The personal authentic travels of a world-wide drifter, you'll always see pics of me at the locations being described (if the other blogs you're reading don't do that, odds are they were NEVER there, just saying…)
Located in the heart of the city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island right off of the Tran Canadian Highway (Route 1) and overlooking the bay, is the Parliament building of the entire province (not state) of British Columbia. It is an incredibly beautiful building and worth taking the time to admire.
In the summer of 2016 I had actually been living in Victoria’s China town for about a month when I finally got around to doing this… there’s actually quite a lot to do in that city… to those who come here for a few hours on a cruise, seriously… you’re missing out.
I had come intent on doing the 3:00 tour, but it turned out that instead of doing it for everybody, they did it for JUST two people (VIPs who turned out to only be the general manager and concierge of the Empress Hotel). Personally, I think that was incredibly rude of management (absolutely no reason they couldn’t have joined a group of other people, or done it between tours). Anyway I kind of stalked the VIP group (who you would assume would have the best docent) … just enough to pick up some of the spiel; and, since it didn’t sound like their guided tour was even going to be all that interesting anyway (it sounded a bit boring actually), I didn’t bother to stick around a full hour for the 4 o’clock guided tour and opted to do it alone.
One of the major differences you see in Canada is the respect (or some might say over whelming guilt) that they accord to their Native populations, which they call the FIRST Nations, as in they were there FIRST. Laying on the floor (ground floor) in the picture bottom right is a quilt devoted to the issue of the dead and missing indigenous women of Canada (explained by the image below) … this is a HUGE problem in the US as well, only in the US it gets no press coverage.
This recognition of the respect due to the First Nations Peoples of Canada, is not the only ‘we’re getting better’ that the building proudly advertises, but also its treatment of what used to be referred to as “the fairer sex.”
Along the walls of the building are also nods to Canada’s history as part of the British Empire, from which it only recently separated itself in 1887… but that in its zeitgeist hasn’t quiet, as documented below…
You don’t see Americans emotionally embracing the traditions or monarchy of England in quite this way…. SO for instance their war memorials were ‘informative’ in that respect.
Pay attention to symbols and language, a knights sword, the WWI 88th regiment “who gave their lives for the Empire” and “for King and Country” — which they separated from which they had separated from 17 years earlier… and if you look closer in the Korean War (upper left), about 30 years later … there it still says “at the call of King and Country” left their families to serve the in the war.
After touring the building, I caught the little play that they do which gives some of the history of the founding of Victoria and the development of its buildings.
It was very cute, and informative… although a bit hard to hear (not the best acoustics) I did however love the fact that they hired a really tiny girl to play Victoria
For a while now, since I’m not working and no longer have to conform to “work appropriate” hair, I’ve wanted to experiment with colors and cuts that would have shocked and offended my parents (were they still alive).
Back in Georgia (in March), I’d started the transformation from my old self to my current one, but as my hair when I first walked into the salon back then was still in it’s virgin state (aka, utterly natural, and gray), the colorist, who had only just met me and didn’t seem to quite trust that I could really wanted what I’d asked for — she knows me MUCH better now. (To her credit, let’s face it, I’m odd, and hair stylists have been sued by unhappy customers before.) At the time, I tried to explain to her how my inner soul really was not reflected by my current appearance; that I had needed to appear professional in my old jobs, but that now I was free of that and I could return to being more myself — and that I wanted my hair to reflect a truer version of me… the former art student me more so than the business school professor me.
I remember her saying things like, “if I do what your asking for you won’t be happy with the result,” and instead of what I had initially asked for she produced something that was radical by local standards (from what I’ve seen, middle aged, upper class, well educated women in Dalton, GA just don’t do this sort of thing with their hair) — driving around Dalton I found most women to have almost identical dye jobs and hair cuts, that were usually of the sort that required bi-weekly hair appointments to maintain. And while I’ll grant you that what she created was VERY pretty, it was not quite as ‘fearless’ as I was ready to go … however, that said, I really did like the end result as it was a bit like having a head of full of firey embers still burning in blackened ash — and I have a personal connection to that sort of energetic. Also, it could be argued that this dye job flattered me more than the one I ended up getting in Victoria.
Now… it was a few months later and the hair had to be redone. While walking around Victoria I spotted this dress in a shop window, and knew THIS was the color pallet I wanted to go for — only with more of the orange and red, and less of the yellow — so I snapped a shot of it, posted it to Facebook and asked the friends to chime in on what they thought about it. I decided, based on the comment of my friend who authors the blog, email@example.com to describe it to whomever my colorist turned out to be as a “Caribbean sunset.”
Now granted, between the Georgia hair coloring and when I finally went in to a salon again (almost five months) my hair had grown out (about two inches) and faded out almost completely, from dark hair with fiery highlights, to something which was now brown with the fire faded to mostly orange… although you can still see some red in there.
As I discussed in a later post, on the distinct nature of homelessness in Canada, I had actually gotten the referral to the Aveda Beauty School from a homeless chick I ran into who had wildly colored hair. I’d been wanting to get creative with my hair for a while, and based on my experiences in Georgia, realized I’d have to find a salon that regularly did this sort of thing, or at least do it in a town where it was far more ‘normal’ to request it. The first day I drove around Victoria I knew I was finally in the right place, so it was a question of finding the best salon for it, at the cheapest price. And the Aveda Beauty School turned out to the be the right place.
I will say however, that at first they rejected my request. “We don’t do that sort of thing here” but… let’s just say I when I’ve set my mind to something I rarely take no as an answer. After a while they of negotiating they gave in, and assigned me to Jessica (the girl in the pictures) who was just a few salon hours short of graduating, and who had exhibited a real flair during her training in the use of color. She was both excited, and a bit intimidated, but we talked about it, and there was a full week between my initial consultation and when she would start the job… and she said she had gotten increasingly excited about it as she had time to mull it over in her brain. “I’ve always wanted to do a job like this one but the customers who come into aveda aren’t asking for it.”
With regard to the gray left at my sides, that was my choice. When I had the last coloring done, in Georgia, I had asked the colorist NOT to color over grey at my temples… which she did, but not as MUCH as I had wanted her to, so with Jessica I was much fiercer about it, but it turned out that again what I was asking for wasn’t as radical a notion in Victoria as in Georgia … it is in fact from what I saw it is beginning to be a THING now for older women to NOT completely cover our gray… or even try to. All over Victoria I was elderly women who had embraced their silver and only added dark highlights in creative ways to to compliment their appearance. I saw this one woman who had short curly hair, where her first two inches were kept completely gray, and only had the tips of her curls made dark… it looked amazing, emphasized her curls, and her face… think of it as older women reclaiming pride in their age.
The whole job had to be done in two steps, in large part because it was going to take 8 hours and the students only work in four hour shifts. Fist they needed to cut my hair to remove damage from the previous dye job, and because they refused to do what I wanted on very long hair (to expensive). Historian type that I am, I told her to think 1920’s inverted bob, long in the front (enough so that I can still pin it back on bad hair days, but short and layered in on the back… and then they did a base dye of a an ashy brown in order to obfuscate the transition between new natural hair and the rest of the head.
Nice, but oh so mundane…. I think I look a bit like pictures of my grandmother taken in the late 1920’s. This was done on the Tuesday.
Two days later, Thursday, I came in again, and the first step was to bleach may hair light enough to allow for the other colors…
The result was a sort of bright orange with some red highlights left in it… To be honest, I always wonder why they can’t just leave hair THIS color — which is what happens when you strip brown out of hair, because I think it’s cool, but they won’t. No colorist has ever explained to me the reason why. That and, as I was not used to seeing myself this way it was kind of a shock… still can’t decide if it’s a good color for me.
The 2nd girl is a friend of Jessica’s who came in to help. Jessica applied all the color, but this girl functioned as a 2nd set of hands, holding bits of hair out of the way, and handing Jessica things as she needed them.
Then we entered the coloring stage. Three colors were used, a purple, and orange, and yellow… and rather then applying the colors in vertical stripes, as is normally done, these were applied horizontally, in a technique now known as decoupage.
And this was the final result…
I’m sad to say that the colors only lasted a few weeks, with the purple disappearing almost immediately, so that two months later (when I’m finally writing this) the hair is mostly orange (close to the color of the hair when initially striped) and a yellow that turns almost neon in the sun… So it will soon be time to try something else.
I’ve sort of been considering the Miley Cyrus inspired haircut (Miley had it when she was in the TVshow, Two and a 1/2 men) that Jessica was sporting… but it actually requires MORE upkeep to get the hair to stay up like that, not less…. and I would need to loose a more weight, as right now my face is too fat
Back when I was living in Victoria, British Columbia for a month, Ferris’ Oyster bar (upstairs Grill & downstairs Patio) became my go-to restaurant, and over the course of a month I worked myself through much of their menu. The seafood is amazingly fresh, well prepared, and very reasonably price (and if you factor in the US to Canadian dollar conversion rate, down right cheap).
There are in fact two restaurants with overlapping but distinct menus: The fancier one is up a long flight of steep stairs and the more laid back one is located on the ground floor.
EVERYTHING I had was tasty, but of everything my most favorite meals were firstly the bouillabaisse served at the downstairs restaurant (the version in the upper pictures, the upstairs one has too much fat for my diet), the laksa (although the coconut milk is verboten for me), the halibut and the warm cauliflower salad.
While all the food is amazing, the more I went there (and I’d been there maybe 12 to 15 times) the more I grew to dislike their downstairs wait staff. Don’t get me wrong, they’re highly efficient, and good at their jobs, but I increasingly got the impression they don’t much like their jobs and would be thrilled if they didn’t actually have to interact with customers. Also, it seems like there’s a high turnover in the downstairs staff because I rarely saw the same folks twice, even though I always sat in the same place. And no, I don’t think it’s just me. I have watched and listened to their interactions with other patrons… same deal.
By contrast the upstairs staff was MUCH friendlier, seemed happier, and did their jobs better.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Another section of the museum is devoted to the human history of Victoria, as a seaport town belonging to the British
Their collection includes George Vancouver’s Uniform, among others
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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…
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.
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.)
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”).
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where 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.
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.
Canada Day, is not an “independence day” equivalent to July 4th in the U.S.A.; rather, it is a national holiday commemorating a 1867 event when the remaining North American British colonies unified & reorganized themselves (by mutual agreement of the British and their Canadian colonists) into a confederated single country called Canada, but one that remained for another 115 years part of the British Empire, until 1982.
This commemoration event made me realize that my knowledge of Canadian history is woefully and embarrassingly non-existent; I actually had no idea that Canada Day even existed, nor for that matter its date, nor did I fully understand what it was about; so, it was by happy accident that I began my one month stay in downtown Victoria, B.C., the day before this event.
(That said: I am currently looking on Amazon.com, both the US and Canadian ones, in an attempt to rectify that, and just not finding much.)
This ignorance (a state of being I have little tolerance for) was brought home to me when one of my oldest friends, asked me ‘what is Canada Day’ and I didn’t know the answer. Gina — who looks like she could be my better looking, much thinner and slightly taller sister — and I have known each other since kindergarten. She’s been visiting me from time to time as I’ve been doing my road trip, since she likes to travel, but her hubby not so much, and she has neither the time nor inclination to travel intensively, the way I have been doing it. So, from time to time she takes a few days off from work and comes to where ever I happen to be — usually after I’ve been there long enough to have a sense of what she might want to see, and she crashes at my place and I become her local guide. When she therefore asked me, “what is Canada Day” I realized that I genuinely had no clue on how to answer that (it was annoying), other than that I was sure it was NOT an Independence day. Canadian independence from the British Empire happened when I was a Junior in High School, and I remembered it. It was a really big deal at the time particularly in my home, since a lot of my family is British (and by birth, technically, so am I).
So what follows is in answer to Gina’s question of, “well if it isn’t an Independence day, what is it?”…..
Originally called Dominion Day (a choice of words I find interesting), Canada Day Celebrates the confederation in 1867 of the two colonies (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) into a whole, named Canada, which was then immediately broken into FOUR Provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador (which apparently count as one), Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
Territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.
The major difference between the two categories seems to be whether their power is derived from the constitutional act of 1867 (also known as the British North America Act of 1867 — territories) that Canada Day commemorates, or whether their power is delegated by the central government (which I assume means the central government maintains the prerogative to revoke them at some future time, I assume after the territories are more densely settled — must investigate further).
The province of British Columbia, where I currently am, didn’t join until 1871 when it became the sixth Canadian Province, after the negotiation of a few legal and economic points. From my perspective, this sounds a lot like what happened with the Crown colonies joining the US — with North Carolina and Rhode Island being hold outs until their terms were agreed to, or the current on-going and in the news example of European countries and EU membership.
And that said, I am about to go off on a HUGE historical tangent, which this brings to mind: namely, the historical question of, “Did the Southern States have the legal right to secede from the Union?” (And what the fuck does this have to do with Canada, is what I assume you’re currently thinking to yourself. No really, bare with me.) The answer is predicated on, do you consider the U.S. Constitution to be a contract or a treaty. No seriously, it makes a HUGE difference from a legal standpoint… and MOST legal scholars tend to agree that Lincoln, as a lawyer, must have known that he had no legal right to stop secession, precisely because the constitution was initially ratified in 1789 with only 11 of the 13 colonies/states agreeing to it, and the holdouts adding on later by 1790 — not to mention our ability to add more states as needed without having to write up a new constitution. (Point of fact, one wouldn’t know unless you majored in law or political science: legally, no one can enter a contract after the fact; for that to happen the old contract has to be broken and a new one created that all current members sign. This is not so with a treaty, where others can join on the agreement after the fact, and more importantly, in a treaty signers reserve the right to leave at will with no major repercussions, which you don’t get to do with a contract.) Most legal scholars consider the constitution to be a treaty for this reason. However, that said, since all of the Canadian colonies were under British control (sort of like teenagers legally, rather than full adults) I don’t think British Columbia would legally have the right to secede, but it is an interesting thought anyway.
From the little I’ve read, while prepping to write this — again, I am looking for some good general readers on Canadian History — the reorganization, and the general semi-independence granted to Canada by the British was definitely influenced by what had happened in what were, then, the United States, in an attempt to keep Canada in the Empire. For the most part it worked, and Canada was kept at least legally dependent on the British Empire for another 115 years, or in other words until just 34 years ago in 1982.
So, back to the fun part:
There was a whole schedule of events lined up for the day, but where Americans seem to be married to the concept of 4th of July parades, followed by music, food, and then fireworks… the Canadians seem to really enjoy forming ‘human flags.’ Apparently — from what I was hearing — every major city in Canada does one of these, and there’s a sort of unofficial rivalry for who can do the biggest one… which Winnipeg seems to hold the record for, and the fact that it included free Canada T-shirts was a definite draw from my perspective.
Unfortunately, by the time we got done brunch (dim sum, not great), and dragged our asses the five or six blocks from my apartment to the lawn in front of the British Columbia Parliament building (the majestic building with the green rooms), they had already handed out all 1,500 t-shirts. We did however get there in time to see them forming the flag by herding people, based on t-shirt color, into specific locations that were marked by bright yellow strings. There were multiple TV stations and Newspapers taking shots, both from the ground, and from elevated positions.
Along with this, there was also live music (really good live music I might add), activities and a bouncy castle for the kids, many folks touting red maple leaf temporary tattoos on their faces, and no shortage of adults embracing their Canadian Identity with a geeky fervor that I just loved.
Just off to the side of this were food trucks, and public service groups advertising everything from efforts to revive nearly extinct species specific to Canada, to public service groups. Gina and I are both very Jewish (in our own ways), we met at a Jewish Kindergarten, and were really happy to see that there was a Jewish contingent being represented.
From them we learned that there are a few different synagogues in town; apparently, the conservative one is not only just up the street from my rental, it is also the oldest surviving synagogue in Canada (I will endeavor to stick my nose in late this month); they had mistakenly said it was the oldest in all of North America — but I knew that couldn’t be right because I (rightfully) thought that one is located in Rhode Island, but I didn’t correct them. However, according to Wikipedia the one in Victoria is the oldest West coast synagogue in North America… Unfortunately the congregation is so small that they only do Saturday morning prayers regularly, with Friday night prayers only happening once a month. There is also a reform, a Chabad (of course), and a spiritualist new age type community.
Besides this we found rows and rows of local artists selling their wares. Products ranged from hand made native american art, to bucket loads of jewelry and clothing, to bizarre garden gnomes.
One item for sale kind of freaked us out. If you’ve been shopping lately you’ve noticed that fossilized ‘life’ of various forms, and quartz seem to have not only become all the rage, but seem to be selling as jewelry that range in prices from $180 to an almost identical item selling for $5. At one such table I picked up a necklace that appeared to be a fossilized leaf… really pretty, and it slipped from my hand and hit the floor and shattered. I showed it to the guy managing the table and apologized saying, “you break it you buy it” and he waved me off saying not to worry about it, “we guarantee what we sell, so if it broke from one drop, don’t worry about it.” Both Gina and I just “LOOKED” at each other, and walked away a bit freaked out. We both mentally went to, ‘if that cost them so little that they don’t care customers break them, then none of that stuff we’re seeing in stores must be real.’ As in I think the Chinese have figured out how to mass produce this stuff, and the product selling for $200 a pop might be the same crap that’s selling for $5 a pop.
Buyer beware is all I can say about that.
After that Gina and I were both utterly warn out, and headed back to my Airbnb rental to crash. On the way back we passed a very hunky looking Canadian policeman (seriously, hubba hubba), and I asked him where the best places to see the fireworks from were, describing about where my rental was. He suggested a location much closer than the one advertised, and we thanked him… we went back to my place and we both fell asleep for a few hours before heading out to the fireworks.
Afterwards Gina noted that this had been two firsts for her: firstly, watching fireworks from an angle where you can actually see the track of the fireworks, and secondly, she had never really watched them fully over water before. It was quite lovely.
Fort Rodd Hill, Because militaries have to spend money defending strategic locations, even when they are highly unlikely to ever being attacked; the movie presentation takes some sort of pride in the fact that other than for training purposes, a single shot was never made from this facility.
I’m currently staying on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. I came here mostly because it’s the hometown of a former officemate of mine from when I taught in S. Korea, and she’s returned home. I’m not staying at her home for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is she has three cats and two dogs, and I’m allergic to both. Instead I found an Airbnb rental near her in a neighborhood called Shwanigan Lake, one with a spare bed for visiting friends.
Shwanigan lake, BC was advertised as a resort mountain lake town, but the reality of the place came no where near to meeting the excitement those words conjured in my mind’s eye; for instance, the town area has two restaurants (one Japanese place that no one EVER goes to, the other is a pretty tasty fish and chips shop with maybe four tables), a fairly decent but not impressive non-chain coffeehouse/bakery, a Subways Subs, a Sarpino’s (that cheap chain you rarely see outside of a mall), a gas station and a Korean owned connivence store that also makes sushi to order. The homes are either falling down shacks, or decent looking middle class homes. There are no mountains to be seen, just hills, and the lake is fairly dinky in size. Basically, if it’s a resort mountain lake town, it’s a working class one. This basically means I’ve been getting a bit bored, but HAVE managed to catch up on a bunch of back-dated blog posts that I didn’t have time (or was too tired) to write while actually on the road.
As I was looking for ‘things to do’ in the area for my friend Louise and I, and came across an activity called, “Women on the Home Front at Fort Rodd Hill 2016”
“Discover how women of the Second World War contributed to our victory. Join costumed re-enactors and Parks Canada staff during this four-day event at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site. Step back in time to honour women of the second world war and learn about the important contributions they made on the home front.
Friday June 17 at 2pm – Victory Roll and Bren Gun Girls: 1940’s hairstyles for working women.
Saturday June 18 at 11am – Learn to knit: First 20 participants get needles and wool. Everyone will receive free historic patterns and knitting help.
Saturday June 18 at 1pm – Knitting Bee: Refreshments and draw prizes.”
Sounds good right? I thought so as you know I’m in to History, and in case you missed it (the book I’m currently reading is listed off to the right), I had just recently finished reading the social history book Home Fires: The Story of the Women’s Institute in the Second World War, which originally went by the title of Jambusters: The Women’s Institute at War 1939-1945, but got renamed to match name of the PBS drama series that was based on the book. Also, my friend Louise is very into feminist issues (she’s a professor of Human Resources -HR – and has written a load of papers on how women get screwed over repeatedly in the work place, especially in S. Korea) so I thought she’d be excited to see it, and she was.
I made a point of calling the Forte well in advance to verify what the web site had said, and they confirmed that it was going to begin on Thursday the 16th and run through Sunday the 19th (I actually found TWO web sites with the same information). Since my friend Tom was going to be coming in for a visit via the Victoria Clipper (a passenger only ferry) from Seattle, WA on the 17th, and would stay through the 19th, I figured our best bet was to go the 16th — as Tom being male might be less into the whole feminist thing. Then, the morning of the 16th I had posted to facebook that the plan for the day was to go to that event, and Louise posted a third link to it, one I had not until then seen, which said it was on the 17th through the 19th, and NOT on the 16th. This got me worried.
Neurotic female that I am, I started calling the Forte to get confirmation, was it or was it not happening today, Thursday the 16th.… and every time I called (and it was repeatedly, and incessantly) I got a recorded message; I called my friend to tell her my concern, and she called and got a human who said they were setting up, but events wouldn’t really get started till tomorrow the 17th, when my other friend was arriving…. OK then, not great news… after a few more tries myself, I finally got a human who confirmed that in spite of TWO websites saying it, they were NOT REALLY starting yet; that there were some exhibits currently being set up but that no one would be around to interpret them and we should come on Friday or Saturday, and that NOT on Sunday, because that was the day they’d be taking everything down. So I called Tom and asked him if he’d be interested in seeing this thing tomorrow after I picked him up from the Ferry, and he said he would… so problem solved, Louise agreed that rather than driving in together, she would meet us there, and then we’d each go our own way afterwards.
When we got to the event, it was a sort of massively underwhelming, mostly because there was in essence NOTHING set up the related to the female experience in the war (we didn’t stick around to have our hair done).
What there was, was a guy showing us how to make barrels by hand (not sure what if anything that had to do with the topic)
And there were two guys who Tom and I both decided were just a little bit to fascinated with Russia, talking about Ukrainian troops who fought during WWII (he was less than happy when he discovered that both Tom and I were fully aware that the Ukrainians had not only backed the Nazi’s in that war, but were down right enthusiastic about sending their Jews to extermination camps), and a younger guy who looked to be his son talking about the Russians who fought in Afghanistan, and how they explained why Russians love Putin (again, one of men on my list of people that I love, has been, on and off, in what he refers to as ‘Fuckupistan’ ever since the 1980’s Russian incursion, first as a freelance photographer and later working for the UN when the US invaded, and as such I was a lot more ‘well-informed’ than this guy was comfortable with).
The closest thing to the topic was a woman who had set up a small exhibition of the post cards and things her great Uncle had sent home to grandmother (his sister) from his experiences in Europe during the war. These were kind of interesting. Some of them were hand-made needlepoint post cards made by Belgian women as something to sell to Allied soldiers. The most impressive cards he sent however were images of destruction. Apparently the Nazis would create these postcards of Allied destruction of the Fatherland as a way to motivate the troop. Then,when Allied soldiers picked the pockets of fallen German soldiers — uhg — they considered these to be a prize find, and would send them home as evidence of the progress they were making (sort of a disturbing win win if you think about it). However, again, her exhibition was far more about her uncle’s experience in the war, than her grandmother’s.
So by attending this event we discovered very little “regarding how women of the Second World War contributed to our victory” as promised. And the only costumed re-enactors were talking about men’s experiences. We did however get to see the normal presentations by the park, and of course the permanent buildings:
I hate to say it, but I think this might be a Canadian cultural thing — although I don’t have enough info yet to confirm the theory. My friend Tom and I talked about it afterwards, and he said that while Canadians are amazingly polite, and disconcertingly nice, they also have a reputation — which I’d not heard of — to be a bit apathetic about things (my friend Louise is the opposite, she’s obsessed with fighting for causes). He said that you just don’t see the attention to detail professionalism that you’d expect in the states, which would explain why 2 of 3 web sites were wrong, and when we got to the event it was not at all what was advertised.