Tally hoe, old chap

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 07, 2010

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Where I stayed
Ocean Island Backpackers

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another day, another city. So where did I leave off? I got the bus over the island again back to Parksville and went for my free lunch. I am such a cheapskate- I just presented a voucher for a free side salad and left it at that. Oh and an iced tea totalling $2.35. I left a big tip though, to make up for it. Did you know it's customary to tip 15-20% here? Some even say 20-25%. And that’s on top of all the added taxes... criminal.

Anyway I then spent what I saved on lunch on a taxi to take me down to the old railway station just out of town. I got there half an hour early but had a lovely chat with a lady who had set up a pottery guild,workshop and gallery in the old waiting room. She’d also produced a book detailing the history of the railway, which made great reading while waiting for the train. The railway was originally made about 150 years ago to transport freight around the island. Of course then, all the trains were steam trains, so there were water towers by the side of every station- and Parksville is the only place that still has the original watertower remaining. Passengers started to use the trains too to get around the island from time to time but in the first half of the 20th century, lorries became a much more popular method of transportation, and the service slowly fell by the wayside. The cost of upkeep was not being met by passengers alone, so one by one all but 10 stations along the East coast of Vancouver island closed down.

The train journey itself took about 3 ½ hours, and was fairly scenic. Someone had left behind a mile-by-mile guide to what could be seen out the window on my seat, so that was handy to know what I was looking at! Lots more beautiful lakes, forests, huge old trees, so on and so forth. I think I’m getting a little blasé about the scenery now! What was cool though was these two railway bridges that spanned a 220ft canyon- it was just a single track going across, no rail or anything- so if you looked out either window all you could see was the big drop down! Little did I know that I would be returning in just a couple of days...

We arrived in Victoria at 6pm and it was a bit of a shock to be back in a city again after the peace of Quadra and Tofino. I’m glad I came before going straight back to Vancouver though- Victoria really is quite a small city as cities go, downtown can be navigated easily and without too much walking. And yeah, it was quite pretty, I suppose. But why would I want to go to a Canadian version of an English, or Irish, or Scottish pub? And why would I want to have traditional English afternoon tea at great expense in the posh hotel? And why would I want traditional English food? I’m in Canada!! I can understand the appeal for those who haven’t been to England, but there were just too many tourists, too many camera, too many dollars being asked of me to enter each and every attraction. The BC museum was $27! I basically just spent the day reading my book and waiting for the next meal time...! LOADS of great coffee shops, sandwich shops, seafood restaurants- I could spend a week here just eating my way round. There were some redeeming features though- I started the day by going to Beacon Hill park- a haven for dog-walkers, runners and book-readers alike. We’ve been blessed with beautiful weather here, so I sat in the sunshine, reading my book, overlooking the mountains of Port Angeles on the USA coast. If you look on the map, Victoria is definitely dipping into United States territory- it’s about level with Seattle.

I also went round the parliamentary buildings- free- with a guided tour which was interesting too. Beautiful place, built at great expense just over a hundred years ago I think, and a very nice picture of the queen and prince Phillip hanging in the main room. I felt very British.

So, onto the food... (maybe I should start a separate food blog documenting every meal I have around the world... or maybe I’m just getting ideas having just finished reading AND watching the film Julie & Julia last night.) I decided (yet again) that when in Rome... and to blithely ignore the price, averting my eyes when the bill was delivered and just handing over my card with a grimace. So I savoured a whole local Dungeness Crab, served with jasmine rice, asparagus (questionable seasonality there), carrots and beetroot. And a little pot suspended over a candle of melted butter. Now, if I had any concerns about sitting in a restaurant on my own and just reading a book, I needn’t have worried. Crab, I have decided, is not a thing to be ordered when you want to talk a lot. It requires so much attention! I certainly wasn’t able to read my book at the same time. I thought it’d be dressed, but was pleased (if slightly startled) to see an entire crab just plonked on my plate, with crackers, tweezers and a little fork. Armed with the vague recollection of destroying a lobster in Maine 10 years ago, I started to slowly work my way through the crab. Two hours(!) later, I was finally done, stuffed to the hilt and very satisfied. Oh, and I got a bottle of wine too (the cheapest one being £20... eek- but you know what? I’d rather have a great bottle of wine than go look round the BC museum where the main attraction at the moment are items on loan from the British Museum) which they corked up and gave me to take home in a paper bag like a proper wino. The only problem being that a) I had forgotten the hostel allows no outside alcohol to be consumed on the premises and b) they put the cork in so tightly I needed a corkscrew to get it out, of which I did not have.

Well the fact that I’ve spent half of this entry so far discussing a crab may suggest to you where my interests lie in Victoria. So apologies for the diversion, I shall finish this day sharpish and start tomorrow as a new entry to save you all from eye-strain.

I returned to the hostel and settled down in the lounge with my laptop and book- when an aussie girl Melanie, who checked in at the same time as me came over and said hi. She was travelling with her mum for a couple of months, and had met another aussie in the hostel, so I joined them all in the bar for a chat. During the day I had tried to arrange horse riding with a stables just outside Victoria- but it was going to be super-expensive for a private hack. While chatting with Melanie, she mentioned that she had been hoping to go horseriding too, but the tourist information had just said flat out to her that it wasn’t possible. We decided to join forces and call the stables again to see if it would work out better for two people- which, as it turned out, it did, and we booked a hack for the following afternoon. 
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