Travel Tales: Victoria

May 11, 2005 - 12:00am -- swingbug

Shawn and I just returned from a 5 day trip to Victoria, B.C. I didn't forget about you but I didn't have access to a computer until now so I'll slowly start typing up my hand-written travel blogs.

Day 1: We Arrive
We were up at 4:30 am on Wednesday. I suppose I don't need to describe how painful that was. We had gone to bed after midnight the night before, after packing, cleaning, getting the cats ready for our absence, etc. I checked my email one last time at about midnight to read a fantastically funny email from a friend's life. (Thank you for the laugh, my dear. You know who you are.) I was still giggling at 12:30 when I finally slipped into bed.

4 hours later the alarm went off. No more giggling. I pried myself out of bed with a crowbar and we got ourselves ready to go.

Shuttle arrived. The bags were checked. I made it through airport security without losing my temper. (What do you mean, you strongly recommend I take off my shoes? Why don't you just say it? Take off your shoes or we'll strip search you and pull out the rubber gloves! I love our country. Yay for freedom. Isn't it swell?)

The plane trip was uneventful. Our first leg from here to Seattle was delayed supposedly because of a leaky coffee pot, which was too absurd for me to really believe. The second leg from Seattle to Victoria was in a pond skipper prop plane. Also amusing.

Customs. Baggage. Rental car. Hotel. The hotel is quite nice. Our room has a two story window that looks out on the harbor. It also has a little kitchen, complete with stove, which is why we picked it. Upon arrival, however, we were told that we can't actually use the stove or any of the dishes without paying an extra $40. Rather than getting irritated about it, Shawn just jimmied open the locked circuit breaker box in our room and flipped the switch to turn on the oven. I'm eatting a lovely oven-warmed croissant as I write this.

By the time we left the hotel and went blinking out into the sunshine, it was midday and we went on a quest of lunch and exploration. Some wonderfully greasy fish and chips down at fisherman's wharf got us through the hungry bit and inspired us to do a lot of walking.

We walked past parliament, the apparently famous Empress Hotel, and into downtown. Little seaplanes buzzed passed and landed in the harbor, which amused us greatly. "Look, honey! A boat!" "No, dear. That's a plane. Boats are on the water." "Oh, I see! My mistake. Silly me."

Victoria's downtown is quaint, for a small city. It's stocked with dozens of souvenir shops selling "I Love Canada" t-shirts, each one with some sort of large stuffed mammal out in front in a mountie costume.

We were on a quest for hemp. You see, hemp is basically illegal in the U.S. You can't grow it, presumably because of it's pharmacological properties, but if you study your history then you'll know that it was actually the cotton industry that lobbied to make it illegal in the first place and it's completely possible to grow hemp for fiber without producing any drug by-products. It's an easy-to-grow crop that can become anything from steel-strength building materials to sturdy, comfy fabrics. It could revitalize our independent farming industry and save our forests. Heaven forbid.

So any hemp products you find in the U.S. have been imported and our government charges an import tax of 200% on all hemp products, which is passed on to the consumer.

I tried on a pair of hemp jeans once in a store in Old-Town Sacramento. They were the most comfortable pants I'd ever tried on in my life. They were also $120.

Shawn and I both hoped that we might find a pair of hemp jeans to take home with us, and while the stores selling these wares were plentiful indeed, they were just as expensive in Victoria as in Sacramento, which was both disappointing and baffling. We never did get a reasonable explanation for that.

We idled through the rest of downtown, through bookstores and bead shops, until retreating to our hotel around five.

We asked some directions at the desk and went in search of groceries to see us through our trip. The clerk sent us 5 blocks out in the opposite direction of downtown into an area apparently called James Bay, which was truly charming. No more bears dressed like mounties. Real residences, real parks complete with monkeys on the monkey bars, real shops that the people who actually live here shop at.

Across the road from the grocery store was The James Bay Book & Coffee Company. Stop in if you're ever in the area. The folks behind the counter are super nice and they made me the best cup of chai I've ever had. I drank my chai in a a sunny window while Shawn perused the book shelves, eventually tuning up an Isaac Asimov he'd never read.

After our grocery adventure we walked back downtown for dinner. We went to the Swans Brew Pub. Cream pasta, good beer, and a killer blues band and I'm in heaven. Shawn and I split a pitcher of Scotch Ale (hey, they were on special) and enjoyed the tunes of the Bill Johnson Blues Band. I had heard about these guys on a website for a swing dancing group in Victoria, so I was hoping some other lindy hoppers were going to show. Sadly no. A pair of west-coasters who knew their stuff, but that was all. But there were enough people dancing, wiggling, or otherwise moving to the music that we didn't feel weird about getting out there and doing a few turns.

I was once at a west coast swing/lindy hop dance where I overheard some west coasters complaining about lindy hoppers. (West coast and lindy hop dancers don't interact all that often because the music's totally different. Lindy hoppers like jazz, rock-a-billy, and early rock and roll. West coasters like everything else.) At this particular dance, Shawn and I were having fun on the dance floor and a girl sitting near the edge of the floor complained -- quite loudly, I might add -- about how she hated how lindy hoppers would just dance to anything even if it wasn't appropriate for the lindy hop. Oh, you know what? Bite me. I'm out here having a good time and you're doing what exactly? Sitting in a chair gossiping and waiting for someone to ask you to dance? That's what I thought.

Anyway, I digress...

We had a great time at the Swan's Brew Pub and what with the getting up early, the traveling, all the walking, and all the dancing (and the half pitcher of beer), I slept very well that night.

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