Victoria of England dubbed the westernmost region of Canada
British Columbia in 1858 — in tribute, her name remains on
B. C. ‘s capital city and our destination, Victoria.
The chilled salt sea air was in our
before our arrival we were treated to a breathtaking show.
The captain announced that orcas were sighted off the starboard
bow as he slowed the vessel to a crawl. We bounded to the
grinning maniacally. Sure enough, two black and white killer
whales were passing within a few
hundred feet of the ship.
The glorious glimpses of fluke and fin were a wonderful welcome.
into the harbor is a picturesque passage in and of itself.
The port is dominated by two grand old buildings, The Parliament
Building and The Empress Hotel. It’s not only the structures
of these venerable landmarks that are so impressive but the grounds as
well. Meticulously manicured and managed — botanical gardens just
a few steps from the ferry dock.
hotel is magnificent. Built between 1904 and 1908, the four
hundred and seventy-seven rooms and four restaurants are all
beautifully restored to their Edwardian era grandeur. High
Tea for over
eight hundred people is served every afternoon in the Tea Lobby
and reservations are required well in advance. Unfortunately, due
our the plan is no plan philosophy, we would not
be partaking in their highfalutin tea time.
more impressive is the Parliament Building with its five hundred
foot andesite facade, white marble and prominent domes. Back
in 1893, the provincial legislature determined a
new parliament building was needed and announced a competition for
A 25-year-old — with no formal
training — anonymously submitted
drawings for the project under the moniker of the A B.C. Architect.
Nevermind that it sounded like one of those names that serial killers
make up for the media, he won the job. The result was so popular
that he went on to design many of Victoria’s most famous buildings
including The Empress Hotel, The Crystal Garden, the Steamship Terminal
(now the Royal London Wax Museum), the Court House (now the Vancouver
Art Gallery) and The Merchant’s Bank. Not bad.
By the way, A B. C. Architect was Francis Rattenbury and he is well
known to law students who study the “love triangle” murder
case that ended his life in 1935. Moral: Think twice before getting
in over your head architecturally.
out near the water, we stumbled upon a floating village. At
Fisherman’s Wharf the shops, markets, restaurants, houses
and boats all float in the bustling harbor.
On one end, the fishing boats fetch their catch. The
docks on the other side have become little lanes between homes
built on barges, giving the term “houseboat” a new
little markets sell the haul from the fishermen just a few
steps from their boats. Now that’s
out that harbor seals like fresh fish too and two of them
had staked out a spot in front of one of the markets. It’s
quite the symbiotic relationship. The seals draw a crowd and
the market provides — for a fee
— scraps for people to feed them, which draws a crowd who need
scraps to feed the seals which draws more people… everybody’s
those adorable little faces chow down their lunches made us
hungry too — so it was off to Chinatown to find some grub.
The gold rush brought prospectors from China to find their
were attracted to Don Mee by the overwhelming groovyness of
their sign and entryway. It looks very much like an old theater.
Through the doors and up the stairs, we felt like we were
in one of those cheesy old Charlie Chan movies. We mean that
in the best way imaginable — we LOVED it!
They were serving Dim Sum. Truth is, we didn’t know Dim Sum
Don Mee does Dim Sum right — bamboo steamer baskets containing
by. The table had
a little checklist that the cart keepers marked each time we ordered.
we were offered to consume things that were completely unrecognizable.
Of course, we’ll try just about anything and, luckily, everything
Steamed dumplings stuffed with any manner of stuff were prevalent
the odder side of the bill of fare stood the chicken feet.
Googling at the table like maniacs, looking for any excuse
There’s not really much on a chicken’s dogs to gnaw on, just
Not that we
need any help with food preoccupation, but we found it odd that
we were thinking about food so much. Maybe it was all the secondhand
pot smoke. As we wandered about Victoria we noticed the propensity
of the locals to smoke what they call B.C. Bud —
right out in the open. On the sidewalk, in the park, we even spied
a guy at a stoplight rolling one up as he waited for the light
Curious, we asked our friendly bartender (we get most of our information
from bartenders and taxi drivers) about the rampant pot consumption
later that evening. He said we grow the best stuff in the
world so everybody smokes it. Well, not everybody, but almost.
He went on to explain that the laws have changed back and forth
from legal to illegal to decriminalized that finally the local
authorities decided to ignore them. Well, mostly. Even the explanation
We tipped him a loonie and a toonie and headed for the ferry.
LOVE it — a loonie is a one dollar coin with a loon on it and
a toonie is the two dollar coin with a polar bear, eh?
In actuality, they don’t say eh much out here
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com