Thursday, May 19, 2022

'Taste of Victoria' food tour takes the cake for fun, history, variety


Victoria, British Columbia, is a wonderful place to stroll, look and eat! The top-ranked food tasting
tour in Canada is waiting for you on your next visit to this charming, ethnically varied city. 


Our tasting tour began at Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop,
where we devoured delectable meatballs in a satisfying sauce.

WE ALWAYS look for new, fun things to do when we travel, especially when we return to places we love and have visited before. So when we knew we'd have a long day in Victoria, B.C., we booked something we'd not tried before in this bustling city. We lined up a walking-tasting food tour.

WHAT FUN food tours are. We've munched our way across Amsterdam, Rome, New Orleans, London and Key West --  increasing our pleasure in each city and appreciation of its culinary variety.

Ayo Eat's yummy offering: delicious peanut sauce
to complement a tasty Indonesian spring roll. 
Food in any city is shaped by its residents. A good food tour artfully weaves history and eating, and Andy Olson is one of the best food tour guides in the business.  He owns and manages "A Taste of Victoria Food Tours" which has cultivated a healthy worldwide foodie following.
The amiable Olson takes a "hands on" -- make that "mouth on" -- approach. Since launching his business, he's continued his world travels, munching his way through dozens of food tours.  He knows what makes a good tasting tour fun: variety, local ingredients, history told with enthusiasm.
"I wanted to show off this beautiful city and the eateries that make it appealing," Olson said as he ushered us around downtown Victoria. "I also wanted to emphasize local places serving local stuff."
Mouth-watering candies were devoured with joy at Roger's 
Chocolates, with a delectable Victoria cream vanilla.
First, the Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop, located in a bustling converted warehouse and flanked by a coffee shop, and other small food operations. This was a welcome beginning. We'd eaten a light breakfast and by 1 p.m. were hungry. A pair of mouth-watering meatballs swimming in savory tomato sauce hit the spot -- right out of an Italian grandma's kitchen  

NEXT UP on our award-winning  historic walking and food tour was a stop at Victoria BBQ House and Bakery for a barbecue pork bun, a warm slightly sweet bun with a spoonful of seasoned pork inside. Olson guided us through Chinatown, Old Town and the city's Inner Harbor.

Fan Tan Alley dates back to the mid-19th
Century and is filled with boutiques.
We stopped in Fan Tan Alley, a narrow lane -- only a few feet wide and 240 feet long -- between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue in Victoria's small but colorful Chinatown.
Olson explained that it's the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco. Its beginnings stem from the mid-19th Century's influx of miners from California.
IF WE'D been walking on our own, we might have passed by some of the intriguing places Olson chose. For instance, Ayo Eat, a tiny street-food place with a chef who cooked for the Dalai Lama before leaving Indonesia. The peanut sauce and tasty spring roll it garnished were fabulous -- tangy, rich, but not overpowering. It was a favorite of us both. 
Slim and fit, Olson shared his experience in making macarons, at a stop in the pretty, chandelier-lit French pastry shop, La Roux Patisserie. Its owner greeted us and described her clientele -- from wedding parties to couples celebrating an anniversary, to the retired teacher with an affection for croissants. 
TASTING TOURS have been around for a couple decades -- but they've really taken off in the past decade. "I think people like to feel they're doing something a bit off the grid," Olson said. "And it's fun to be together, learning something new."
Just Matcha's drinks are artfully served in
a peaceful, rejuvenating setting. 
We were a small group in the afternoon, but Olson's morning tour had the full 8 or 9 he likes to tour with.  His knowledge and enthusiasm are part of the fun. He greets everyone by name and they all know and like him. His passion for his adopted home and the food it serves is obvious. He's tried everything the tour offers. Does he cook for himself and his wife? "No, actually, neither of us is a very good cook. That's partly how I came into this business.''
Andy Olson talks about his passion for food,
inspiring his decision to open a tasting tour.

A delectable French macaron from La Roux
Patisserie in Victoria, a charming bakery.

BETWEEN FOOD courses it was nice to get a break at Just Matcha Tea Shop, where we sipped a delightful matcha infused drink and had a Zen moment in the relaxing ambiance of soothing artwork and tea-inspired calm.
Food tours appeal both to seasoned travelers as well as newcomers to a region or city. If you've been there before, you're looking for something different. If you're new, a good tasting tour will give you highlights of places to eat and offer a pleasant overview of the city and its life, history, ethnicity and neighborhoods. Expect a bit of background, anecdotes, personal history as you skip from humble to lavish stops.

ROGER'S Chocolates is dripping with Victorian charm -- an old-fashioned candy shop with a fragrant array of intoxicating chocolates for every taste. And Churchill Pub rounds out the tour -- a real English-feeling drinking house with sturdy wooden booths and a beautiful bar. This was the only time Andy

The Churchill, a traditional English pub, is a stop in
the fast-paced and varied "Taste of Victoria Food Tour."

participated, having a small sample of a local brew. Six or seven stops are offered with a changing repertoire depending on time of year, fresh produce and Olson's whims.  Tours are balanced to provide a filling "meal" in sensible, 
small portions over the allotted time.
OLSON'S foodie orbit embraces his own personal wide-ranging culinary tastes, traditional specialties and time honored treats. He's also on the lookout for new dining options to show off the varied heritage of Victoria. The food tour always includes Asian fare, important because immigrants from the Far East helped build the city.  We enjoyed all seven tastings. Not a clunker in the bunch. "Fantastic food tour with delightful tastings, heaping helpings of world culture, and enthusiasm for Victoria's past and present," Keller said. He pronounced the two-plus hour event "great fun, for first-timers to Victoria, or return guests looking for something new." (250)893-9815

San Francisco Love Tours is a fun option for aging hippies or
anyone wanting a fresh look at the city by the bay.

While we're touring, how about a trip down memory lane to the 1970s and San Francisco? Remember those days of old, when Volkswagen buses were the mode of transportation and everyone knew of Haight Ashbury, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. We hitched a ride around the city by the bay in our colorful VW bus.  Come take a spin with us and San Francisco Love Tours, with an entertaining commentary on the generation that shaped music, art and the counter culture.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, family and more:

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Hilo's Tsunami Museum packs a powerful punch with frightening exhibits, films, commentary

The dreaded tsunami was the focus of an interesting afternoon for Bruce Keller and Christene
"Cookie" Meyers, who visited the engaging Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawaii
. An extensive
collection of photos, oral histories, videos, artifacts and scientific displays awaits.


The wreckage caused by a tsunami is enormous.
The Hilo museum explores the causes of the killer waves.





Dramatic displays tell the story of how
humanity is affected by tsunami's horrors.
TSUNAMIS are among the planet's most fearsome natural disasters. And nowhere are people more aware of the dangers of this raging act of nature than in the Hawaiian Islands.
In Hilo, Tsunami sirens are on alert and school children are taught to watch for warning signs: tremors, roars from the ocean, receding waters exposing the sea floor. All spell impending doom. Evacuation Zones are marked and families store emergency kits.
Since 1812, more than 160 confirmed tsunamis have been recorded on the islands, causing countless deaths and damage topping $625 million. The April, 1946, tsunami in Hilo alone, killed 159 people and destroyed $26 million in property.  Its cause was an undersea earthquake off the Alaskan coast triggering the massive Big Island tsunami.
IT SEEMS fitting, then, that the world's only museum dedicated entirely to the tsunami is located in Hilo.
Tsunamis around the world are explored in well
designed displays with photographs, news clips.
The fascinating Pacific Tsunami Museum -- a thoughtfully  renovated bank-- tells the fearsome tale of the tsunami, pronounced soo-NAH-mee, and its impact in Japan, Alaska, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. Taken from the Japanese, tsunami means "harbor wave" but is usually a series of waves caused by an underwater disturbance. Earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions are among tsunami's chief causes.
Getting a breath of fresh air
after the intensity of the fine
Pacific Tsunami Museum.
Hilo's small but excellent museum interestingly weaves specific tsunami occurrences with data, photographs and narrative.  It features an absorbing mix of scientific exhibits. A favorite with school children is an interactive wave-making model which allows the visitor to make his own miniature tsunami.
AN ABSORBING film includes moving personal anecdotes of brave tsunami survivors, interlaced with graphic details of brushes with monster waves. The museum is all about stories and tells them well.
Stories of rescues and heroism are also well told.

Diagrams, maps, newspaper accounts and displays show various horrifying tsunamis over the last 500 years. Visitors learn what caused them and see stories of the human survival spirit. Maps show "runup points" -- measurements of the heights wave reach. 
Where tsunamis were caused by earthquakes, the quake's magnitude is analyzed through wave energy creating this fearsome natural disaster. 
TSUNAMIS GO back centuries. The oldest recorded one occurred in 479 BC, destroying a Persian army attacking Potidaea, Greece.
Fast forward to 1958, in a display recounting effects of a huge tsunami triggered by an Alaskan landslide. Its 1,700-foot wave -- the largest ever recorded -- inundated five square miles of land and cleared thousands of trees.

Positano today is a highlight on Italy's Amalfi coast.
In 1343, it was the scene of a huge tsunami which
destroyed the town, ending the republic's sea power days.
Another catastrophe occurred on the Amalfi coast, where we've many times visited.  In its maritime republic days, it was a thriving port with a wealthy population of 70,000.
That was until 1343 when it was wiped out.  A massive earthquake under the Tyrrhenian Sea sparked a devastating tsunami along southern Italy's coast. Amalfi’s harbor and its boats were destroyed; the lower town fell into the sea. A once thriving city shrank to a village of 6,000, ending Amalfi's days as a sea power.
The lovely stretch of coastline from north of Naples to south of the Cilento National Park bore the brunt of the huge killer wave, which wiped out the towns of Bussanto and Blanda, near present-day resorts of Sapri and Maratea. Both Naples and nearby Salerno suffered huge damage, including a death toll of tens of thousands. 
The museum is a testimony both to the power of the tsunami and the power of the human spirit.
More information on this intriguing museum: 

A refreshing green tea drink is served at Just Matcha Tea Shop, one of
seven varied stops on a highly recommended "Taste of Victoria" food tour.
UP NEXT: Food glorious food! Plus history, exercise, variety, fun.  Victoria, British Columbia, has much to recommend it, and we frequent visitors found a new, delightful, food-sampling, history-telling venue.  We take readers on a "Taste of Victoria" food tour,  Canada's top-rated food tour, with stops at a variety of large and small bars, eateries and food stands.  We found it an engaging way to spend a few hours.  Owner Andy Olson delivers a delightful time showing  his love both of food and his adopted city. Rain or shine, he takes foodies and history lovers around downtown Victoria, from tea and sweets shops to pubs, Indonesian and barbecue eateries and other hidden gems in this lively, historic city where he knows everyone. Remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly. Please share: