Friday, August 30, 2013

Victoria, solo: Day 1

Victoria, British Columbia (is where I am!)

I've been excited for this trip for awhile, plus I'm excited to do a little travel blogging- now here I am in this gorgeous jewel of a city, full of sails and seagulls and flowers and history!

First impressions:  
:: this is a friendly city. People are smiley, friendly, eager to give directions, and of course diverse. I love being back in a place where there are people of every color and language and accent, and also some of those small delights like being able to buy Digestive biscuits to have with my tea. So far it's a nice balance of feeling that I'm in a foreign place, yet not feeling completely lost by the differences since many basic facets of life are the same here (cars drive on the right, we mostly have the same words for things). Also it's nice that I don't stick out like a sore thumb as I did in New Zealand and other places, Canadian accents and American accents being quite similar. In fact, I've already had a couple people ask me for directions, presumably laboring under the delusion that I was a local (a notion of which they were quickly disabused when they found out I was just as unfamiliar with the layout of the city as they were).

::this is a pretty city. Gorgeous architecture, hanging flower baskets everywhere, colorful facades and awnings, lovely public art etc. At least in the downtown/city center portions where I have been. Case in point:

Oh, and the ferry ride coming here was great. Having taken the train to Seattle last night, I took the 7:30 AM sailing of the Victoria Clipper to get here (Laurel deserves huge props for being my late night/early morning taxi service). The Victoria Clipper is a pedestrian-only high speed catamaran, which is very comfortable and leaves an awesome wake like this:

It was a three hour crossing, and very pleasant. I shared a table with two nice couples (one of them purchased champagne and orange juice and poured me a mimosa!), did some knitting, spent some time on the outside deck, and saw a dozen or so dolphins throughout the ride, which basically made my day.

After ditching my pack at the hostel and grabbing some delicious Tibetan food for lunch (so many types of Asian food in this town. How am I going to try them all?!?), I spent several hours at the Royal British Columbia Museum, which was superb. They had an excellent exhibit about Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen and the race to the South Pole, which was on loan from the American Museum of Natural History and was very compelling/tragic. They actually had many of the original artifacts: both Scott and Amundsen's pocket watches, the letters that were found with the bodies of Scott's team, and all kinds of other things from the expeditions. The museum also had excellent exhibits about the local First Nations people, mining, timber and other parts of the BC economy. I would recommend that museum to anyone.

There is a classic boat festival happening in the inner harbor, so I wandered around and gawked at the beautiful boats (some which I had met before, here), pretty reflections and the fairly jaw-dropping backdrop to it all --the Empress Hotel and the BC Parliament buildings.

Beautiful chairs and geraniums on the top deck of a gorgeous boat? Yes, please.

When traveling by yourself, if you want to be in a photo you have to ask a stranger to take your picture, or believe in the power of a goofy selfie.

One of the oldest houses in Western Canada, and some very beautiful trees. 

The flowers and bustle of the Inner Harbor. Please note that this shot contains both a limo and a horse-drawn carriage.

So here I am, finally traveling in a foreign (sort of) country by myself, and it feels pretty good. I'm trying to challenge myself to not retreat into myself, which is fairlly easy to do when you're on the upper end of the age demographic at your lodgings. So I'm prodding myself to strike up conversations with people in the hostel kitchen, etc. It's always rewarding when I do; it's so cool to meet people from such a wide variety of places. I'm also trying to do this trip on a bit of a budget, so I brought along granola and clif bars from home for breakfast, plus tea and a few other snacks. There is a little market around the corner from the hostel with $1 bags of fruit (yay!) and I also bought sandwich fixings, allowing myself one meal out per day.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the next couple days bring. And it doesn't hurt that the weather is lovely, and predicted to stay lovely ("abundant sun") throughout the time I'm here.

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