Victoria Last Weekend (August 25-26, 2007)

30 08 2007

Well, I got “dragged” out to Victoria this last weekend.  I put “dragged” in quotes because I really wasn’t all that excited about waiting in ferry lineups of 2-3 hours just to go over to Vancouver Island.  I had been trying for the last week to perhaps get Mrs D to consider just hanging out at home for the weekend.  I would have no such luck.

With Mrs D working on Saturday Morning, it left me the opportunity to get packed an play a little XBox after I took her to work.  The morning passed quite quickly (too quickly if you’re dreading heading to the ferry!) and before you know it, it was time to head out and get the Missus on our way to Victoria.  Surprisingly she was pretty much ready to head out as soon as I got there so we were at the ferry terminal in Tsawassen just in time to see to see the 1400 boat sail.  The good part about that is that we were going to be traveling on the 1500 boat and it was one of the larger “Spirit” Ferries with many new amenities.   It was windy and a bit rainy which made sitting in the truck with the windows open a bit challenging unless you felt like a cold, slightly salty, shower.  Mrs D had me get up and head out to the terminal market with her.  Apparently Ferry Terminals have learned a thing or two from airports.  People seem to like to buy things while they wait for their vessel.  The market was brimming with people buying sunglasses (God only knows why – it was cloudy), Canadian memorabilia and food.  Gelato, Starbucks, Rocky Mountain Chocolate and Skyway were doing a brisk business feeding the various hungers of the masses as they killed time on land in anticipation of their sailing.  I got suckered into spending about $24/lb for some delicious white chocolate… Meh – You gotta live a little.

The ferry wait was fairly painless all in all, and we boarded at around 1445.  Right on time, at 1500, the boat pulled away from Continental Canada to head out to Vancouver island.  Like Ontario, Vancouver island actually dips below the 49th parallel, and that means that there is some creative drawing of the Canada/US border in this area of the map.  In some areas of the channel an island on one side will be in the US while one right next to it will be in Canada.  The “Spirit” ferries are quite comfortable and really have made an effort to help you enjoy your trip. There is a buffet for $20, but we were traveling mid-afternoon so we weren’t really in a mood to eat a huge buffet.  The trip wound it’s way around the various lower gulf islands, and at times the ferry really did feel like it was too big for the areas it was passing through. I can just imagine how the “Fast Cats” were.

Upon disembarking from the Ferry we headed over to check out the Victoria Butterfly gardens – closed at 1730 😦  We then continued down into Victoria via the “back roads” since we didn’t have a map (doh!) and I figured we could just “wing it” down to the city.  After a few varying interesting turns and random followings, we found ourselves in downtown Victoria.    We were going to be staying at “The Empress”.  The Empress is a beautiful old hotel, owned and operated by Fairmont Hotels.  It lived up to its billing – large vaulted hallways and a sumptuously decorated environment really made you feel like you were royalty visiting back shortly after its construction in 1908.  It really is a beautiful building – inside and out.  Our room was nice, and had a “partial view” of the harbour.  That meant that we could see about half of the harbour and half of the hotel wing in front of us.  It was quite nice.  Although the room wasn’t air conditioned it was very comfortable due to the cool breeze coming in off the water.

We wandered around down at the harbour for a while before dinner at Milestones.  The harbourfront is busy with buskers singing, playing instruments and posing as statues.  Saturday at the harbour seems to be quite the scene.  It kept us nicely occupied for the 40 minutes we had to wait for our table.  One interesting oddity we saw while down there was a HUGE yacht named “JeMaSa” docked.  (Later, Internet searches show this to be a 164ft yacht which can be chartered for the mere price of $250KUSD/week!!!!)  It definitely had quite a few of us looking at it and it’s passengers as they enjoyed the Victoria sunset.

That night, following dinner and a nice stroll around the hotel, we went and enjoyed the hot tub and pool, retiring back to our room at around 2200.

Sunday was a busy day.  We got up and headed down to the hotel’s main dining room and dined on our delicious $23/meal eggs and sausages.  At least it came with coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice included 🙂 (Again – you gotta live a little I suppose) We visited the Titanic exhibition (no pictures 😦 ) in the Royal BC museum.  For $25/head I would have liked to have seen more “artifacts”  The whole story and background with a lot of the artifacts was quite interesting, but it was pretty sparse.  From the museum, we went back and checked out from our hotel and headed up to Beacon Hill Park.  It’s a lovely park with a lot of shade trees and well kept open spaces that had many people playing bocce or just enjoying a picnic in the pleasant sunshine of the day.  We walked around looking for the “lookout” but gave up after a half-hearted attempt.  We still had other venues to visit.

Mrs. D  wanted to see Chinatown, so we drove back down to the edge of downtown to check out “Chinatown” in Victoria.  Chinatown was about 2 square blocks and there was a street market on one of them.  We didn’t get out, but we slowed down and took a bit of a look at the “archway” and then moved on.   Our next destination was “Craigdarroch” castle.

The “castle” is a Victorian mansion built back in the 1890’s by a very wealthy industrialist, Robert Dunsmuir.  It was a spacious building with 4 floors, and beautiful stained glass windows throughout.  Unfortunately his family wasn’t as enamored with the home as he was, and it ended up going through quite a period of neglect.  The home is about 2/3 refinished and much of the original woodwork has been beautifully restored.  It was nice.   $11/head nice?  I dunno.

Our last stop of the trip was back to the Butterfly Gardens.  We got there around 1400.  We stayed until 1530!  There were sooo many beautiful butterflies to shoot.  There was even a giant atlas moth… the largest moth in the world!  This $11/head was well worth it.  You can see some of the butterfly pictures at my Fotothing photo blog.

With our trip over, we headed back to the Ferry Terminal at Schwartz Bay and got ready to sit in line for 2.5 hours, a 3 sailing wait.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that they had somehow managed to fit more on the boat than expected, and that meant that we actually ended up getting on the 1900 sailing rather than the 2000!  Yippee!  Again, we were on a “Spirit” ferry and enjoyed its large comfortable seating.  The monotony of the trip was interrupted about 1/2 way along when the announcement of a pod of orcas to the front starboard of the ship was made.  I’m surprised that the vessel didn’t suddenly list to starboard as just about everyone went to that side to see the orcas.  Sure enough there were about 3 or 4 of them moving along, blowing and surfacing.  I got some shots, but really they’re pretty tiny specs in the overall scene 😦

We got home at around 2230 and it was time to get some sleep as Monday was a work day and the morning would be soon upon us.

A good trip all in all, and I’m glad Mrs D. dragged me out 🙂

 I’ll fill out the post with some photos soon.




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