Tofino: Raglan of Canada.

WestCoastForest

Rumours of Tofino’s loveliness had made their way to our ears before our feet touched down upon Canadian soil, so we couldn’t set foot upon Vancouver Island without checking out this destination for ourselves.

Tofino

As we ventured North on the Island, the vegetation became increasingly lush, to the point of being quite reminiscent of the tropical jungle of our adoptive nation (NZ).

JamiesWhalingStation

This cute beach town exudes a strong sense of community and an outdoor lifestyle which revolves primarily around the sea.

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In many ways, this ocean-centric town reminds us of the NZ surf town of Raglan.

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Much like Raglan, Tofino boasts a hippy vibe, and has a quaint collection of cute boutiques, surf shops, cafes, restaurants, and health food shops.  A large percentage of its inhabitants surf year-round.

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Just a 10 minute walk from our accommodation was this lovely beach.

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The lapping ocean waves were soothing to our land-locked souls and brought a familiarity that made us miss the days where visiting a beach was a matter of asking, “East Coast or West Coast?  White sand or black?”  Wow, were we ever spoiled in New Zealand.  Not sure how we’re ever going to get over it.

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Other gems we uncovered in Tofino were…

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Tacofino (food truck).  The fish tacos come highly recommended in our books.

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Tofino Brewing Company.  Brendon found the kelp stout highly intriguing.

Tofino

Tofino Coffee Roasters, as mentioned in a previous post.

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Misty, log-cluttered beaches.

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And lush vegetation that felt oh so exotic to our Alberta eyes.

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We were told we were very lucky to experience a sunny morning, as Tofino receives mainly rain this time of year.

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It was a pretty quick trip, so we probably didn’t get to experience for ourselves the fullness of what Tofino has to offer, but what we did glimpse, we certainly liked.

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Vancouver: Reunions, restaurants, and roamings.

Van.Torch

Vancouver is a big city.  Filled with lots of awesome things.  It took us a while to get out here together, but we were certainly glad we did.

Reunions.

Our visit to Vancouver held some long-overdue reunions with some excellent people.

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On our westward journey, we stopped in to see Ashley & Kevin in Abbotsford, and had the chance to meet their sweet little girl, Cassidy.  

JWalls&Chases.Reunion

An awesome discovery we made just shortly before our visit was that the two sets of friends we planned to visit while in Vancouver were already friends with eachother!  A group dinner was arranged.  It was so great to catch up with Jarret & Jessie (who we connected with in NZ) and Carrie & Mike (friends from Edmonton).

Ethan&Carrie

So special it was to meet Ethan, Carrie and Mike’s little guy, for the first time.  He’s certainly a charmer!

Restaurants.

Chambar1

We dined at Chambar one evening, upon recommendation by a friend.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect, other than being told to order the mussels. 

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We obeyed orders, and also sprung for the spiced nuts, along with some cured trout with char-grilled octopus, and beetroot carpaccio, which were complex and delightful.  The hospitality was commendable, and whole experience was entirely delightful.  A visit to Chambar comes highly recommended in our books next time you visit Vancouver.

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What a fabulous establishment Meat & Bread is.  It highlights the beauty and simplicity of a sandwich.  Quality ingredients prepared carefully and presented on a nice piece of bread.  With mustard on the side.  What more can you ask for??  

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Oh, and not into gluten?  Get your meat in a bowl!  The porchetta with salsa verde is also excellent this way.

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The communal table is a great way to meet people.  Though a few Vancouverites told us not to expect the locals to be overly friendly, we did have a nice conversation with a friendly chap who was involved in the film industry.

Roamings.

Gastown

We roamed primarily in the downtown areas, exploring the districts of Gastown, Yaletown, Chinatown, and Granville Island.

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Highlights from our wanderings included perusing boutique shops & cafes in search of gems and inspiration,

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stumbling upon some cool street art,

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running our fingers through some green grass,

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marvelling at the signs of spring,

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and breathing in some ocean air.  Maybe not the typical attractions that people come to Vancouver for, but for us, these were much appreciated.  

Overall impressions.

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The city of Vancouver has an abundance of offerings.  The bustle of being in a big city again was enticing.  We lucked out and enjoyed two sunny days, with temperatures around 10 degrees.  It felt familiar… like a day in NZ’s “winter.”  We appreciated how the downtown core was easy to navigate on foot, and how the city as a whole was so pedestrian-friendly.  We also noticed that the First Nations culture seemed to be more embraced in this seaside city, evidenced through the public display of art.  We thought this was neat.

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Vancouver, while we are only just getting to know you still, you have impressed us enough that we will likely see you again.

British Columbia: The coffee coast.

WestCoastBeach

We’ve recently returned from a week-long venture out to Canada’s West Coast over spring break.  There’s lots we’re excited to share about our trip, but where to start…

How about with coffee?

Breno.Bows&ArrowsRoastery

Having recently celebrated Brendon’s fifth year in the specialty coffee community, a visit to some of Canada’s finest specialty coffee establishments was long overdue.  After being cooped up in The Deer for a little while, it was refreshing and invigorating to once again find ourselves in a city with so many options for where to grab a caffeinated beverage.

Overall impressions were very pleasing.

Knowing that specialty coffee has been established in Vancouver and Victoria a lot longer than the rest of Canada (probably due to its proximity to Seattle, where specialty coffee in North America originated), there were high expectations going in.  That being said, we were generally quite satisfied with all of our cafe experiences.

Now there are many ways to analyze or judge establishments that serve coffee.  We’ve decided to go the route of making a few special mentions in various categories:

Best pour over: Revolver.  Brendon thoroughly enjoyed his Ethiopian pour over from Heart Coffee Roasters.

Revolver.Pourover

Friendliest service: Timbertrain Coffee Roasters.

Timbertrain3

Having just opened two months ago. this place was actually not on our list, but we are ever so glad we stumbled upon this gem while strolling along West Cordova St. in Gastown.

Timbertrain.NitroColdbrew

Brendon enjoyed a good espresso and a tasty cold brew from the friendly guys at Timber Train.  It was fairly quiet when we first went in, which we appreciated because it allowed us the opportunity to talk with owners Peter & Jeff (as opposed to Revolver, which felt a bit rushed/noisy because of how busy it was.)

Best design: Tie between Timbertrain and Nelson the Seagull, both which sport a very different vibe.

Design

Timber Train’s design was clean and slightly industrial.  We thought the seating within the mock train car setup was pretty unique.

Timbertrain

Nelson the Seagull was much more eclectic, filled with a bustling hipster audience and an array of vintage nicknacks, bunting, and interesting items to gaze at for hours.

NelsontheSeagull5NelsontheSeagull.hipsters

Best glutenous product: Sourdough toast with freshly whipped butter at Matchstick.

Matchstick.toastMatchstick1

The new Matchstick cafe on East Georgia St., which just opened up a month ago, embodied a minimalist design.  Simple touches like the blackened wood wall and the severed log tables were features that brought a natural warmth to the space.  We appreciated how how well-lit it was, with ample seating.  The intention in design was very evident.

Special mention in the glutenous product category also goes out to Nelson the Seagull for a croissant that Brendon says he will remember for a long time, (though too rich to indulge in regularly.)

NelsontheSeagull.Croissant

Most coastal cafe: Tofino Coffee Company.

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We discovered Tofino had their own coffee company when we saw their beans for sale in the grocery store, then asked around to find out the location of their cafe.  Out of all the cafes we visited, this one had the most West-Coast feel to it.  We loved the gigantic stumps that served as seating and also brought a rustic, natural vibe to the space.  We had a friendly chat with the owner, and the coffee was pretty good too.

Fernwood

Overall good experience with good coffee:  Fernwood.  I actually didn’t take any pictures inside because initially, nothing stood out to me.  The lighting wasn’t great, and there weren’t any particular decor elements that wowed us. But overall, the service and coffee were very good, and atmosphere was comfortable.  However, this was the only cafe we visit twice, and bought a bag of coffee from, on our trip out West.  So I guess that has to say something.

If you’re not interested in coffee at all, sorry… this post post was probably a bit boring for you.  But don’t worry, we did do other things on our trip out West besides explore cafes.  Looking forward to being able to share those with you soon!