brown wrapping paper stores used way back when.
Home Depot Langford and Rona in Langford are worth trying.
Lee Valley Tools in Colwood probably has many tools for home maintenance and light wood-working, plus gardening. I suggest visiting their web site first.
Island Saw on Bridge just of Gorge Rd. E. are on the ball, much cutting and related equipment including woodworking equipment.
BC Shaver and Hobby on Fort Street in downtown Victoria have small tools including some Dremel rotary tools and tiny screwdrivers, their emphasis is scratch-building models.
See Keith's Meccano Page
Reasonable, but three problems are growing:
- lack of parking downtown, and aggressive enforcement. (Someone in a residential area
was ticketed for parking in front of their own driveway!) (There are public garages in
;some areas, but they could be cleaner - and there is concern about the type of people
hanging around the streets of Victoria.) Parking is tight even when free (evenings and Sundays), but if visiting the Library try the good lot underneath it for $1.00 after 6pm. (During the day a short stay is not costly, but a couple of hours gets expensive.)
- congestion on streets. Victoria is in the unfortunate position of having many narrow jogging streets and roadways that choke up more quickly than wider streets would as population and traffic grow. Also, certain arterial routes are overdue for strong action, albeit that costs money. (Bureaucrats promote traffic calming" barriers to stop people from cutting through neighbourhoods, instead of addressing the motivation - clogged arterials.)
- drivers who are deliberately bad
- bicyclists who are deliberately bad
- bicyclists who are dumb (riding on the freeway north instead of the dedicated trail 100 feet away).
A few tips on parking downtown:
- lot across street from southerly side of the Bay store was $5.00 all day, not checked recently.
- garage under the main public library was $1.00 after 6pm, not checked recently (street parking in the area is often full in the evening).
- the city provides garages, notably one on the west side of the shopping area
north of Eaton Center (across from Crown Books). I am told they smell of urine,
and aren't policed as well as they should be so elderly people avoid them.
- Victoria is far from crime free, so lock up securely and keep valuables out of sight.
For getting to Victoria by air, consider Helijet's helicopter service from Vancouver
(perhaps from Seattle as well) though costly, Harbor Air's floatplane service from Vancouver, and
WestJet's 737 service from Calgary (connecting to the interior of BC and points east
Drivers in Victoria are not all nice retired people. There is a noticeable number of deliberately bad drivers, and in rush hour of people just driving too fast. No, I have not noticed problems with elderly drivers, only with male jerks between 30 and 50 and a less easily identifiable group of agressive yuppy commuters - often driving Mercedes sports cars (in other cities Mercedes people have more class) or expensive SUVs.
And watch out for the many cyclists commuting to work while they:
- ride on the freeway in the dark, without lights
- ride on narrow parts of the freeway when there is a bike trail 100 feet away
As well as shoplifters running away from police downtown.
Victoria has areas of high congestion. One is getting off the peninsula of Esquimalt/ VicWest, especially when workers at the naval facilities in west Esquimalt head home to Langford etal. Admiral's Road and the Old Island Highway through View Royal are bottlenecks, and other commuters add to that crowd going up the Colwood section of the OIH. (One major street off the freeway was extended south to Sooke Road to relieve some pressure (Millstream) - another will be built (east of Humpback Road (the Spencer Road intersection west of Millstream will also be improved).)
And if you need to move between the Saanich peninsula and the areas north of the Malahat, consider the Mill Bay Ferry which leaves from Brentwood. I suspect it takes no more time in rush hour than the long drive around the bottom end of that channel of water.
THE DREADED MALAHAT
Gets publicity for bad accidents that block a key highway. The problem is simply that is is a mountain road linking two freeways that are level, so people overdrive for conditions of the varying curves, changing temperature (thus icy surprises in winter when temperature is near freezing), fog, and narrow roadway with no place to go off into except a canyon or opposing traffic.
I suggest the highways people put up large signs saying: Caution: mountain highway unforgiving of error. Unfortunately the BC Highways bureaucracy put up a fancy sign well before the beginning of the Malahat, with weak messages.
(They've slowly added safety features like concrete barriers and rumble strips on the centre of the highway, but need to do much more - both low cost and expensive (adding lanes, which in some areas can be done as the rock uphill is not especially high).)
(One safety problem I've observed is people making u-turns in the middle of modest straight sections - often in view of signs saying that a u-turn route is only a short distance ahead. Bad move! because many sections are too short to see far enough ahead to know that no vehicles will arrive before the u-turn is completed. Where are the police? Absent most times, otherwise promoting photo radar which is an improper and ineffective approach because it emphasizes speed not behaviour such as the u-turns.
I've made the point to many people that most offending drivers live elsewhere, so can be re-educated by increasing policing where they live.
It appears some signage against u-turns has been added, and some additional opportunities to turn around (typically a pull-off area with guidance to place your vehicle at right angles to the roadway for better visibility for pulling into the far lane.)
I no longer recommend Colwood Transmission in south Langord (on Sooke Road), they aren't good at diagnosis. UPDATE: No longer there (they were a subsidiary of Victoria Automatic Transmission, who now have a different name to reflect that they do much besides automatic transmissions).
The KAL Tire across the road does not have the ability to diagnose suspensions well, cannot transcribe customer requests correctly, cannot update the invoice to reflect what was actually done (as work may be added or dropped to accommodate mutual agreement on schedule, results of inspection, and parts availability. Kal Tire's former manager did not listen to customers, the current assistant lacks the depth to understand.
Gorge Auto Repair did not understand that platinum fine wire spark plugs should not be used in a DIS ignition system and would not listen to the customer - but did listen to the car dealer who told them to use exactly what the customer had asked for.
There are major problems with automotive repair places staying organized and focussed on the job at hand and not recognizing that the customer has much knowledge in general and of the specific vehicle in front of them.
Canadian Tire on Admiral's seems to have a good attitude to suspension diagnosis, from chance conversation, but Canadian Tire's parts quality is at best average - I've had several problems over the years.
I used to recommend Gorge Auto Parts on Gorge Rd. East in Victoria. They were knowledgeable, helpful, and able to get parts - but have deteriorated. UPDATE: gone, supposedly merged with J&B downtown who are helpful.
Key-2 Auto Parts on Burnside seem responsive but lack depth.
JB Automotive on Goldstream in Langford have deteriorated. They had a good selection of body fasteners but are short of electrical items. They are also downtown on Government St., and have a bodywork supplies location on Oak St. in Saanich and apparently a location in Saanichton.
While Lordco now has large stores thus significant selection, on Burnside Rd and in Langford, they are a bureaucracy - can't communicate with potential customers. Nearby on Burnside is Key-2 (see above).
Wille Dodge on Douglas has a poor attitude toward customers, including wanting pre-payment for parts orders (all the better to pay for inventory costs they don't have?). Michael Wille's aproach to complaints about parts, including an obviously defective new part, is that of a politician. Ensign Chrysler to the east of downtown are more responsive this year.
Tires Unlimited on Hillside in Victoria did not grasp the difference between stability and traction, stability is more important.
West Coast Tire on Sooke road west of Langford is OK, they lack technical depth and rush too much. (For example, they said a particular tire is not directional, yet molded in the sidewall is an arrow with the word "ROTATION", and the tread looks directional.)
Goldstream Bicycles on Goldstream Ave in Langford (just east of Millstream) is sizeable but too many accessories are hidden in the back. They sell what I call an English workman's bike - sturdy rear platform integrated with the bicycle frame.
Russ Hayes is the largest bicycle shop I know and are helpful.
The bicycle shop on Old Island Highway in View Royal, near Joe's Used Furniture, is helpful.
Oak Bay Bicycles are not helpful enough, and are confused about what accessories they have.
INFORMATION ON TRANSPORTATION SERVICES:
BC FERRIES: info on Victoria radio station 1070 @ xx.40; fares higher noon FR thru SU, people age 65+ n/c MO-TH (pay normal fare for vehicle). Some ferries have day rooms/board rooms. Tsawassen-Duke Pt. (Nanaimo) departures 5:15am through 10:45pm are useful if you need to get on or off the island.
Victoria Line pier48; 625-1880
WA State ferry Anacortes-Sidney 800-84-FERRY; Kingston-Edmonds on highway Port Angles-Seattle 40 min
Blackball regular ferry to Port Angeles: number of trips vary with season, out of service for maintenance for a few weeks each winter (perhaps end January-beginning February); SEA 622-2222,
Victoria 386-2202; their MV Coho is well run by staff dedicated to doing a good job. (The Coho was the first of a line of cross-strait ferries up through the Queen of Saanich.)
Clipper fast ferry Pier69 Seattle: SEA448-5000,VI382-8100, 800-888-2535
Express Pt Angeles, 800-633-1589, 1 hr
Kenmore Air to Seattle
BUS: From Shwartz Bay ferry terminal into Victoria, new direct service with few stops (one on Elk Lake Drive just north of Commonwealth Pool - not at the bus junction south of the pool), good service out of downtown Victoria but impossible to connect to the first trip of the day from SW Saanich/View Royal/Esquimalt.
Airport: Victoria International Airport has a bad policy of limiting pickups to a single taxi company, which reduces incentive to perform, increases cost to travellers by not facilitating a taxi returning to its home area full, and increases emissions by not facilitating filling up of taxis. Worse, they chose the taxi company whose drivers are the ones most often seen speeding and behaving like jerks - Yellow Cab. I recommend looking for alternative transportation including transit bus (taking a shuttle toa a bus junction if necessary) and checking I Hate Taxis.
A business with playful graphics on its outside wall must have promise (I have not checked them out for quality of service). Drive by the storage facility on Blanshard just south of Bay.
A nice mural can be seen on the back wall of a building by driving east on Gorge Road from Selkirk.
There's also one on a side street in downtown Esquimalt.
The area of north Langford north of the freeway has many "big-box" stores, and some fast food restaurants including A&W.
Those "out west" will find a modest mall and a growing number of big stores in the CanWest mall area in south Langford. Among them are Canadian Tire, Great Canadian Superstore (groceries and more), Rona, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy. The mall is not far off the road to Sooke, next to Jacklin Street, and now has Millstream (off of the Trans-Canada highway) extended past it as "Memorial Parkway". The mall itself is not worth the trip (limited hours is one problem) but the big stores are - even those duplicated in Victoria and Saanich are more spacious and better managed in Langford.
Those on the north side of Victoria may find an increasing number of stores and services in the Royal Oak and Broadmead areas adjacent to the highway north.
Downtown Victoria is heavily oriented to American tourists, thus selection in many shops is skewed to items not found in Seattle. Many specialized businesses remain from earlier days, and are worth the hassle of downtown if one wants their product or service. (Downtown Victoria has substantial problems with parking and with pan-handlers. Older residents avoid it. The city does provide parking garages, and some businesses provide first-hour-free coupons with purchase, but the city does not keep the garages clean. (I do not have feedback after recent city efforts - it took bureaucrats facing a few hundred business owners in a meeting to agree there was a problem and to try to do something.)
COMMENT on LAND DEVELOPMENT
The Home Depot and Staples stores off the Highlands exit are in Langford close to the border of the Highlands town. The fiefdom of Highlands is against private development. It quietly gave the provincial government assurances that it would approve a development proposal identical to the private one it was turning down, if the provincial government purchased the land and proposed the same development to make a profit for government. (The development would have created parkland either way.)
When this came out in the courts, the mayor at the time of the collusion said it was moral because the government development would not profit a private owner. IOW, developing land to make a profit is acceptable for a government but not a private owner - that sounds marxist to me. Sadly the appeal court said the collusion and two-faced behavior was legal as the town had the authority to do it.
Dishonorable mention goes to Saanich, which is becoming much more anti-development and environmentally extremist. (Amazing how people become NIMBYs once they have their place secured - they are attempting to freeze time at the expense of other property owners, instead of building their own controlled development or buying into one.) Like many cities in SW B.C., Saanich ignores illegal suites but has to take action if someone complains. That facilitates discrimination, as complaints often come from someone with an axe to grind. City councils, including Saanich, don't have the guts to eliminate the zoning rules.(There is glimmer of hope in Vancouver, where the current mayor wants to relax standards for basement suites so that more can be licensed. Some of the standards seemed more appropriate for new construction, others involved ceiling height which is limited in the basement of many old houses in Vancouver and is not a great concern to many people as they are short.) Saanich finally changed their law to accept suites in the south of the fiefdom. (Though one councillor was concerned that referring to them as "legal" would highlight the fact that in the north they weren't. Another wanted a developer to include in a townhouse development what by normal people's terms would be a secondary suite - I forget what she wanted to call it. Ironically the development would replace an old motel - and motels have separable accomodations, adjacent units can be combined to be a family suite.)
But credit Victoria city and several suburbs with accepting suites in houses much earlier than Saanich, with less bureaucracy than you'd expect.
THEY JUST DON'T GET IT (SIGNAGE)
(more ranting about the lack of good signage in stores)
The Vancouver area chain of "IGA Market" stores has taken the cutsey step of putting local street names above the aisle-content signs that are still half-way down the aisle. But real street signs are at road junctions so you know which street to turn down, the grocery store equivalent would be to have the signs at the end of the aisles - i.e. at the junction of the main cross-aisles and the individual stock aisles. IGA's are in the middle of the block. "They just don't get it."
However, the M&M Meats chain may have gotten it. Their slogan is "Hundreds of choices, only one aisle." (The display cases cover a small area and the staff are right there to help.) Hmm - another example of the breadth of competition.
But it could be worse - Lordco auto parts stores have cutesy signs like Cadillac Lane but do not have prominent signs showing where product categories are. That's even worse than "not getting it" - they don't know enough to even try.
BUT these people get it!
Extra Foods on Londsdale in North Vancouver, in Abbotsford, and in Merritt has simple product category list signs at each end of each aisle. A clean simple store worth visiting - not far off the Upper Levels Highway in North Vancouver, on the main easterly-westerly street through Abbotsford/Clearbrook, and not far west of the freeway past Merritt.
And the Safeway bureaucracy may be on track in some stores. Not only are list signs near the end of aisles (though not as visible as Extra Foods Lonsdale), some stores have visible signs indicating broad categories, such as Baking. Concepts and specific signs down the aisles (categories and details) - what a radical approach? :-)
(Speaking of Duncan, the Safeway store is the neatest and most spacious grocery store I recall seeing (though Extra Foods North Vancouver was great). Signage in the grocery section is very good - categories, lists at each end of the aisle, and even section markers along the aisle (noticeably absent from the produce area in contrast). Lighting is poor and the deli area is a jumble - but someone has kept the store different (it has been open at least a couple of years).
And the neatest hardware store I've ever seen is Home Hardware and Building supplies, on the east side of the highway toward the north end of Duncan - clean, organized, not too cluttered (even out-of-sight areas are neat - WELL DONE!). (Its stock is too much into housewares - do people really expect a hardware store to have coffeemakers and nick-knacks, especially when Canadian Tire is nearby?)
Also, the new Canadian Tire store in View Royal attempted to do the right thing with signs, but fell apart in the execution (noting the high shelves in the automotive area as having signs but confusing people as they are incomplete, and that end displays now cover many signs - duh?). But bureaucratic idiocy is afoot in the Langford store, whose automotive department does not have any signs. I recommend caution in all Canadian Tire stores in the Victoria area, they are becoming unsafe to move around in.
BACK in your browser should return you to the page you came here from.
© Keith Sketchley. Page version 2015.07.24.
Please advise Keith if any links don't work or have become inappropriate - the Internet changes.
Keith's Purchase Advice Page
Keith's Personal Page
Keith's Capability Page