Touring in and around Victoria

Our long weekend started Thursday night, when Allison’s company decided to hold an employee appreciation event at Metropolis (an entertainment-centric mall a couple of blocks from our apartment). Interlogic was springing for two hours of video games at Sega Playdium, and then dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.

We didn’t find out about these plans until Wednesday night, so I was unable to make the video games (already having made plans to the “The Matrix” with some of my co-workers). However, I made an effort to drop by for dinner.

This was the first time I’d met Allison’s new co-workers, and most of them seemed very nice. Claire, in particular, was extremely cordial — but since she’s the HR manager, I guess that’s to be expected.

When we returned home, we made our final decision to go to Victoria for the weekend. We had tentative plans for some time, but we based our final decision to go on the fact that Allison’s grandmother was in the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. Her grandmother had been the focal point of the Collins/Vailmont Easter for about 30 years, and it just seemed wrong not to come over and cheer her up.

(As you may recall, we were in Nanaimo last Easter, engaged in Easter egg hunts in the grandparent’s yard. This would be the first year in about three decades where the hunt would not happen.)

Early Friday morning, we hauled ourselves out of bed, and hit the road to Tsawwassen. Because of the Easter weekend, BC Ferries were running trips every hour, instead of every two hours, which was the norm. This was good for us, since we didn’t need to worry about missing a sailing … which we did.

Arriving about ten minutes too late to make the 10:00 sailing, we parked the car and opted for a late breakfast — pizza. But this was no ordinary pizza, it was breakfast pizza: Eggs, onions, ham, green peppers, cheese, but no tomato sauce. It was surprisingly tasty, and fairly expensive. If they made announcements, it would go something like this:

“Your attention, please. BC Ferries is happy to charge you exceedingly high prices for low-quality food that you will buy because you are hungry from trying to get here on time not to miss a sailing, or your children are begging you into submission…”

We made the 11:00 sailing with no trouble.

We sailed across on the Spirit of British Columbia, the largest short-distance ferry in the fleet (another larger ferry carts passengers up the coast, which is an overnight trip). It’s a massive vessel, about the size of a small cruise ship. It makes the trip fairly enjoyable … at least if you don’t suffer from motion sickness.

Procuring a seat in the corner of the cafeteria, I ran cover by buying some snack food while Allison worked. BC Ferries doesn’t take kindly to people sucking up table space, so I made an effort to make them think we were eating … just really really slowly.

Arriving in Victoria, we found it was raining. We had hoped that the weather would be nice for a change, but the generally poor weather was following us around. And no, before you think it, one does not get used to continually bad weather; one gets increasingly irritable.

After a short drive into Victoria, we headed over to the Royal Jubilee Hospital to check in with the family elders. After parking, we wandered inside, and attempted to find Allison’s parents. We knew they were there — Allison’s Aunt Robin drives a very recognisable car.

Luckily for us, we ran into Robin on the second floor, while attempting to find the washroom. Allison’s grandmother was pleased to see us, as were her parents. We visited briefly as a pair, then ducked into the TV room.

We stayed at the hospital until around 6:00 or so, at which time we headed over to Robin’s apartment for dinner.

We slept on the floor that night, a probably-not-so-great idea. I woke with a stiffness bordering on rigor mortis, Allison not better off. But we grinned and bore it, and had a leisurely breakfast with Robin, Allison’s parents, and her grandfather.

The morning was significantly brighter than the previous day, the sun having actually shone through for a change. After a quick visit to the hospital, we opted for a tour of Victoria. Okay, maybe not *really* a tour — we had been there before, after all — but it was a good excuse to go out.

We drove downtown, parking on a side street near the Eaton Centre. We had only an hour (the parking meter went no further) to wander about. So we wandered … right into Roger’s Chocolates.

Roger’s is a mainstay in parts of BC — it’s an old company, specialising in some very tasty treats. It’s like Laura Secord back east … only better. Our mission was to obtain Easter chocolates for the family — this was not going to be a typical Easter, so we thought it better that we make an effort to do something special.

After our romp through the chocolate shop, we walked around the harbour area, wandering into The Empress hotel. We checked out the prices of the lunch menus, suffered sticker shock, and proceeded back outside again.

After moving the car to a less time-dependent location (a very cheap parking garage), we hopped out to find some lunch. We headed into an Indian restaurant, and promptly started inquring about the soup of the day. That’s when we found out that there was no lunch special on weekends, which meant the prices more than doubled. We made a hasty exit and went into another Indian restaurant two doors down.

Being a beautiful day, we spent a fair bit of time wandering along the walkway around the inner harbour. You could hear the mainstay bagpiper from across the harbour with no difficulty.

Walking around towards the parliment buildings, we passed a congregation of people, surrounding a small brass band, and a boat covered with flowers. Our first impression was that someone was being married. It wasn’t until a while later that it occurred to us that it was actually a memorial service.

The walkways were packed with people, all relishing in the bright sunshine. (It was so bright that I nearly got a sunburn!) But the temperature was still cool, so only the brave (or the stupid) wore shorts. And yes, I did have a pair with me — it was still too cool for my liking.

Buskers were about, too. We saw one busker whose act we remembered from the year before. There were a few differences, which made the overall show pretty good, certainly worth the two dollars Allison gave the busker.

On the way back to the car, we checked for the availability of a hotel — we weren’t too keen on staying on the floor for a second night. We found one hotel room left for $30, and promptly headed off before we lost it.

The Friendship Inn has been in Victoria since the dawn of time, or sometime roughly near it. The buildings are old, the rooms musty, and the mattresses somewhat curved. But for $30, I wasn’t about to complain any. Well, maybe except for the people “living” next door. We didn’t leave our things, opting to bring them back with us.

If you go just west of Victoria, you’ll run into Esquimalt. Dependng on who you ask, Esquimalt is either a scary, run-down, naval base-influenced town; or it’s a fairly nice little suburb. I personally vote for the latter. Don’t get me wrong — there are some seedy areas (but then, even Oakville has its seedy areas).

We drove about, looking at the houses, even looking into an open house out of curiousity, just to see what was about. We drove up and down, back and forth, eventually finding ourselves back in Victoria again.

So we drove up and down, back and forth, until we found ourselves driving along Dallas Road, heading into Oak Bay. We had driven along this route before the previous year, only it was Allison driving, and it was at night. It pretty much ended the same way, with us passing along the north side of UVic trying to find our way back into Victoria.

We returned to the hospital towards dinnertime, to check on everyone milling around Allison’s grandmother. We were surprised to find Randy and Jane (Allison’s brother and sister) in attendence, and we had to do a double take when we saw Brenna and Cameron (Allison’s cousins, who live in Parksville). They were on their way back to Nanaimo (and Parksville). We nearly passed each other in the hall.

Dinner was at Robin’s again, only instead of the home-cooked meal we ate the night before, we had Kentucky Fried Chicken.

As a child, I remember loving Kentucky Fried Chicken. Of course, as a child, I could eat whatever I wanted without any consequences. As an adult, I am convinced that KFC is evidence of Satan’s existence. Allison and I both regretted dinner…

On the way back to our hotel that night, I noticed something a little strange — the car seemed to be a bit louder. In fact, it vibrated a bit more, too. In the back of my mind, I knew what the problem was. In the front of my mind, I was denying it with every ounce of my strength.

The next morning, the truth finally decided it would not be contained. On the way out to have something to eat, the muffler broke loose. Well, partially loose — there was a large rubber bracket holding the muffer to the car. As Allison’s mother would point out later, every time my car and the island have anything to do with one another, I have problems with the car.

Pulling off to the side, I whipped out my trusty bungee cord, and lashed the stupid muffler to the underside of the car. Ideally, I would’ve just taken the muffler off, but that rubber connector just taunted me.

We headed back to Vancouver in early afternoon, realising that if we hurried, we could get to Granville Island before it closed. (It was this revelation that made Allison convinced that she couldn’t live anywhere outside of Vancouver — she couldn’t get to the Market whenever she wanted.)

A good weekend. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good weekend. I mean a weekend where we didn’t have to worry about being rained on. Believe me — that’s a long time.

After a leisurely rising Saturday morning, I went out to get my muffler fixed. That was my first mistake — I found out that the entire exhaust system was about two minutes from giving out. $200 later, I was out getting my car washed. That was my second mistake — Allison wanted me home earlier than that to clean. As soon as I got in, we were running back out again.

We were going to spend the afternoon at Granville Island (yes, we go there a lot) looking around the market and buying food for dinner. It was a good way to spend the afternoon.

Sunday started off even more beautifully than Saturday. It was warm (we opened all the windows for the first time this year) and sunny — the day was just waiting to be enjoyed. So we spent an hour cleaning. Don’t laugh — you’d be surprised how good that made us feel.

As we were working, Allison heard a news story on the TV, talking about how the Alberta Report (a group of ultra right-wing wackos from Alberta — although there are those who think that anyone from Alberta is an ultra right-wing wacko) was going to take their message to Toronto, which the Report viewed as where most of the evils in Canada came from.

It was then that it suddenly hit me — I didn’t view Toronto (or Oakville, for that matter) as home. In fact, it seemed somewhat foreign to me. It was no longer a place that was comforting, familiar — it was very distant, cold, disparate from everything I could think of.

It was with a great and sudden shock that I realised that I have become a BCer: I complain about the rain and the cold (despite the fact that it’s not that cold), I wear sandals as often as possible (I’m wearing them right now), I can’t stand the NDP government (but will probably vote for them because all the alternatives are far worse), and view the east as an entirely different place. Canada is certainly different when you’re not in the centre of the universe anymore…

At any rate, after our quick spring clean, we jumped in the car, and ran out to enjoy the day. We ended the day with a quick pasta dish, which for some unknown reason, made the whole weekend complete.