Marcel and Ernestine Bonneau

Spring 2009 CSANews Issue 70  |  Posted date : Apr 30, 2009.Back to list

I'll bet you thought  that all snowbirds fly south for the winter. Not so! Some, in fact quite a few, stay right here in Canada. They fly away from the sub-zero weather, yes. But they go west instead of following our feathered friends to southern climes. Those Canucks who head west usually go as far as possible – to Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  In Manitoba's capital, Winnipeg's main intersection has long been known as one of the coldest spots in the country. So much so that the locals decided to excavate the intersection and build a modern underground centre so  that people could cross Portage and Main in comfort when the mercury headed down each winter. Many, of course, did become snowbirds and flew south around February.

One such couple was Marcel and Ernestine Bonneau. For several years, they spent their winters enjoying Hawaii. Then, with the advancement of senior citizenship, the long flights to the mid-Pacific were becoming less enjoyable. As age progressed, there were increases in insurance costs, so the decision was made to stay home. Not in frosty Winnipeg, but on Vancouver Island. The couple had visited Victoria on a couple of occasions in summer and fall. They decided, why not try a winter stay there, where the weather is moderate, rather than frigid. An escape to the West Coast was the answer.

Marcel and Ernestine have been enjoying their mid-winter break in British Columbia for 10 years now. Victoria's green grass and flowers became very attractive to them. "What we saw in Victoria was an opportunity to see spring really come in on schedule with its weather, its flowers, the green grass."

I asked Marcel if he drove to the West Coast. He replied: "We travel by air to get there.  We leave here in late February with the city in snow and experiencing 40 degrees below!! We arrive in Victoria in two-and-a-half hours looking at crocuses, daffodils, green grass and blooming cherry trees!! My definition of obscenity!!!"

As far as driving is concerned, Marcel said that in his experience, those who take their car find the mountains to be quite a challenge and difficult. Not only that, but many hotels provide vans for their clients. Victoria is a relatively small community and the hotel drivers can take you anywhere within the city in about 10 minutes. There is really no need to have your own car.

Getting the right type of accommodation is key to having a successful stay. Location and facilities become critical. In the Royal Scot Suite Hotel, there is a choice: studio type, one-bedroom or two-bedroom suites. The Bonneaus rent a fully equipped one-bedroom suite for their stay. "As to additional costs," Marcel said, "we have two more: airfare (partly subsidized by Air Miles rewards) and billeting our cat in a kennel!!"

The Royal Scot is located one block from the Inner Harbour next to the Legislative Buildings with van service to anywhere within Victoria itself (10 or so blocks from the hotel) available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Another plus: if one stays  for a minimum of one month and one day, the provincial hotel sales tax is cancelled.

So far as facilities are concerned, The Royal Scot has an indoor swimming pool and phys-ed exercise equipment. In addition, there is a full activity program for long-stay guests: bus trips, tea parties, a wine-and-cheese party, musical entertainment, lectures, movies, exercise programs, golf, pool and billiard competitions. In addition to the recreational programs provided by the hotel at no additional charge, Victoria has very good restaurants, good theatre, museums, concerts, historical walk-about programs, whale sightings, fishing, golf  and tours, all of which are available at  a cost.

Marcel added "Since we live in Winnipeg in an apartment complex made up of condos, we  just close the door!! However our children, friends and neighbours come in to water the plants and check the suite for heat, etc.!!"

"While at the Royal Scot for 10 winter stays so far, we have made friends with Canadians from all sections of Canada through the activity programs at the hotel. These contacts continue through e-mails when we return home!! We look forward to renewing acquaintances each year!! We do get family and friends visiting – usually weekends. We are lucky in having an adjoining hotel room next to our suite which is also directly connected!!"

To paraphrase Horace Greeley, "Go west young (at heart) snowbirds." There is a lot of fun waiting for you right here on Canada's West Coast. The Bonneaus have been enjoying their winters there for the past 10 years.