Victoria of England dubbed the westernmost region of Canada
British Columbia in 1858 -- in tribute, her name remains on
B. C. 's capital city and our destination, Victoria.
The chilled salt sea air was in our faces as we steamed north aboard the good ship Coho, crossing The Strait of Juan de Fuco toward the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
|Just before our arrival we were treated to a breathtaking show. The captain announced that orcas were sighted off the starboard bow as he slowed the vessel to a crawl. We bounded to the forward deck, grinning maniacally. Sure enough, two black and white killer whales were passing within a few|
|Slipping into the harbor is a picturesque passage in and of itself. The port is dominated by two grand old buildings, The Parliament Building and The Empress Hotel. It's not only the structures of these venerable landmarks that are so impressive but the grounds as well. Meticulously manicured and managed -- botanical gardens just a few steps from the ferry dock.|
|The hotel is magnificent. Built between 1904 and 1908, the four hundred and seventy-seven rooms and four restaurants are all beautifully restored to their Edwardian era grandeur. High Tea for over eight hundred people is served every afternoon in the Tea Lobby and reservations are required well in advance. Unfortunately, due to|
more impressive is the Parliament Building with its five hundred
foot andesite facade, white marble and prominent domes. Back
in 1893, the provincial legislature determined a
new parliament building was needed and announced a competition for
A 25-year-old -- with no formal
By the way, A B. C. Architect was Francis Rattenbury and he is well known to law students who study the "love triangle" murder case that ended his life in 1935. Moral: Think twice before getting in over your head architecturally.
out near the water, we stumbled upon a floating village. At
Fisherman's Wharf the shops, markets, restaurants, houses
and boats all float in the bustling harbor.
On one end, the fishing boats fetch their catch. The
|docks on the other side have become little lanes between homes built on barges, giving the term "houseboat" a new meaning. Several little markets sell the haul from the fishermen just a few steps from their boats. Now that's fresh fish!|
|Turns out that harbor seals like fresh fish too and two of them had staked out a spot in front of one of the markets. It's quite the symbiotic relationship. The seals draw a crowd and the market provides -- for a fee -- scraps for people to feed them, which draws a crowd who need scraps to feed the seals which draws more people... everybody's happy!|
those adorable little faces chow down their lunches made us
hungry too -- so it was off to Chinatown to find some grub.
is Canada's oldest and second only to San Francisco in North
However, our search was for food, not gold, and the choices in Chinatown are plentiful.
were attracted to Don Mee by the overwhelming groovyness of
their sign and entryway. It looks very much like an old theater.
Through the doors and up the stairs, we felt like we were
in one of those cheesy old Charlie Chan movies. We mean that
in the best way imaginable -- we LOVED it!
They were serving Dim Sum. Truth is, we didn't know Dim Sum from Chop Suey and felt like Dim Bulbs -- but we are fast learners, especially when it comes to new ways to stuff our faces.
Sum means touch the heart referring to the loving
touch in the small portions of succulent dishes. Its tradition
stems from Yum Cha, or "drinking tea," the ritual
of family quality time in the south of China. Kind of like
Mother's Day Brunch with a twist.
we were offered to consume things that were completely unrecognizable.
Of course, we'll try just about anything and, luckily, everything
Steamed dumplings stuffed with any manner of stuff were prevalent as are steamed buns, also stuffed -- the array is impressive. The rice cooked and served inside a lotus leave was unbelievable! Who knew rice could be the star attraction of a meal?
the odder side of the bill of fare stood the chicken feet.
Googling at the table like maniacs, looking for any excuse to get away with NOT eating the feet, we found that you haven't really had dim sum if you haven't sampled them, so... off the cart and into the pie hole.
There's not really much on a chicken's dogs to gnaw on, just skin and bones. Chicken skin is -- well, chicken skin -- the sauce was yummy but we won't be petitioning the Colonel to sell them by the bucket.
Not that we
need any help with food preoccupation, but we found it odd that
we were thinking about food so much. Maybe it was all the secondhand
pot smoke. As we wandered about Victoria we noticed the propensity
of the locals to smoke what they call B.C. Bud --
right out in the open. On the sidewalk, in the park, we even spied
a guy at a stoplight rolling one up as he waited for the light
Curious, we asked our friendly bartender (we get most of our information from bartenders and taxi drivers) about the rampant pot consumption later that evening. He said we grow the best stuff in the world so everybody smokes it. Well, not everybody, but almost. He went on to explain that the laws have changed back and forth from legal to illegal to decriminalized that finally the local authorities decided to ignore them. Well, mostly. Even the explanation has exemptions.
We tipped him a loonie and a toonie and headed for the ferry.
LOVE it -- a loonie is a one dollar coin with a loon on it and
a toonie is the two dollar coin with a polar bear, eh?
In actuality, they don't say eh much out here on the west coast -- they're too mellow for that. Reckon why?
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
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