*Photos by Holly Maclaren
I had quite a fine weekend this week. When I say weekend, I refer more to the concept than the actual days of Saturday and Sunday. My weekend is, in fact, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the occasional other random day thrown in when my employers feel I am superfluous. Anyhow, my work week was ended and I arose early(ish) to a pleasant Tuesday morning that promised a smattering of sunlight between the dappled clouds. I had been informed a few days earlier that the Vancouver Art Gallery was allowing free admission to those who were members of Vancity bank, and since I did my banking with said company I planned to take full advantage.
So Holly and I set out to the gallery after a delicious lunch of well-prepared Thai food. Admission was indeed free, and also carried with it a complimentary packet of Basil seeds. Not having any kind of garden area I have no idea what I am going to do with them, but there they are. Basil. I still think of Faulty Towers every time I think about Basil…
The gallery here is mostly modern art, which is not exactly something I know much about. Nonetheless I found some of it very interesting. I also found some of it very pretentious, but I suppose that is inevitable. I’m a very classical person, and some forms of modern art that rely on a certain amount visceral brashness will never really impress me. The mirror maze that was part of the Ken Lum exhibit was pretty impressive, and I actually got turned around and disoriented at one point. The whole outing was very enjoyable regardless, and afterwards it was time to get ready for class.
Class was as class is at SCG; lots of energy spent, plenty of wrasslin’, the usual. I was disappointed that the general consensus was for wrestling and not swordplay, as I miss the reassuring ring of steel on steel. On that subject, we have proposed to have another class just for working out on Thursday evenings, which met with some success. I also suggested having a Sabre and Rapier hour on Monday afternoons, which also received some positive feedback. I would love to really focus on teaching the finer points of swordsmanship, the subject I am most keen on.
After class it was a desperate attempt to get to sleep, as Holly and I planned to catch the 9AM ferry to Victoria, which meant getting up at 6:30 – not my favorite hour of the morning. I don’t mind a bit of sleep deprivation if it is for the purpose of travel as opposed to work, however, so up I got with only about ten minutes procrastination. Thus we stumbled out into the morning air to rush for the bus that would convey us to the train that would convey us to the bus that would convey us to the ferry. Each stage met without a hitch, more or less, and we arrived at the ferry terminal just in time for boarding.
The successful timing did mean that there was no chance to get foodstuffs before climbing on the ferry, which resulted in the usual monetary gouging for two sandwiches and some coffee. Not that things would have been much cheaper in that food court area at the terminal . The only real hitch was the whole passel of school critters that seemed to buzz around the ship, most likely on some class outing to the museum. Still, such minor annoyances are scarcely worth mentioning.
The ferry picked its way through the scattered islands and green, mossy rocks as the sea birds swooped across the dark water. It was alternately sunny and overcast as we passed the dense lines of coastal trees on our way to Swartz Bay. We arrived at our destination on time and departed the vessel, making our way to the bus loop just outside the arrival terminal. There was a brief wait before we climbed onto the double-decker bus and ascended to the top floor. We took our seats and the rest of our fellow passengers filed in, both of us noticing the pervading smell of pot smoke and beer that wafted with them. It seemed that some of the other travelers had been having themselves quite a good time on board the ferry.
We pulled out of the station and began the final leg of the trip that would bring us to downtown Victoria. We pulled onto the highway, driving past clumps of purple flowers that clung to rocks beside the road. It was a quiet preamble through the smaller cities and towns that sat between Swartz Bay and Victoria, most of which were decorated as such places usually are with large wall-murals depicting scenes of local rustic beauty. Finally, after about forty-five minutes of motoring, we arrived in the center of the downtown area in Victoria.
The most tourist-centric area of Victoria is much like Gastown in Vancouver, only a little bigger, cleaner and, in a few places, more dramatic. It took a few moments to re-orientate myself with the area, having been a few years since I last visited. After some brief deliberation and a visit to the mall’s food court, Holly and I decided to begin our wander with our one instance of typical sightseeing. This trip our one concession to money spending tourism was Craigdarroch castle. Having a penchant for all things Victorian/Edwardian, I was interested to see this particular local landmark.
The building was initially completed in 1890, and although it had been used as military hospital, school and music conservatory, it has now been restored as a museum. Guests are welcome to wander about through the twenty rooms full of turn of the century items and architecture. Had it offered guided tours, I don’t think I would have been as interested. As it was, however, I was not disappointed. (Although if we had arrived fifteen minutes sooner we would not have had our heels dogged by yet another group of adolescents, but whatever.)
I had never been in a Victorian house this large before. I have seem smaller, average people’s houses from that period, but not a custom built mansion for a wealthy family. I think I understand certain points of Victorian literature a little better now, especially the aspects dealing with eccentric old aristocrats who hide in their huge estates. As magnificent as the house was, it also had the potential to be very confining and gloomy. Most of the rooms had the shutters halfway down, which made some of the less-windowed rooms rather ghostly what with their dark wood walls. With the windows completely covered, I imagine the place would have been quite the shadowy maze.
I now fully realize just how dark, stuffy and spectral Miss Havisham’s house would have been in Great Expectations...
Yet it was as beautiful as it was intimidating. I would say that I would love to live there, but frankly I wouldn’t know what to do with most of the space since I don’t have or intend to have a large family. I also find having a breakfast room as well as a slightly larger (and almost identical) dining room just a wee bit excessive, but that was the way of rich folk at that time, I suppose – everything, including one’s meals, had to be neatly filed away. I suppose that is what I both enjoy, and enjoy to mock about that era. The amount of artistry that went into designing just about everything during that time period always impresses me, though.
I was also tempted to steal the 110 year-old fencing foil that adorned that mantle in one of the bedrooms.
After Craigdarroch, we meandered back downtown, stopping in some of the antique shops along the way, where of course I drooled over aged sabres whenever possible. Mmmmhhhhh, antique sabres… I was also sure to make sure our sojourns brought us past Old Morris Tobacconist, so I could acquire some delectably blended pipe tobacco. I hadn’t had a smoke in quite some time and enjoyed the opportunity to revel in some fresh supplies.
After our wanderings we decided to sit in a aesthetically pleasing pub and have a pint while sharing a small pizza. This had the prompt and unfortunate effect of putting me right to sleep, reminding my body that I had been awake since 6:30 in the morning after only a few hours sleep. One should never sit comfortable and have a meal when one is traveling in such a manner, it causes a vicious coma. After some more dozy waffling we considered catching the earlier ferry back home, but alas we just missed the but that would allow us to do so. Therefore it was time for my third cup of strong coffee and a leisurely puff on my pipe as we conceded to bide our time for an hour.
I would also like to mention an interesting fact at this juncture; In the many months since I acquired my fabulous Fourth Doctor scarf, I have only had three comments upon it while home in Vancouver. Of those three comments only two of the people knew what it was to begin with as well. However in Victoria, in one day, than garment was recognized by no less than six very friendly people who all appreciated it’s magnificence. Apparently I’m in the wrong town for a Doctor Who fan. Either that or people are just more likely to actually approach you with a compliment over there, which is also possible, as Vancouverites do tend to be a bit cagey sometimes.
Anyhow, the time was bode, and we trundled back to the bus stop to begin out long trek homeward. By the time we finally set foot on downtown Vancouver concrete we were both so exhausted it was physically uncomfortable. We were also greeted by a sudden and torrential downpour that flooded the streets immediately. After a quick scarf of some last-minute pizza it was time for a speedy collapsing on the bed. And thus perished my well-spent days.
This little excursion verified to me just how much I love going places outside my own city. Obviously, I would rather travel to more far-flung exotic locations, but even so close to home I enjoy wandering around another town all day. When I do wind up in more colorful locales, it is the same way – I am much more interested in walking around streets, back alleys and jungles than sitting on a beach all day being inert. I suppose this annoys some vacationing companions, having me want to rush around, perpetually tugging on their hand and going “Ooh, lets see what’s over here…”