Sea to Sky Highway...Vancouver Island...St. Maarten is Jim's deal of the day
COURTENAY, B.C. - If an early Thursday morning trip was any indication, and it probably wasn't, things are looking pretty good on the Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler.
Actually, I was driving early in the day from Whistler to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, so technically I should call it the Sky-to-Sea Highway. But the point is that the road is in marvellous shape with the Olympics less than five months away.
They're still doing some paving work just south of Whistler near the Creekside area, but it's pretty minor. After that, the road is often four lanes and almost three lanes of newly paved road all the way to the city.
There still are a couple parts where huge rocks on the east side of the road and railway tracks on the west hem things in and prevented folks from making it three lanes or four all the way. But it looked like only a few kilometres of the highway were two lanes, so things should be reasonable as far as capacity goes for the Games.
That still begs the question of how much traffic will be allowed on the highway. Three lanes, after all, isn't much if you've got a million cars traversing the road each day. VANOC is supposed to release a new transportation plan soon, so it'll be interesting to see how things will work.
HEADING TO VANCOUVER ISLAND
I was in Victoria for a few hours in December, 1980 and for a day or two when I was, oh, about nine years old when I came with my Mom and Dad and my sister on a driving trip from California and we visited Butchart Gardens, Victoria, the Rockies and just about every other place you can imagine in western North America. (I remember the Canadian dollar was worth more than the U.S. and it pissed me off that candy bars/chocolate bars cost more north of the border than they did at home, and when you're a kid you jealously guard every penny of your allowance).
Anyway, I have no real recollection of anything except the Parliament building in Victoria, the roses in the garden and the Empress Hotel, and even then I can't tell how much is actual memory and how much is seeing photos of them in the intervening years and thinking, "oh, yeah, I remember that."
So what I'm trying to get at, and not too successfully, is that it's a real treat to be back on Vancouver Island. It was an uneventful ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, but I was surprised to see a kids' play area, a small cafeteria and a reasonably-sized gift shop on board the BC Ferries boat. I had no idea they had so much to offer. And I didn't know Horseshoe Bay (see photo) was so pretty.
Nanaimo was kinda cool. Had a great seafood chowder and salad combo at The Lighthouse, right on the waterfront, then kicked around downtown for a bit and did some shopping at a funky, cool spot called Flying Fish. It's not a huge downtown but it's got some charm to it.
Spent the night at the Kingfisher Resort south of Courtenay, about an hour north of Nanaimo. It's right on the water, looking out over the sound towards Texada Island and Powell River, and with the weather as clear as it is you can see all the way to the mountains near Squamish and Whistler. The gardens are beautiful and there's a small spa and a pool and a hot tub, as well as a restaurant that gets great dinner reviews and serves a mean bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with dried fruit for a reasonable $5.
Didn't get to see Comox except in the dark but had a nice Thai meal in Courtenay on Thursday night.
The weather is ridiculously good; about 18 to 20 degrees and hardly a cloud in the sky and very little breeze. Very fortunate, indeed.
Spending the weekend at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, which is regarded as one of the great resorts of the world. Can't wait.
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY
Two St. Maarten resorts – the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino and the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino – are offering step-ladder savings that go up as hotel nights increase. With one to three nights at either resort, the discount is between 35 and 55 per cent. From four to seven nights qualify for between 45 and 55 per cent off. And with eight nights or more, you get between 50 and 55 per cent off. The Sonesta Maho is close to St. Maarten’s airport – so close in fact that incoming planes fly very low over the property. Despite this (or maybe because of it) the Sonesta Maho gets its share of vacationers. Sister resort Sonesta Great Bay is near Philipsburg. See www.sonesta.com/stmaarten.