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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: 49.2605, -123.114On June 17 travelpod will cease to operate so we will not be sending blogs in the same way. We will put all future blogs into PDF format and circulate them to anyone who wants to receive them. If you would like to be on the circulation list please let us know.Sue & Jim
From Montreal we flew to Vancouver, overnighting in Richmond near the airport so that we could take the ferry the next day from Tsawassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island, followed by the bus to Victoria, the Capital of British Columbia.
It worked perfectly as Jim was still suffering with a painful back but once in Victoria he managed to get out for a walk in the mornings. Then in the afternoon I was able to visit the Museum of B.C., the Art Gallery and have a general stroll around. The city centre attractions are concentrated in a small area with everything within walking distance. The Parliament building is small compared to Westminster, not much larger than a junior school, but after a quick security screening, the public are allowed in to wander through the rooms and watch what is happening (if anything) in the
main chamber. There are frequent guided tours by people in period costume and at one moment a young Queen Victoria popped out of a side room and swished past us along the corridor with an absent minded look on her face but not forgetting to wish us 'Good day' as she passed!The Museum is wonderful, containing fascinating exhibits about the First Nations, (there are 34 indigenous languages in B.C.) but also a full sized Woolly Mammoth and dioramas of the temperate forests and the sea, including pools with examples of a range of marine life. It is certainly not a dull place and is a pleasure to walk around but I sometimes wish the labels were more informative. Dumbing down has even reached the recesses of museums now.
We managed to reach Butchart Gardens, an hour north of Victoria by public bus, to see where an unused quarry has been turned into a beautiful example of an 'English' style garden. The plant bedding is highly labour intensive and a touch regimented but the displays are stunning with some unusual colour combinations in the planting. We especially enjoyed the calm of the Japanese Garden.
Another morning we walked around the
bay on a pleasant sea wall path to Fisherman's Wharf, a collection of huts and shops originally used by the fishing community but now, reflecting the importance of tourism in the area, many have converted to bars and small cafes. We arrived early before the shops had opened and walked around looking for sea life but saw only a few miniscule fish. Then as I was walking back to join Jim and examining the water by the wall I did a double take. I could not believe my eyes as I had had a glimpse of a face staring back at me. I looked again and saw a Pacific Harbour seal under the water looking up at me. A few seconds later another arrived and at the same time a fish and chip shop opened. The seals had timed it perfectly, they were soon being fed fresh and cooked fish, despite the signs forbidding it. (Not by us I should say). A few minutes later I managed to spot a couple of sea otters amongst the stones by the water. They soon shot away into the sea.
The last evening in Victoria we went out to eat and whilst walking
along Jim suddenly lurched forward. I thought his back or knee had given way but luckily as I was holding him, he managed to stay upright. He thought someone had attacked him from behind as he had been hit very hard on the back of his head but a young man who had been walking a little distance behind was standing open mouthed until he managed to say, "I saw him, it was a big crow that attacked you". Jim was shaken but recovered enough to stagger into a bar where we explained what had happened and the barman said recently one of his colleagues was attacked in the same way and ended up in hospital with concussion. So Jim escaped lightly. The barman rightly said that they never mention the crows in the Victoria tourist information.
After four nights in Victoria we returned to Vancouver, a journey requiring three buses, a train and of course the ferry. Although appearing complicated on paper the journey was very easy and almost door to door. That evening we met up with Pauline and Colin who will join us on the cruise from Vancouver to Seward in Alaska.
Together we walked along English
Bay, near the hotel and into Stanley Park, the huge temperate rainforest park right next to the city. Later in the day Colin and I hired bikes and did a complete circuit of the park on the sea wall, venturing into the interior on a few paths for a change of scene. It was a lovely way to see more of the park than we might have managed on foot. But having said that Pauline covered a huge amount of ground walking the trails and was lucky enough to see a Bald Eagle sitting patiently in a tree above her.
The next day we went up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge across the Lion's Gate Bridge. Capilano gorge is a pretty green retreat with a river rushing along the bottom of the gorge. The long swinging suspension bridge (longest in the world I think), treetop hanging trails and cliff walk are fantastic using good design to allow access to and visibility through the different levels of foliage in the forest. It is all wonderful. Unfortunately the people are a disaster! It was crowded (and I think gets even more so in summer) and people were constantly stopping to take selfies
and group photos, posing this way and that, never giving thought to the way they were blocking the narrow walkway and holding up hundreds of people. The noise level at times approached that of a premier league football match. What should be an opportunity to enjoy the smell, sight and sounds of the forest where one can commune with nature turned into an unpleasant jostling match in the midst of a rowdy crowd and almost turned Pauline, Colin and I into homicidal maniacs!
However, apart from that Vancouver is an amazing city, very clean, having snow topped peaks visible from almost everywhere, superb Stanley Park, a very efficient transport network, a huge variety of bars and restaurants and pleasant beaches. What more can a city want?
Tomorrow we embark on the Holland America ship, MS Noordam, for the seven day trip to Seward. More details on the next blog. A quick reminder, if you would like our blogs to continue to reach you when travelpod ceases, send an email with your address.
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