Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sidney & Victoria

Now Grandpa-less, we crossed the border into Canada. Our destination was Sidney, just a bit northeast of Victoria, where we planned to spend a night or two. As it turned out, we liked it so much that we spent four nights and could have stayed longer. Sidney boasts of itself as a Booktown with its small downtown teeming with seven bookstores which Isaac and Jason found dreamy. The bus system was easy to manage so we found our way to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, courtesy of our hilarious bus driver, who, at one point, pulled over for a blackberry-picking break. At the gardens we settled in for a gluttonous high tea overlooking the Italian garden. You won't believe the amount of treats we consumed until you see the photos. We all left feeling VERY ill. In our defense, we didn't have to eat dinner that night. Feeling a bit vomitus, we high-tailed it through the gardens because Jason wanted to take the boat tour which was, as one might expect, a lot like being on a sailboat. I was a little dubious about paying to go on a boat ride given our primary mode of transportation this trip and my churning insides. A real busman's holiday as our boat driver said, but we learned about the history of the gardens (limestone quarry turned gardens after the quarryman's wife set her mind to beautifying the ravaged land), saw interesting places we could potentially anchor in the future and watched loads of jellyfish blooms. In spots the water turned icy translucent, clouded with thousands and thousands of jellyfish. Afterwards we leisurely strolled through the gardens, stopping to smell the roses along the way before catching a bus back to our marina.

As luck would have it, we had friends from home who were traveling to Vancouver Island for a camping vacation. The stars aligned and they arrived in Sidney on a ferry while we were there so we loosely planned a day in Victoria with them. The stars outdid themselves this time...the bus we caught into Victoria was a double-decker! Delighted, we ran up to the second story and took our seats. When we arrived at our destination, the famous Empress Hotel, I looked out the window of the bus and there were our friends strolling through the garden. One of the youngsters happened to look up and I gave him a frenetic wave. He stared at me on the top level of the bus in disbelief, then pulled on his mom's sleeve to point us out. The timing was impeccable. After a round of big hugs, we grabbed a bite to eat before hunkering into a museum. After several hours of learning about the natives who inhabited the area and Victoria's early history, we took a breather for afternoon tea a couple of blocks away. As we walked through the bustling waterfront, we noticed a classic wooden boat show with none other than Martha, our favorite 1907 racing schooner, tucked in among the ranks. Being wooden boat junkies we briefly parted ways with our friends so we could hit the docks to say hello to the crew from Martha. After a quick catch-up session in Martha's gorgeous wooden salon, we stepped out and crossed the dock to Deer Leap, a 85-foot fan tail motor cruiser from 1929, that we later found out, hosted folks like Bob Hope and the Kennedy family. As we entered the stern deck, a boisterous group greeted us and invited us to sit down and have a beer. A bit confused about the treatment, we first declined and then, on second thought, we realized that we shouldn't pass up an opportunity to relax on such a luxurious and classy boat so we took a seat, cracked open a beer to share, and joined the conversation. After forty-five minutes of entertaining conversation and a few lessons on bar tricks, they began to ask questions about Martha and that's when we realized that they must have thought that we were the owners of that huge, wonderful schooner. The deception was made while watching Jason and I step off her and then made complete by the fact that Jason was coincidentally wearing his Schooner Martha shirt that day. Oh boy, how do we break the news? We thanked them for the lovely afternoon and ambled our way down the docks, enjoying the sunshine and all the beautiful wooden boats before we rejoined our friends in the museum. Isaac and Jason raced through the Arctic exploration, but lingered in the Pacific Northwest exhibit. Aaron saw only the Pacific NW. He just couldn't get enough of hanging out in the room that looks exactly like all of forests and beaches that we sail to. It made me realize how much both of the boys love hanging out in this marine environment and I left feeling happy and satisfied that we can spend so much time here in the Pacific Northwest together. We left the museum hungry and in search of Red Fish Blue Fish, a highly rated fish 'n' chips place on the waterfront. We arrived to find a long line but decided we would stick it out. As all the boys watched sea plane traffic and the sun set over the harbor, the parents stood in line. Luckily we had non-stop entertainment from the inebriated woman behind us in the line who talked and talked and talked. Our assessment of Canadians has been that they are very friendly, outgoing, laid-back people. The experience in line made us wonder if the reason Canadians are so friendly is because, maybe, they are a bit drunk all the time, which made us a little worried about our bus driver....but it's just a theory at this point. After a lovely dinner with delicious food and good friends, on benches overlooking the water, we hugged our good-byes, wished each other well, and set off on our separate adventures. Thanks so much for taking the time and making the effort to meet up with us on Vancouver Island. It was so fun to see you!

Click here for photos.

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