Posted August 9, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
Chapter 8 of the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series.
“Winter dreams the same dream
Transported by ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles, we arrived to Inner Harbor within 90 minutes.
While waiting in line at Customs, I called my sister, Deborah, who reminded me of her honeymoon road trip from San Diego to Victoria with film star, David Miller in 1975.
“Pardon me if it slipped my mind, but you do realize that was almost fifty years ago,” I said. Then, I asked her what we should do in Victoria. “Ride the ferries to the islands,” she suggested.
Then, all pumped up for the usual Canada wave through, we donned our masks as instructed and pulled up to the inspection kiosk.
Why did Living in Beauty cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca?
For many reasons, but not for an hour-long customs search by federal officers who seized an unopened jar of hemp cream. We studied the literature ahead, so the confiscation of our ointment is baffling. Why didn’t they take our hemp soap? We have no idea. Maybe that’s why we skedaddled the moment they released us, before the sniffer dogs could pick up on our hemp underwear.
Like bootleggers on a hot run, we blasted through scenic downtown Victoria …
into the bucolic countryside …
to a secret hideout on the beach …
where we laid low, tried to blend in and shake off the nerves.
Then, two things happened.
First: The sun came out.
This was the warmest moment we’d experienced since leaving San Diego in January.
Then, our Canadian neighbors in a 5th wheel noticed we could use some cheer and invited us over for game time, refreshments, and to talk smack about customs on both sides of the border.
This gang of former Victorians shared their valuable insider’s sightseeing advice.
They also broke the news that ferry services to the San Juan Islands were a casualty of the pandemic.
That was a bummer, missing the San Juans. But, at least, we didn’t feel like lonely outlaws anymore. So we threw the dice, and won a game-plan for what turned out to be three fabulous weeks in Victoria, British Columbia.
“You can be sure that I will never stop believing …”
The sunshine didn’t last.
The May sky remained as shifty and mysterious as those Dow-Jones graphs, holding us in thrall and confusion over what it all means. Every morning we took our seat on the eagle bench to study the ENSO boxing match and try to predict the outcome for the day. All May long, Winter held dominance, yet Spring won a few impressive rounds.
Airstreamer’s Mini Reunion
The first activity on our list was to visit with our full-time Airstreaming friends who have their stabilizers down in the region. These inspiring women give assurance that families can make a wholesome home on The Road, even with children and careers. We are awed by their ingenuity, joy, and spirit of adventure.
Encouraged by their good advice, Victoria began to unfold like a rose.
The Galloping Goose
The Galloping Goose, a 60-kilometer multi-use trail, offers some the best scenery in British Columbia.
Linking the small villages on an emerald green lane, this trail is a hallmark of the Vancouver Island bike-positive landscape.
Pico’s Day Out
Wind chill was an issue. It made the low 60’s feel like the low 40’s even in the sun, so Pico was often housebound with his fluff-friend RattyRat.
But, finally the wind took a break and we explored dog-friendly Victoria.
With so many places where Pico is not allowed, we were overjoyed that Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site, welcomes dogs – even Chihuahuas.
Best dog walk ever.
The expansive grounds …
focused on classic Spring color …
drew us in, closer …
and closer, into the miracle of Spring.
Gelato in the Italian Garden topped off Pico’s Big Day at Butchart.
Rain or shine, dogs are forbidden in …
After our visit we were amazed the doors were open to the likes of us, notorious hemp smugglers that we are.
What’s the Groucho Marks quote? “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.” Yeah, we had that syndrome.
This is no dusty old castle tour. We realized we’d misjudged this tour when we passed through a shoe scraping station with staff oversight. Craigdarroch Castle is almost too much to absorb in a single visit. Jim, a purveyor of fine wood craftsmanship was speechless, cornered by maximum sensory overload.
We gawked up.
we gawked down ..
we gawked all around …
at the furnishings …
the Hudson River School art …
the textiles, metal and glass work.
about their successes and failures …
values and contradictions.
The servant’s quarters, kitchen and maintenance equipment offered insight into the daily lives of our working class ancestors.
Craigdarroch Castle is the finest restoration project we’ve ever seen. Lingering is encouraged. We never felt rushed. The experience renewed our sense of good fortune.
To us, Beauty, our Airstream trailer, is the ideal home with nearly a century of proven craftsmanship and luxurious details in her silvery bones. She has a history of occupants before us and other occupants will, someday, follow.
A romanesque castle or their modern equivalent, the super yacht, can’t compete with the sustainability or wide-ranging mobility of an Airstream trailer.
If an emergency arises, Beauty is fully outfitted with our gear and we can hitch up and move within 15-30 minutes as any modern home should be able to do these days, wot wot?
Our neighbors told us about a charming English Garden on the grounds of Government House which has the appearance of a gated private estate.
This tranquil garden is – without fanfare or billboards – free and open to the public.
Other than this young Lord …
we were alone, strolling about the grounds that cold, wet and grey morning.
Government House is in an ideal location to begin a busy day in the city …
“The blushing rose will climb
Spring ahead or fall behind …”
Feeling the glow of fully endowed Victorians we moved on to …
Parliament of Victoria
The Parliamentary Dining Room is another pro-tip from our neighbors at the beach. Yes, even seniors slathered in hemp cream are welcome to dine at the table of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
Jim called in advance for entrance. You won’t get a better meal and service for the price anywhere in Victoria.
After lunch we watched a short session of the legislature as they discussed a vehicular issue. Then, we toured these impressive halls of justice.
Then, suddenly, that special Someone of Platinum Jubilee fame reminded us it was time for Tea.
Oh dear, what shall we do? Having tea during Happy Hour is a customary point of tourism in these parts. High Tea at The Empress is most popular with Americans.
But The Empress is also the most pricy option – especially if you pony up for the single flute of champagne. We reserve the big money for anniversaries, birthdays and pain cream. Still, we checked it out.
The Empress is a stunning hotel. The walk-through is free and the shops are lovely.
What a jolly-good tea time! And all for under twenty bucks …
Oh dear. Is it Happy Hour already?
Six Mile Pub
This old Roadhouse is a 100-year old landmark.
Still beautiful. In it’s early days it served as hub for a successful rum-running enterprise.
Lovingly preserved, the fragrance of wood and linseed oil transported us back to our old childhood schools, churches and post offices which may have been built with wood from this region.
We toasted to the ghosts still lingering about and indulged in the classic pub fare. While dining, it began to rain topping off a perfect foodie day in Victoria.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
As rain continued for days we discovered the outdoors at the indoor conservatory, Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Here, the environmental message is centered on the power of the small things …
Zillions of tiny entities living in the shadows keep the ecosystem in balance. These alien creatures are our essential workers, our benefactors, our real-life faery godmothers.
Madelyn L’Engle said, “Some things have to be believed to be seen.”
We depend on these vulnerable creatures as they depend on us to not interfere in their work.
Feeding, mating and hatching offspring must be accomplished in the shadows.
Our awareness of these creatures existence only benefits their survival and ours if we understand the bridge that spans our separate worlds.
Respect nature and preserve the connection.
“So close your eyes
Open your heart …”
My Chosen Cafe, just five-minutes from our campsite, served as our get-away – a place to give Jim a break from cooking dinner.
But there is no shortage of cozy pubs and sunny seaside places to have tea and scones or a bite and a beer in Victoria.
You can always paddle it off when the sun comes out.
“Even though you’ve lost your way
The world keeps dreaming of spring…”
Victoria is a city in balance.
It is organized, but not too. Proper, but not too.
Relaxed, but not too.
It’s an authentic city that openly strives for perfection. If Victoria has flaws, it is only evidence that shooting for the moon is tough work. Improvement is what humans do best.
Take it from us. Sure, we started out on the wrong side of the law – but look, we are reformed!
Victoria is a city where little seems to spiral out of control.
For that kind of fun you’ve gotta get outta town. About twenty minutes north on a beautiful old cattle trail – Malahat Drive (Trans Canada Highway 1) named for the Malahat Nation who got here first.
Our sensory experience began at the Skywalk cafe …
followed by a soothing walk beneath the Arbutus trees (or Pacific Madrones – Canada’s only broad-leaf evergreen tree) …
which leads to the Spiral Tower.
This fantastic conical, twisting walkway looks like a giant slinky being prepared for launch across the inlet.
Every part of this experience is pure joy right up to the big let down, a twenty meter long slide that triggered Jim’s need for speed …
The Skywalk wrapped up three memorable weeks in Victoria.
On a frosty morning in late May – the last official week of Spring – we pulled out of Vancouver wearing three layers of clothing. Heading north toward Whistler, British Columbia, we watched for ice, falling rocks, bear, moose, elk, rock sheep and deer while keeping an eye on our tail for revenuers. 🤪
“Remember everything that spring
Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series
- Chapter 1 – San Diego to Malibu
- Chapter 2 – Malibu to Morro Bay
- Chapter 3 – Morro Bay to Santa Cruz
- Chapter 4 – Santa Cruz to San Francisco
- Chapter 5 – San Francisco to Eureka
- Chapter 6 – The Oregon Coast
- Chapter 7 – The Strait of Juan de Fuca
- Chapter 8 – Victoria, British Columbia
- Chapter 9 – Victoria to Mackenzie
- Chapter 10 – The Alaska Highway
- Chapter 11 – Yukon
- Chapter 12 – Top of the World Highway to Chicken, Alaska – coming soon!
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.