Travel Log 2012: VICTORIA, Day 1

Hey folks, I just got back from a little trip. Since I’ve been living in Metro Vancouver, I’ve tried to save money where I can, especially while I was looking for work. That meant not travelling much. Now that I have work, and therefore money, I also have less time to travel.

So I realised I needed to shift my priorities slightly. The goal of my time in Canada is not to save for the future, it is to explore Canada. I’m not trying to put down roots, not yet anyway. So I decided to test the waters with a short and relatively inexpensive trip to Victoria, capital of BC, once I discovered it was $15 for a ferry trip.

So here’s what I knew about Victoria before I went: nearly nothing. I had a couple of recommendations of stuff to see, but I figured I would mostly just wing it and see what happened.

So I woke up on the morning of Sunday the 21st of October 2012 AD, and gathered my stuff together. A couple of changes of clothes, a few essentials, and my Nexus 7 (so great not to be carrying a 15 inch laptop around). I headed one block over to Oak Street. First stop, Starbucks for an extravagant breakfast. One salted caramel hot chocolate.

There was a line, there was a formula, sharp as a knife, facts cut a hole in us.

I was kind of enthused by the fact that in this Starbucks they were playing Crosseyed and Painless by Talking Heads, from one of my all time favourite albums Remain in Light. Good omens!

Then, I hopped on the accursedly irregular No. 17 bus to Marine Drive station, where I jumped on the SkyTrain south across the Fraser River into the City of Richmond (Richmond seems pretty dull), arriving at Bridgeport station.

BUSES ARE SERIOUSLY BORING, YO.

At this point I hopped onto yet another bus, the 620 to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. A dull over-packed bus journey through uninteresting flatlands, dotted with lots of pumpkin fields. Tsawwassen ferry terminal is a terminally uninteresting ferry terminal for ferries in Tsawwassen, which has one hell of an interesting name for such a nondescript place.

This leg of the trip so far had taken a little over an hour but had cost me absolutely nothing, thanks to the awesome monthly Translink bus pass offering free travel through all zones on weekends (and weekdays after 6PM). Thanks Translink!

So, a $15 fare paid, I hopped aboard the Spirit of British Columbia, a surprisingly fine vessel, with its own food court of sorts, free fast wifi, plenty of comfy seats, and other such luxurious facilities as bathrooms – although I note that here in Canada they seem to call them “washrooms”.

I don’t need to tell you much more about the ferry, because it was a boat, and guess what, I ate, and I sat, and I listened to Old Man Gloom. Oh, and popped out onto the deck to enjoy the scenery with a bracing cold and sea breeze.

Turns out there’s a lot of little islands between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. All of them look like heaven to me.
Hail Cascadia!

The ferry landed on Vancouver Island at Swartz Bay, which is part of the greater Victoria area. Of course, this being the way things work in this part of the world, that meant still another hour or so on a bus to Victoria proper. This was fine though, because it only cost $2.50 for the fare, and I got to sit and enjoy the lovely scenery while some students around me talked about their favourite moments from It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia. We passed Beaver and Elk lakes, which I hope to hike around at some point this winter.

A short while later, for an expense of just $17.50, I had arrived in Victoria. I got off the bus, slightly lost, went for a little wander, and emerged onto the downtown waterfront where I was greeted with a wondrous view, and almost instantly fell in love with the place.

As someone who is not a big fan of cities, generally speaking, I think Victoria might be my favourite city on Earth.
My gut reaction in that moment, probably a little hyperbolic, was that I had accidentally stumbled upon possibly the third most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. I don’t think these photos do that feeling any justice.
I briefly entertained the idea of living on a houseboat, and basing myself out of Victoria. But I quickly abandoned this pipe dream because it was quite silly.

Not sure why, but it was absolutely overwhelming to me, emotionally. I think, having spent the past nearly three months in Metro Vancouver, I’d gotten used to the bustle of big city life, and since I don’t live downtown, or North Shore, or even Kitsilano, I haven’t really been able to enjoy that whole “garden city” vibe. It was nice to have feel this way again, I hadn’t really experienced that since I was up Grouse Mountain back in August.

Anyway, I wandered around town for a while, then headed over to the hostel. The hostel is different from most hostels I’ve been in, the dorm I was in was huge, about 40 beds, separated into groups of eight bunks. Wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, but actually, it was nice. With lots of smaller rooms, I’ve found you often get folks partying in rooms nearby. With a room like this, I think everyone respected each others’ personal space a bit more.

I took a little break, connected to the hostel wifi on my Nexus 7, checking Yelp to see what I could do while I was here. I made a few plans for the next day, and then I headed out to a local BBQ joint called Pig. Along the way I stopped in a local music shop (because how many of those are there left on this Earth?) named Lyle’s Place and ended up buying two CDs, R.E.M.’s Reveal (a completionist thing mostly), and The Battle of Los Angeles by Rage Against the Machine (it’s 2012, I’m 26 years old, and this is my first RATM album…). Then I continued to Pig, and I ordered a plate of pulled pork, beans and cornbread, and a jar of iced tea.

Now that’s how you serve food. As a splat on a piece of paper. Seriously though, if I lived in Victoria, I would eat at this pace far too regularly.

A superb meal. Who would have thought, good BBQ on a west coast Canadian island? Also, they played some cool music, including Life on Mars by David Bowie, Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes, and Aqualung by Jethro Tull of all things. So I listened, and ate, and read some more Dark Tower.

After dinner, I took a walk south to Beacon Hill park, visiting the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy, a surprisingly interesting set of buildings formerly housing a Catholic women’s order, and nursing school and such. Beacon Hill park is behind the Academy, so I headed across and felt the urge to go clambering over some big rocks and snaps some bad photos and stuff, as I like to do.

Mmm, cold Autumn evenings in Victoria.
Not much of a sunset this night, but I imagine Victoria gets some good ones.

I kept walking and found myself at a very pretty little duck pond, with a bridge and a fountain and such.

In Glasgow, ponds like this are invariably full of shopping trollies, used needles and nappies. Thankfully Victoria doesn’t have such a large population of scum.
This is another photograph of a pond. Huss!

I took a seat down by the water’s edge. And for no reason in particular I whipped out my little portable recorder and recorded the sounds of this duck pond. I expect this will show up on a future “musical” creation, but for now you can enjoy the combined sight and sound of a pretty but entirely unremarkable duck pond in Victoria, BC, Canada.

When I was a kid, a book told me that a duck’s quack doesn’t echo. Turns out that book was scientifically inquackurate…

At this point it started getting dark, but I figured I would keep walking south and try to find Beacon Hill itself. I quickly found it, a fairly underwhelming peak that overlooked the bay and offered views of the Washington state coast. Because it was dark, I could make out the lights of Port Angeles, which was cool, but I couldn’t get a good photo because my camera is crummy.

Still, I decided to keep walking south, see if I could find a beach, and maybe wander along a beach in the dark, just because that’d be cool. I came upon the coast, but was greeted by cliffs, and nearly pitch dark and steep staircases down to stone shoreline below, so I opted not to go down. So I wandered along this coastline, through very dark corridors of trees, with a torch, passing a lot of evening dog-walkers.

I shifted the levels on this so you could see all the exciting stuff in the shot. It was a lot darker at the time.

Once I got out of the park and ended up on the streets, I came across a slightly better lit stairway down to the beach. This was opportune, as I suddenly realised I needed to pee. So I descended, did my business (urinated on a seawall), and then I sat out on a big dry driftwood log looking across the water in the dark, listening to the waves. Does that make me weird? Well, since I am weird, and happened to have that little recorder on me…

Anyway, after ten minutes or so of dark and cold beach sitting and wave listening, I started to get a little too cold and decided to head back to town. Since I had walked through the town to get there, I figured I’d take a short ten minute stroll round the coastline. Makes sense right?

Turns out that the coastal walk is a little longer than I had anticipated, when after ten minutes of walking a sign read “Walk Victoria – 40 minutes to downtown”. No big deal, I was wrapped up warm and I figured it would be an interesting night-walk.

Along the way, lots of nice hotels, houseboats, wharfs, boardwalk, winding paths, gardens, ponds, fountains… It really was quite a nice stroll. It would have been quite romantic, had I not been desperately alone. Sigh. No matter though, still an enjoyable evening stroll that made me fall in love with the city a little more.

Eventually made it back to the hostel, was surprised to find it was only 8:30PM, but I was kind of pooped. So I made a couple of plans for the next day and decided to get an early night’s sleep.

MORE TO COME!

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