Vancouver and Victoria – on the way home

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You’d been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

From Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen

Sadly, in November 2016 (yes that long ago) Canadian singer/songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen passed away. Born in Quebec and having made his start in Montreal Cohen became an international star in the late sixties but never lost his Canadian profile. I have debated whether he is my favourite Canadian. Perhaps he is keeping score with Neil Young. Oh and by the way “Famous Blue Raincoat” is my favourite Leonard Cohen song

We left Boulder, Colorado the day after the F.B.I. executed a search warrant on a certain ex-president’s home. It is unlikely these two events are connected but nevertheless I’d like to think maybe if you want something bad enough. Anyway here we are in Vancouver – an easy two and a half hour flight from Denver. The US, if not Canada, is obsessed with Trump. The Democrats because that is what they do – sort of left wingers who love to be outraged. The Republicans because many of them are so frightened of losing the so called “Trump endorsement” in their own re-election battles that they constantly make outrageous and untrue statements backing up Trump’s continuous lying and corruption. And some of them because they appear to be just batshit crazy. Looking at you MTG. For the sake of the US and perhaps the world lets hope that this obnoxious man gets either his comeuppance or just disappears somewhere soon.

Meanwhile we are enjoying the sights of Vancouver City and shortly Victoria on Vancouver Island. Vancouver is a harbour city in every sense of the word. It is rated in the world’s top five harbours and in my limited experience this is true. Scout found a nice guest house, a five minute walk to the Sky Rail (Metro) station of Broadway-Town Hall. The Town Hall is in fact down the road and across the street. It is a magnificent stone building that towers over this gentrified suburb. A quick chat with a local real estate agent suggests the house he is marketing in our street is on the market for about CAN$4.3m. Many of the properties here are marked with “Historic Building” signs .The homes remind us of Remuera in Auckland, N.Z. with the large wooden houses having views over downtown Vancouver to the harbour with the Rocky Mountains towering over everything to the north. We are four stops and fifteen minutes from the Waterfront terminus, Canada Square and the restaurant and bar district. The quayside is lined with a yacht club and marina, the cruise ship terminal and walkways, cycleways, cafes and pretty green spaces. This could be so Auckland if only some local government people could put their mind to it. At least Wellington is heading in that direction. It is a delight to walk around a seawall set up for pedestrians and cyclists. And it is crammed with tourists.

Stanley Park sits on the peninsula that juts out from downtown Vancouver towards The Strait of Georgia and Vancouver Island. We hired bikes and cycled the tourist clogged cycle path around the sea wall which circumnavigates Stanley Park. This is an attractive greenbelt in the city centre and is a magnet for tourists and locals running, cycling and (very few) swimming. The weather has been perfect so a leisurely day cycling and exploring the Granville Island markets is a delight. The Waterfront also seems the place to be for a drink and dinner. There are plenty of quality pubs and well priced restaurants although competing for a table with the hordes of tourists that dominate this part of the city is challenging. We enjoyed the Canadian dish of Poutine – fries, topped with cheese curd and gravy – sampled the delicious local craft beers and British Columbia wines and the salmon burger. Salmon is, of course, the state fish!

Victoria Capitol Building on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island, in the north eastern Pacific dominates the British Columbia coast. It is hard to get a handle on its size because there are numerous smaller islands in the channel making up the Gulf Islands between it and the mainland. In fact Vancouver Island is 32,134 square kms and 100 kms in width and 436 kms in length. It is also the world’s 43rd largest island and surprisingly, I learnt, the part of B.C. first populated by the British colonists. Consequently, the township of Victoria at its southern tip is also the provincial capital. The island population is around 865,000 although half of these live in Greater Victoria city. We are also only an hours ferry ride from Seattle in the US state of Washington and we met a number of tourists from there having a day’s outing.

Scout had excelled herself with the Windsor Guest House find in Vancouver and now produced a rabbit again when we checked into the Royal Scot Hotel in Victoria.. Nothing fancy but well priced and a two minute walk to the bustling harbour area. Victoria is another tourist trap. But what a lovely one sitting as it does on the Salish Sea looking gleefully south to the US state of Washington. The ferry trip from Vancouver is an hour and a half passing through island channels although strangely the ferry doesn’t berth in Victoria Harbour but an hour’s bus ride away in Swartz Bay. No locals could explain this.

The Empress Hotel, Victoria. Built in 1904 its design is based on a Loire Valley, France castle.

Victoria is also a cyclists dream with cycle paths throughout the city and a quirky park on its eastern side called Beacon Hill. And what a surprise when we cycled around the eastern edge of the park and found the Victoria Cricket Club and ground. There is enormous history here and we explored Government House (where the BC Lieutenant Governor lives), Parliament House (once visited by Queen Victoria) and a disappointing Chinatown which seemed more interested in Mexican food than its traditional offerings. The harbour is surrounded by quaint apartments (and not so quaint), pubs, cafes and the delightful Fisherman’s Wharf where sit numerous floating homes surrounded by fish and chip cafes and crab boats. Victoria is a lovely city. It was a disappointment that we did not have the time to further explore Vancouver Island and its obvious attractions centred around fishing, kayaking and hiking.

Both Vancouver and Victoria are very culturally diverse places. The first Nations People make up 2.5% of Vancouver City’s population of 632,000 and both Vancouver and Victoria are supporting the growth of indigenous culture through recognition of First Nations land and cultural rights following the usual colonial exploitation. Interestingly Vancouver’s population includes over 20% of Chinese origin and 15% south east Asian. This is not surprising as gold was discovered in British Columbia in 1858 followed by an influx of Chinese immigrants from the goldfields of California.

Such a wonderful and attractive part of the world. It is very much nature’s playground with a backdrop of snow capped peaks in the northern Rocky Mountains. If you are looking to visit the west coast of the USA you could do a lot worse than a few days in British Columbia on the way. And Whistler Mountain is a hop and a skip from Vancouver for you skiers.

One thought on “Vancouver and Victoria – on the way home

  1. I did t realise most of this. For some reason I hadn’t tweaked that Washington state was so close. I knew Seattle was up that way. But that’s it.

    Keen to make our way there sometime.

    Sent from my iPhone



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