Monday, May 23, Victoria Day

Victoria Day parade; Don Mee for lunch; Irish Times; Visitors Information Centre; Dinner at the Steamship

Harbour Towers



I decided not to go out and watch the parade this morning. It was supposed to last about three hours and although I can walk around for that long, I do have problems standing around for that long or sitting on steps or curbs. Yesterday when I had asked at the desk downstairs about finding anywhere to sit along the parade route I was reliably informed that there are some benches scattered along but I'd have to get there very early to claim a seat.

When I was checking out the parade online yesterday I had learned that coverage of it would be broadcast online, and the wifi here in the hotel is proving to be pretty good so I knew I could at least watch it on my laptop, so I decided to just watch it in the comfort of my hotel room, with its en suite bathroom.

This morning while I was looking online to find out if the parade would also be broadcast on TV I found out that the local Highland Games was also going on this weekend. I'm not sure if I would have changed my plans if I'd known that beforehand–I rather enjoyed watching the marching bands yesterday afternoon, and the coverage of the parade and the parade itself turned out to be equally enjoyable.

Coverage of the parade ended just before noon. By then I was ready for lunch, so I decided that today I would do pretty much the same thing I did yesterday but this time I'd actually go in some of the places I'd only been past yesterday. I caught a ride with the hotel shuttle up to Chinatown again and today ate at Don Mee, a huge place that is apparently the best place for dim sum on the island. While I was there I realized I'd been there before on one of my earlier, infrequent trips to Victoria. The last time I was here was the summer I graduated from library school at the Univesity of Washington over fifteen years ago, but I think I might actually have eaten at Don Mee the first time when I came to Victoria with a friend from UPS Spring break my senior year there.

On the way back to the hotel today I stopped for a pint at the Irish Times, the very nice Irish pub along Government Street. I stopped in at Murchie's again to pick up some of their pastries for later as well (a bit of banana loaf which I think I'll save for breakfast in my room tomorrow morning, and a small bag of six very tasty madeleines, three of which I saved for tomorrow evening and three of which I had with a cup of my Murchie's tea (apricot tonight, black currant last night) about an hour or so ago.

I wanted to find out about buses to Butchart Gardens so I stopped in at the Visitors Information Centre along the harbor down by the Empress Hotel and the Legislature near where I had poutine for lunch yesterday.

The hotel where I'm staying, the Harbour Towers, is not far from the Visitors Centre and is perhaps two short blocks from the road and walkway that runs around this part of the peninsula and is just inland from the Black Ball ferry terminal and the terminal for the Victoria Clipper passenger ferry to Seattle. While I was walking along the road towards those terminals and my hotel I passed by where the Coho, the ferry between Anacortes, Washington, and Victoria docks (and I have to say that I'd forgotten what a lovely ship the Coho is), which is one of the stops for Gray Line's double decker, hop on/hop off bus tours of the city leaves from. I picked up a brochure from the very nice, attractive young lady at their small ticket cart on my way.

When I was looking at the brochure and schedule after I got back to my room I found out that Gray Lines also runs an express bus out to Butchart Gardens, and you can get a combo ticket for both of their tours.

I had intended on going on one of the tours on the Hippo's amphibious vehicles but when I mentioned this to the nice young woman at the Visitor Information Centre she said she thought they weren't running their tours at the moment. The Hippo tours are supposed to leave from the Black Ball ferry terminal but when I got there I didn't see any information about the tours. I used my iPhone to check the Hippo's website again, which listed their daily schedule and showed nothing to indicate they weren't running their tours and called them–not getting billed extra by Verizon this time, thanks to the call I made to them yesterday–and learned that the girl at the Tourist Centre had been correct. I pointed out the the person I talked to that they might want to put some notice on their website that they aren't currently actually running tours and he said they planned to be back in operation soon.

This wasn't a wasted trip, though. First of all, as I said earlier the Black Ball terminal is only two short blocks from my hotel. And the Victoria Clipper terminal is just a bit further down the road from the Black Ball terminal, so I stopped in there to find out the schedule Thursday morning and wound up buying my ticket there in advance.

The boat leaves at 11:30, getting to Seattle at 2:15 PM. I'll need to get there early enough to check my two larger suitcases in and go through US customs so I think I'll pay to have breakfast here in the hotel first, come back up and get my bags, and be at the Clipper terminal by 10:30. I was going to take a cab until I found out how close I actually am, and think I can just wheel my two larger bags and carry my pack, hat box, and Mom's cane by myself.

I was back here in my hotel room early enough to hang out for an hour or so before heading back downstairs to use the treadmill in the hotel's very nice exercise room before finding somewhere to have dinner. When I stopped at the desk in the lobby before catching the elevator I learned that they didn't have anyone to drive the shuttle this evening, so I told the young woman on duty that I'd been over to Fisherman's Wharf yesterday and asked if she could recommend anywhere within walking distance of the hotel.

The two places she liked the best were at the Hotel Grand Pacific and the Steamship bar and grill which is in the very lovely building built in 1924 that once housed the Victoria terminal for steamships. I looked at both places online when I got back to my room, and decided that although both places are not cheap they're not hugely expensive. The weather was still lovely so I decided to walk over to the Steamship building and, since they had the heaters going on the patio, I actually had dinner outside in May here in Victoria.

I think tomorrow I might use the treadmill fairly early in the morning and then take the Gray Line city tour, which takes an hour and a half for the complete circuit, and then catch their other bus on out to Butchart Gardens. Since I went to the Irish pub this afternoon, I might have dinner at the Scottish place tomorrow or at least stop in for a pint after getting back from the Gardens. Wednesday, my last day here in Victoria, I think I'll catch the hotel shuttle out to Craigdarroch Castle, walk back into town, and visit the Provincial Museum, and try and have high tea at the Empress Hotel as well. I might tomorrow and see if I can make a reservation for one of the seatings on Thursday.

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