Sep. 6 and 7: I am back in Eugene now. It took the better part of the day to travel from Victoria to Eugene. But I will back track to yesterday morning. We had a whole other fun filled day in Victoria, so let me not brush over that.
I slept like a rock despite the party at Lucky Bar and due to Michael’s days long sleep deprivation, he managed to conk out for the night too.
We skipped the gym, because resting the muscles is a wise thing once in a while. And instead we started the morning with a walk downtown to a couple of museums.
The Parliament building is modeled after a British Parliament building. Its architecture is described as free classical and it’s a cross between Renaissance and Romanesque. And yet the architect, Rattenbury designed the building with as many raw materials as could be obtained from BC. The granite stairs, the copper domes, and the hardwood paneling are but a few examples. The cost of building it in the 1890’s was about $2 million. It was renovated in the 1970’s for $82 million. Inflation on steroids!
The museum room is very much about honoring Queen Elizabeth II. In addition to being the Queen of England, she is also the Queen of Canada. To date, she still tours BC and her grandson, Prince William was planning on being here with Duchess Kate at the end of the month. They will stay in the Government building we rode by on our bikes two days ago. Their visit this time is related to meeting with the indigenous people. And beyond that, no doubt there will be a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding their visit.
Speaking of indigenous people. Under glass is what is referred to as the BC Quilt. It’s a moving memorial to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in British Columbia. The patches are constructed from these women’s clothing or other possessions. There is a richer backstory and click here if you want to read about it.
There was mention that the lights that illuminate the outside of the building 365 nights a year were recently replaced by cold cathode energy efficient fluorescent light. I had been wondering about that when we saw it lit up a couple nights ago. I smiled thinking Canada was making an attempt to be aware of the global energy crisis. The other thing I noticed was that while we did need to pass through security to get into the building, it was not nearly as uptight as getting through security in the US. Canadians on a whole are not as ramped up as Americans – about security in particular, but probably about a lot of things. And I say this as a tremendous compliment.
Heading upstairs, we noted the stained glass windows. On them are quotations from seventeenth and eighteenth century writers and thinkers. The idea behind this is that the legislators and spectators will be inspired as they head toward the Legislative Chamber.
Speaking of the Legislative Chamber – now this clearly is a place of royalty. Multi colored marble columns decorate a room with marble walls and stained glass domed skylights. And the wrought iron lamps are much like the ones in the British Parliament. Richly colored hardwoods with ornate carvings imbue the room with a sense of grandeur. And a bright red carpet completes the picture. A very nice office, for those who carry a seat in the government.
We went across the street to the Robert Bateman Center. Bateman, age 86, is a local painter, wildlife environmentalist, and activist. He has been active in this community for a long time. Currently, he lives on a little island near Vancouver Island with his wife. They still visit and keep tabs on the center. Bateman has been painting since he was a little kid. He used to teach at a university and actually quit his job to focus on painting. Clearly being an artist is in his blood! An employee mentioned to us that he painted a wedding present for Kate and William.
His paintings often appeared subdued. Some were all in shades of blues or all in shades of whites. Only a touch of contrast and color. Yet, great detail and emotion was revealed in his art. Sometimes the birds or bears appeared to display feelings. As the viewer, I felt like I could feel the animals’ emotions vicariously. Occasionally a human would be in his paintings, who was usually himself or his sons. It seemed to me that they were primarily there as symbols to show how humans interact with the environment at large.
Moving on with the day, Michael wanted to visit a marijuana dispensary. He met the grower in the hot tub at the gym a couple days earlier and was intrigued. Supposedly you need a medical card to buy pot, which are easy enough to obtain. They can be issued by the dispensary and you don’t even need a doctor. At this dispensary, you didn’t even need that!
Since it was a few miles north of downtown, we took a pedicab (bicycle powered) to get there. The cab driver said nobody has ever requested going out that far. He happened to live two blocks from our destination and he was happy to take us. He gave us some history about the many churches we passed (back on the church-rich Quadra Street we were on last night). One church, formerly a Presbyterian church, was converted to a music conservatory. A mission is next door and riff raff dribbles out from there. The cab driver let us know that this half block constitutes the rough hood of Victoria.
This part of town is definitely more where the citizens reside. It’s middle class and not at all gentrified. Walking back we took a detour to the Craigdarroch Castle to go inside, as we had just biked past it a couple days ago. By the standards of a castle, it’s pretty small, perhaps more like a large country manor.
Upon entering, we were taken in small groups to be told the rules. We waited for three parties of people. It was so funny, but every group came from Portland! And people from Victoria really like Portland, so it’s funny they each go to the other place to get away.
Anyway, there is a lot of history to the place, but what was most interesting to us is all the things that the castle had been through the years. The Dunsmuirs built the castle after making a fortune in coal and they wanted to become part of the aristocracy. When Joan Dunsmuir died in 1908, none of the relatives wanted the castle and the grandkids auctioned the property and all the stuff in it. They also auctioned off most of the 28 acres in the form of empty lots. Since then, it has reinvented itself as a Military Hospital, Victoria College, the offices for Victoria School Board, and Victoria Conservatory of Music.
In 1969 a historical society bought it and they have since opened it up the public as a museum. They had their work cut out for themselves when they tracked down the original auction list and tried to retrieve items or searched far and wide for replicas. We inquired and were told that the neighbors in general don’t love that the castle is open to the public, as it makes for too much traffic and hubbub.
The Dunsmuir’s had ten children, only two males and only one of them had children. That one child also had ten children and only two males. Where I am going with this, is that this is a large family, but no members exist with the last name of Dunsmuir. It matters not, as the legacy has gone by the wayside anyway. By the grandchildren’s generation, the wealth had been squandered. And in the heyday, there was lots of drama to go around, including the mom suing her daughter!
The walk back home brought us past our neighborhood market and a paraphernalia store/smoke shop where Michael got a pipe. He enjoyed his new purchases “Death Bubba” up on our rooftop, which once again was all ours. Being on vacation, I thought “what the heck!” and took a nap. I told him to wake me up when the kitchen was clean.
We walked downtown looking forward to our final meal at the upscale 10 Acres Kitchen followed by our celebratory carriage ride. The Kitchen was booked for the night (my bad for not making reservations), but since we had such awesome food and service the night before at The Commons, we were just fine going there again.
Except it turned out the kitchen was having an off night. I tend to be pretty patient as a patron, but this was impossibly absurd. Everyone who was there when we arrived had gotten their meals, eaten and left. In fact, a whole new seating had arrived and they were all eating already. And we were starving, wondering why they couldn’t get even a salad out to us. The waitress continued to tell us “your order is up next” and “I see them plating your order”. Well over an hour passed and not a morsel had been delivered to our table.
I rarely raise my tone to wait staff, but being famished, seeing everyone and their mother eating, and having a waitress blow smoke up our butts made me rather irate. And I let her know it! The food was quite tasty when it actually arrived. Although we asked her to spare us the continual apologies and let us just eat.
The sun had long since set and when we left and I was eager to take a horse and carriage ride. Unfortunately when we got there, we discovered the horses were being shut down for the night and would return at 10am. I was disappointed, since we were catching the 10:30am ferry. But I didn’t want to dwell over spilt milk or slow as molasses prepared hamburgers. Making the most of the moment, we followed the water and stood on Johnson Bridge, enjoying the views of the city. And crossing the bridge, we had bragging rights to stating we have ventured into West Vic.
Our next morning was pretty uneventful. We went for our ritual morning walk to Pour, a newly opened coffee shop close to the Inner Harbour. In addition to coffee drinks, they carried gluten free, low sugar banana bread that tasted awesome. Most gluten free, low sugar stuff tastes like cardboard. On the way back from Pour, we wandered the smaller side roads, meandering through alleys. We discovered some new charming shops. And when we allowed ourselves to be led by our noses, we were led us to some fabulous smelling freshly baked bread. What else did we discover in the nooks and crannies? Colorfully painted Victorian homes. Interesting murals that reminded me of the trompe l’oeils that I saw in Lyon. Ivy growing up the walls.
Soon enough, we were back on the ferry and since the sunny weather had returned, we enjoyed being on deck. What was really incredible was watching the vehicles drive off the ferry once were docked in Port Angeles. HUGE RV’s came rolling out, parading one after another. There must be a whole parking lot on the bottom floor to have even fit so many massive vehicles. Normally I’d say these RV’s were large enough to sink a boat, but clearly (and luckily) they didn’t.
Then it was all about driving from Port Angeles to Portland, which takes you through the least scenic part of the Olympic Peninsula. The only notable stop was in Sequin. It only gets seventeen inches of rain a year. This is amazing, since other spots in the nearby rainforest get upwards of 100 inches of rain a year. But as happenstance would have it, Sequin is in the rain shadow of Mt Olympus, and so it is spared the abundant precipitation. And due to the dry climate, they grow a lot of lavender there, and take pride in doing so. Many of the buildings are painted lavender, named something with the word lavender in it, and feature products made of lavender.
Michael and I agreed that Victoria is full of charm and close enough to Oregon, that it deserves another visit sometime down the road. Its laid back Canadian attitude, eclectic mix of Pacific Northwest counterculture vibe, with the overlaying British flavor makes it a special place. If you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, Victoria deserves at least a strong consideration for checking it out. I’d love to hear about what you did there. . . .