Last Friday, it was warm, sunny and the start of the long weekend (for Victoria Day) and the ferry was running extra sailings. So I got up really early and took several buses and a ferry to reach the capital of British Columbia, named in honour of the late Queen.
The ferry was only a couple of years old, as opposed to the older ones from the Seventies that I normally take to visit my Grandma on the Sunshine Coast. The new ferry included a fancy lounge for people who can afford the $12 entry fee. It was completely empty but it shows your tax dollars at work.
The ferry ride was an hour and a half and really boring. So I read my book while trying to balance crappy ferry coffee. Ferries used to have cup holders and places to put your feet up, but not anymore for some strange, unknown reason.
The Empress is the most famous hotel in BC and was built in 1908. It originally didn't have a sign, since it's quite clear that it's a Canadian Pacific Hotel. Plus it's in the harbour and next door to the legislative building. You can read about it's history here.
One day, I shall have Afternoon Tea at the Empress, even through it's expensive and the touristy thing to do. I wanted to take a picture of the ceiling of the crystal ballroom, but couldn't, since a wedding was being set up in it. Instead I took a picture of the original post box next to the elevators.
This is one of the downtown sidewalk trash cans. They all look like this, isn't that nice.
I only stayed downtown, because I was on foot and downtown is the only part of Victoria that I have a mental map of.
Victoria's Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and the second oldest in North America, after San Francisco. However it's now quite small, about two blocks, especially compared to Vancouver's.
I had lunch at the Fan Tan Cafe, which was small, but had delicious food, excellent service and was really cheap.
Fan Tan Alley (between Pandora and Fisgard streets) is the narrowest street in Canada. The part where that woman is walking to is less than a metre wide!
There are a lot of colourful buildings downtown from the last half of the nineteenth century. These two are my favourites.
I then went to the Royal BC Museum, which is more focused on being for tourists then for educating the locals about their own history.
I took as many photos as I could. Most of the photos didn't turn out well, since the lighting is low (to preserve the artifacts) and I couldn't use my flash, which damages the artifacts, even through a lot of the tourists couldn't read the "No Flash Photography" signs. Remember kids, never never never turn your flash on in museums and art galleries, it makes History cry.
But there's still some neat stuff to see, like the Natural History and fun with taxidermy section.
The First Nations exhibit, which has stuff from all tribes in BC, not just the ones from Victoria. These are some Haida hats.
And of course the permanent historical exhibit that combines the "cram as much of BC's history into a bite sized portions" and the "look at all of the stuff people used in the olden days" exhibits into one small section.
There's a small model of the HMS Discovery (Captain George Vancouver's ship) to walk through, which reminded me of last week's episode of Doctor Who with the pirates.
Model of the original city, back when it was Fort Victoria in the 1840's and a fur trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company.
Naturally, there a mock up of a silent movie palace to show school children what silent films look like. This one always plays clips from The Gold Rush.
Next door to the museum is Helcken House, which reopened that day, one of the oldest houses in BC still on it's original site. There wasn't a lot of stuff in it, but it did have this beautiful kitchen floor and a cool medicine chest.
Building plans for the parliament buildings to hold BC's legislative assembly, built between 1893 and 1896.
I didn't go on the free tour because the legislature wasn't sitting and there were a few field trip groups of rowdy teenagers and screaming children waiting for a tour.
I didn't go into any stores, because I didn't want to find anything I wanted and would then have to carry around in the heat and then drag back with me. But I did go into Munro's Books (yes, that Munro) and since Duthie's closed in Vancouver, the closet general independent bookstore. I bought Some Sunny Day by Dame Vera Lynn and The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain.
I still can't believe that I had to spend a total of two hours on buses and three hours on ferries just to shop at an independent bookstore.
You can see more of my picture in this set on Flickr.