My flight left at 6:15 am this morning out of Monterey. It was actually busier than I've ever seen it at the Monterey Airport, but one hour was plenty of time to wait in line, check in, wait in the security line, and wait to board! I flew to Salt Lake City, then after a 2-hour layover, flew to Vancouver. Neither flight was crowded so I had the whole row to myself! Salt Lake and the salt flats are pretty impressive--larger than I thought, if I really ever thought about it!
Landing in Vancouver was a little scary, and I like take offs and landings! The plane flies way out into the ocean, then circles back, and flies real low before touching down. I hadn't realized that the airport was right on the edge of the water; they said, "we're cleared to land," and I'm thinking, "land where?!" I couldn't see any land!! It was cloudy and a little muggy when I got here about noon.
I took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Only about 20 minutes, but $30.00! The exchange rate is about even between the US and Canadian dollar. So sad! The taxi driver said he'd heard that they are keeping the US dollar weak on purpose to keep exporting strong. Hmm--bummer.
My hotel is great! My room is especially spacious after experiencing European hotel rooms! Even though it was early, and there was no time change, I was so tired because I'd barely slept the night before--too excited! So I took a nap before wandering out onto Robson Street to explore. Blue skies came out while I was sleeping! I walked a few blocks, bought some bottled water, picked up a burrito from Steamrollers. They steam all of their food so it's healthier than if it were cooked in oils. I didn't stop at the gilato place across the street yet but you can bet I will be soon!!
Now I'm watching "Canadian Idol"! It's 9 pm and still pretty light out. Tomorrow I catch the trolley first thing and take a trip around the city!
I have a wall of picture windows in my room and I swear that sun was up shortly after 4:00 am! I can't actually see the sun come up because of that skyscraper in the way, but there was lots of light. I'm always saying I love to wake with the sun...!
After a nice slow morning, I met the first Vancouver trolley at 9:15 am. I was determined to take the full tour (about 2 hours) before "hopping" off at any particular spot, but it was tempting. The driver/guide was a senior who did a great job of giving us lots of information about the city; we changed drivers at the Canada Place stop and he wasn't nearly as good. I got off at the Aquarium in Stanley Park. It's small but has a great outdoor area for sea otters and beluga whales. I had lunch (fruit salad!) and heard/saw the beluga whale show. But the very best views were down below where you can see the whales swimming!
After spending several hours at the aquarium, I got back on the trolley and took it just a short distance to Prospect Point Lookout. It's the highest point in Stanley Park and has a great view of Lion's Gate Bridge. I had lunch pt 2 (!)--a hotdog--and then caught the double decker bus and took it all the way back to Robson Street and my hotel. I'd taken the tour two full loops; by Saturday I'll be an expert! I picked up bottled water and a raspberry gelato (!) and headed back to the room. It was only 5:30 pm but I was tired! Anyway, they say Robson St. has an unofficial curfew of 9:00 pm. That is, if you're over 30, you have to leave by 9:00 pm! I'm waaay over 30, I guess!!
I'm going to Granville Island Market tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting some fresh fruits and vegetables!
I caught the trolley this morning, actually this time the double decker bus. Lots of people; the trolley was full and I barely got on the bus. It's not open upstairs, like the ones in London. I was headed to Granville Market. I'm getting to know the route pretty well! It took probably 45 minutes to wind through Stanley Park and stop at the False Creek Ferry landing. It's a tiny little boat, maybe holds 10 people tops, but it's a short little ride too. Granville Island isn't really an island but does have water around probably 75% of it. The Public Market is fresh produce and meats and prepared food like sandwiches and stir fry, lots of pastry and other breakfast foods. I bought cherries, tomatoes, carrots (with the stalks!), and the very best nectarines! There are also lots of shops. I bought a book at Blackberry Books called "How to be a Canadian"! There's another area called Kids Market, where the toy stores and other kid shops are all under one roof.
When I caught the trolley, the driver told me that any produce had to be kept up with him during the ride. It was the second driver from yesterday, Larry, the silly one, so I was sure he was joking. He was so serious, though, and kept insisting, that I went ahead and put my bags with him and sat down. Then he started to offer my stuff to others on the trolley. Funny. Strange, though, as annoying as Larry's humor was to me, when another driver took over at Canada Place, chastising him for being late and even after he left taking way too much time to explain to us why he was annoyed with the other driver, I felt bad for Larry. That other driver wasn't smart either; why in the world he thought he'd get sympathy from a group who'd been left laughing, I don't understand!
By now it was getting late and I wanted to stop and drop my purchases off in the hotel room before continuing on to the wharf for my scheduled Harbour Tour. The trolley is great for siteseeing but not so great for quickly getting from one place to another!! It was after 1 pm by the time I walked into my room. I decided to walk to the Harbour instead of risk getting back on the trolley. It looked like the wharf was only maybe six blocks away. It was more than that, but mostly down hill. I made it in plenty of time for the 2:30 departure!
The cruise was on a paddle wheeler, out into the bay, about 1 1/2 hours. I love to be on the water and it's fun to get a different view of the sites. I took some pictures of where I thought my hotel is located, but it's hard to be sure with so many highrise buildings! I decided to walk back to the hotel, since the trolley only goes one way I would have had to get a taxi. Part of the walk is along the water with all the huge hotels, which is beautiful. But pretty soon I had to start that uphill climb!! It was grueling! I made it up to Robson Street, thinking "that wasn't bad," then realized it was uphill all the way to my corner on Robson! I was red faced and sweaty by the time I got back and too tired to pick up anything to eat or even to order room service! I ate more fruit and vegetables from the Market and took a 2-hour nap!! Then of course later I couldn't sleep and stayed up until after midnight. But this morning, I slept in--it was 6:30 am before I got up!!
Today, I caught the bus a little later, having learned my lesson about the full first trolley/bus of the day. This was a new-to-me but good driver with lots of new stuff to tell us (some of the same stuff too--they must all take a class together!). I stayed on the bus all the way to Gastown. It's an adorable part of town with cobble-stoned streets and sidewalks. The name comes from the town-founder, "Gassy Jack," who opened the first saloon and who was known for his long-winded storytelling! Vancouver actually came thisclose to being named Gastown!After shopping and walking for just a little while, I stopped at The Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. I had a table outside and did a little people-watching!
After lunch, I shopped my way through Gastown and all the way to Canada Place where the cruise ships dock. Canada Place is a huge structure built to look like a ship itself, the roof like billowing sails and lots of decks on several levels. The IMax theatre is there but I decided not to take the time to see "Dinosaurs" or "African Adventure." I caught the bus again and took it over to the Vancouver Art Gallery. They were having a visiting exhibition from the Cleveland Art Gallery, "From Monet to Dali." I love the impressionist painters; Linda and I saw an impressionist exhibit at the National Gallery in London, and last summer I went to the Musse d'Orsay in Paris which begins with the impressionists. This collection is quite impressive; not as many familiar pieces but so many where the style is definately familiar.
I had thought I might go shopping at the 3-block long, underground mall that is adjacent to the gallery, but I was tired and still so full from lunch that there was no need to stop for sustinance! I talked quite a while to the Big Bus ticket person (I'm on the Vancouver Trolley Company; they co-exist side-by-side in the city) at the bus stop waiting for my bus to arrive: cute, little Asian Canadian girl! I took the trolley back to the hotel, stopped for another galato (no way can this be considered sustinance!), had that and my left-overs from lunch for dinner and called it a day.
I had so much that I wanted to see on my last full day in Vancouver! I caught the double decker and took it all the way around to the Vancouver Public Library. I'd driven past it multiple times (!) and I had to get out and explore... It's in Yaletown, where all the yuppies now live. The architecture was modeled after the Coliseum! It's a beautiful building, and it looks like it has an amazing collection.
Next, I continued on to the Harbour Tower stop. I had a pre-paid ticket to go to the top of this, the highest downtown building, with a 360-degree view of the city. Very cool! I'm glad I did this after I'd seen so much of the city from the ground--I think it made it easier to identify things from so high up! I had lunch at the food court in the lower level of the building. Let me just make this clear--all Quizno's are NOT created equal! I was really looking forward to a Chicken Ceasar salad with toasted pita bread. Tammy and I have become quite addicted to these things!! But get this--no pita bread!! They put the chicken and the cheese through the toasting machine thingy, I guess to melt the cheese. It was hard to tell, but I think the cheese wasn't even the right kind!! Anyway, my craving was not satisfied...!
My goal was to finish the trolley at Vanier Park, but not too early, because that's where Bard on the Beach is located, where I'm seeing Taming of the Shrew tonight. I had lots of extra time so I took the bus to Pacific Centre Mall, an underground mall in downtown Vancouver that has almost 200 stores and that spans 3 city blocks. I forgot one thing though; I don't much like mall shopping! I was back on the next bus. Something else occurred to me too, to check the closing times of the museums at Vanier Park that I'd planned on seeing while I waited for my 8:00 pm play.
One more thing I didn’t want to miss was seeing the totem poles at Stanley Park. Beautiful! It’s impressive that most of these were created for and displayed first in other locations and all of them were eventually given to the Park for this exhibit. “First Nations.” I like that.
The museums all closed at 5:00 pm so I just had time to quickly see the Vancouver Museum. I could have spent a lot more time. They have some great exhibits, and presented in very interactive and clever ways. One is about the Asahis, the only Asian baseball team in the Vancouver league, who won numerous championships between 1914 and 1941 and then were victims of displacement during WWII. Amazing. They also had Vancouver history displayed through the decades; you wander from room to room making your way through the early 1900’s, then the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. It was interesting how so much of it was similar to what was happening in the states.
There was no food anywhere near the Bard on the Beach tents, and it was only 5:00 pm, so I walked towards Kitsalano and found a White Spot Restaurant. It’s fast food that has been around forever in Canada; not as good as McDonald’s but maybe that’s because there is no nostalgia for me! By the time I walked back to the tents, there was a line forming. Even though you have a ticket, specific seats are not assigned so once you get in to the tent, it’s first come first serve. I stood in line next to a couple girls, who were on vacation, currently living in Texas, but one was from England and the other had lived in Vancouver for a few years. Very nice. Standing for over an hour was excruciating, but there was no place to sit but on the ground and that wasn’t going to happen!
They give you a brightly colored piece of paper and tape to mark your seat once you claim it. I got a really good seat on the aisle in the first row that is on a riser so there was no obstruction to the stage at all. I sat next to this nice older couple from Orange County. It was part of the fun to watch everyone come in and claim their seats! The girls in line had told me that this production had an “old West” theme. I’d never heard of Shakespeare delivered this way. It was great!! When Petruchio first appears, they played that music they play when Clint Eastwood’s character in his spaghetti western movies appears. Lots and lots of laughs! I gotta admit though that I had some issues with Petruchio pretty much bullying Kate into “submission.” Maybe it’s my own age and independence!
By the time the taxi got me back to my hotel, it was after 11:00 pm. A very late night for me! I didn’t plan this the best, either; I had to meet the bus for the Whistler Mountaineer the next morning at 7:30 am!!!
Such an early morning—but the sun did not fail me and woke me up at 5:00 am! I had to pack, check out, and walk over to the Blue Horizon Hotel to catch the bus to the train station. I was sad to leave my beautiful room with its picture windows and to leave Vancouver too!
I talked to a very nice lady from Germany as we were waiting for the bus to the train station. She was traveling on her own on a day trip to Whistler. You can do this with maybe 2 ½ hours in Whistler before returning on the train to Vancouver. I was excited to be staying for four nights. And unlike Vancouver, where there was so much I had to see and do, I only had one “must-see” thing and that was the farmer’s market that very day.
The train trip was wonderful! There was no one next to me so I had lots of space. I’d sprung for the Glacier Dome car, which is something like flying 1st class must be! The windows are huge so you see everything. There were three young people who took care of us all, with food and drink, and also gave commentary along the way about what we were seeing. They served a full breakfast of fruit, eggs, Canadian bacon (!), potatoes, tomato slice (shades of English breakfast!), and tea. Later they served more drinks. And through all this, incredible scenery and the feel of the train!
O.k. I’m fickle but I love my room in Whistler! I got an amazing deal through Travel Zoo; $89/night for a Studio with a king bed. It’s beautiful! The kitchen has a 2-burner stove, a microwave, a small refrigerator, and even cooking utensils (we’ll see!). It’s a corner room with two windows on one wall and a glass door to a tiny balcony on another that all looks out into forest! If I look to the right out of the windows I can see the hotel pool. Along with this huge bed is a couch, table with two chairs, an armoire, and the TV is up on the mantel of a fireplace! The trees keep the sun from shining directly into the room so I don’t think I’ll have trouble sleeping in!!
After checking in (they are so nice here!) and settling in (my luggage was already delivered to my room from the train!), I went out looking for the farmer’s market. It was in the “Upper Village,” and more of a walk than I’d realized. My hotel is on Main Street, almost right on the “Village Stroll,” which is where most of the shopping is and the movie theater (!). The farmer’s market was small but I did get some Kettle Corn (yum!), raspberries, and cherries.
Still tired from the late night before and early morning, and from the long walk today, I came back to the hotel, took a nap (!) and then settled in for the night.
Wow, did I ever have a lazy day in Whistler! I spent the (entire!) morning here in my room just organizing my stuff, looking over everything I'd purchased so far (!), catching up with journaling and downloading pictures, and discovering that daytime TV in Whistler is almost exactly like daytime TV anywhere else!!
Finally, I had to leave to go in search of food, and to give housekeeping a chance to make my bed, which is something I LOVE about hotel living! I explored my neighborhood a little. The Whistler Library is just around the corner. They're in the process of building a new, larger library. I'd like to visit the Whistler Museum, which is right next door to the current library.
This place is all about food! There are so many dining options: restaurants and fast food and coffee shops, places where you can get ice cream and fudge and Beaver's Tails (waffle type dessert with choice of toppings like fruit or chocolate!). I did find a yummy non-fat smoothie; I had raspberry, but I think I'll have to try some of the other choices too! I picked up a local newspaper, which was full of pictures of people at all the events that have taken place in the community: walks/runs, and fundraisers, and school events. They are definately an active bunch!
After walking up and down the length of the "Village Stroll," I finally settled on Mexican food for lunch, a tiny little place across the street from my hotel, where they make your order right in front of you and have just a few tables inside and out on the sidewalk.
On my walk, I found the Blackcomb Gondolas but noticed that, although the gondolas were going up and down the mountain, no people were in them and they were covered with some kind of tarps. I overheard someone say that there was a fire up the hill that the firefighters had been working on for about 2-hours. Later I saw the smoke and the news said that it started in a condo and spread to destroy 3 condos and damaged one more. Thankfully, they had gotten it under control very quickly. We'll see if the gondolas are back in operation today.
I'm combining Tuesday and Wednesday because I just haven't been doing that much to write about!! I've been enjoying a very quiet time in Whistler, walking a little, shopping a little, trying out different to-go menus! I've had one of those fruit smoothies everyday. So far, the blackberry is my favorite!
The gondola is still not running. I read about this big project to build a gondola that connects the two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, due to be completed by December 2008, so that might have something to do with it. It's been very hot, in the mid to high 90s, which is unusual for this area (I think average is even in the 70s). Record temperatures all over British Columbia! There is still a lot of biking and hiking going on (not by me, of course!).
Today, I went to the Whistler Super 8 Movie Theatre and saw the new Harry Potter. It was good! They are always so true to the books, especially all of the special effects. The theatre wasn't full at all, but they are showing it at two screens, every hour. They had a midnight showing last night that was packed, I heard.
See what I mean? Not a lot to write about! Things should pick up in Victoria!
I hated to leave my beautiful room in Whistler! The Summit Lodge was an incredible place--I'd return in a second! I didn't have to catch the train until 2:00 pm so after I packed everything up I left my luggage at the front desk and wandered one last time along the Village Stroll. I stopped for a (raspberrie) smoothie and bought a few more souvenirs!
I love this about taking the train: they pick up your luggage at the start and it shows up next at your hotel that night. Very cool! The late afternoon train trip back was just as beautiful as the morning trip days earlier. I think I was better at getting pictures, although it’s tricky taking them through the window. One reason I wanted to take the return trip was the afternoon tea that they serve. It was fun! I chose very berry tea; there were tiny sandwiches without crust (ham, watercress, cucumber, salmon), a scone with clotted cream and jelly, and desserts (chocolate covered strawberry and petit fours). It’s amazing how all of these mini-sized items can really fill you up!!
I was dropped off about 7:30 pm at my hotel in Vancouver, the Sheraton Wall Centre. I booked this room for one-night through kayak.com and then through skoosh.com. Skoosh is like Hotwire where you don’t know the actual hotel, just the general location and the star rating, until after you pay for it. However, kayak.com showed the name before it sent me to skoosh. Anyway, the point is (!) that I got a really good deal on a 5-star hotel! I was on the 24th floor (I think it had almost 40 floors!). The elevator is one of those that zips up 24 floors in just a few seconds (A couple hours later, I tried to take it down just one floor to get ice and, like it had a mind of it’s own, it took me all the way to the lobby instead. Turns out I needed to insert my key card after 9:00 pm!!) I had room service for dinner—pricey but oh so convenient!!
Another (relatively) early morning. I had to meet the bus for the ferry in the lobby of my hotel at 8:30 am. I found this company called, Pacific Coast Lines that takes you all the way from your downtown Vancouver hotel to downtown Victoria, by way of BC Ferries. Taking the ferry from these two points is not as straightforward as it was from Seattle to Victoria, which is what I did years ago. The bus makes a bunch of scheduled stops to pick people up, then takes us to the bus station in Vancouver. Some people changed buses at this time, if they'd booked a day trip to Butchart Gardens, for instance. My bus was full of people who only wanted transportation into Victoria.
After the 45-minute drive to the ferry landing, the bus drives into the ferry and we all get off to spend the 90-minute ferry ride up on top. There are several floors where passengers can get food or just sit while the boat makes its way past many islands to the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. It’s amazing how many vehicles and people the ferry can hold: buses and semi-trucks and cars. The trip went by very quickly. I settled in a seat by the window; it was pretty cold out on the deck!
Today was a day to talk to lots of other vacationers! There were two ladies, both from the mid-west, waiting with me at the hotel that were staying in Vancouver and taking day trips out like this one to Victoria. I talked to an older lady from Alberta on the ferry who was sightseeing with her daughter and granddaughter who live in BC. And I talked quite a while to a retired couple that has traveled a lot, like me with a tour. He said this trip was one of the most expensive that they’ve taken, which is surprising. They’ve traveled with a tour company called “Image” which I’ll have to check out. They were originally from Boston but currently living in Louisiana.
We got back on our bus a few minutes before docking and it was another 35 minutes into Victoria. As I was making my way to the bus, I thought there was a step but there wasn’t; it took me by surprise and I grabbed hold of something (a car or a trailer, I think!) and hurt my little finger on my right hand. It hurt a lot and swelled up twice its normal size, but it’s already getting better. Pretty pathetic though; I tripped on a flat surface! I got a taxi from the bus station in Victoria to my hotel. It was actually pretty close, but it would have been awkward lugging my suitcase through all of the shopping tourists!
My hotel, the Bedford Regency, is an older hotel right on Government Street, just two blocks up from the water and maybe six blocks from the Empress Hotel. It faces the city, not the water; actually it faces the Bay Centre, a shopping mall that is inside an older building itself. I was feeling very fortunate that I had one of only two rooms on the floor with two large windows. It wasn’t so great later that night when I was ready to go to sleep around 11:00 pm and the nightlife below me was just beginning to get going!! Thankfully, I figured out that I could close the windows and turn on the air conditioner and the noise turned into a dull murmur with only occasional bursts from “happy” revelers!
Before I settled in for the night, I did some walking and shopping along Government Street and down and around to the wharf. At a street fair, I talked to a gentleman by the name of J. Robert Whittle, an author who was selling his own books. He’s about 73 and started writing at age 61! Before that he was a Mining Disaster Team Leader in England; he says he’s one of the only people I will ever meet who has broken every single bone in his body!! I ended up buying one of his historical novels about a girl who grew up in Victoria in the early 1900’s. Fun!
This really is a central location, the Bedford Regency Hotel! Last night the partying went late into the night; this morning, there were street performers right in front of my hotel. I had live music, as I was getting ready for the day!! I decided to walk down Government Street towards the BC Museum. They have a visiting exhibit about the Titanic and an IMAX movie on the same subject. I thought, “it’s Saturday, more importantly it’s summer,” there won’t be any school groups visiting today. I saw the buses when I was about a block away. There must have been at least 3 large school groups, and a group of young people in uniform (various ages?!!), all converging on the museum at the same time!! I decided to try again tomorrow.
There is a wonderful display of totem poles adjacent to the museum; more effective even than the one in Stanley Park because here you can walk right up and touch the handiwork. I walked down Douglas Street, the block above Government, exploring the shopping and restaurants. I found one that is a fast food salad bar—huge with fruit and pastas in addition to all of the normal green salad selections. Very good!
I knew it was going to be a late night at the fireworks, so I went back to my hotel to rest awhile. The tour out to Butchart Gardens included a taxi from my hotel to the Empress. We had a full busload. The driver/guide, Doug, spent most of the 40-minute drive to the gardens telling us about the neighborhoods we were driving through and about the history of the gardens. He spoke of the woman who founded the gardens, “Jenny,” so affectionately, like she was a well-loved member of the family. There were so many buses in the parking lot when we got there, but Doug assured us that most of them were from the three cruise ships docked in the harbour and would be leaving before the firework display (if they stay in the harbour even a minute past midnight they have to pay for an additional day).
We had two hours to wander around the gardens before the fireworks would be starting at 10:00 pm. It was very crowded; quite a challenge to get a picture of the gorgeous flowers without lots of people in the photo! I love the gift shop at Butchart: everything is flower-related and beautiful!
I didn’t rush out to where the fireworks would be since I knew I’d be standing throughout the program and during any wait beforehand. Some people had come prepared with folding chairs but most were sitting on blankets on the ground. We’d had a little bit of rain throughout the evening; the park provides umbrellas! There were so many people; were the cruise ship vacationers really gone?! Right before the fireworks began, it started sprinkling. All you could see was this huge sea of people with umbrellas open and bits of light that I realized were the display screen on everyone’s digital cameras!
This fireworks display was suppose to be incredible, “one of the best in British Columbia”. I’m afraid this was too much of a build-up, definitely. They played the sound track to “Aladdin” throughout the performance. So much of it was near to the ground and caused a lot of smoke. There were two moments where there were nice displays high in the sky, one of which was the finale. The best fireworks I’ve ever seen are still the display at Epcot, Disney World!
We were dropped off in front of the Empress Hotel. I was walking along Government Street back to my hotel at midnight! It was still very lively on the street, especially beneath my windows!!
After a late night, I finally got up and going and was at the BC Museum by 10:30 am!! It was busy, but no school groups at least. I bought tickets for both the Titanic Exhibit and the Titanica IMAX movie. The exhibit was very well done. As you enter, they give you a Passport for a real person who was on the Titanic and pertinent information about them like name, age, class they were traveling in, why they were heading to America, and who were they traveling with. Mine was a 48-year old woman who’d been abandoned by her husband, traveling with four of her five children, hoping to have a new start in America. At the end, you look for your person’s name to find out if she did or did not survive. They start with how the ship was built, how it was suppose to be “indestructible.” Then it moves into the look of the ship, what the accommodations for the three classes looked like, profiles of the more famous people who were on the Titanic. There are people playing different parts like the captain and a housekeeper, who tell their own individual stories. It was very cool. Unfortunately, my person was traveling 3rd class and she and her children were like so many who had no chance to make it up out of their rooms and didn’t make it.
The IMAX Theatre is very nice; I think they’ve done major renovations since I was there with Linda and Karen in 2001. One thing confusing about the movie, Titanica, though: supposedly it was filmed in the mid 90s after a Russian captain/scientist, his extensive crew, using two state-of-the-art submersibles, made more discoveries. However, the clothes and the hairstyles of this group look more like from the 70s!
After, I headed right over to the Express Hotel to meet my bus for the Victoria Grand City Drive Tour. It was a double-decker bus but not open on top, unfortunately. The driver/guide took us on a 90-minute tour around Vancouver Island. Remember the book I bought from the local author who writes historical fiction that takes place in Victoria? It turns out that I’m familiar with a lot of the places his characters talk about because of these tours!!
I called it a night pretty early. It has cooled down so much in the last few days that I’ve been leaving my windows open, but I’m so tired that the noises from below don’t even keep me awake!!
Another glorious day in Victoria. It's cooling down; the temperatures are more like I expected: low to mid 70's. I had a ticket for whale watching for the afternoon, so after a slow morning, I walked up and down Government Street, into the Bay Centre Shopping Mall across the street from my hotel, and down to Wharf Street to the water and over towards the Parliament Building. I wanted to check out the Christmas Store I'd spotted farther down on Government Street but it didn't open until 1 pm on Mondays; I'd try again tomorrow! The Victorian Christmas Shop that I remember visiting in 2001 has gone out of business. The tour guide from yesterday said that it closed up and moved out mysteriously in the middle of the night just this last January. Bummer.
Springtide, the company that I'd booked my whale watching tour with, advertises a 95% success rate for seeing the Orca Whales. I hoped so! This would be my third time out whale watching (the other two times both off the California coast). Previously, I've always had to take the guide's word that the dot I saw far, far in the distance was really a whale!! There were probably 60 of us on this yacht; I was one of the last to board so initially only got a seat inside the cabin. Fortunately, shortly after we got going, people started to move around and I was able to get a place outside where I could enjoy the fast ride towards the San Juan Islands. I love the feeling of flying across the water!!
We first spotted a fin way over close to the islands; the boats aren't allowed to go too close to land or too close to the animals. I was worried that it was going to be another "dot watch"! But pretty soon we started to see several Orcas together, rising out of the water, first just a fin then the whales body and tail! It was still quite a distance away; I was envious of the boats that were closer, the one's our guides said were breaking maritime rules!! We kept moving though and before long the whales found us!! It was thrilling! My pictures don't do justice to what we saw; I couldn't click the shutter fast enough!!
I really liked our guides on the boat. They were two young girls who seemed very knowledgable, were so friendly, and were just as excited as we all were to spot the Orcas!!
My last full day in Victoria. I had no tours pre-scheduled which was good since it was a rainy day. My first on this entire vacation! I headed right over to the Christmas Shop. It was deceptively large, with multi-layers of floor after floor of all kinds of ornaments. Pricey though! I did finally find one I could afford that would help commemorate yesterday's whale watching: an Orca swimming through a Christmas wreath!
I hadn't been inside the Empress Hotel yet this trip so I waded through the rain down Government to the Inner Harbour. I'd actually considered staying at the Empress when I was planning this trip; but it was expensive and then I saw a review that said it had no air conditioning. Normally, that's probably not an issue but with the high temperatures I had my first few days, it was probably a good call!! The Empress is also a conference center; that would be very cool to come to Victoria for a conference! It has a beautiful Arboretum and its own rose garden. The shops inside were too expensive for me!! Having tea at the Empress is a very popular thing to do but I believe it's also extremely expensive (like $100 a person even!).
After finishing up my shopping, including the last of the gifts to bring home, I picked up dinner and headed back for my last night at the Bedford Regency on Government Street.
Another rainy day in Victoria, but also the day I leave for home. Check out was 11:00 am and although my flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 2:25 pm I went ahead and called a taxi and was at the tiny little Victoria International airport by 11:40 am. Soooo early! There wasn't even anyone at the check-in desk for Horizon Air (a partner of Delta Airlines) yet! Eventually, I checked my luggage and walked to the gate to wait.
And wait. About 15 minutes before we were to board, they posted a "delayed" notice up... This first leg was on one of those shuttles that traveled only between Victoria and Seattle. The plane hadn't even left Seattle yet!! Finally, almost two hours late, the plane arrived and we flew the 26 minute flight to Seattle! I had to go through Customs, which means claiming your checked luggage and then checking it again. I got to the gate for the next leg (Seattle to Salt Lake City) 25 minutes before it was scheduled to leave, only to find that this flight was delayed as well. So delayed that by the time I would get to Salt Lake, there would be no more flights to Monterey that day and I would have to spend the night. Since this was all weather-related delays, the airline (Delta--not one I will fly again!) does not take any responsibility and reimburse for lodging or anything else!
So I decided to stay the night in Seattle rather than Salt Lake and they rescheduled me for the next day. I called several hotels near the airport, but no one seemed to have any vacancies!! I think there were a lot of people unexpectedly stuck over night! Maybe because I'd already spent 5 hours at the Victoria airport, and because I couldn't face spending the entire night in the Seattle airport, I ended up renting a car and decided to drive home from Seattle!!! There was definate relief as I took charge, taking back some of that control that is lost with air travel...!
By this time it was about 6:30 pm. I managed to drive for about 3 hours before stopping at a Shilo Inn & Suites in Vancouver Washington for the night. It was actually a beautiful drive!
The next morning I was on the rode by 8:00 am. I called my sister in Roseville somewhere around Salem Oregon (!) and asked her to research about how many hours I was from her house!! It took me 5 hours to drive all the way through Oregon, and another 5 hours to drive from the California border to Roseville near Sacramento. I arrived by 7:00 pm and spent the night at my sister and brother-in-laws house.
I had to get the one-way rental car back to Monterey no later than 6:30 pm on Friday, so after having lunch with my sister and aunt, I drove the four hours home. It was an expensive change in plans, and I got home two days later than I originally planned, but the countryside was beautiful and it was an adventure!!