Taking the Ferry to Nanaimo, Easter Weekend on Vancouver Island

It’s been an interesting few days. This weekend, as you already know, was Easter. This was the first time I was not in Ontario for Easter. I had been away from home before — usually on co-op terms (although university often did its fair share), but this was the first time that I was threatened with complete isolation from all friends and family.

But I was saved by the graciousness of the Collins. They invited me to spend the Easter holidays with them. I, of course, accepted. I wasn’t interested in sitting in my lonely apartment all weekend.

Allison and I left on Friday moring, catching the 12:30 ferry to Nanaimo. We went downtown to catch the 257 Horseshoe Bay Express. We didn’t want to take the car over — BC Ferries is in my opinion (and probably others) prohibitively expensive.

We took the bus from the start of its route. This was Allison’s idea — and a very good one. When we got to the stop at the Bay on West Georgia, there were approximately a hundred people waiting. Our bus was full in a matter of moments.

While we waited for people to board, someone knocked on the window. It was Jane, Allison’s sister. She was returning from the Arts Council Festival (or something like that), featuring Holly MacNarland and Great Big Sea. She was heading home for work. However, she would not be able get on our bus. BC Transit, however, is not for a lack of intelligence. They had another bus following ours, which picked up the remainder of the waiting passengers.

The ferry traffic was heavy. Lots of cars, and lots of people. We made the sailing (so did Jane and her friend, Renata), which was 15 minutes late in leaving. During the crossing, we called Allison’s parents to inform them that there would be four of us, not just two. (This was important because we were to be picked up … and no matter how hard you try, you can’t pack six people into a Honda Civic.)

That night was a quiet dinner with Allison, her parents, and her brother, Randy, when he arrived home from work. It was a roast of beef that came without yorkshire pudding or cheese sauce (for the broccoli), a result of Allison’s aunt Vicky appearing and staying too long. (Allison’s mom, who is Vicky’s sister, could not break away to continue with dinner.)

Afterwards, we played Scrabble. It was a rather interesting game, mostly because the two English majors (Allison and myself) could not defeat Allison’s father. I could not remember the last time I had played, if ever.

The next day, Allison took me around Nanaimo, showing me some of the different little townships that made up the whole city (and let me tell you — Nanaimo is a huge city). We went down to the waterfront (which apparently wasn’t a waterfront until a few decades ago — most of it was filled in), where the last bastion of the Hudson’s Bay Company remains presevered.

We walked along the concrete and steel railed wharf, passing by such interesting things as the Javawocky, a little cafe. Most of the boats in the harbour (that we could see) were fishing trawlers. I didn’t know if there were in harbour because of the holiday, or were idled due to the drop in the fishing industry. Most looked in good condition, so I can only assume it was the holiday.

We continued down to an artificial lagoon. which the city had built to enhance the waterfront. It created a small, sheltered beach, and calm water that remained even when the tide was low. Stray logs from the log booms that are towed through Georgia Strait had washed to the beach … or had been dragged there for character. On the other side of the lagoon was a large children’s playground, perhaps the most exciting looking one I’d ever seen. I wished I was 10 again.

Not far away was a bronze statue of an ex-mayor who was “affectionately” known as “Black” Frank. He was the man who invented the idea of the Bathtub Races (you only way you could not have heard about the Nanaimo Bathtub Race is if you’ve been living in a dark room for the past few decades). He dressed as a pirate (especially during said races), which is where he obtained the name “Black” Frank. However. as a mayor, he did some pretty questionable (and in a few cases, down-right unethical) things, so the name had more than one connotation.

That night, we had a full turkey dinner (again, with a delayed Randy) with Grandma Collins, a wonderful woman who was an utter delight to have conversation with. She certainly didn’t strike me as the “typical” little old lady. She was more concerned with having fun.

After dinner, Allison and I went out with Kelly, an old friend of Allison’s whom she hadn’t seen in over four years, and went to a pub downtown (nearly everything else closes down early in Nanaimo … even coffee shops) for a few drinks. None of us had anything alcoholic, but we were there for a couple of hours.

The next morning was the day of the Easter Egg hunts. I can’t honestly remember the last time that the Easter Bunny visited my sister and I, but I can guess at it being many, many years. Well, it seems that the Easter Bunny is alive and well in Nanaimo … and he made many a visit this morning.

First off was in the Collins household. It seems that there is a tradition, where the two resident rabbits (Mr. and Mrs. Collins) hide things in the kitchen. I was an unwitting inductee. Amongst various chocolates, I also received a t-shirt. I was extremely surprised (not expecting anything of the sort), and most thankful.

Then it was off to Mrs. Collins’ parents (less than a five minute drive) for lunch. That was, lunch after the Easter Egg hunt. (Yes, another one.) This time, the hunt was more elaborate. Everyone (except Mr. and Mrs. Vaillette — I apologise if the spelling is incorrect) had a plastic egg hidden somewhere around the tree. Inside the egg was a rhyme, which was our clue to the location of our prize (hidden by Brenna, one of Allison’s cousins).

Needless to say, I think I was terribly well treated for an outsider. But you won’t hear me complaining!

Well, there’s not much more at this point … more will come later on as I continue. But life resumes tomorrow — back to work, back to playing games.