I’ve been a frequent user of UsedVictoria‘s free online classifieds for years. It’s my favourite local source for secondhand items. I regularly troll the Garden and Antiques sections for possible finds. And just by inputting my shoe or dress size into the Women’s Clothing and Accessories department, I can find boundless fashion bargains.
I’m surprised how many people don’t know that it’s possible to set up customized e-mail or text alerts on UsedVictoria. Rather than going to the website again and again to look for a specific item, you just input the details and let the UsedVictoria site e-mail or text you when someone lists your desired item for sale.
- First, you’ll need to register on the UsedVictoria site.
- Once you’ve joined, return to the UsedVictoria site and log in.
- Next, from the UsedVictoria home page, choose the category you wish to search. For example, you might click on Furniture under Household.
- In the search window that appears on the righthand side of the page, enter the particular item you’re seeking. For example, you might type in “rocking chair.”
- Once the search results for your item come up, scroll down on the page, and you’ll see a box on the right titled Tools. Under Tools, click on the E-mail/Text Alerts option. The system will then guide you through the rest of the process to have alerts sent to you by email or by text to your mobile phone, or both if you prefer.
You will receive a brief e-mail from UsedVictoria confirming that your alert has been activated. As a registered user, you’ll be able to sign in to the site anytime to review your personal dashboard page and edit or remove any alerts you have created. Handy, right?
Websites like UsedVictoria.com and Craigslist Victoria have put most newspaper classified sections out of business with their completely free online listings. The usual cautions apply when it comes to buying used items from private sellers —primarily, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is —but you can’t beat the deals and truly eclectic selection of secondhand goods.
The lovely English Inn in Esquimalt has new owners, and the hotel has become a local music, arts, and culture hotspot thanks to a partnership with Esquimalt’s energetic Township Community Arts Council (TCAC). If you haven’t seen the extensive renovations that have transformed the heritage inn from yee dumpy olde English tourist attraction to stylish boutique hotel, take advantage of the ongoing public arts events to pop in for a visit. Check their calendar of events here: townshiparts.org
Starting Dec. 15, the hotel is hosting local potter Michael Giles as its current Artist in Residence at The English Inn. Forgive a bit of boasting here, but Michael is none other than my talented husband. I swear, we need to buy a Victorian mansion to house his work, because his artistic pottery pieces look right at home on the hotel’s handsome hardwood ledges and gracious fireplace mantels.
You can see Michael’s work any time during the English Inn’s regular hours from now through Feb. 1, 2016. And as part of the Artist in Residence at the English Inn program, Michael will be hosting four special events. Here’s the lineup:
- Dec. 15, 2015 6:30 to 8 p.m. Opening Reception. Free admission, appetizers, cash bar. Meet the artist, who has more than 50 new pottery pieces on display throughout the inn’s public areas.
- Jan. 7, 2016 6:30 to 8 p.m Pottery Demo: Wheel-Throwing. See how Michael creates his pieces on the pottery wheel. Free admission, cash bar.
- Jan. 17, 2016 9 to 10:30 a.m. Artist Breakfast Talk: “Notice What You Notice: Inspirations and Creativity.” A small $5 charge applies for the hotel’s continental breakfast.
- Jan. 21, 2016 6:30 to 8 p.m. Pottery Demo: Altering Round Pots. Learn how Michael transforms his wheel-thrown pieces by paddling, slicing, stretching, and denting them into creative new shapes. Free admission.
In addition to Michael’s pottery show and sale, the English Inn and TCAC have three Township Classics music events scheduled for this winter. The intimate classical music concerts at the inn are ridiculously good value for the $20 admission ($15 for TCAC members). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Concerts begin at 7 p.m.
- Dec. 27, 2015 Mozart concert
- Jan. 31, 2016 Spanish and South American favourites
- Feb. 28, 2016 Schubert concert
For more information, email email@example.com or visit www.townshiparts.org
The English Inn is located at 429 Lampson Street in Esquimalt.
If you love wild animals and outstanding photography, get thee to the Royal BC Museum. The new Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 exhibit opened Dec. 4, 2015.
The world’s best nature photographers submit entries to this annual competition. The best 100 photographs, selected from some 43,000 entries from around the globe, are mounted as oversize prints and back-lit in the gallery to accentuate every remarkable detail. This has become my favourite annual art event in Victoria.
The exhibit will run through to April 4, 2016. You can get a great break on the admission price if you visit in this first week of the new year. Traditionally, that is the museum’s admission by donation week, with a suggestion contribution per person of $5. That’s a significant savings on the usual adult admission of $16.
Food & Drink
The cost of dining out in Victoria just keeps going up. If you love sampling creative new restaurants but need something a little more wallet-friendly, Victoria’s lively food truck scene offers a great alternative.
If you’ve had trouble finding some of these meals on wheels, here’s a hot summer tip: look behind the Royal BC Museum. The rear courtyard is the site of a summer-long Food Truck Festival for 2015, with half a dozen different vendors serving daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. now through October.
The museum has provided a comfortable seating area for diners, and there’s even beer and wine available from Truffles Catering. Take your pick of the eclectic, international menu items available from these participating food trucks:
DeadBeetz. Inventive curries and burgers (including a cashew chickpea vegetarian option) made from scratch with local island ingredients. deadbeetz.com
Pig BBQ Joint. All things pork, including pulled pork sandwiches and a decadent pulled pork poutine. pigbbqjoint.com
A Streetcar Named New Orleans. With a chef born and raised in New Orleans, this food truck specializes in dishes including gumbo, jambalaya, po-boy sandwiches, red beans and rice, and bread pudding. facebook.com/StreetcarNOyyj
Puerto Vallarta Amigos. The Espinoza family serves up their traditional Mexican street tacos and enchiladas. pvamigos.com
The Love Perogy. Fresh handmade burgers and plump perogies in a variety of flavours, including cheddar, onion and garlic, and jalapeño. facebook.com/pages/The-Love-Perogy
Wild West BBQ Salmon. All salmon, all the time. Fresh, local sockeye salmon, served burger-style or as a grilled salmon salad. twitter.com/wildwestsalmon
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See more about Victoria food trucks here: http://victoriasavvy.com/2014/03/victorias-fabulous-food-trucks/
And if sampling the fare from the six trucks at RBCM gives you a taste for more, there is now a Victoria app for tracking food trucks around the city! Check it out here: streetfoodapp.com/victoria
Food & Drink
Diners dig in at Victoria’s Cafe Brio.
I get excited every year when Tourism Victoria releases the participating restaurants in the annual Dine Around Victoria event. When the list goes up online, I have to put aside a good hour or more for foodie reverie—which is to say, I need time to drool over every restaurant’s three-course prix fixe menu.
The event runs Feb. 20 to March 9 in 2015. Menu offerings fall into four price categories: $20, $30, $40, and $50 per person. Who has the most enticing three-course menu this year? It’s a matter of personal taste, of course.
Sure, the $40 and $50 options at places like the Empress Room, Blue Crab, and Camille’s are bound to be good. But for me, Dine Around is about balancing the most appetizing menus with the best value.
I like to start my search with those restaurants offering a $20 menu option, and there are 19 contenders this year. This category is where you’ll find some terrific savings over ordering items a la carte.
After weighing the many, many options, my tummy and pocketbook are casting their first vote for….
Heron Rock Bistro, $20: Finally, a restaurant offering a tasting plate to start that comes without charcuterie, so vegetarians can dig in: mixed olives, aged gouda, garlic confit, whole grain mustard, cornichons, and crostini. Yum! For my main course, I’ll be hard pressed to choose between the roasted veggie po’ boy and the polenta lasagna, but how could I say no to espresso crème brûlée for dessert?
I’d love to hear where you plan to dine out for 2015. Get yourself a nice glass of wine or cup of tea and start perusing the delicious menus at www.tourismvictoria.com/events/dinearound/dinearound-menus. Then take a moment to comment on this post with your top picks for this year. And don’t forget to call your chosen restaurants to book reservations: tables fill up fast during Dine Around.
It’s no secret that I’m a devotee of consignment stores. With no two items the same, these shops offer the thrill of the hunt and the delight of a truly original find. I regularly score great designer pieces at a quarter or less of the retail price. Best of all: when I tire of an item, if it’s still in good condition, I can turn around and sell it on consignment to get money to buy more new-to-me pieces.
You won’t find prices in consignment stores as low as those in good thrift stores like Value Village or Vinnie’s (Saint Vincent de Paul), WIN shops or the Salvation Army. But the advantage is that you won’t have to look as hard to find a good piece. Consignment shop owners require that all items be brought to them clean and pressed, and they vet all items for style and quality, accepting only those they believe will interest their clientelle. That saves you, the shopper, a lot of time, and for that you pay a little more.
Here are my current local favourites, focusing mainly on regular fashions (that is, not vintage). Did I miss your favourite? Comment on this post and let me know!
Baja Rosi’s Consignment Cabana. 103-797 Goldstream Ave. Yes, technically it’s in Langford, not Victoria. But the incredible selection, wide range of sizes, and unbeatably low prices make this my current favourite place to shop for consignment fashions. They even stock a small selection of menswear. Honey was over the moon when he found a pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans for $22. www.bajarosis.com
Verve. 2013 Government St. Shoppers typically pay more here than at other consignment stores, but the quality of the merchandise is top-notch. If you are seeking designer labels in top condition, want to purchase a sleek business suit or a swank party dress, Verve is the place to look. www.verveconsignment.com
Looking Glass Divas (formerly Clothesline Clothing). Royal Oak Shopping Centre, West Saanich Road. This shop features great regular specials and sales, such as a “blowout” 40%-off sale once a month and special discounts by day of the week. www.lookingglassdivas.ca
Rich Rags. 911 Yates St. If you love designer handbags, the selection at Rich Rags’ Yates Street location is impressive. I rarely leave the Yates Street outlet without a treasure or two. I haven’t had the same luck at their second location at 1316 Douglas, maybe because it appears to cater to a younger crowd. Note: Rich Rags now carries a mix of new retail and consignment items, and both locations stock some menswear and shoes as well as women’s fashions. Weblocal: Rich Rags
Duchess & Duke. 1824 Government Street. On our first visit, Honey and I left Duchess & Duke with a stylish suit for him, a designer bag and two beautiful scarves for me, and great big smiles on both our faces. Clothing and accessories for women and men with a leaning toward vintage and funky one-of-a-kind items. Facebook: Facebook: Duchess-Duke
My Sister’s Closet. 5-1516 Fairfield Rd. Good quality consignment in Fairfield Village. Facebook: My Sister’s Closet
House Of Savoy. 1869 Oak Bay Ave. Oak Bay was once the exclusive kingdom of Victoria consignment fashion, and the House of Savoy has long been the reining queen. Weblocal: House of Savoy
Velvet Crease. 1029 Cook St. Reliable, quality consignments. Facebook: Velvet Crease
Flavour Upstairs. 587 Johnson St. I was disappointed on a recent visit to see that the amount of stock at Flavour Upstairs has been greatly diminished, but there are still some fun and funky finds to be had at great prices. Leans a little more toward vintage in its buyers’ taste. Facebook: Flavour Upstairs
This list by no means includes all of the fashion consignment stores in Victoria. Did I miss one of your favourites? Please write and let me know.
Could you use a great big dose of holiday cheer this season? I can recommend two excellent budget activities full of Christmas spirit. Both are annual fundraisers at elegant downtown Victoria hotels: the Inn at Laurel Point and the Fairmont Empress. Admission is by donation.
The . . . → Click to read full blog
Rich Rags has undergone some changes since opening its second location on Douglas Street in 2011. (All accompanying photos here depict the Douglas store.)
The new downtown Douglas location has targets a younger, somewhat hipper demographic. This has allowed the original Rich Rags, on Yates Street near London Drugs, . . . → Click to read full blog
It’s going to be a full day of arts (30+ vendors), live music, pirate dress-up, funny animal balloons, swimming in the Gorge, and more at the FREE Esquimalt Arts Festival. The event takes place this Sunday, August 10, 2014, noon-8pm. Come on out to Gorge Park at 1070 Tillicum Road.
. . . → Click to read full blog
Throughout the summer months in Greater Victoria, outdoor farmers’ and artisans’ markets offer some of the best free entertainment in the city. The more established annual markets start up in April/May, and some carry on well into October and even November. Some put up their tents every week, while others . . . → Click to read full blog