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TRAVEL TRIPS 

BILL MURRAY Trip to Parksville
posted July 9 2019

Parksville is one of my family’s favorite places. We have been going there for over 25 years, usually staying at Ocean Trails or Madrona resorts. Here are a few pictures to help you understand why we love going there.


Back in 1994 or 95 I remember sitting in my office at the CBC (during lunch of course) wondering where to take the family for our summer holiday. I was looking at a BCAA Travel Guidebook and saw pictures of a place called the Rathtrevor Resort. They had one, two or three bedroom units that appeared to be relatively new, a 3 foot deep swimming pool and what really sold me on it was their water slide! Of course being so close to Rathrevor Beach was a bonus. The kids could play in the sand in the morning making sand castles and then when the tide came in later in the day, they could watch their structures disappear in the on-coming water. After that, they could play in the water that had been warmed when it came in over the hot sand and Janice and I didn't have a lot of worry because the water never got too deep, similar to the beach at White Rock. We booked a two-bedroom unit, the kids each had their own twin bed and Janice and I had a Queen. There was a full kitchen, dining area, living room with a hide-a-bed, fireplace and a TV. We were pretty new at this beach holiday business and although we did take along some shovels and buckets to make sand castles, we were envious of the people that had air mattresses and inflatable boats. The next time we went we were fully prepared with a four-man boat. One slight problem was that the Resort is on a bluff high off the beach and one had to carry all the beach gear down a zig-zagging wooden structure and then back up again at the end of the day!

The water slide was a great adventure for the kids, they had never been on one before and the pool at the end was not very deep (just cold). We went almost every year after that. One year a friend of ours heard an item on the news that some people who had booked a stay at the Resort were finding out that they didn't have a place to stay. The units at the Resort are all privately owned and the owners hired a company to manage the rentals. The particular company that they used at that time had taken off for one reason or another and took the books with them. I managed to get a refund of our deposit through my credit card and we then rebooked through the new management company. So Rathtrevor Resort became Ocean Trails.

In May 1998 when I was leaving the CBC and had landed my job with BC Ferries, I had asked Ferries if I could delay my start with them for two weeks so I could get some time with my family as I knew I wouldn't get any holidays that summer. They said no, because that was their busy time of year for hiring, but I did negotiate one week and I managed to get a one-bedroom unit for a few days. We were cramped but at least we were at our favorite place. We didn't miss many years over the next while. In 2003 we happened to run into Cathy Morrin and her family on the beach. They were staying at a resort called Beach Acres which is right next to Ocean Trails. We had a great two-family campfire on the beach that night.

I remember one year having a campfire on the beach and looking with envy at a man and his family who were sitting on the patio outside their beach-front unit watching the sun go down. This unit was in a resort between Tigh Na Mara and Ocean Trails called Madrona,and there was about a dozen two-storey two-bedroom units right at beach level. (They had many more units up on the bluff.) I distinctly recall saying to myself that one day I was going to be that man. Well, one summer, after managing to get some last minute time off I was looking through the resorts listed on a travel site and I sent Madrona an email asking if they by any chance had any beach-front vacancies coming up, half expecting them to die laughing. As fate would have it they had just received a cancellation and we got the booking. What we found out was that a couple had booked the unit but their baby had arrived early and they had to cancel their reservation. When we got there we learned that the people that owned that unit also owned the one next door. It was their daughter that had the baby. We ended up becoming good friends with the owners and their grandchildren played a lot with our kids. We stayed at Madrona every year for a few years after that, but really lost interest in it because during the hot summers we had to leave the windows open at night and there was always a racket coming from people partying on the beach at all hours of the night (and early morning). For the last couple of years we have booked Ocean Trails during the week after school goes back in in September and my son and his wife and my grandson have been joining us. Needless to say, my grandson loves it. I often go back in the off-season during their three-nights-for-the-price-of-two specials to do some geocaching either by myself or with my brother and sister.

Although the water slide was removed long ago (insurance issues) some of the other things that we find attracting us back every year besides the beach are the mini golf (a ten minute walk from Ocean Trails) Rathtrevor Provincial Park and it many trails, the city park in Parksville (a 5 minute drive) – this is the best city park I have ever seen – well cared-for, with a fantastic play area for the kids, a nice beach, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, which are taken over during the day by seniors playing pickleball (look it up). In August there is a professional sandcastle building event in the park. Further along the road is another mini golf park that has bumper boats and an arcade. We regularly visit Coombs which features a market selling fresh produce and other goodies and souvenirs. They even have goats living on the roof!  And even further up the road is Morningstar Farm which is a working dairy farm, and cheese market. And we often also travel further up the island to Qualicum where we always be sure to grab lunch at Bailey's – great food! I also like taking a 45 minute morning walk on the beach out to a point where some creative people have put together a sculpture made of logs. I usually walk with my head down, looking for interesting rocks, but I often get interrupted by the sound of eagles in the trees in Rathtrevor Park.

NOTE The sand sculpting event starts July 12 this year

Click here for pictures from the trip:

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BILL MURRAY Trip to Butchart Gardens in Victoria
posted April 27 2019

Janice and I had a family event in Victoria at the end of April and since we live in North Vancouver, we decided to take the ferry to Nanaimo and drive down the Island, instead of fighting the traffic to get to Tsawwassen. The ferry was quite full, which was surprising to me being it was the 10:40 sailing on a Wednesday, but the sailing was quite pleasant despite the fact that we couldn’t sit on the sun deck due to the brisker than normal wind.

We had planned to visit the Butchart Gardens and I dutifully plotted out our route to get from Highway 1 over to the Gardens using Google. At this point I would like to issue a warning, DO NOT TRUST GOOGLE! Their suggested route had us leaving Highway 1 at Helmcken Road which turned into Wilkinson Road. At one point there are two Wilkinson Roads and if you foolishly decide to take this route, be sure to take the Wilkinson road that goes to the left. Oh, yes and another thing, do not take Google’s suggested route any time after 2:30 PM on a week day as this narrow two-lane road is bumper to bumper with traffic with people heading I don’t know where at alarmingly slow speeds. Suddenly Wilkinson meets up with Interurban Road and if you aren’t in the left turn lane at this intersection, you can always hope some kind Victorian lets you cut across in front of him into the local penitentiary parking lot to reverse your course. “No, we are not checking in, just turning around, sir”. Did I tell you we were about an hour behind schedule? 

Excitement grew as we anticipated turning left from narrow little Interurban Road onto its big brother “Highway 17A”, yes we were going to get onto a Highway, no more “roads” for us! Nope, Highway 17A, (aka West Saanich Road) turned out to be narrower and twistier than Interurban. They had even closed down one of the two lanes in order to do something with the buildup of mud at the side of the road (we don’t need no stinkin’ shovels, we have a backhoe!!) So our journey was delayed even more as they alternated traffic through the one open lane. Then it was left on Wallace Drive and finally we reached Benvenuto Avenue, the narrow road that leads into the Butchart Gardens. Now I understand enough Italian to know that Benvenuto means “welcome”. However it seems those in control of the traffic in this area must think that it means “good luck” as in good luck trying to turn left at a very busy intersection with stop signs not placed to slow down cars speeding around blind corners, but set where one has to burn rubber after coming to a full stop to avoid said cars speeding around blind corners to the left and right. Did I mention we were about an hour and a half behind schedule?

So we pulled up beside the entrance kiosk, not around 3 as planned, but at 4:15, and the first thing we see is the sign that says the Gardens close at 5:00. What the heck, lets do it, and we started laughing until tears ran down our cheeks. The attendant must have thought we were crazy. Fortunately the tickets we received said the Gardens were going to close at 6. The good news is, the gardens were spectacular! The spring flowers were at their best, the place was not crowded and the weather was warm.

Bill Murray’s tip #1 – when driving from Nanaimo to the Butchart Gardens, take McKenzie Avenue East to the Patricia Bay Highway #1 and then drive North until you turn left on Keating Cross Road. Miraculously, Keating Cross Road actually becomes Benvenuto Avenue and welcome to the Butchart Gardens! Or you could just take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay and forget all I just described.

We normally stay at the Chateau Victoria, however it was booked up so I looked at other accommodations. I finally settled on the Grand Pacific Hotel which was a little more expensive than what we were looking for, but I figured we were worth it having survived 30 years working at the CBC and 13 more at BC Ferries. Besides it is nice to splurge once in a while. The hotel is just west of the Legislative Building and within walking distance of the downtown stores and sights. I took advantage of their “Senior’s Moment” special of $287 per night  – we had the Victoria Suite with a king size bed, free underground parking, and 15% off of food and no-alcoholic beverages at their dining facilities and room service. Regular rooms run at $299 per night plus $18 a day for parking. If you did not need your room cleaned and have fresh towels every day, they also gave each person a $5 credit for their meals. We went downstairs for breakfast every morning to their Courtyard Café where one could get coffee or other bottled beverages and a scone or muffin still warm from the oven.

We found a great place to have dinner “Frankie’s Modern Diner” upstairs at 910 Government Street. You can view their menu on-line. They do offer small portions if you want, in addition to regular-sized meals, I had delicious spaghetti and meatballs and Janice had a Caesar salad with chicken. Including wine, the bill was under $40.00.

Just opposite the restaurant at the corner of Government and Humboldt, there used to be the 104 year old Customs House, a landmark on the edge of the inner harbour. They are turning it into luxury condominium suites, but the interesting thing is that they have kept the exterior façade of the building. I found it incredible that they are able to do that. I wish that Vancouver had kept more of its historic buildings intact the way that Victoria has. The Empress Hotel has had all the ivy removed, the outer walls have all been sand blasted and a new roof was installed, this fine old lady looks great!

No trip to Victoria would be complete until we visited the Rogers Chocolate Heritage Store at 913 Government Street. With our chocolate treats in hand we walked on the waterfront back to our hotel for our last night in this beautiful place.

   

  (click on the name)

JEFF GROBERMAN The Trip From Hell Home
posted April 15 2019

JEFF GROBERMAN Showering with an Elephant
posted April 5, 2019



   

 

 

 

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PARKSVILLE Back row Steve Morrin, Heather Murray, Cathy and me! Front row Hayley Kelly and Jeff Morrin, Alex Murray Taken on Rathtrevor Beach

PARKSVILLE Back row Steve Morrin, Heather Murray, Cathy and me! Front row Hayley Kelly and Jeff Morrin, Alex Murray Taken on Rathtrevor Beach

PARKSVILLE the entrance to Morningstar farm

PARKSVILLE the entrance to Morningstar farm

PARKSVILLE one of the sand sculptures.

PARKSVILLE one of the sand sculptures.


PARKSVILLE part of the kids’ playground at the Parksville city park

PARKSVILLE part of the kids’ playground at the Parksville city park

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PARKSVILLE the “sculpture”

PARKSVILLE the “sculpture”

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