Places to Go

Victoria…

Another road trip for the family!  We are clearly having a hard time just staying put.  (I blame House Hunters International.  Too many possibilities.)  Victoria has been on our family visit wish list for a few years and we finally had the perfect opportunity to see our provincial capital up close with the kids… a long weekend, gorgeous sunny weather, nothing else on the calendar… we packed our overnight bags (increasingly efficiently…) and headed to the ferry.

I can hardly believe my children haven’t been on this trip before – after commuting back and forth for years as I worked through my first university degree I feel like I know this Tsawassen to Swartz Bay trip so well… but it was a whole new experience to see it through their eyes.  What had become routine to me is suddenly new and amazing again…

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One of my favourite parts of the trip is passing the first lighthouse at Georgina Point on Mayne Island.

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It seems to mark the halfway point, and the beginning of the most scenic part of the ferry ride.  We put this particular trip on hold for so long because of the ferry cost – yikes! – but on this gorgeous day, as we sailed out from under the clouds and into the crisp, bright fall sun with ocean opening up all around us it was absolutely worth every penny.  There is no other place like this in the world…

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We sailed through Active Pass, between Mayne and Galiano Islands…

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…past Prevost, North Pender and Saltspring…

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…and somewhere along the way we almost tipped the ferry running to the starboard side to see a pod of humpback whales…

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The most fun was wandering along the top deck against the incredible wind – if we weren’t holding tight to our four-year-old we would have lost him!  He was overjoyed at the ability to “fly” and would have spent the entire boat ride out in the wind, but the lack of feeling in our ears and fingers convinced the rest of us to head below deck.

We arrived on Vancouver Island to find cold temperatures and bright sun – the lower mainland clouds were long gone.  One of the great features of downtown Victoria is the ability to walk the entire city so easily – our favourite way to travel is always to park the car and walk the town, and that is just what we did.

First stop – right next door to our downtown hotel – the provincial pavilion: (notice all the lions!)

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I haven’t been to all the provinces and territories (they are on our wish list too!) but I am fiercely proud of them all.  Canada is an amazing country because of how huge and diverse we all are…)

Next to the provincial pavilion is this lovely statue:

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…commemorating the men and women of  British Columbia and Canada who fought with the Mackenzie Papineau Battalion to defend the Republic of Spain during the Spanish Civil War in in the 1930s…

… right across the street is the Provincial Legislature with Queen Victoria keeping watch…

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…and the soldier standing guard at the cenotaph…

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…and across the street is the Grand Dame of the Victoria Harbour… the lovely Empress Hotel.  When I was younger I would go in and out of the hotel at my leisure – Mimi used to stay there when she was in town on business and the halls and passageways were so familiar to me.  This time we stayed on the outside (my children are not good in restrictive, formal environments…) but we enjoyed the gorgeous ivy covered architecture just the same.  The Empress dates back to a particular era of our country’s history – when hotels like the Palliser in Calgary and the MacDonald in Edmonton were the dowager ladies of the Railway connecting us all…

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We wandered up Government Street and down through Bastion Square, along Wharf and up Johnson, through Market Square, across Yates and down Fan Tan Alley.  So much has changed in some ways and yet the city is as quirky and wonderful as I remembered it from so many years ago.  The kids loved the architecture and the sneaky passageways; Miss G. who is halfway through the Harry Potter series was sure that the buildings looked just like Diagon Alley and Gringott’s Bank…

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Even at night, since it gets dark so early in November, it is fun to walk the Victoria streets.  There are so many lights, especially around the harbour, to highlight the details in the architecture and brighten up the late fall evenings…

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After a great walk, a good meal and a typical hotel room sleep (sigh) we headed out again to visit the Royal British Columbia Museum… we had timed our visit to coincide with the last weekend of the traveling Viking exhibit.  (Part Viking, we are always up for some cultural history!)  The interactive parts of the exhibit were quite good, and I especially loved seeing the jewelry, but we are old hands at the history as we are yearly visitors to the Burnaby Scandinavian Festival too.  Our favourite part of the museum visit turned out to be the rest of it, and there is a lot…

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There is just the right mix of cultural, social, natural and technological history woven together.  I am always a sucker for the dresses (and shoes…) but a few other things caught my eye.  Check out the brochure for the Union Steamship…

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The part of the museum that has changed the most since my last visit is the First People’s Gallery.  The art is striking, but the text in the galleries really had an impact…  The main hall tells the story of the indigenous languages in our province (more dialects for square kilometres than anywhere else on earth), and the challenges they face in a “modern world” that has valued assimilation over preservation. Some of the quotes were incredibly eloquent:

“Speaking our language brings life into our values.”

“Our languages hold knowledge about how to live on the land and have a good relationship with all things.”

“Our languages are inseparable from spirituality.”

“Our languages are inseparable from a unique world view.”

“Respect all living things on earth.”

“We are guided by our culture and the advice of our elders to share and always try to follow the road that make our hearts feel good.”

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“Txeemsim proved that every single action or decision that human beings make is actually a moral one.  Over and over Txeemsim proves that selfish behaviour is ultimately destructive for self and society.

The deeds and misdeeds of Txeemsim show that every creature in the universe and every person in society has a rightful and meaningful role to play – that we need each other and must learn from our mistakes.”

“Our lives, our  culture and our continued existence as a people are completely tied to the land.  The code also instructs us not to use strong language, not to insult those who oppose us.  We are taught to respect everyone’s way of life.”

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(This picture is for Mimi – it reminded me of your naughty dogs…)

After a long treasure hunt through the entire museum from top to bottom we had worked up a huge appetite so we walked along the side streets to Fisherman’s Wharf in James Bay.  The float home community is amazing…

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…big anchor for the treasure hunt…

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…local wildlife…

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On the other side of our hotel, just past the legislature and the museum, is the huge expanse of Beacon Hill Park, which we hope to get a chance to see on our next visit.  (Also on that list is Craigdarroch Castle – I have never been inside!)  We did take time to stop by Mile 0 and pay our respects to Terry Fox.  He never got the chance to dip his legs in the Pacific Ocean at the end of his cross country trip, but his memory stands at the edge of our country looking out at the great stretch of blue and reminds all of us that some things are always worth standing up for…

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With another long weekend winding down we retraced our steps back to the ferry and sailed home for a rest…

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…but this little glimpse of Mount Baker to the south has me thinking about driving down through Washington some time sooner than later! (Can’t shake the wanderlust…)

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3 thoughts on “Victoria…

  1. Pingback: Emily Carr… | martinistyle

  2. Pingback: First Nations Art… | martinistyle

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