Dining with a Difference

Written by Harold McNeill on September 10th, 2011. Posted in Travelogue

The article was reprinted along with photographs in February/April 2011 issue of the Island RV Guide (p. 38ff)

Dining with a Difference stakes a claim at Clover Point in Victoria, British Columbia

In our third month of outdoor exploration, Lynn and I continue to search for novel ways to experience our city. While “Dinner and a Movie” proved to be a lot of fun during the winter (see Movie Reviews), we wanted to keep to the outdoors as September is such a special time of the year.

In Victoria, and indeed across Canada, beginning in September there is a period of time referred to for centuries as Indian Summer. In the prairies, it came after the first frosts began to darken the tops and vines of garden plants, and the trees slowly displayed their fall colours. I remember my first days of school as lazy and warm, perhaps a time to escape for a few days or weeks to help with the fall harvest. The evening chill and frost was a sure sign that the bitter cold days of winter were patiently waiting to attack with their penetrating winds.

Fog over Island ViewHere on the coast, it is a time when banks of fog drift across the coastal waters (see Island View Post) and envelop our Island paradise. The drifting fog slowly fills the low lying valleys well before dawn and can often take until noon to burn off. Looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the base of the Olympic Mountains is often buried to half their depth.

Photo: Early morning fog drifts in over Island View Beach.

In past times, one could hear the forlorn sound of a foghorn. It was a sound that reminded me of my first winter in Victoria in the fall of 1963 while living in James Bay. Most recently, Lynn and I awoke in a forested area at Kemp Lake (west of Sooke) to the sound of a foghorn somewhere in our midst. Perhaps it was Shearingham Point? This surprised me as I thought all horns had been silenced in favour of satellite navigation systems.

As for finding new ways to incorporate a September evening walk along the waterfront, we decided to try dining at a few of our favourite spots?  Accompanied by our good friends, Linda and Bjorn Simonsen,we headed down to a wonderful Victoria waterfront walk around Clover Point. 

Clover Point is a small point of land on the extreme south tip of Vancouver Island facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is at that point we are closest to our American neighbour, Port Angeles, the small community from which Marilyn Bell began her historic swim in 1956. Ms. Bell reached the Canadian shore just a few hundred meters from Clover Point. Strangely, while Marilyn Bell’s name first comes to mind as conquering the Strait, she was not the first to swim that treacherous stretch of tidal water. That honour was gained one year earlier by a 29 year old Marine from the United States, Bert Thomas, who walked away with the $3,500 prize – a prize that had been awaiting a winner for many years. The young man’s name quickly fell from the history books when Marilyn, the media darling of Canada who first conquered Lake Ontario, completed her Juan de Fuca swim.

Today, the area of Clover Point is a popular spot for kite flying, parasailing, surfing and, of course, an evening stroll. Every day, dozens of seagoing cargo ships can be observed navigating the waters to and from Seattle and Vancouver. On other occasions, such as the annual Swift Sure Race, we are treated to the grandeur of hundreds of colourful sails jockeying for position at the Start Line west of Clover Point.  Later in the fall, as gale force winds batter the coast, Clover Point provides an incredible view of giant waves breaking over Dallas Road.

Upon arriving at the point, we quickly secured three parking spots at the extreme south end.Scold Twenty minutes later it looked as if we were settling in for an extended stay. It should be noted that Clover Point, as with all public parking areas, prohibits overnight camping. Day use, however, is permitted. On this day, we were not the only ‘day campers’ who decided a waterfront meal away from home was in order.

Photo: As the sun begins to sink toward the western horizen, we settle in for a fine evening meal with our friends Linda and Bjorn.

After Bjorn and I finished setting up camp, Lynn and Linda put the final touches to our pasta dinner while I wandered around taking a few pictures (who ever heard of Harold taking just a few pictures?).  While several Clover Point park users wandered by with quizzical looks, a few stopped to chat, delighting in the fun and uniqueness of our special dinner plans. When the chill westerly of late evening pushed us indoors, we shared a coffee before decamping and heading for home.

A few days later, when again the sun was hot and the weather calm, we ventured east, crossing behind the Tweed Curtain that mythical barrier that insulates Oak Bay from the rest of the world. The Oak Bay Marina Resturant had always been a favorite that provided an incredible 180 degree view over the hundreds of sail boats moored in the Marina and out across Haro Straight. Two decades earlier, Sealand of the Pacific attracted tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to watch spectacular performances by killer whales and seals with aboriginal names such as Tilikum, Nootka II and Haida II. On whale of particular note, Miracle, became the darling of the nation when, as a baby, she was found nearly dead on a beach after being shot (attach link to story)

Miracle PerfromsIn those halcyon years of performing whales and spectacular underwater shows, there would not have been a chance of finding three side-by-side parking spots in the Marina lot.  Today, however, we were able to snag a prime location at the east end overlooking Turkey Head.  The site was complete with park benches, a spectacular view and, with very few cars in the parking lot, almost secluded.

File Photo: Miracle the Killer Whale performs at Sealand of the Pacific. Millions of people around the world waited with baited breath as a baby whale, shot and left dying on a loney Vancouver Island beach, was nursed back to health by caring staff at Sealand. The name Miracle was a natural. Read a full story of Sealand

After setting up, we wondered how long it might be before some kindly sole might nudge the Oak Bay Police to have them check out the Clampetts (of Beverly Hillbillies fame) who had just set up camp on a prime piece of Oak Bay real estate.  That did not happen but we gained more than few side glances from occasional strollers enjoying the fine evening. We even chanced to see a retired Victoria policeman, Kevin Worth, who lives just around the corner. He stopped in and chatted long enough to realize we were both following similar paths in retirement (he retired about six years back).

Ever available to give an assist to a passing group of tourists, I would set them up, using their camera, for a series of shots along the waterfront. Some did not speak English, but that is never a barrier when having fun. After a fine dinner and a soft, warm breeze blowing off the water, we were again joined by Linda and Bjorn for coffee and desert. Linda had made this delicious blueberry shortcake desert that had me begging for seconds. Again as the Washington State skyline turned a delicate tinge of mauve, we broke camp and headed for home.

For those folks who have a camping unit that is self contained or allows a quick connect, set-up and takedown, with facilities to bring a few of the comforts of home, there are virtually dozens of Oceanside parking spots that provide a wonderful new perspective on fine dining in city. There is no need to let the tourists have all the fun!

Harold and Lynn McNeill

Home away from Home

Lynn and Harold

While retirement has provided more time to explore our interests, earlier hectic careers for both Lynn and Harold simply limited the amount of time we could dedicate to extracurricular pursuits, When the budget was tight, the four kids were young and time limited,
we still managed to sneak in dozens of exciting new adventures.
Photo by Linda Simonsen

Sunset at Clover Point

Sunset at Clover Point

The Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains of Washinton State provide the backdrop. Across the Strait, on the leeward side of the mountains, the fog, which can be seen as a thin line, begins to build over the night.  On calm mornings, most of the Strait and the mountains will often disappear until at lest noon the next day.

Oak Bay Marina – Dessert is Served

Desert is Served

This evening Linda provided the excellent blueberry shortcake. (This photo by Linda Simonsen)

Marina – Fishing at Sunset

Fisherment at Sunset

Three fisherman now cast their lines, and sailboats rest, at point where thousands of tourists
and locals would watch in rapt attention as killer whales and harbour seals performed
their daily routines.

In the background is Jimmy Chicken Island: According to accounts by Bea Hamilton, an Oak Bay resident in the 1890s, Jimmy was a Songhees Indian who lived in a little shack on Mary Tod Island with his wife Jenny. Apparently Jimmy would occasionally paddle in at night and steal a chicken. Area residents nicknamed him ‘Jimmy Chicken” and, some years later, the little Island, immediately off the breakwater, was named after him. (Oak Bay Encyclopedia)

Visitors from California

A fall visit with Suzanne and Joseph provided another opportunity to travel for a new dining experience, this time to Beacon Hill Park in the heart of downtown Victoria.  Wine (disguised in wine glasses of course), fresh bread, pasta and a variety of other ingredients to please the palette of the most discriminating diner. During dinner we had a few visitors including a friendly peacock looking for a handout.

Friendly Peacock Checking on our Visitors

Panorama from our Table

We paid an arm and a leg to secure this vew table. It was worth it just to remind
our visitors from California of that which they left behind just to secure a few more
hours of surf and sunshine.


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  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]

  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    January 5, 2020 |

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    […] During the Ice Age, the Earth’s average temperature was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is today. That was enough to keep snow from melting during the summers in northern regions. As snow fell on the snow, glaciers formed. (NASA Earth Observatory) […]

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    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]