Ferry to Vancouver

Monday morning came. I laid in bed for a little while, wondering what was happening outside the walls of this hotel. Were people frantically trying to get to work on time? Were children apathetically walking to school? If I was home I would be in the former category, but I was not at home. I was in Victoria, British Columbia. And this morning I was going to Vancouver by ferry to catch the 3 0’clock train to Alberta. Now, that was exciting to me.

My suitcase was pretty much packed from the day before, so I only had to get dressed. The drive to Enterprise rental car was calming. Looking outside to see the colourful scenery in the comfort of a luxury car, with my favourite music playing was idyllic. I felt a sense of completion because I had done everything I wanted to do in Victoria. I anticipated whatever was going to happen next. I was quite surprised when Enterprise told me that they would provide me a taxi to the ferry at no cost to me. Within five minutes the taxi arrived. Every thing went seamlessly.

READ MORE: From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

After being dropped off by the taxi driver, an Indian man who had been living in Victoria for the last 25 years with his wife, I went through the ferry terminal doors. It was easy enough to purchase my ticket, then follow the escalator down to the lower level to sit with the other passengers. As soon as it was 10:30, I heard the announcement calling for the passengers to commence boarding. I peered through the little peeping holes (like the windows of an airplane), to watch the orderly flow of cars driving unto the ferry. It reminded me of when I took the ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island.

READ MORE: Adventures to Prince Edward Island.

I was in a long flowing line of passengers going though a lengthy hallway. I showed my ticket and stepped unto the ferry. That’s when I realized this was nothing like the one I took. This one was huge! I didn’t know where I wanted to sit because there were so many options. I took a corner row that had five very broad seats, with equal seats in front of me. I had that row to myself. After I was settled in, I decided to go exploring – only to find there was a section for dining. A full restaurant with everything, including chefs that were making meals, cashiers, as well as a cold food section. And there were so many dining tables. It was a restaurant, and one with the best views! I left the dining section, I opted not to take the elevator, so I could climb the stairs to the upper level. This was where the deck was. The deck also had tables and several seating areas on both ends. Some people were getting their meditation in the sun, and backing in this glorious experience. I went back to get my wallet.

The ferry started moving. I looked out of the numerous windows to observe the snow covered mountains in the distance. It looked like the mountains touched the sky. The food line moved quickly enough and I was at the cashier ordering a burger with fries and a hot chocolate. I carried my tray upstairs to the deck. The wind almost blew my tray away. It almost blew me away too. Another passenger picked up my wrapped burger from off the ground and walked with me to a table. Luckily, there was an overhead covering that blocked the wind. It was a bit cold, but not too cold to prevent me from staying on the deck long enough to get my heart’s content.

The ferry ride was only 1 hour and 30 mins and I really wanted to take in as much of the view as possible. So after lunch, I walked around the deck, my hoodie blocking the wind. I went under the overhead covering to look through the glass at the rough waves the ferry was making. I wondered if I would see a whale or dolphin in the deep blue sea, but I saw nothing. Being at sea though wasn’t boring. The sea drew me to reflect on the Creator of this magnificent ocean. And I worshiped the Lord, God.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

It turns out that the Gray line sightseeing tour bus was a great idea after all. On my third day, I was itching to get to Vancouver, for a number of reasons. Mostly, so that I could catch the Via Rail on the Monday afternoon. I felt that by arriving in Vancouver on Sunday I would have time to see the city and get to the train hassle-free in time. Since my hasty decision didn’t work out (or at least, I caught myself quickly enough….literally), I decided to use the tour bus as an opportunity to see more of the city that I might have missed.

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Let me explain what I meant by “I caught myself.” I was dressed and getting ready to check out of the hotel that Sunday but I was running late. I still had to drop off the rental car and get to the ferry on time. I began feeling a little anxious. My scarf got caught in the zipper of the suitcase, while the scarf was hung around my neck, and the zipper just wouldn’t close! As I was bent over the suitcase, I also noticed I wasn’t wearing my socks (the ones I had in my hand just minutes before being stuck). In that moment, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit asked me, Why are you in a rush to leave today? To that, I quickly assessed the position I was in and decided against leaving. Strangely, the zipper loosened right away, and I glanced at my socks in my handbag. Do you believe in these random signs?

READ MORE: Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill.

I left the suitcase where it was, unpacked some of the unneccesary items and looked at the time. 11:30am. New plan: I will catch the sightseeing bus at 12pm. As usual, it was raining. Non-stop. I arrived on Wharf street and I saw the tour bus down the road, but I went the opposite direction to order my meal to go. I looked at the time while waiting for the server to pack my meal, 11:55. When I finally got my order, I hasted. “Ticket for one” I shouted jovially to the conductor, once I knew he could see me. “Hey we waited for you yesterday for 2 hours” Commented Derek. I was surprised he remembered me. “No, you didn’t.” We laughed. I made my way into the bus and was seats away from Derek, who would conduct the tour. “Oh you’re sitting with me today.”

“Yes. Am I able to eat in the bus?”

“Certainly.”

I unmask my face and made myself comfortable. There were a few other tourists, but they chose to ride at the top of the double decker bus. On a summer’s day, I am certain I would have loved to sit up there. But, it was too cold since the top section was roofless.

READ MORE: When it rains, it pours.

My Sunday tour turned out to be perfect. I listened to the audio tour guide, combined with Derek’s interpretation of Victoria’s history, and updates about when we were stopping. Since I was sitting so close, I asked my own questions. And he answered them in between his announcements. We passed through some of the places I had visited already like China town. Once we left the inner harbour though, I could see the Pacific Ocean in the outskirts. I was itching to join the people at the scenic lookout points. It was a glorious kind of deep blue and the sun glistened on the water. We passed through Beacon Hill and continued again along the ocean.

I hadn’t realize how much of Victoria was surrounded by the sea. Of course, I knew it was an island. But, it was on the tour bus that I could to see much more of what the island had to offer in terms of scenery. I decided to get off at Oak Bay. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to spend time by the ocean. “Be back here in 2 hours.” Derek told me. “I will be looking for you.”I stepped off the bus, in the cold, feeling sure I wanted to see the ocean up close. It was too beautiful not to. I walked down the hill, the bus passed me and disappeared from my sight. The sun that had come out earlier, had disappeared again. I kept on walking (yes, thoughts about getting lost, crossed my mind, but I ignored it.) hoping to see the ocean. It was too big not to miss. I passed houses after houses, and decided to turn down one street.

When I spotted the ocean, I followed the boardwalk that led to a restaurant. I could see the change of colour in the water. The deep blue emerged with large waves splashing on the rocks. What beauty. That’s when I realized, I have been from coast to coast. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. I was inspired. In awe. Absolutely amazed that I completed what I set out to accomplish eight years ago.

READ MORE: Travelling post Covid-19

These are the experiences you will have to experience for yourselves, because the telling of them doesn’t quite do justice. Like I said in an earlier article, travelling for me is a calling. I see things in a new way and experience life, in my opinion, the way it ought to be experienced. With Wonder.

Adventuring the outdoors at Thetis Lake

Do you like the outdoors? There are so many conservation parks around Victoria. But, the one I went to was called Thetis Lake Regional Park. I really loved it. I have visited so many conservation parks around Ontario which has there own charm. There was something different about Thetis Lake. I loved that it had a mixture of everything. The best part is that as you walk through the park, the lake was in eyesight. I loved that the sun peered through the massive oak and maple trees, amongst other typical Canadian trees. I loved that there were areas where I felt hidden from the world, surrounded only by the trees. And still parts of the hike, where I could step off the trail and unto a hill overlooking the lake. I took in the beauty from up high; the sun glistening on the water with the colourful trees everywhere. There were other areas that I could stand at the edge of the lake and embraced the stillness. At one point, I began noticing these massive maple leaves laying on the ground. The size of the leaves were bigger than the palm of my hand. I picked one up and carried it with me as I continued.

Many others were hiking as well, some with children, some couples, and some loners like myself. I often find hikers are pleasant. Maybe we each have more in common than we are able to appreciate. And maybe it’s that we subconsciously know what the other really want, that is, time to be left to our own thoughts and imaginations. There is a subconscious respect, that a smile or a simple “hello” is enough. I was filled with a mixture of thoughts; that I was in BC for the first time, that I had never been to this lake before, inspired about what the future holdings, and how deeply content I was at that moment. People say to me all the time, “you are so brave” and “I could never travel alone.” But when I am hiking, I think about how this place could be anywhere. What is brave about flying to another part of the world and doing something new or in my case, doing the same thing I would do at home?

READ MORE: Never Alone

The hike carried me all around the lake. It took me over an hour to get to the middle point. But, that’s because of all the stops I made to enjoy the scenery before the sunset. Instead of walking around the entire lake, I turned around and walk back in the same direction. I think I wanted to see the same views going back (and felt a little uncertain about where I was going if I continued). My favourite way of hiking is when I have no sense of time or schedule. When I arrived at my car, it was already dusk. Hardly anyone was around. To me, there is nothing like coming back to a hotel room after a long, hike on a cold day. The ambiance spells utter relaxation.

Victoria’s Chinatown and other charming heritage sites

As with every architecture in the city of Victoria, the stones used to construct the entrance of Chinatown is pristine. It was like, it was designed yesterday. I walked through the entire Chinatown in five minutes. Well, until I figured out the hidden alleyways that are so narrow, it’s easy to miss. It makes the experience more interesting. Since the only chinatown I’m familiar with is the one in Toronto, I really was expecting more shops, more places to eat, street vendors, and the chaos that often comes with the place, which of course makes for great bargaining. This China town could be packaged in a museum, the way it was so perfect. Across the street was a Chinese school that children go to learn about their Chinese culture. I observed two mothers speaking in there own tongue outside the school, as they held their little ones’ hands. I didn’t stop for food, but I bet that’s why later that night, I was craving Chinese food.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I eventually saw the same city tour bus passed by me, but I felt that taking my time to experience more of the city on foot was best. After I left Chinatown, I went to Market Square. None of these places are by any means extravagant in size. I managed to walk through the square in a short time. Maybe, the experience would be lovelier in the summer months as I saw there was a performance stage in the centre. There were cute shops and patios on the second story to have lunch. It makes for a cute hang out spot (if it wasn’t so cold and windy).  On my way back, I saw the Eaton Mall. You can bet this mall was not your ordinary modern mall. The designs are Victorian in nature as well. The mall had all the stores you would expect to find in any shopping mall. But, the architecture was stunning, much like the entire city.

READ MORE: I have come home.  

What I love about the experience of walking through the downtown is that, every building has kept its original architecture. The following day, while on the City Bus (…I almost missed it again!), I learnt that all the hotels, stores, and any building was preserved as a historical site. So for decades to come, every owner of these buildings will not be able to completely change the look and feel of this beautiful city. The tour guide told us the history of one famous hotel. The hotel has kept its original design, with with many changes of owner, no one has stayed in there for 75 years, and no profit. The recent owner added to it, but is not allowed to change the original bricks. From the Chinatown, to native landmarks, to Victorian built, they have all been preserved as part of the historical look and feel of this charming city.

Photo by Rishabh Parange on Pexels.com

I felt safe and comfortable to walk around as a single woman of colour. The city had a little bit of diversity creeping in ever so slowly, it’s easy to miss it. I saw a biracial young girl working at the Rexall pharmacy and the following day when I went back to the pharmacy, there was an Asian woman. When I was walking through China town, I saw many Asian people. I didn’t see many other races, outside of Caucasian.  Like I said, it was easy to miss the diversity. I chatted up a few strangers, one was an ex-police officer working at the legislative assembly. I shared with him what I do for a living, and he was encouraging me to apply for jobs in British Columbia. I would say that the people are just as charming as the city. Also, the city seems to care a great deal about its retirees. I learnt on the tour bus that special care in height of buildings have been taken into consideration for accessibility reasons. With the fact that the city has a mild winter, it’s surrounded by the pacific ocean, and everyone has a green thumb, all makes for a beautiful place to live or vacation or even retire! I honestly must say that this city is a must see for anyone who loves the sun and sea!

Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill

The following day was Saturday. I woke up early and made time for my morning devotions before I head out. The idea was that I would go with the flow. Allow each day to plan itself. I dressed and went out for breakfast. The Starbucks on the top of the hill looked inviting, so I ordered a cup of Matcha Latte and bagel with cream cheese. If it wasn’t raining so much, I would have taken my meal to sit in front of the exquisite Legislative assembly I visited yesterday. Instead I sat inside. When I finished eating I walked by the harbour (everything is near the harbour). Looking at the castle-like structure that spans acres of land is breath-taking. The Empress Hotel sits on the left of the street and by itself makes you feel like you stepped into another era. That’s where the city tour bus was parked. I wanted to take the city tour, its just that now I was in the mood to walk, yes, in the rain. 

Photo by Onur Kurtic on Pexels.com

A quick chat with Derek and his colleague helped me to create a mini-plan. I would go to the Beacon Hill Park and wait for the City Tour Bus. It would take two hours they said, but “I don’t know if there is that much to do at the Park other than feeding the birds” Derek said. Still, I thought I would find something. It was about 11am when I left. The bus begins the tour at 12pm. “We’ll wait for you at Beacon Hill at 12:40.” They handed me their schedule. The Beacon Hill park is located 15 minutes away from downtown. The rain just continued to drizzle. My favourite sight was seeing the peacocks all sitting on a fence with their heads in their feathers to shield  from the rain or cold. I was lost in thought as I strolled around. I loved that everything was so new to me. I saw a little house that was preserved because it was made in the Victorian era. 

Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

“This amazing jewel in the heart of BC’s provincial capital was officially recognized as a park in 1882 and named for the two beacons that are strategically located atop a hill providing a navigational aid for vessels approaching Victoria’s Inner Harbour. These consisted of a blue triangle and a green square and acted as a warning to sailors for it they were able to see the square through the triangle, it meant that they were on Brotchie Ledge and in trouble.” Read more.

There was a mixture of tropical plants and typical Canadian trees all around such as Arbutus, Western Red Cedar, Garry Oak, Birch, Douglas-fir, willow and more. There are bridges and ponds everywhere and cute terraces for picturesque moments. It was freezing cold. Not wintry cold, just the annoying discomfort of rain and wind on a gloomy day. Other people were out too, jogging, walking their dogs, or their kids. Normally the children’s zoo with farm animals would have been opened but it’s close now since summer is over.

Beacon Hill, Victoria, BC

By the time I circled the Park, it was only 11:45. Did I want to wait for an hour in the cold? Hm, I opted to walk back to the Empress Hotel where the City Tour Buses were. Derek was right, there wasn’t much to do. It would have been more beautiful to stare at during the summer months. Would I make it back in time before the bus departed? I headed in the direction but with no haste in my step. I didn’t plan to hurry though my vacation. I found myself walking towards the back of the legislative assemble building and towards the front. It was approximately 12:10 and I didn’t see the bus across the street. I expected as much. I continued on walking on the harbour and decided right there and then, next stop, China town!

READ MORE: Anne of Green Gables, Nova Scotia

 

Travelling post Covid-19

There is nothing like putting your job on hold, in order to make time for travelling. Travelling for me is more like a calling. When I go to a new place, I don’t merely go so that I can “have fun.” I immerse myself in the new city or country by going for long hikes, strolling through museums, and reading every plaque I see. Overall, I try to gain understanding of the history of the place, and I use my senses to get a feel of the people and their culture. Whether the people are nice, laid back, busy urbaners or homogeneous in nature. As a black woman walking into an all white location, I am curious how I am perceived. Are eyes darting in my direction, or are the people oblivious of my presence?

Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC

In the City of Victoria, my very first interaction (well outside of the airport and the rental car company) was with the hoteliers. There were two receptionist at the front. One lady with dark eye liner circled all around her eyes stared right through me. It’s like she was caught like a deer in the headlights. Was she nervous in my presence? Or was she new at her job? I stopped looking at her because she was making me nervous. The other receptionist tended to me hastily. My questions were answered abruptly, but not disrespectful. There was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Plus, I was going with my new mantra “let it go, let it go….” It must have been the elephant or more appropriately, “the deer” in the room. My room was just as I expected; two beds, a clean spacious bathroom, and a large enough window with a view of the public library. That was more of a personal taunt for me, “More room to write in case the desk with the office chair and the dining table with two chairs wasn’t enough.”

READ MORE: Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

The first thing I did after settling in was to go for a stroll. It was too nice a day not to go out. Plus, I had just been given three hours extra because of the time zone difference. Only 1pm in the afternoon and a full day ahead of me. I didn’t really know where I was headed. From the Quality Inn Hotel where I was staying, I turned on to Blanchard and then Yates which took me down to Wharf street, where the harbour was located. Out on the horizon was the lake. I saw signs pointing to the Songhees walkway. This is what I love about exploring new places. The brain is working overtime trying to piece its surroundings together. With no previous point of reference, each new observation becomes just that. The sun disappeared, and the rain came down in a quick drizzle. The sky was covered with grey clouds. Hard to tell whether this is what normal is for Victoria. I was at least glad that my long black rain coat kept me dry and warm. When the rain poured on, I covered my head with my hood and carried on…30 mins, 45 mins, another 1 hour, who knows. I hadn’t the slightest idea where I was headed. I finally stopped to ask these strangers how long the Songhees walkway went for. “Another 10-15 minutes” the blonde woman said, “There are riveotters at the end, they are so cute.” “I’m sorry, what?” “They are like big rats.” She responded. “Oh, River Otters.” After we said our good byes, I carried on…crossing a bridge, the sea on both sides. I was looking for those Otters now. Even though I didn’t see them, I saw a lot of logs in the water. I wondered if the Otters were responsible for bringing them there.

Photo by Finn Whelen on Pexels.com

I finally arrived at the end, “Fisherman’s Wharf.” I saw boats galore. Did people live in them? I decided to head back because it would be another 45 minutes walk for me. But halfway on my journey I stopped at Spinnakers for lunch. The restaurant sat on the lake/sea. I asked the greeter to place me by the window. The restaurant had a rustic and idyllic charm. Wait was that a moose walking through the grass? Did any one else saw it? It disappeared in the bushes and no sooner it returned, I saw it disappear again around the corner of the trail. No one else seem the least bit perturbed by this animal. And I was too stunned to get my camera fast enough to take a photo. Maybe that’s normal around here…

I did the wise thing and ordered dinner to go. Only an Ontarian would ask for the LCBO apparently! The locals corrected me, that there were no LCBOs in BC. I have now been schooled. I grabbed a bottle of Moscato and cocoa truffles for dessert. Before dinner, I went for a swim in the pool.

READ MORE: Adventures on Prince Edward Island

My Friday night was complete. Dinner and movie in bed in a new Province and City. What more can I ask for? Another dream has come true. For a few years now, I’ve been talking about going to see the many different Provinces of Canada. In 2018, I began that journey when I went to the east coast. Three years later, with several months of Covid-19 restrictions, I made it happen again. I am in beautiful British Columbia!

Stay tuned for more on this journey to the West Coast!