Victoria Stories and Tips

Great scenery and cheesy tourist attractions

Dancer and Totem Pole Photo, Victoria, British Columbia

Alan and I took public transit out to the ferry at Tsawwassen. From Burnaby as I was working, but it took 2 hours. More annoying, a few stops before the ferry terminal is a bus stop where the bus just sits for about 15 minutes. Then they arrive 5 minutes before the Victoria sailing so that you have to run to make the boat. Why do these things not run together more logically?

The ferry ride was beautiful, the whole weekend was 26 degrees Celsius and sunny. Everything was so blue. The photos are incredible-though it helps that we shoot almost exclusively with professional film now. And we've found a good developer, which is also important. You know, I had always assumed that the higher the number the better, so I tended to shoot rolls of 400. And at photo shops, they even tend to recommend 400 for point and shoot cameras. However, we've shot a role of professional 100 in my camera once and the photos turned out beautifully. And in Alan's SLR camera they are incredible. Back to the ferry-it was delayed, because we had an unscheduled stop at Mayne Island. So we missed the connecting bus to Victoria and there was quite a crush to get on the next one, since the next ferry had arrived by that point. By the time we hit downtown, it was 11pm. We left on the bus in Vancouver at 4.

The HI hostel in Victoria is really well located. And it's nice enough as well, though it was rather noisy when we were there. We got up fairly early, as is the way when you are staying in a dorm, and had breakfast in the hostel of the leftovers we had brought with us. See, the trip was very last minute so the week before I had done a monster shop. And, as I do, I bought tons of fruit and veg, in an attempt to be healthy. So we had all this stuff to take along and finish. I made Alan bring it all, since I had been at work, and he was none too pleased as it included a whole cantaloupe. Ah, well, it'll help build his arm muscles.

We wandered along the water towards the Inner Harbour. Victoria is really beautiful and relaxing. It's got Vancouver's laid back vibe and fantastic natural surroundings, a view of the mountains, but it is a nicer city in terms of architecture and cleanliness. It also lacks Vancouver's "a nutter on every street corner" thing. Victoria is by far my favourite BC city. The Inner Harbour is cool. Some old looking sail boats, lots of float planes arriving and departing, people selling crafts, and a fantastic view over to the Parliament Buildings. Alan complained awhile back that none of my friends ever send postcards. And generally, this is true and his friends send tons. I mentioned this to Jasmine who cheekily sent us a postcard of Victoria's Parliament Buildings from Toronto. Alan was a bit miffed that it wasn't of Toronot, which was good cause he's cute when he is. Anyway, the Parliment Buildings are pretty, as is the Empress Hotel. Pretty pictures were taken. There was a wee boy in a kilt doing the Highland Fling next to a totem pole-he was half First Nations, half Scottish, which seems to sum up Victoria well. It's all about the British tackiness and First Nations stuff. Victoria manages to get the tackiness just right though-it's fairly posh, stereotypically British stuff. Like expensive high tea at the Empress (we didn't go. I might have, but Alan thought it was crazy.) And red phone boxes, and double decker buses, that sort of thing.

After our morning wander, we went to the Royal British Columbia Museum. It was very nice and everything, but I must say it wasn't that much better than most. The one in Edmonton was definitely as good. Loved John Lennon's car (I've seen another of his cars, in Ottawa-why are all the British lad's cars in Canada???) And there was a scientist type guy there (speak with the experts!!!) who talked to us about octopus. We got to see some octopus eggs, and photos of one that imitates other animals to escape predators. The First Nations bit was good, but again much like the Provincial Museum of Alberta. We didn't get to see the big mammoth, cause the display was being changed. Out the back we took some photos of totem poles in Thunderbird Park and glanced at Helmcken House. Alan commented that if he was to make up an imaginary country it would definitely contain totem poles ;)

In the afternoon we did my two favourite tourist attractions in a long time. The first was Miniature World, located within the Empress. This place does exactly what it says on the box-there are mini dioramas of: Dickens novels (in fact, rather a large number of Dickens novels, someone must have had a fetish), the trans Canada railway from the Maritimes out to BC, complete with nighttime/daytime cycles, battles-medieval and modern, olde London, an apartment building with a naked woman bathing AND a naked woman posing for an artist, all sorts of stuff. I really liked it, apart from the bratty kids that were overrunning the place. Then we went to Victoria's Bug Zoo. Now, hearing that, I'm picturing bugs flying about the place, lots of plants with ants crawling everywhere, that sort of thing. This place had the decor of a play school, or kindergarten, and all the bugs were in aquarium things. But I liked it-fantastic yuck factor. Beetles are such pretty colours, and there was one whose nose looked like a big knife thingy. Some scary tarantulas and other spiders, a colony of leaf cutter ants, but in a plastic home. And lots of cool stick and leaf insects, looking much like... wait for it... sticks and leaves :) The kids in here were not so bratty, and the gift shop was too die for. I loved it! Bugs are cool!

There were many cool things in the gift shop, including multipurpose plastic flies (I'm not sure I can think of one purpose for plastic flies, much less many, but there you are). However, I bought the Parasite Pals. I first heard of them during my aborted career as a toy shop worker, where we had a catalogue as the owner was considering selling them. Now, I think they are the funniest things ever, but I am not sure they are really children's toys particularly. So when I saw some in the gift shop, I couldn't resist. What I will do with them is beyond me...

After the bugs, we wandered around the old town, which mostly consisted of shopping for tourist tat. However, we had tea in Murchies with some lovely cakes, and went to Munro's bookstore, which is in a beautiful building. We then wandered over to see Fan Tan Alley, as Victoria has Canada's oldest Chinatown. It is rather unexciting these days, but used to be the home of opium dens, prostitutes, and gamblers. Now they have a gate across it that was locked. We attempted to find the Gates of Harmonius Interest but couldn't, so went to eat and have a pint at Swan's Brewpub. On our way back to the hostel we stopped to take photos from the other side of the bridge. From a neighbourhood called Esquimalt. I thought Esquimalt was a city up in northern BC somewhere, don't know why, but the company I work for has a project there and I just got it into my head that it was in the interior. My BC geography is terrible.

The next day we had the best breakfast. Really nice French toast with tons of fruit one it. Yum. Then we headed to Beacon Hill Park. The park was cool. The first bit we were in, we could have been in the middle of nowhere. Then it changed to a normal park-gardens, a petting zoo, playing fields, ponds with ducks. On the other side of the park are beaches where you can see across the Juan de Fuca strait. Very pretty.

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