Our final month on Vancouver Island we stayed at Fort Victoria in the area of Victoria known as View Royal. It was an 8 km cycle downtown to the waterfront or a 30 minute bus ride. Either way, it was a simple and easy way to get into the heart of the city.
First thing to do was to explore the area on bicycles and see what our new community has to offer. This was done very easily, between bike lanes on the roads and the Galloping Goose Trail system we could explore the neighbouring community and the whole city. Since it was fall on the Island we knew that the weather could be wet and cooler then the previous few months so we stopped by the YMCA/YWCA that was 2 km away and joined for the month. With our workout needs taken care of the next thing on the list was to find our local grocery store. This was very easy, it was right beside the “Y”! Our two main necessities side by side, within walking and cycling distance, perfect!
It was now time to see the beauty of Victoria! We knew that the waterfront where the Empress Hotel is was beautiful, the downtown was clean and had a small town vibe to it so it was time to explore some of the suburbs. We did this on a beautiful sunny Sunday when we cycled from our home in north Victoria across the top of the city to the campus of the University of Victoria. Then along Beach Avenue along the eastern side of the city and the Oak Bay area with it’s million dollar homes. Here we stopped at a couple waterfront lookouts and once again had a beautiful view of Mount Baker. The loop then took us towards the harbor area of downtown with a stop at Beacon Hill where the world’s tallest totem pole calls home. It is also the starting or ending point (depending which way you are headed), as Mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway. With a quick stop at Fisherman’s Wharf we headed into the downtown area. This day was the Sunday before Halloween and Government Street and the downtown area was blocked off with a Scary Festival happening, more fun then scary I think!
Another cycling location was the “Centre of the Universe”, another National Research Counsel Observatory located just north of the city. Although it was during the day and the grounds were closed to motorized vehicles it turned out to be a great cycle climbing up the “mountain” to the top where the observatories are located. The ride down was even more fun!
Culture was another thing we were looking for in city life. This we found at the Pacific Opera Victoria at the Royal Theatre downtown. We were entertained with the Czech opera Jenufa by Leos Janacek and directed by Atom Egoyan. It was performed in Czech, but with the help of English subtitles (on a big screen at the top of the stage ) the performance was very enjoyable. A side note here is that June’s brother, Peter went to university with Gerald Schieven who had a role in the opera in the chorus cast. Some more culture that we enjoyed was at the Royal Conservatory of Music Victoria with a free noon time concert put on by some of the students.
In the middle of our Victoria adventure we took a little holiday. From downtown Victoria you can take the Victoria Clipper (a high speed catamaran ferry) to Seattle and get dropped off downtown. This is only a passenger ferry so you walk on in Victoria after clearing US Customs and then walk off downtown Seattle. The day we decided to head out on this adventure a storm system came through the area and had put the crossing in jeopardy. We were able to go although it was a little rocky but we made it safe and sound for our two night stay at the Mayflower Hotel. We arrived in the evening so before calling it a night we had a night cap in the little bar in our hotel that had an old time feel to it. The next day we walked. First we walked down to the Public Market on the waterfront. Not only is this a great location to buy fresh flowers, fresh fish and eat some great chowder in a bread bowl but it is also the location of the first Starbuck’s Café. We are not huge Starbuck’s fans but it is fall and their pumpkin spice latte is a fun drink every once in a while. Also, it was cool seeing where the Starbuck’s chain began! Seattle is a beautiful city with water, mountains and hills galore but the main attraction for us was meeting JJ. Now, you may ask who JJ is? Well, JJ is a therapy hospice dog that we follow online and she along with Tracy (her human) were going to be at a conference down the street from our hotel. Now, not everyone of you will appreciate what this very special dog does, but her personality has helped a lot of people in their final hours and is truly an amazing being. June was able to get a couple of snuggle sessions with her and I think they both were better for it!
Once back on Canadian soil we had one night in Juergen before checking into a hotel downtown for another couple nights as it was time to get our fluids checked and changed and our brakes inspected. With an 8 AM appointment it was in our best interest to drop our home off the afternoon before and then spend an extra night in case they ran into some issues. It went seamless and we could have picked it up right away but we chose to enjoy our downtown accommodations and relax and walk to our dinner out and enjoy happy hour.
With a cold front moving into the area and a little bit of snow, which is not normal for Victoria at this time of year, we decided to park the Harleys in the trailer and rent a car for the final week. This allowed us to explore a little further out of the city. We had a nice Artisan Studio Open House tour that took us up to the Cowichan area and the small towns of Duncan and Crofton. We visited some jewelry shops, a beautiful live edge wood shop and a stone art studio just to name a few. Another trip took us up to Nanaimo where we met up with our new friends, Darlene and Peter Million for lunch. They were in our Fort Victoria spot before us and we met them when we stopped by to check out our site. The interesting connection here is that they are originally from Stratford. A third out of city outing with the car was taken to see the Sooke Potholes. This is a nice provincial park with a river carved canyon and numerous “potholes” in the canyon. The highlight was, as we were leaving a mother and baby black bear crossed the road in front of us! We also were able to see the salmon run, we had seen them a few days before in Goldstream fighting the current and laying eggs but here at Potholes it was the end of the line and more of the salmon were finished with life after making their way as far upstream as they could.
We had a nice surprise meeting with another friend from “back home” when we noticed on Facebook that Alli was in town. A quick message and we had “happy hour” plans to meet up at one of the old pubs downtown. A nice surprise and another small world experience.
It is amazing on how fast two months on the Island can go but now it is time to follow the Canadian Geese and fly south!!