Friday, August 9, 2013

Victoria, British Columbia,

Wednesday we left Karen and Todd's house early, as we wanted to be sure we had enough time to get to Anacortes, for the ferry ride to Vancouver Island.  We waited long enough for the worst of the downtown Seattle rush hour to subside, but this is a relative term, as traffic on I-5 near downtown is pretty much always heavy.  Anyway, made it to the ferry terminal with plenty of time.  While we were on the Olympic Peninsula it had been pretty cool for most of the time; then it got progressively warmer over the four days we were back in Seattle.  But as we got closer to the ferry terminal, the temperature really dropped, so we changed into warmer duds for the trip across the water!

Once we got the carhouse secured on the ferry, we went up to the passenger deck and found a seat across from a delightful woman who lives in Victoria, on Vancouver Island.  Not only did it make the time go faster to have someone interesting to share our seats with, but she also gave us several good tips on places to see, and another ferry line to take for the return trip, which will enable us to avoid the Seattle traffic next week when we're heading on to Idaho.  So that was a great tip, and we are now all booked and it will give us a jump on the driving time.  The ferry ride was very nice, interesting to see how this layer of fog just stays pretty solid for part of the way, and then suddenly seemed to vanish, which this woman says is pretty typical.  Fortunately, we had been so early arriving at the terminal we were one of the first ones onto the ferry, which meant we were one of the first ones off and into the customs line, so we didn't have long to wait to clear the customs lines.  It was about an hour's drive into Victoria and to West Bay, on the other side of the city, where we had reservations at an RV park right on the bay.  The teacher we had met at the campground at Lake Quinnalt on the Olympic Peninsula had recommended this as a good place to stay, and boy was he right!  It's right on the water, and our site is backed up to an area of this little harbor where they have a number of "float houses,"  which are literally houses floating on barge hulls, attached to the docks that rise and fall with the tides.  Some of these are quite large, many 3 stories high!  I've never seen anything quite like it; I mean I have seen some house boats that were similar to these, in that they were more like a house than a boat, unlike what you probably conjure up in your mind like you've seen on the lake before.  But never have I seen any 3 story float houses, nor have I seen so many in one place.  There are also a number of yachts moored in the marina by these float houses, some literally interspersed among the houses--very interesting.  Then you can look on across the bay to see the dock where the huge cruise ships come in, and then downtown Victoria.  Our teacher friend had told us that there was a water taxi service you can take right from the RV park across the bay to downtown, but we learned also that there is a walking path around the bay to the downtown area.

Thiursday morning we decided to take the walkway into town, about a 45 minute walk, and it was absolutely beautiful!  The path goes right along the water, around the edge of the bay and into downtown.  We watched a number of sea planes landing and taking off from the downtown wards, saw all these water taxis, looking like little water bugs, zipping all around the harbor, watched whale watching tours depart for the ocean to see the orcas, and luxuriated in the gorgeous beauty of flowers, flowers and more flowers!  We had been here years ago with the kids and the beautiful flowers were something that had stood out in our memory.  They are just so lovely, and are everywhere--shop fronts, condo balconies and grounds, and all the public areas downtown.  Just really something else.

We had lunch at a lovely outdoor cafe, overlooking the main harbor, and it was just glorious, sitting in the sun, watching so many people having fun, and just kept pinching ourselves, that we are actually here, enjoying yet another spectacular setting.  So thankful for this opportunity!  Our table was right by the sidewalk, so several people came along and asked to take pictures of Santa on vacation!  I noticed one little girl who spotted me and tugged at her mother's sleeve and pointed to me, so I motioned her over to do the routine of showing her Santa's List and then finding her name on the Good Girl List and giving her a picture.  She was so excited, she went running to get her sister to come over and I saw her showing her dad the picture and exclaiming, Daddy, Santa told me I'm on the good list!!  I just love it to see a child feel good about herself like this!

After lunch we headed out to start our hunt for the labyrinths!  We knew there were several in Victoria, and had addresses, so we stopped at the visitor center to have the folks their mark our map for us.  Had a bit of walk, but we found the first one in a park.  It was a bit disappointing, in that it has not been very well maintained.  It's a lovely park, and, according to a marker we found, this was done as a cooperative effort by some group in Japan and one in Canada to promote cross cultural ties.  It is one of the labyrinths included in the literature of the international labyrinth conference that will be held here in September, but they certainly will need to do some work to spruce it up before the conference.  Anyway, it was in the shade of some large trees, and we walked it, offering prayers for several of our friends back home who are dealing with serious health issues, and the loss of spouses, and it was a good walk.  Had a bit of a distraction by a man sitting under a tree by the labyrinth who was either drunk or otherwise challenged, who kept hollering at us as we walked by him; but this is just an opportunity to hone one's focus to a higher level!

On the way to the second labyrinth, we walked past the beautiful British Columbia Parliament building, and went in to look around.  This is a glorious building, very ornate, lots of brass and gilting, and intricately carved woodwork.  In the rotunda there is a beautiful hand carved canoe, done jointly by a former governor and the leader of one of the tribes of the First Nation peoples, quite a tribute to the multicultural heritage of this province.  We were also impressed by the official photograph of the current Parliament--the Speaker is a woman, and of the 84 other members, 30 are women!  Sort of puts the Georgia General Assembly to shame, I'd say!

We found the second one at Christ Church Cathedral, a gorgeous old church a bit farther away from the water.  This labyrinth is made of pavers of contrasting colors, and is outside in a corner of the church grounds.  There was a young couple with their son, who looked to be 11 or 12, walking the labyrinth as we came up, and it was wonderful to see this young family sharing in the ritual of labyrinth walking. Hard to describe the power of this practice, but you could see it in the faces of these folks as they silently made their way to the center and then back out, each in their own contemplative space, silently reflecting on what they had experienced--not talking, just experiencing.  Quite a remarkable scene.
After we walked this labyrinth, we went into the cathedral sanctuary and it was very beautiful.  I'm always conflicted when I go into a place like this--I want to take pictures to remember the beauty, but don't want to show any disrespect.  Since I was not able to ask anyone if photos were allowable, just refrained from pulling out the camera.  A lot of history there, for sure.

By the time we got back to the RV park, I figure we had walked 7 miles or so, so we just hung out around here, had a wonderful dinner by the water and just chilled.  Tomorrow we'll go see the British Columbia Royal Museum, which we've heard great things about, so we're looking forward to that!

 Leaving Seattle

  Beautiful snow capped mountains on the way to the ferry
Shots during the ferry trip, remarkable fog layer!

 Then the fog lifts
 Another ferry coming from the Canadian side back to Anacortes

Some of the float houses
 Looking out past the RV park office, with float houses on the right and sailboats and motoryachts on the left

 Finnish ship captain's house near the start of the West Bay Walkway

 Some of the beautiful plants and flowers at the start of the walkway

 This houseboat is rather quaint, compared to most of the float houses!
 See what I mean?
 Looking across the bay to downtown Victoria
 A kayak harbor tour getting underway

 Huge cruise ship in port
Seaplane coming down
 Great blue heron and a Canada goose

 As we walked along the first turn, looking back through the float houses to the RV park

 Olympic Mountains

 Smaller Alaskan cruise ship heading out, dwarfed by the behemoth behind it!
Great spot for a picnic table!
 Windsock, right in the middle of the harbor on this little bit of land, for the benefit of landing and departing seaplanes, and then a channel marker as well!
 This was an interesting sculpture, made mostly from driftwood by some creative and enterprising folks

We couldn't decide--are all these dogs his, or is he a professional dog walker--what do you think??

 One of the harbor tour boats
 The Blue Bridge, from West Bay into downtown
 The Yankee Clipper, coming in from downtown Seattle
 Seaplane landing
Totems of the Songhee First Nation people--who had a tradition of bringing their babies in cradles down by the water to help ensure long life

All these flowers just seemed to match Trisha's blouse!
 More beautiful flowers

 All these red geraniums, to match the umbrellas in this outdoor cafe

Downtown plaza by the water

 The fabled Empress Hotel

 Gorgeous flower banner, Welcome to Victoria
 All along this plaza there were artists offering their work for sale, vendors with all types of food items, and in one area, a whole stage for street buskers
 Parliament building in the background

 Queen Victoria

 These flowers were just hurt your eyes gorgeous!!
Labyrinth in James Bay Park

I just love the contrast between all these red geraniums and the yellows
 Outside Parliament building
 The grounds are just stunningly beautiful--these flower beds are all around this gigantic front lawn, where people are out on the grass, enjoying the day.

 Canoe, inside the rotunda
 Looking up into the top of the rotunda
 Beautiful stained glass windows, as we climbed the stairs to the second level
 Looking up at the rotunda ceiling, from the second level
 Looking down on the canoe, through the marble enclosed opening

 Parliamentary chambers
Some totems outside a First Nation cultural center, as we walked to Christ Church

 Also passed this lawn bowling field--stopped to watch some of the action

Beautiful rose window in a church we passed along the way
 Thought this marquee outside this church was hilarious!
 Coming to the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral
 The labyrinth

On our walk back, here is a shot of this "Hippo" boat, an amphibious tour vehicle that takes people around downtown on land, then drives into the bay for an aquatic section!
 Another group of kayakers touring the bay!


  1. Have enjoyed your last three blogs! I know it was wonderful to spend a week with your grandson. Good that you were going on to beautiful Victoria to keep your mind off missing him so! This is one of the prettiest cities on earth. The flowers in the city are spectacular. Did you go out to Butchart Gardens on your first visit there? If not, and you ever get back, it's a "do not miss"... Heaven on earth!

    Mary Lou

  2. Mary Lou, you are absolutely right about Victoria being one of the prettiest cities ever, and we've seen so many beautiful flowers all over the city. On our walks into town along this spectacular walkway, not only are the flowers at all the condo developments and houses stunning, the hedges and lawns are meticulously manicured--looks like someone cut the grass with a pair of scissors! We did visit Butchart Gardens when we came here before, so we'll not make it this time, as we're finding so many other things to see and do. But I agree it's spectacular!

  3. It is a fantastic place. I was there once on business, but I did not get to see much of the sights. Now I can see all that I missed.

  4. Chuck, if you ever get the chance, do come back here. It is spectacularly beautiful! And I highly recumbent West Bay Marina and RV Park. It's right on the bay across from downtown and the folks are really nice. We're leaving Victoria tomorrow to spend a few days further up Vancouver Island before heading back to the States and on to Idaho.