Anyone who lives in or has ever visited Victoria, B.C. has always had the same complaint: there are no good shoe shops here. Well, not anymore. Footloose, right downtown on Fort Street, is THE best shop.
I’ve lived in Toronto and Vancouver and it rivals anything they offer. This is especially important this season when everyone is wearing boots and skinny jeans. Everywhere I go in Victoria, everywhere else I travel, I get complimented on my shoes and boots from Footloose. It carries great brands that you don’t see anywhere else — Marc, Hispanitas, Argiles — and the more trendy Fry and Fluevogs.
I’ll try to go in and buy a plain black heel for work and come out with a purple boot and a pink slingback with a gold bow.
Now that it’s wet out, they’ve got a great selection of rain boots and SmartWool socks. I picked one of each up and jumped through every puddle I could find. It was so liberating to not have to tip-toe through the puddles that usually soak me and wreck my dress shoes!
637 Fort Street, Victoria, B.C.
— Alana Campbell
Getting Chocolatey all over Vancouver
Everyone has a weakness. Mine is chocolate. In fact, one of my must-stop places for some heavenly chocolate when visiting Toronto is Teuscher Chocolates (www.teuscher.com). If you too have a sweet tooth, or simply need a sugar rush, here are some of the places to visit in Vancouver (or online) for a dose of chocolate:
Hot chocolate — White pistachio hot chocolate from Medina Café
Even though the location is a little bit far to walk from downtown, the white hot chocolate (with real ground pistachio nuts) and the delicious food at Medina makes the “hike” worth it. www.medinacafe.com
Cocoa powder — Bernard Callebaut cocoa powder
Callebaut carried on the history of five generations of Belgian chocolatiers after moving to Calgary 25 years ago. The company now has 28 stores in Canada, including the flagship one in Calgary, and four in the U.S. Most treats, including the aforementioned cocoa powder (500 g for $14.95), are available online at www.bernardcallebaut.com.
Chocolate fondue — Dark Chocolate fondue at Brix
As part of its late-night menu, Brix dark chocolate fondue is described thusly: “made with premium Michel Cluizel chocolate from France served with house baked goods and seasonal fresh fruit.” Mmmm.
Iced chocolate drink — Blended iced chocolate drink from Mink Café
This cool treat is available in dark or milk chocolate with peppermint. As a bonus, you get a small piece of dark chocolate to nibble on with your order. www.minkchocolates.com
Chocolate bar — Thomas Haas bars
These chocolate bars, especially the delicious white chocolate with matcha green tea chocolate bar, are available in a number of stores including Urban Fare and Capers in Vancouver. www.thomashaas.com
— Charmane D. Sing,
Oyen Wiggs Green & Mutala LLP
Embracing the cold in the Gatineaus
It’s cold here — a lot. And snowy. So don’t fight the winter, embrace it. And if you’re not one for skating, skiing, snowboarding, or winter camping, there’s still a place for you.
Le Nordik spa in Chelsea, Que., just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, offers up a fantastic outdoor Scandinavian spa experience, even when it’s -20 C outside. In fact, half the fun is having your hair freeze from the mist of the lovely hot tub while sitting beneath a starry night sky or grabbing your crackling frozen towel as you sprint from the hot tub back to the sauna.
The spa offers outdoor hot tubs, a powerful steam room, dry Finnish sauna, Nordic waterfalls, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, and a fantastic fireplace room.
My first visit was in the depth of winter about three years ago and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as relaxed as I did after a few rounds of sauna, tub, cold air, fireplace, etc. It’s a fantastic way to wash away stress (which many of us are experiencing in spades right now). It wasn’t as cold on my next visit but, I say, the more bracing the winter air, the more magical the experience.
My only advice: remember your flip flops because frozen feet studded with anti-icing pellets will detract from your relaxation.
In my opinion, winter is the best time but it’s open
year-round and also offers gourmet meals, massages,
$42 to use the baths/saunas
Le Nordik - Nature Spa
16, chemin Nordik, Chelsea, Que.
— Gail J. Cohen