***SCROLL DOWN for Updated Entry*** Tom and I have joked about visiting my best friend Emilie in Victoria even before she moved there with her family 2 years ago. It wasn’t only when I saw the pictures posted in her blog entry that I knew that I really would love see and experience the place. People always talk about Victoria BC and Butchart Garden in almost the same sentence so I wasn’t expecting more of the city outside the famous gardens. The sight of the beautiful old buildings and the harbor was breathtaking. It almost looked like a city that I would never be able to go to and the thought that I could because my friend lives there sounded too good to be true.
What made it even better was that it was also somewhere Tom wants to go also. He likes cold areas with big trees, charming buildings, interesting sceneries like Vermont, Oregon, Washington and San Francisco. That is why if I didn’t have my brother in California Evan and I would have never seen Disneyland.
We arrived in Victoria by ferry from Seattle. It was the fastest way to go from Seattle aside from the plane. Tom wanted to spend a short time in Seattle. It would be the best mode to go too considering a round trip ticket costs only $90 per adult (children are free) but the 3 hour boat was pretty rough half the time, once it goes into the strait of Juan de Fuca. So rough that I was wishing for the ever trusty White Flower ointment for seasickness and I have never needed that since as a child despite my frequent sea travels in the Philippines.
But as soon as you catch the glimpse of the first lighthouse you’ll see in Canada, you know that the trip is going to be special and we were not disappointed. I fell in love with the Victoria waterfront from my friends photos then later in the city’s website and it lived up to my expectations. It was really nice that my friend’s house was only less than 3 miles away from it too. Tom went down by himself to drink beer in a pub by the harbor and just enjoy the sun and water a couple of times.
It was kind of a downer when the following day Tom and I were feeling under the weather because of bad sore throat, in fact, Tom had an off and on fever for a couple of days. We originally planned to visit Butchart Garden on Wednesday but had to cancel it because we just didn’t feel up to the 45 minutes travel each way, the 2 hour walk around the garden while keeping an eye on 2 active four year olds at the same time. Which was fine because what I was really interested in was the Craigdarroch castle not too far away. I’ve never seen a real castle before. No, the one in Disneyland doesn’t count.
In a way getting a little sick was good because we didn’t do what tourists would typically do in Victoria, the city being a major tourism destination. When I planned on visiting this city a large part of it was to reconnect with my childhood friend Emilie (our fathers were also best friends) and spend time with her now as mothers of 4 year olds. Now wouldn’t give us something more to talk about? It would be like an extended version of the sleepovers we used to do back in the Philippines. In fact, even before I found out that the little sore throat we had early on was going to be a problem in the next few days I told Tom that I didn’t wish to spend our vacation rushing from one tourist spot to another. What do you know, I got my wish. We were as laidback as the locals – getting up late in the morning, not venturing out until noon which was ideal for me because it didn’t start to get “warm” and sunny until then.
Even Tom enjoyed being at my friend and her family’s house even though he was, like a typical american with privacy issues, initially uncomfortable at the thought at imposing ourselves on them for 6 days until Emilie assured us that we were going to have our own space, since the downstairs area was going to be exclusively ours and even the backyard. With that we canceled our 2 night hotel reservation and stayed with them the whole time. And Tom? I would joke to Emilie that he was so at home that he was a permanent fixture upstairs, even napping in their couch at on point. I don’t think my husband realize this but he really is a social being.
I was also excited at seeing how Evan and my friend’s daughter would interact with each other since they have so many common interests. They even look the same. One evening while both were wearing yellow shirts Julia’s father Chris was amused how the two could pass for siblings. It was interesting for me how competitive the two were of each other. It was a new thing for Evan since he was never like that with Charlene or Braden. Maybe it’s a stage 4 year olds go through? Or it could be that he and Julia were just too similar in many ways. But don’t get me wrong, despite the occasional squabbles the 2 enjoyed each other’s company – playing inside Julia’s makeshift tent, sword fights, feeding the duckies, talking about their dreams during breakfast. And for Evan Julia’s house is like paradise with all the toys and books – everything was of course new to him. In fact, he liked it there so much he asked me if we could bring Julia’s house home with us.
Emilie and I once planned of going to Canada long time ago, I had attended a couple of seminars about going there, read books and bookmarked first hand accounts about this country in my head. I pictured the people to be friendly and kindhearted and sure enough, the smiling immigration officer at the port was the friendliest I have encountered. In fact, he’s probably the only smiling immigration officer ever! Although I have to say that when it comes to customer service, especially in restaurants, americans are more accommodating and, yes, smiling. But in the bus though even when I was a couple of minutes over my transfer ticket the driver just said, “sure why not?” when I asked her if it was still okay. As my friend would say, Canadians are very patriotic and they do their part in their community like how that driver recognizes that tourists are important for their city’s income that it was more important for them to give a good impression of their city rather than make a big deal about a bus ticket. Another thing I didn’t expect about Victoria? Delicious, fresh seafood!!! (yup, there goes my vegan diet). I was also delighted to finally detect the canadian accent which I couldn’t on tv.
Other impressions of Victoria: most cabs are sosyal – Toyota Prius. A lot of the average houses outside the waterfront are boxlike and low-ceilinged, some of them I am reminded of Philippine houses. They have good bus system. Cars go too fast even though street signs says maximum speed is 30 km/h more like 45 mph to me. The locals are very laidback, they walk like filipinos.
One of my favorite parts during our visit to Beacon Hill Park
Emilie and I have kidded about retiring in Victoria although I was more inclined to go back to the Philippines if Tom is gone ahead of me. But after this visit I can picture myself retiring in Victoria, with its temperate climate, mild winters and mild summers. After all a lot of retirees are there for a reason. The only drawback is that the cost of living is pretty high. But we’ll see. After all back when we were still in the Philippines talking about our dreams of the future who knew that my friend and I would be visiting each other’s houses in the U.S. then Canada.
On our way back to Chicago I left Victoria feeling I have an unfinished business there. I still want to see Hatley Castle, Dallas Road Beach… I want to stroll the inner harbor by myself, take lots of pictures, listen and watch the street performers… I want to explore their Chinatown more… Go to Gorge Park, take lots of pictures…
I want to end this with my heartfelt thanks to Emilie, Chris and Julia for letting Tom, Evan and I experience beautiful Victoria with you. I enjoyed every single minute of it and felt at home in your warm home every single nanosecond. Miss you!