Day 9 – Wednesday 21st August 2013
We awoke to a lovely sunrise across the bay and had breakfast on the deck of the Sunrise Motel, before driving around the shore of Puget Sound heading to Port Angeles. The GPS guided us straight into the ticket box (about $80.00) for the ferry across to Vancouver Island and we had 90 minutes to wander around town and eat before the sailing. We bought some steamed buns at a farmers’ market and an iced hot-chocolate at a fast food outlet.
The 90 minute ferry trip was calm with good views back to the Olympic Mountains in Washington and ahead to Vancouver Island. We saw some whale-watching boats ahead of the ferry and then a pod of four orcas across our bows. While on the ferry we tried to find a hotel on the internet, but the connection was too slow, so we noted one in a tourist pamphlet and entered the address into the GPS.
The entry into Victoria Harbour is spectacular, with seaplanes taking off and landing alongside the ferry. After clearing immigration, Pauls Hotel was only a five minute drive from the wharf and just on the edge of the main shopping/tourist area. It is an older, motel style hotel but has parking and the rooms are a good size with two queen beds, a microwave and coffee machine and cost $102 including GST and local taxes.
We walked through Chinatown on our way to the waterfront which puts Auckland to shame. It has been developed with pedestrian access right around in front of apartment buildings and hotels and with all the tourist attractions set out along the piers. We booked bikes for Friday and headed back to the hotel. We ate across the road at the White Spot restaurant that is part of a Canadian chain. They have a standard specials list that includes several lovely salads made with fresh local produce and roast turkey and other local dishes. The menu includes extras for $3.00 – an excellent Caesar salad and blueberry pie which is a good sized short pastry case filled with a huge amount of blueberries and topped with whipped cream. One of these was enough for the two of us. The cost including a beer and glass of wine was about $50.00.
Day 10 – Thursday 22nd August 2013
We had breakfast in our room and walked into Cycle Tours on the pier and were fitted for our bikes and helmets. The bikes were loaded onto a van and along with three others we were driven out to the Butchart Gardens at Saanich; about 30km from downtown Victoria. It cost $95.00 each which included transport, garden tour and 24 hour bike hire. The gardens are a must see, even for someone who is not much interested in flowers. They were developed as a private garden of about 200 acres in the early 20th century and are absolutely magnificent. Apparently the display changes each season and people buy an annual pass to see the varied displays. We spent almost two hours walking through the various themed areas and then mounted our bikes for the return trip .mounted our bikes for the return trip
The first half Km was the steepest part of our whole ride, but the bikes were good quality and it was not difficult. Most of the ride is on bike paths but even the sections on open road were not a problem, even for Carol, as drivers are very respectful of cyclists. We made one navigational error and almost ended up on a highway, but soon realised our error and had no problem from then on. The trail meandered through farmland, parks, beaches, lakes and residential areas and is almost flat. Victoria is a cyclist’s paradise, with cycle lanes on most main roads and cycle crossings at major intersections. Motorists give way to cyclists in all circumstances and it took a while for us Kiwis to realise that we don’t have to be quite as defensive as we do at home.
All along the trail, blackberries grow wild, as they do in Oregon and Washington, so we stopped several times for a feed. There are rest stations along the trails, with seats, route maps and water fountains that include a special tap for filling drink bottles. We crossed a walkway over a small lake and saw two large elks about 150metres away in a paddock.
We arrived at a junction heading back to town, earlier than we expected and so took the other branch (Galloping Goose trail), heading in the other direction for about 12 km. This followed a highway and took us past an inlet of the harbour, from where we had a view across the water to the snow-capped mountains of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, USA. We went through a rocky gorge out into the parklands, where we decided that it was time to head back into town. Once back in the city it was amazing just how easy it was to ride in the busy streets of downtown Victoria and we did a short tiki tour before returning the bikes. (Auckland City Planners should visit Victoria to see how to develop a pedestrian and cycle friendly city) – Anyone who visits the North-west of USA or Western Canada should include Vancouver Island in their itinerary.
We walked back to our hotel (about 1km) and Carol bought a pair of sandals; her fifth footwear purchase of our trip.
Day 11 – Friday 23rd August 2013
Drove up the coast through forests and saw the islands that dot the coast of Vancouver Island as far as Nanaimo where we drove into the Departure Bay ferry terminal and had a 90 minute wait for the next ferry to North Vancouver. There are several different ferry routes and ours cost $82.55 for the 90 minute trip. On our deck of the ferry, we had a wildlife expert who gave an interesting lecture on the local whale population and the marine geology of the area.
The drive from the ferry, into downtown Vancouver was ok while we were on the highway, but once we reached the city the traffic was terrible. Vancouver prides itself on being one of the few cities in North America that does not have a motorway system in the city. It is a great example of why we need motorways. Even though it has a great subway and bus system, the streets are jammed with traffic and it is almost impossible to get anywhere at more than walking pace. We finally reached our B&B that is about three Km from downtown in an old three storied wooden villa. It is not cheap, at $145, including a very good breakfast, but it was hard to find hotel accommodation that had car parking.
We caught the subway downtown ($2.75 for Carol and $1.75 for the old man), and wandered around the streets, playing tourist. See the photo of the steam clock that tourists gathered around.
Vancouver did not seem to be the sort of city we would want to stay long; so after wandering the tourist traps we back on the subway and had a meal and drink down the road from our B&B, near the city hall. The bar was Original Joes and had a good atmosphere and good food. I had ribs, that filled my plate, and Carol had salmon that was tasty, if a bit dry. The beer was local and very good. The waitress commented on my Rugby World Cup volunteers’ shirt and said that she enjoyed the game and had some friends that played for Canada at the World Cup. We were in bed by 10.30 ready for a long drive into the Okanagan region on Saturday.