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Neither Newlywed Nor Nearly Dead

For those of you who don't know this, the common Canadian joke about Victoria is that it is strictly for the newlywed and nearly dead because most Canadians come to this southwesternmost corner either to holiday or to retire. Personally, I'm thinking of this as an extended holiday with all my stuff.

Diary Entries

Friday, 27 December 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

The lead-up to Christmas is always pretty busy, and this year seemed absurdly busy considering that I don't actually know a lot of people here yet.

Still, I was a bit surprised to realize that I hadn't managed an entry since Halloween. Sure, I was busy, but I think part of it might be that second year in a new town thing. There's really no point in showing another year's version of the Empress Christmas trees, particularly since I now know that some of these companies merely display the same tree decorations as last year. Sigh.

So is it time to move on? I've hit my photo page allotment now, so I either have to upgrade or maybe start working on the other site that stalled out a few months ago. It's a decision I've decided to put off until the New Year. Meanwhile, Happy Holidays and Beyond, Everyone.

:-) Alexa

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

Happy Halloween!

Took a while, but my second photo page of my second autumn in this town is now posted. Pretty, pretty.

I'm glad I have been taking pictures like a maniac because a big wind came up yesterday, and today the rains finally began, so I'm not quite sure what leaves will be left on the trees in the park. Good thing I like winter here, too...

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

I'm a little surprised to realize that I've now lived in Victoria for over a year. Typically, this would be the time when whatever new town I live in starts being taken for granted a bit. I don't think that's actually happening here yet. I'll go for a while kind of forgetting to explore, just sticking to the same old trails. But the fact that it's autumn means that those same old trails are actually looking quite different.

What surprises me a bit is how changed Beacon Hill Park looks even from last autumn. Though theoretically the same season and park the weather conditions this year are vastly different. It's a much wetter year than last year and has made for quite new vistas in familiar places, much greener. I've put up one set of photos showing this, but I suspect a couple of additional photo pages will grace this site before autumn gives way to winter rain.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Location: Van To Vic, Canada

When work told me that it would be more economical to fly me home from Vancouver on a float plane than pay for me to do the big ferry trip when I already would have been into double-time for a few hours, you can imagine my reaction. Having just done the insanely long ferry day trip to see a chum not even two weeks ago and, particularly, having not actually flown between Vancouver and Victoria yet, it was all I could do not to whoop and holler, dancing around like those overjoyed American footballers when they score a touchdown. I think I did let an "awesome" slip, though.

So there I was, sweating bullets from just having hurriedly crammed a tote full of urgently needed back home type documents from the meeting I'd attended and pounded pavement through downtown Vancouver to make it to the terminal in time to check in for my flight. There is something just so uncool, literally, about sweating all over the check-in counter, but the ticket agent, nonplussed, told me that the flight still wouldn't be boarding for almost 15 minutes and offered a free latte while I waited. "You just said the magic words, my friend," I told him. I hadn't had a coffee since the one I'd Starbucked at 6:15 that morning waiting for my workmate to pick me up to head to the ferry. I needed one bad...

Also kind of needed to just sit down and have my first coffee break of the busy day, a chance to stop sweating. From the terminal I saw my plane, tiny as it was still one of the biggest in the fleet, land on its little pontoons and offload passengers coming into Vancouver for the weekend instead of heading back to the capital. Then it was my turn to hop on. Dressed in business attire, I was still unsuccessfully trying to play it cool, unable to stop myself from pulling out my camera like a tourista as the plane began to taxi for takeoff. The view was just too amazing.

The real question is: how will I ever go back to the ferry? I love the ferry, but I can't say as the bussing from city centres to the ferry terminals and vice versa on either side appeals much after now having done that a full seven times in the last six weeks. As much as I love being on the water, the idea of, you know, flying in to do my next sailing weekend out of Vancouver, merely walking along the seawall there for five or 10 minutes and hopping on the sailboat where I've already stowed all my gear, is pretty irresistible. The view from up there truly is spectacular. My pics don't really do it justice.

Monday, 09 September 2013

Location: Vancouver, Canada

Had to do one of those seize the day things. Specifically, I had a day off right when one of my oldest and dearests was passing through Vancouver, so I did something brand new: Vancouver as a day trip from Victoria. This is not for people who dislike travelling all day because from Victoria's Inner Harbour to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal is about an hour bus ride. Ferry takes just over an hour and a half, but of course you must be there in advance of its actual departure. Then on the other side the bus from Tsawwassen takes about an hour once it finally leaves the terminal (or an hour and a half in weekday morning traffic as I discovered) just to make it to Richmond so that you can take the half an hour Skytrain ride into Vancouver proper.

Then the same in reverse except a little longer to return because once you hop off the Skytrain, you have to wait for the once hourly bus to take you to the ferry terminal, and if you aren't there waiting a while, the bus might fill up and leave without you. That would suck so much I always get there early.

Anyway, I seriously don't think I'll try doing this round trip in a single day again until I can afford to just hop on a float plane from harbour to harbour instead, but I'm glad I did it to see my buddy and make a new memory to cherish.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Location: Bowen Island, Canada

Sailing was a big reason I decided to move back to the coast last year, but I don't actually know any sailors yet in Victoria, so I had to zip over to Vancouver for a sail this summer. With only a weekend at our disposal, we decided that Bowen Island had to be the destination. I've sailed there many times over the years, and when I've been in the mood for the place (easy ~ it's gorgeous!) without access to a sailboat, I've taken the city bus to Horseshoe Bay and done the walk-on ferry passage.

Staying overnight in Snug Cove's marina really is a delight, though. We happened to show up during Bow Fest, a local festival, which used the natural amphitheatre shape of the lovely cove to complete advantage. Well, our advantage, anyway. We were able to listen to the music without paying any sort of entry fee to the grounds because we were actually just hanging out on the sailboat, and no one gave us a hard time about having our rum rations while we listened, either!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

This weekend was certainly a good one to pick to be in town instead of holidaying elsewhere. Not only was I awoken by foghorns Friday morning and had the luxury to just run out and enjoy that, but also it was the Dragonboat Festival weekend. I'd hoped to actually compete in the races this year, but my team didn't quite manage to get it together in time, so I went as a spectator this year.

Glad I did. The "Forbidden City Food Court," a bunch of tents set up by local restaurants, gave me an opportunity to try a couple of things I'd been curious about. Then there was a tour to Chinatown with a local historian, Chinatown conveniently having a Lion Dance and firecrackers that day to celebrate the anniversary of the Chinese Masonic Lodge. There was also an Accordion Parade, something that never would have occurred to me in a million years as existing. Not enough? Well, it was also the Flamenco Festival weekend, and the flowers are blossoming like mad. This town really does pile on the fun pretty much every weekend.

Wednesday, 07 August 2013

Location: Vancouver & Savary Island, Canada

I think for most Canadians the August long weekend pretty much begs for some sort of travel. It certainly has pretty much always done that for me, and this year was distinctly one of the best little trips I've ever taken for it. One of the neatest things about it this year is that I didn't have to travel very far, merely hop the ferry from Vancouver Island over to the mainland and Vancouver the city.

I was lucky enough this year to be able to tack a couple of extra days onto the long weekend, and I used that time revisiting old Vancouver haunts. While I have made it back at least yearly for the past five years since moving away, my trips have typically been about picking up friends and provisions and then heading out of town camping or sailing as soon as possible. This was the first trip where I decided to actually enjoy Vancouver a bit. I arrived on Wednesday, the 31st, which was one of the fireworks competition nights. Over the years I've seen this from many vantage points, but I hadn't actually seen it from the Burrard Bridge, so I jumped at the suggestion. Had to check out the new Olympic Village first, though, and I'm pretty impressed. Next time I'm there, I'll take more pictures.

Another day of wandering around Vancouver, and it was time to be hopping on two more ferries, up the Sunshine Coast to visit more ex-Vancouverites. My destination was a place called Savary Island that had billed itself as having "white sand beaches" and the "warmest waters north of Mexico." Still not entirely sure about the latter, but the former is distinctly true. The tides were ideal, far out in the morning and coming in slowly over baking sand as the afternoon progressed. The water was clear enough to watch the little flat fishes scurry away across the sand away from my wanders. Dreamy.

The biggest problem with even extended long weekends, though, is that they end far sooner than you want them to. My one consolation as I headed home was another few hours exploring old haunts and visiting old friends in Vancouver and then the fact that I was merely hopping on a ferry to my own little island. ;-)

Tuesday, 04 June 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

Well, it was two jam-packed weekends in a row, first the Swiftsure International Yacht Race, which was great fun watching the start of live and then the race-tracking map from the comfort of my warm living room. This last weekend it was the Oak Bay Tea Party, of which I primarily was interested in basking on the beach watching the quaintly awesome small-town air show.

First, Swiftsure. I'd been looking forward to this since I couldn't make it out here for it last year. I knew it was big, but I really didn't realize exactly how big, almost 200 sailboats! They dolled up the Inner Harbour perfectly by the Friday night before the race, which was the last of the sunshine for a few days. Turned out that it was also the last of my camera battery, so I don't have pictures of all those boats starting! Bummer. I'll have to do better for you next year.

Meanwhile, it is definitely worth checking out the video clip: It is taken from Clover Point, where I was standing alternately cursing my camera and dreaming of being on one of those boats next year. The starting line is pretty much from the camera's placement out to the bow of the Navy ship, and there were four starts for the various classes of boats. When they pan away from the yachts and to the crowd, they're actually shooting the flags, which indicate the approaching start.

Then this last weekend was the Oak Bay Tea Party, Oak Bay being part of the greater Victoria area. The Tea Party takes place over the whole weekend with plenty of family friendly activities. I couldn't do both days, so as much as you all know I love parades, I opted to skip this one on the Saturday in favour of the air show on the Sunday. The weather gods agreed with me, raining on that parade but giving a great sunny day for the air show, which takes place at Willow's Beach. The air show was a perfect small-town type treat. It had a couple of rounds of parachutists, a stunt biplane, a couple of formation fliers, and a Navy rescue helicopter putting on a big rescue show.

I was particularly happy for the latter because there had also been one of those demonstrations after the start of the race the previous weekend. Unfortunately for me, I missed that because I was fully frozen solid after spending two hours out in the rain and wind admiring sailboats. When I couldn't feel my fingertips, I realized I couldn't wait for the Coast Guard to do their thing. Sigh.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

It makes sense that Victoria Day, a national holiday, would be particularly celebrated in Victoria the city. I took with a grain of salt the assurances that this was a "big parade" thanks to having been rather underwhelmed by other things touted as big here. Don't get me wrong. I'm completely enamoured with this town, but part of its charm is distinctly its small-town feel. It's the smallest city I've ever lived in, so I'm just frequently struck by a certain quaintness to celebrations here.

No question, though, that this was a big parade if by "big" you mean long with lots of entrants. It went on for hours, primarily due to the zillion or so American high school marching bands. So big but still quite cute and quaint, you know? I was told that in order to qualify for bigger American parades, Victoria is a must-do for the region. And, of course, Victoria is geographically closer to the United States than it is to mainland Canada, technically, so it makes a bit of sense that the high schools, particularly from Washington, would play here.

If you check out the photo page about this, you'll quickly discern that I was not at street level. Considering how long the parade was (3 hours and some), I was pretty grateful to have been invited to a second-floor parade breakfast hall party. Not only was the view wonderful, but the place was kitted out with everything necessary for truly comfortable parade watching, full kitchen with constant pancakes on the grill, comfy chairs, tables, big windows, washrooms, et cetera. And neatest of all, even though I don't qualify this way, it was mostly a family-with-kids' party, so there were dozens of tykes running around fully thrilled by the parade. I ended up burning through my camera's entire memory cartridge thanks to standing by a three-year-old darling who insisted that I take a picture of absolutely every parade entry so that I could show it to him on the camera's screen. Too fun.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

You know, I do actually do a bit more than just run around Beacon Hill Park taking pictures of flowers. Lately, for instance, I've seen a couple of parades and watched cricket being played in the park, checked out the start of the summer farmers' markets, taken part in a major disaster preparedness exercise where I actually played with (er ~ trained with) a non-electric version of the jaws of life and learned tons about search and rescue operations. But somehow my camera only seems to be with me when I'm in the park checking out flowers!

Well, I'll do my best over the next little while to take my camera along for the non-flower stuff and leave it at home for my now almost daily park wanders until new flowers substantially change the landscape in the park again.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of new flower pages up. At least I did manage to take some pictures of the new handrails along the Ogden Point Breakwater the other day, the first non-flower shots in ages.

Tuesday, 07 May 2013

Location: Victoria, Canada

I resisted putting up a page with pretty much shot after shot of the same thing, fields of purple flowers, as long as I could. The Common Camas flowers started in early April and now a month on are still blooming like absolute mad. I'm just staggered by this. No one had ever mentioned it to me, and I realize now that I'd been here in March and in July, maybe June, over the years, but clearly I was never here in April or May before moving to this town. I wouldn't have missed the fact that there are blue and puple flowers absolutely everywhere I look.

Naturally, I looked this up, and here's what I have learned. These pretty flowers were cultivated by the local First Nations for their edible bulbs, and in order to distinguish them from the Death Camas, they were harvested while the bloom was still visible. The bulbs of both plants look identical, so it is the colour of the flower that keeps you alive, apparently. All this means that this time of year a couple of hundred years ago Beacon Hill Park would have been a huge gathering place as these were pulled out of the ground to be steamed, which apparently you must do for a very long time to bring out the sugar.

These steaming pits could be quite large, and while I'm still looking for proof of this, there are big piles of big rocks in a few places in the park (typically close to the meadows) that I highly suspect were used for the steaming pits. The piles reminded me of sweat lodge piles of rocks I'd seen in Jasper National Park other than the sheer size of the rocks themselves, which is how my little theory developed once I began seeing the blooms and trying to figure out why they were so pervasive. I'll update this page with proof that my theory is correct if I can find it!

Meanwhile, in my research I came upon Meriwether Lewis' journal description of fields of camas, which he claimed resembled "lakes of fine clear water." They really do.

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Recent Messages

From Dad
Such beautiful fall pictures. Thank you so much for posting them. We now have the bright snow to ease the darkness of the early morning, but do miss all the fall color. These bring back all the memories.
Response: Thanks, Dad! I'm glad you like those. I didn't quite realize when I posted them how long it would be until this round went up! :-) A
From Cathi
I didn't know Dad took a float plane lesson either!! I do remember Stu taking a few lessons though and jumping out of the plane after landing to grab the rope and pull the plane to the dock. He slipped and dragged his leg along the ladder. I've never seen a bruise so big! Glad to hear you are enjoying the planes, trains and automobiles! ferries!!
Response: Oh, poor Stu! I knew docking could be a bit tricky with boats, but I'd never considered that with planes!
From Dad
One of my fondest memories of the island is of the day I bought a floatplane lesson and got to do a couple of hours in an air taxi. Even got to do a takeoff and landing. What a beautiful place to fly. So glad we now share that.
Response: Not sure why I didn't know about you flying a float plane before, Dad, despite knowing you were a pilot. No question: I get my love of the view up there from you!
From Bowness Bob
First the decked out trucks on parade really tickled me. Now here come the accordion parade. Could anything be neater? Of course, the flowers are always my absolute favorites. Keep up the tours. I love them.
Response: It turns out that the Coupe Mondiale, the World Accordion Championships, were being held right in my own city that weekend. I guess the big names of the accordion world were here, but I was just staring at boats and flowers! Glad you like those, too... :-)
From Robyn
Hi Alexa,
I really enjoyed your rhodo madness photos. The white flowered shrub I thought might be a type of dogwood, and it is. It is a Pacific dogwood and happens to be the provincial flower.
Response: Thanks, Robyn! I guess I should have known that one. (Blush) For some reason I thought the dogwood had much smaller flowers.
From Robyn
Wonderful photos of the common camus! What an amazing procession of flowers you have in the spring! I've never seen this shade of blue in a rhododenron before; now I have.
Keep up with your great blog.
Response: Glad you like those pictures because I just keep finding new blue vistas to share!
From Mum
I don't know whether it is comforting or not to know that all community gardens have the same problem - theft. Oh well, it's the love of growing plants that's important, eh?
Neat photos of those crazy peacocks. Also the brown pelicans, which reminds me of a silly ditty: What a wondrous bird is the pelican; its beak can hold more than its belly can.
Response: Hahaha! I hadn't heard that one before, Mum! Too funny! love alexa
From Robyn
Loved the photo of the gingerbread houses. Especially "Up" as it is one of my favorite movies too. Are those M&M's they used for balloons? I enjoyed the boat masts all lit up like Christmas trees as well.
Response: Actually, they used jelly beans! Yummy, eh?
From Nathalie & Alex
We love your blog, great pictures and it was our pleasure to share our car with you!
Response: Thanks again for sharing that Ferris wheel's lucky car! Without your kindness, I wouldn't have had that gorgeous sunset/moonrise ride, never mind pictures here! :-) Alexa
From Cathi
The Beacon Hill Park pictures took my breath away!
Response: Makes you want to live here, doesn't it? Hint, hint.
From Robyn
Beautiful images of a beautiful city. I like the fact that you included shots on rainy days, showing that the city is beautiful even in inclement weather. Good start to a blog I look forward to checking each week.
Response: Aw, thanks, Robyn!
It may not rain quite as much as Vancouver here, but I'd still be pretty hard pressed to do anything in the off season if I had to wait for sunshine! Cheers! Alexa