World’s Largest (Saamis) Teepee, Medicine Hat Canada

Medicine Hat is the site of the World’s Largest Teepee, which stands 215 feet tall/or, 20 stories high. It was originally built for the 1988 Calgary Olympics and three years later was moved to it’s current location.

IMG_5096
Note the Tiny people walk underneath it for frame of reference

IMG_5211

The originally name for the town was Saamis, the Black foot word for the tall feather headdress medicine men wore, hence English derivation for the town’s name.

IMG_5113

Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria Canada

This Royal BC Museum of natural and human history is 130 years old, and is located right off of the TransCanadian Highway at the western edge of the ‘tourist’ area of downtown Victoria, next door to the British Columbia Capitol building. It is a VERY good museum with interactive/experiential display, that make learning more exciting while still protecting the exhibits. I saw something with my actual eyes I never expected to ever see in my life, an actual mammoth.

img_6718
The museums displays extend beyond the building, to encompass the entire property, and all ingresses and egresses from the building; and this includes some of the doors themselves, which in some cases are beautifully carved; as such, it really is worth while to explore the entire property, and not just B-line it to the front entrance.
img_6719
img_6723
Inside the museum (assuming you came in via the front entrance), the first thing you see is the Imax theater, and the adjoining gift shop (which has some REALLY nice stuff with much BETTER prices than I saw for similar items at the local tourist shops). This included a lot of T-shirts, hiking gear, clothing, etc. There are in fact TWO gift shops, on the ground floor, so it is worth it to check both of them out. The one in the picture below is smaller, and tends to have more ‘useful’ type stuff, while the 2nd larger one has more ‘artistic’ sort of things.
img_6720
Based on my math, if you intend to go there at least three times in a year, the one-year-pass is by far the smartest buy. And since I was going to be living for a full month only a few blocks away from the museum, and expected to see it at least that many times during my stay (rainy days, etc), and maybe even take in some of their IMAX movies, I bought the pass.

The layout of the Museum is more narrow and tall, rather than low and wide, like most museums; as such in order to enter the exhibits sections of the museum (laid out on three separate floors), you need take an escalator — at which point you will be asked to show your tickets and or pass (or the elevators, available for handicapped access). This can be a bit confusing as you can easily spend a full day on just the first exhibit floor (2nd floor of building) and spend so much time there that you end up missing the other exhibits.

On the first floor, just where you exit the escalator, they have the rotating exhibition rooms. When I went it was an excellent exhibit on mammoths that really awed, over whelmed and stunned me. The first rooms taught you all about mammoths, and was very high tech and interactive and interesting.
img_6722
But the stunner, was after that room you entered a very small and very dark room which included an ACTUAL baby woolly mammoth.. they have named Zhenya.
img_6721
When you first entered the room, your eyes actually need to adjust a bit, but I assume this is to protect this oh so priceless find… which I’m actually kind of shocked they’ve allowed to go on tour.
img_3160

Seriously, I cannot overstate my excitement, delight and awe at being able to see in the flesh, an actual woolly mammoth, even if it was a tiny baby. I was completely farklemt.

(I will note, whoever was in charge of curating the display was not particularly careful in setting it up — look carefully at the photos and see if you can pick up the major OOPS!)

In the next room (well lit) there were more interactive displays to help teach kids about the lives of these now extinct animals
img_6724
img_6725

 

Another set of rooms was about the Natural environment of the British Colombia region, and displayed taxidermied local animals arranged into impressively ‘simulated natural’ settings — remarkably natural, some of them even included moving water.

img_6726
this was followed by a very Steampunk/ Jules Verne, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea type esthetic, showing off the underwater life of the area.
img_3222

 

Another section of the museum is devoted to the human history of Victoria, as a seaport town belonging to the British

img_3578

Their collection includes George Vancouver’s Uniform, among others

img_6727

AND — and I thought this was really cool, the “actual” dagger (or at least it’s believed to be) that was used to kill the famous explorer, James Cook.
img_4738

Alongside these displays is life size “walk through” of the dock, and of a section of a British Sailing ship, with all the appropriate sounds (and some smells) piped in.

img_6728

This is followed by a small section devoted to the Gold Rush that help make the navel base /trading post into a city, where you can try your hand at sifting gold

(What the sign says: “Wig and Case: within a year of the rush to the gold fields in 1858, British law was imposed. As head of teh law enforcement, Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie was responsible for justice … The wig was just one of the many effects used by the judiciary to impress upon the sometimes rebellious gold rushers that British justice was paramount.”)

In another section of the museum there is a reconstruction of what Victoria looked like back in time, that is again, completely lifesize. You can walk into stores, go into the movie theater and watch a black and white movie, or walk through a hotel and see the rooms.

img_6729
IMG_6730.JPG
img_6731
And then there’s a whole section of the museum devoted to the First Nations (Canadian term for their Native American Tribes, which is gaining acceptance in the USA as well), their languages and their art.

img_3637IMG_3648.jpg

Congregation Emanu-El, Victoria B.C.

More than 150 years old, Congregation Emanu-El is located in Victoria, British Columbia, right off of the TransCanada Highway, and is both the oldest continuously operating Jewish congregation in all of Canada (1859) and the oldest continuously used synagogue (built in 1863) along the west coast of the North American Continent.

img_4272

Historically, the development of Victoria was similar to that of San Francisco, which had grown from a Spanish garrison on the Presidio (and it’s requisite* nearby lazy mission town in 1774) with only about 500+ non Native American inhabitants, to having achieved ‘vibrant city’ status almost overnight. As we all remember from our history classes, this occurred because of the 1848-1855 California gold rush, when tens of thousands of prospectors flooded into the area. In both cases, this sudden influx of miners drew along with them a smaller flood of entrepreneurial businessmen who were less interested in something as exciting as mining, than in setting up the far more dependably profitable, albeit dull, secondary businesses necessary to support the minors’ endeavors. In fact the business people as a whole, were the ones who made financial killings, while most of the minors went home penniless. Among these shop keepers, far more so than among the miners, were a relatively large number of Jews (because, lets face it, we’re Jews), so that by 1870, San Francisco had the largest population of Jews outside of New York, comprising a full 10% of the city’s population.

*Tangent alert! I say “requisite” because the Catholic Spanish  justified their heavy handed, military, colonialist, expansionism as being the spreading of G-d’s word via his ‘true church’ (i.e., Catholic); and, keeping in mind Spain had (till 1492) been a part of the Muslim empire, they initially did it with a jihadist zeal (I will make you love G-d’s word, and if that means killing one hundred of you in order to get just one true believer, that’s good math). Granted, this Islamic influence had tempered out over time, but even in the late 1700’s, ‘ideologically‘ what ‘mattered’ for the Spanish was the church, thereby allowing them to kid themselves that the military was just their to ensure the church got the job done; and, of course, it was all for the benefit of the native peoples being converted rather than any greed on their own part (imagine me faking a sneeze while saying *bullshit!*). This is not to say that Protestant governments did not do the former (military expansionism) … granted, they did, but arguably with a bit less of a concern for the latter (spreading the word). As I studied history I often got the feeling that the military men of protestant countries (of that period) sort of suffered their missionaries as a necessary evil and encumbrance, rather than viewing them as their raison d’être; as in protecting the missionaries who insisted on being out among the ‘savages’ rather than staying close to or better yet, behind, protected walls, just made their jobs harder… rather than being their jobs.

img_4274

Back to Victoria: Originally founded in 1843, as Fort Victoria — a military and Hudson Bay Company fur trading post (along side a naturally protected harbor), the explosive growth to city status was, again, a direct result of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush (1857), which brought in that same influx of minors, and supporting businessmen — who were again dis-proportionally Jewish (compared to the population of most Canadian Towns); and by ‘same minors’ I mean that most of them had traveled north along the coast from the overworked gold mines of the United States, to this new opportunity in Vancouver Island. In fact, gold had been mined in the Vancouver Island for a while before that, but news of the fact hadn’t reached San Francisco until the then Governor of Victoria (population again, about 500+) had sent a shipment to SF for minting into coins; and he probably had genuinely mixed feelings when what he got back a month later were his coins AND the unexpected and unprepared for influx of 30,000 men (“a record for mass movement of mining populations on the North American frontier, even though more men in total were involved in the California and Colorado“). How he felt about a large percentage of said men being Jewish businessmen, I can’t imagine, although I’m guessing they were the least of his problems, as “The influx of prospectors included numerous European Americans and African Americans, Britons, Germans, English Canadians, Maritimers, French Canadians, Scandinavians, Italians, Belgians and French, and other European ethnicities, Hawaiians, Chinese, Mexicans, West Indians, and others” (same Wikipedia source as above).

img_6653

According to the woman who showed me around the temple, the first thing the congregation (formed in 1859) did, was to arrange for the purchase of land for a consecrated  Jewish cemetery, which they did in 1860, rather than for the Shul (the building wasn’t built till 1863) — as the former was by far the more pressing need at the time. It was ultimately established on a 1.5 acre parcel, that was purchased by one of the members, a gentleman with the unenviable name of Lewis Lewis, who bought it with his own money and donated it to the congregation. And, according to the woman, the parcel purchased was so large and the community of the Shul (which for a long time was the only one in Victoria) has remained so small… that over 150 years later it still isn’t full.

img_3034

To a Jew, the fact that they were more concerned with a cemetery than a synagogue makes total sense, but let me explain why: unlike Catholics, Jews don’t actually require priests/rabbis or ‘churches/temples’ in order to pray, just a knowledge of the prayer or a copy of the book (hence the religion of the book) — and in fact the 16th century Protestant Reformation returned this attribute to some sects of Christianity. For Jews, most praying can be done alone… although there are a large number of specific prayers — for instance the prayer for the dead, or Kaddish — that require a minyan (a quorum if you will) of 10 Jews who have all had their Bar’Mitzvah ceremony (or bat — if you’re not orthodox). In fact, if you arrive at a synagogue early enough for morning prayers, it’s not the rabbi that you will find the group waiting for, but rather the quorum of 10… with, if necessary, you see individuals running out into the hallways (or the street, if it’s a Jewish neighborhood) to drag people in so they can get started. As such, prioritizing the creation of the graveyard over the building of a synagogue (or shul), makes perfect sense from our perspective…

img_4271

I first learned about this Shul during the Canada Day festivities when my friend Gina was visiting. As we were walking around looking at the local ‘group’ displays we came across one for the local JCC (Jewish Community Center) and the woman there told us about this historic shul just a few blocks away, and invited us to attend services, if we wanted to. Apparently they only have about 200 families in their entire membership, most of whom only show up for the high holidays. And they don’t do anywhere close to the normal amount of services (technically there should be three a day), but only manage to pull together a regular minyan for Sabbath prayers, and only once a week (Most shuls in major cities do two, Friday night and Saturday morning), and they only manage to do the 2nd Sabbath prayer once a month. She also said that if I came by the office during business hours, they’d be happy to show me around, even if there were no services that day — which is what I ultimately did.

img_6650

Even though this is a conservative shul, the construction of the temple implies that it started out as orthodox, where men prayed on the fist floor and women sat above, looking down on their husbands and sons. (This is highly likely, since the Conservative Jewish movement, which among other changes allows men and women to sit together, was created about the same time as the shul was built.)

img_6651

The boards with the names (Yahrzeit Memorial Plaques) are traditional, and visible in most shuls around the world. They show the name of all former members and memorialize the date of their death in both the Jewish and Christian Calendars (they are different), with the lit lights reminding friends and family to remember that this week they need to say the prayer for their loved ones (“The Mourner’s Kaddish”).
img_4279

You have got to love the town where the parishioners feel it’s completely safe for the regulars (those who attend services regularly) to leave their Tallis bags just sitting out in the open like this. At our shul in Chicago there’s a locked closet. These bags will contain the things men need to pray, a Kippa — assuming they don’t wear them all day (orthdox will), their Tallis (or prayer shawl), and Tefillin (the little boxes attached to leather cords that are wrapped around the head and arm during prayers — “…and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” — Deuteronomy 11:18).

Apparently one of the walking tour-companies (the ones I seen where the leader has a mic and all the followers have Bluetooth earphones) offers a Jewish Victoria tour once a week that walks around looking at the various historic buildings, pointing out the ones that were originally Jewish stores… am thinking about it.

Victoria B.C.’s Fisherman’s wharf

Cute place, but you get the feeling they developed it mostly because tourists kept asking, “where is the fisherman’s wharf.” Not worth making a special trip to unless you’ve got ample time, there’s better seafood joints elsewhere.

IMG_4123

I’d heard that Victoria had a fisherman’s wharf, but I didn’t really bother about going there till after I had already taken two different bus tours, both or which had pointed it out as a place to go.

To put it bluntly, it was inconveniently far from a walking point of view. Looking at the map below, you can see where the wharf is relative to my Airbnb apartment, which is in Chinatown, ( or about two blocks north of the bridge). Now, considering that it takes me about 20 minutes to walk from my digs to the legislature building, that adds up to the wharf being almost a full hours walking distance, or, to far to not take some sort of transportation — which I’ve been avoiding. (Let me just note that keeping my car in the garage and relying mostly on my feet to get around, combined with a diet that in majority has consisted of steamed or grilled fish, has resulted in me going down one pants size in two weeks!) However, after my second bus tour had dropped me off in front of the Empress Hotel at about 3:45, and I was tired, and cabs line up at the Empress; I decided it was too early to go home, so I grabbed a cab and paid about $8 (Canadian = $6.96 US after the 3% foreign transaction fee) for ride over there. (Granted, from there it was a walk-able distance, but like I said I was already tuckered out.)

IMG_4124

As fisherman wharfs go, this one is kind of tiny. To it’s credit, is an actual fisherman’s wharf, in that fisherman still dock their boats there and locals can buy fresh catches from them, specifically Dungeness Crab, which is slightly ironic as I’ve only seen this sort of crab sold in one restaurant the whole time I’ve been here (a Chinese place).

IMG_4234

But to get to where these boats are you’ll have to negotiate past all the tourist trap shops, which sell food, rent canoes, and offer whale watching tours; well that, or enter the wharf from a walkway at the far end, i.e., no where near the parking lot.

IMG_4254

IMG_4253

IMG_4187

Just past all the business are a large collection of houseboats, which kind of confused me. Having lived in the San Francisco area for many years I was more than familiar with houseboats, I even have a few friends and acquaintances who live on them… and the think is that usually houseboats are not cheek to jowl with tourist areas, for obvious reasons. So on one hand while I felt kind of sorry for the folks living in these ones (practically every house was decorated with ‘PRIVATE’ and “Trespassers will be Eaten” signs, and the like) the fact is they knowingly signed up for the invasion of their privacy… which makes me wonder if the city of Victoria (or the wharf) doesn’t offer some sort of economic incentives to keep them moored there.

IMG_4244

Once upon a time I lived in an apartment whose living room balcony opened up to canals, so that we had a gorgeous view of sailboat from our living room, and a multi-million dollar estate just across the way (complete with a yacht that could house more people than our apartment building). So I could totally get into living on a houseboat moored next to sailboats, but I’m not sure I’d be as sanguine about being able to watch airplanes take off and land from my living room window.

IMG_4247

On the upside, this wharf meets my current culinary restrictions, as I can easily find seafood that is either raw, or cooked with the bare minimum of oil (I have a fatty liver and borderline diabetes, so it’s no longer about vanity dieting).

For my late lunch (4pm) I had three buck-a-shuck oysters and a cup of a cream free halibut chowder, which had an Indian curry flavor to it, which was ok but didn’t have much halibut in it and wasn’t anything to get excited about

On the way back I grabbed one of the water taxis, which actually turned out to be cheaper than a normal one, but quite a bit (as a single traveler, $4.64 US for twice the distance, but I was able to use my Discover card so no 3% hit); although, since they charge per person I can see how a normal taxi would be cheaper if I were traveling in a group. Of course it had the added advantage of seeing the harbor from a different vantage point.

IMG_4239

Canadian Women’s Ride Day, Cobble Hill B.C.

The ladies of “west coast roar“(a store for women’s motorcycle apparel), via their non-profit called ‘Canadian Women’s Ride day (CWRD)’, hold their 4Th annual fund raiser rally in benefit of a local women’s cooperative and shelter called “Women in Need“.

IMG_3806

Held annually on the third Sunday in July, the Canadian Women’s Ride Day is a women only event that brings together local women who love riding motorcycles to share their passion, make new friends, and promote safe driving… as well as raise some money for local women’s charities.

IMG_3823
As part of the fundraiser there was a blind auction for donated prizes, such as this guitar which was signed by Jann Arden who Louise said is a well known Canadian musician (her biggest hit “Insensitive” was released in 1994, and sounded vaguely familiar).

IMG_3824

While men weren’t allowed on the ride, there were a large number of them who had come along with, and were just hanging around, listening to the live music and eating the free food.

One of the cutest participants was this little dog.

IMG_3822
World’s cutest motorcycle riding dog (who seems to understand posing for pictures)… She even has her own helmet and goggles

Maybe it was just me, but even the clouds seemed to be participating in the event… is it just me or does this cloud pattern look decidedly feminine

(see the breasts at the top, then the belly button and the backside… before I got my camera out the clouds had shifted a bit… before this shot they looked more like a labia )

IMG_3727

The reason I was here (since I don’t ride): My friend Louise, contacted me a few days ago to tell me about this event that she was going to be volunteering for, as well as hosting a woman who was riding in it. Louise and I share an office in Seoul, South Korea, two years ago when we were both professors at Kyung Hee University’s Business school. Coming to visit her and her home town (that she used to tell me about) is what drew me to Vancouver Island.

IMG_3692
Louise, helping to serve free food to the hungry riders, and their boyfriends and husbands

There was also a guest speaker, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, who is the first woman to serve in the post.

IMG_3825

Here she is talking to my friend Louise.

Malahat Chalet, Malahat B.C.

A tasty seafood restaurant with an AMAZING view located alongside TransCanadian Highway Route 1.

img_3776

I drove by this place on a semi regular basis during my one month stay in Schwanigan Lake, and never tried it (stupid me) until I had moved on to Victoria. The main reason is, you really do NEED to know it’s there, and have it as a set in your mind as your destination — and if your not local, preferably set your GPS to it so that you have ample warning of when to slow down and turn; this is necessary because it sits alongside a severely graded, winding highway with cars wizzing along it at dangerous speeds… so you can’t suddenly realize you’re there and throw on the breaks without the very strong possibility of creating a multi-car pileup.

When I finally did set my GPS to this location I was very happy with my meal and amazed by the view.

Firstly, I have a severely restricted diet due to all sorts of medical conditions I’m trying to simultaneously control with diet. As it turned out this place has ACTUAL chefs who, to quote the waitress, actually relish the opportunity of being forced to get a bit creative, rather than the sort who cook on remote control and get upset if you ask them to veer away from their programing.

img_3780

I require low fat & low carb and nothing on their menu met my needs, so after a brief description of what I could eat, they made me a stir fry with almost no oil of shrimp, scallops, and low glycemic veggies that was spiced so as to bring out the flavors… wonderful!

img_3781

That said… THE VIEW….

img_6628

SO granted, I didn’t eat off the menu, and only ate here once, but what I can say is they have chefs who know how to cook, do wonderful customer service, and have an amazing view and fresh seafood.

4Th of July celebration: Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, WA

According to my friend, a Friday Harbor resident, their 4th of July celebration was recently rated among the best “small town” celebrations of the 4th in the country — (have not found verification of this)

IMG_2681
According to my friend, all those dressed in historical costumes are direct descendants of the original settlers of the Island (Americans in blue, British in red)

Friday Harbor is located in the San Juan Islands off the northwestern border of Washington State. It is an insanely cute place with a very high quotient of artists, and progressive liberals who have things like “sharing sites” set up all over (if you take something you need you’re supposed to leave something of equivalent value that you don’t), etc. These Islands are also prime whale watching territory.

I was had rented two different Airbnbs on Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada) for the June (Shawanigan Lake) and July (Victoria), and my friend Christine (who I’ve known for about 20+ years now) had been bugging me for months that I couldn’t go all the way up to B.C., and not visit her Island (a direct ferry ride away). So, since the 4th of July was coming up — and she had promised me that their local celebration of the 4th was among the best in the nation (for small towns), I decided to pop on the Ferry from Vancouver Island (Sydney) to Friday Harbor (it only runs once a day), arriving the 2nd of July and leaving 5th of July… just long enough to get a taste for the place (to see if I might want to book a longer stay next summer) and to see festivities.

(You can Just see Christine’s back in the upper right image below)

IMG_2725

There was a marked aquatic theme to some of the marchers, that was often political. As I said, whale watching is source of tourism to the island, and with global warming and dams that are damaging the wild salmon runs (which the whales feed up), there is a clear terror of the families (pods) of whales that traditional call the Island’s waters home (they even keep semi reliable swimming schedules which all the locals are familiar with), that was evident in some of the parade displays — one of which included a woman dressed like a whale who would collapse from feigned starvation from time to time.

There was also a group from Friday Harbor labs (where students of oceanography, aquaculture and marine ecology do research) all dressed up as various sorts of marine life (which was wonderfully geeky).

IMG_2727

One cute thing was that among the ‘floats’ was a truck laden with little girls all celebrating the birthday part of one of them, called Rose. I had seem the girl in the red checkered gingham dress before the parade started, but in retrospect it was obvious why she was so much more ‘dressed up’ than the average kid lining the roadway to get the treats being passed out by almost every group.

And, as my friend confirmed, apparently the Pirates have a strong contingent living on Friday Island (For those unfamiliar, they are a variant of the SCA crowd who like to dress-up and recreate the medieval period in their spare time, only you’ll usually find pirates in towns like Santa Cruz, with actual harbors, and the most active groups will cooperatively own actual ships of the sort pirates would have used, and do their reenacting on the water, and hold events to that end)

IMG_2724

At one point a guy rode by on a horse who looked like maybe he was supposed to be Teddy Roosevelt, which confused me because I had no recollection of him ever coming to the Island, but just in case anyone didn’t recognize the reference he was followed by a horse dressed up like a buffalo with the word BISON written on it’s back side (Theodore Roosevelt National Park anyone?) … all of which led to a troop of boy-scouts — so now it all made sense.

IMG_2723

One of the things I saw multiple times during my short stay was Suzy’s Mopeds which had one of their rental lots right near my friend’s apartment. Assuming the weather is good, these are a good rental option for folks who come to the Island sans a car — and insanely cute.

IMG_2721

I was happy to see (among the various pro feminist floats — there was even one devoted to men in favor of ending domestic violence) a float about the National Park Service Women’s History Initiative — where they are now focusing on memorializing important American women, some of which I have gone to.

IMG_2413

IMG_2722 After the Parade was over we were all pretty trashed, so we headed back to Christine’s place to crash, before heading out again for the fireworks.

IMG_2719

I particularly like the “flower theme” that seemed to be playing out with the display. I have a feeling that the pyrotechnicians who designed the display intentionally took into account how the reflections on the water would play into it….

IMG_2720

IMG_2679

San Juan Island, WA

San Juan Island is an Incredibly cute, quaint, picturesque, idyllic, restful, etc., island whose main industry is tourism. It consists of two ‘down-towns’ at either end of the Island, Friday Harbor, the major town, and the resort of Roche Harbor, and feels a bit like where hippie liberals and artists come to in pursuit of a Mayberry existence.

img_2189

I have a long time internet friend from Chicago (we met online before the internet became available to the public at large in a group devoted to Apple computer users) who I’ve known now for almost 20 years. In fact she ended up marrying another member of that same discussion group whose family were multi-generational residents of Friday Harbor. For years now she’s been singing the praises of the place and trying to get me to come see the it. This year she said to me, “you can NOT be in Victoria, B.C., which is all of an hour from here by ferry and not come visit… I’ll never forgive you.” And then, to put sugar in that pot, she told me how her Island had what was considered one of the best small town 4th of July celebrations in the Nation, so I agreed to come for a day or two, and I’m glad I did.

img_2043

Housing on the Island is very expensive, with home prices comparable to some of the most affluent neighborhoods of the Chicago land area. This is true in large part because of how many people who don’t live on the island year round have summer homes there. Also while there I overheard about more than a few locals who will live there, but have to commute to the mainland for work.

img_2042

Tourism, one of the major economic drivers for the island, with whale watching being an important part of the draw. Based on what I heard, there is one family of whales that lives next to the island and pretty much swims around it almost like clockwork, which makes it easy for the tourists and the tour companies catering to those tourists to see the whales.

img_2055

I was very lucky (not knowing any of this in advance) and happened to arrive at the right time and place in order to see the whales making their daily circumference. As I was driving around I came to this ocean side park where there were a lot of cars parked out front of it, so I parked my car and climbed up the hill to the hills above the water.

Up there I saw various couples parked there with blankets, chairs, coolers, etc., just sitting there and waiting. So I asked them what was up and they explained to me about how it was about time for the whales to swim by, and I should just wait a bit.

img_2095

The whales are relatively easy to spot in the same way that Hollywood stars are when in LA … look for the paparazzi. While I couldn’t initially see the whales what I did see was practically an armada of boats moving every so slowly, like a pack, along the shoreline — it made you feel sorry for the whales. To be honest I didn’t so much see the whales as I saw evidence of them via disturbances in the water.

img_6614
img_2085

One of the topics I heard bantered about among the locals (and it was present in the parade the next day) was a high level of justifiable concern among the locals that “their” whales might leave the island in search of better feeding grounds as a result of global climate change. If this were to happen it would have a huge impact on the local economy.

img_6615
Kayakers coming back to shore after getting up close and personal with the Whales

img_6616

img_6617
Lime Kiln Lighthouse

img_2127

img_2138

Driving around the Island you almost get the feeling that its mandated where in the local ordinances that all local residences have to make an effort to make their properties quaint in order to help promote the tourist appeal of the place.

img_6618

img_6619

And then I drove past a bunch of Alpaca

img_2169

img_2166
The little red cars below can be rented all over the island, run on electric engines
img_6620

The Farm had a store that sold VERY expensive things made from the wool of the Alpaca. Talking to the girl who worked there she admitted to me that of all the merchandise, only the socks were actually made from their own wool, the rest of it was stuff they bought from China… I’m guessing her bosses wouldn’t be too pleased that she admits it, it kind of ruins the overall ambiance of the place. But realistically, there was no way the few alapaca they had on the idyllic farm were going to produce enough wool for the stuff they were selling in there.

Right next door to the very expensive resort that makes up the 2nd ‘town’ of the Island I found this place, and of course had to stop.

IMG_2194.jpg

img_6621
img_6622

img_2216

img_2454

img_2455

And now for the major downside of San Juan Island, EVERYTHING is imported into the island and as such, it’s many things, but it’s not cheap… at the time this photo was taken most gas staitions on the mainland were charging about a dollar less.

img_2453

The Sydney, B.C., to Friday Harbor WA Ferry

The ferry that runs from Sydney to Friday Harbor only runs once a day, and at odd times (5:45pm  heading to the Island, and 9:45am returning). It’s a small ferry and lacks the facilities of the far more regular (almost every 2 hours) ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island.

IMG_3242

It being the 5th of July, the ferry was fully booked. I arrived at 8:45 am (an hour before sailing) to get into the standby queue, and luckily was the first person in line … which was still no guarantee of sailing. The ferry actually starts in the town of Anacortes in Washington State, US (on the mainland) and pitstops at the island (at Friday Harbor) on it’s way to Vancouver Island, so what I was banking on was someone oversleeping after the 4th of the July festivities. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened. 

IMG_2664

IMG_3243Where the larger Canadian Ferry has a full topside to hang out on, that includes chairs, tables, etc., on this ferry your only viewing option is these two little areas on the top deck for standing, or standing on the lower deck where the cars load on and then egress.

IMG_2662

IMG_3244

Basically, I wouldn’t suggest this as a way to get from Vancouver to the mainland, but if you want to get to Friday harbor from Victoria by ferry, this is the only option.