Colorado Tales 67 – Vancouver

June 17th, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized.

June 9, 2016

Dear Friends and Relatives,

Hope things are going well with you.

Ken and I just returned from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. We found the place and the people to be friendly and charming. The air travel through Seattle was unpleasant but that is a common problem these days. We traveled on Delta with not much space between seats. The TSA lines in Denver International were not horrible, but long enough to require standing in line for 45 minutes.

A couple from Longmont, boarding the same flight, stopped by our row and asked: “are you Diane Wood from Longmont? We have one of your paintings”. Wow! I was surprised.

The main tourist town on Vancouver Island is Victoria. The airport is 15 miles away and close to the town of Sidney. We rented a car at the airport and found our way to the Humboldt B&B near the center of Victoria. Victoria is a clean modern city. People are quite friendly, more so then in the U.S. I gave David, the proprietor of the B&B, a couple of my cards. He showed me portraits that his mother painted. They were done very well. David also has creative talent in that he makes chocolates with truffles and chocolate sheets in the shape of a painter’s palette.

Breakfast was delivered to our room via a pass-through locker. The staff placed our breakfast basket in the locker, and would call through our door that breakfast is ready. We then open our locker door and take out the basket of food. The basket is packed with linen place mats, linen napkins with silverware, a carafe of coffee, milk, sugar, orange juice, fresh fruit and the breakfast servings as ordered the day before. Incredibly packed – they had it down to a science.

The next day we booked passage on a whale-watching trip. Prior to boarding the boat we had time to grab a bit of lunch. We approached one of the food stands on Fisherman’s Warf and ordered a concoction called Blue Malu. Never order this item! I could not eat it and Ken had the same problem.

On board our speedboat we were provided with heavy jackets, wool caps, and gloves. We needed all this for warmth while traveling at 40 mph in an open boat. We saw many orcas and were told they do not eat people (How can they be sure?). If you happened to be in the water with them, they would be intimidating.

We did see many orcas as they gracefully jumped out of the sea to get a breath of fresh air. At one time, two orcas rose high above the surface and crashed back into the water.

The captain then brought us to a lighthouse and wildlife refuge with seals, bald eagles, and otters. The naturalist guide informed us about the life and struggles of these creatures. The entire operation was sensitive to protecting and preserving this environment.

Next day we took a walk to Victoria’s China Town and visited the Hemp & Company store. They sell clothing and other items with hemp, a cannabis variety. I bought a nice, comfortable shirt.

In Victoria, there was a living sculpture of an orca suspended 5 ft. off the ground. The vegetation was trained and trimmed perfectly to look like an orca whale.

Our B&B was adjacent to a national historic site, St. Ann’s Convent, a large and handsome structure with extensive lawns dotted with mature trees. A huge hedge perhaps 25 feet tall formed a wall between our B&B and the convent.

The next day we drove to Butchart Gardens, 55 acres of world-class landscaping and flowers. This all started when Robert and Jennie Butchart came to live at Tod inlet on Vancouver Island. Jennie began a lifelong project to create a garden. They transformed the barren limestone quarry (excavated to supply the cement factory nearby). Today it includes themed areas including the Japanese Garden, Sturgeon Fountain, Rose Garden, Italian Garden, Star Pond, Sunken Garden and computer controlled fountains set in a small pond nestled in the cliffs and pines. Butchart Gardens are beautiful and well worth visiting.

Leaving the gardens we next visited the butterfly jungle with beautiful butterflies, koi fish, flamingos, armadillo, and turtles.

We were intending to visit the Governor’s Mansion and grounds in Victoria. The mansion was not open, but we were able to stroll around the grounds. I must mention that plants grow much taller and larger then the same species do back home. The trees were very large and impressive.

Next we were off to seek out Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse. We searched for half an hour because there were few signs. We finally found someone who directed us to the site. Fort Rodd Hill is a canon installation for defense against the Russian fleet in the 19th century. Fisgard lighthouse is still in operation and commands a fine view.

Wednesday, June 1st we departed our B&B and took a ferry to Galiano Island. We first returned the car to the airport. The Avis attendant called his manager asking if he would drive us the three miles to the ferry dock. He did and we were amazed at the service provided.

We went into the ferry facility to purchase our ticket. The ticket agent was taking a break and saw us sitting in a waiting area. He stopped by to tell us to follow him as we were not in the correct waiting area. We thanked him for his help. We’re not accustomed to such friendly service. The day was lovely and we decided to move outside to wait for the ferry. It was at this point that I struck up a conversation with a young woman, about 25 years of age. She was delightfully friendly and helpful. The Canadian government runs the BC Ferry service. The ferries are spacious, friendly, affordable and they run on time. Inside they are luxurious with ample space for stretching out your legs, you can pick up a snack, drink, lunch and you can go outside to sit and enjoy the fresh sea air and scenery. I picked up a cookie and bottle of water. I was short a few cents and was walking back to Ken for more change. Then Mae called out “I got it” and paid the extra for my snack.

I moved to the upper deck with my new friend and had an enjoyable conversation. Mae has been coming to Galiano Island since she was a child. She texted her father on the island to ask that he help us with our luggage and drive us to our hotel on Galiano. This meant that Mae and her cousin had to walk the road from the ferry to the little town.

Galiano Island has 500 local year round residents. During tourist season the population can rise to 5,000. You need a vehicle to get around the island. We could have kept our rental car and brought it over on the ferry.

We checked into the Galiano Inn and Warren, the fellow at the desk, said we could rent a Smart car the next day. We took a short walk to check out what was available and went into Babes in the Woods for lunch as our room was not ready for check in. The Chamber of Commerce building nearby is a small red garden shed which can house one person and desk and perhaps a typewriter.

Galiano does not get as much rainfall as Victoria. Plants are still abundant and many species grow larger than we have back home.

Our hotel/inn serves breakfast only on Saturday and Sunday. Dinner is available every night. They have a beautiful dining room and an excellent chef. The server staff was very friendly.

Next morning we sought out breakfast at a local bakery/café and had a scone and orange juice. After breakfast we walked into the inn to rent the smart car. Warren was not there and the bookkeeper came out to see what we wanted. She told us we could not rent a smart car because we could not prove we had the proper insurance. We had just rented a car in Victoria with no problem. She also told us the Warren did not know about renting out cars, etc. We later told him and he made an expression that was surprised at what she said.

This woman also said we could easily walk to the bluff viewpoint and a car was not needed and that the walk to the bluff was easy and not far. Wrong! It turned out to be a 6 mile round hike with significant uphill sections. The first part was thru the woods with obstacles of roots, fallen trees, etc. Near the bluff we met David Chase, an interesting fellow. Australian by birth, he attended an ivy league college in the states and had an interesting background in geology. He told us the Bluff viewpoint was not far. This was good news as I cannot hike as robustly as I once did.

At the bluff I took out art supplies and painted a bit. It was close to 11 am and people were coming by and enjoying the scene. We walked over to where they came from, saw a parking lot and the people we saw drove to the bluff area and took a short walk to enjoy the scenery.

We hiked three exhausting miles steeply downhill to our hotel. I was not a happy camper as we walked into the inn. They had a brass bell on the desk and I slammed the plunger with such force I hurt the palm of my hand. The sound reverberated through the inn. When this same woman appeared at the desk, I was angry and berated her for advising us that it was a short walk, told her she ruined my day and my vacation. She never apologized. I was furious.

We did spread the word about this person to folks we met at the local eateries. A couple having breakfast at the Grand Central Emporium, Sandy and Tyce (who is from Amsterdam), knew the owners of the inn and were concerned by our experience. They knew the same woman has caused trouble before.

Sandy, the lady we met at breakfast, gave me a book about local artists. Sandy herself is a writer and is an author in this book. I called her to thank her for the book. She asked if we had been the hotel to find out what had happed there. I told her we were not eating at the hotel restaurant because of our happening with the bookkeeper.

The next morning when attempting to make coffee in the room, the coffee pot broke and we had to wait till we went to breakfast for coffee.

We learned that students are ferried to Salt Springs Island to attend high school there. The inter-island ferry system is exceptional. We should have such excellent infrastructure.

After breakfast we saw Michael and Mae in their 1970 Chevy Suburban. Michael urged us to visit to the farmers market with him. We had just spoken to the kayak rental service and they were going to pick us up and bring us to their location. Michael offered to bring us there after visiting the farmers market. We went back to our room, grabbed what we needed for the kayak trip, jumped into the old Suburban and were off to the market. When they weren’t driving us around, Michael and Mae were putting a roof on their cabin. Michael’s sister and brother were there to help. Even Mae was carrying shingles up the ladder and nailing them down.

We rented a 2-person kayak. I did not paddle as I would most probably not be in the same timing as Ken. So I enjoyed the ride to a lovely beach area. You have to get out in ankle deep water and drag the kayak up so it will not drift out to sea.

We pulled out our lunch and enjoyed the scenery. There was also a parking lot nearby where people drove and then hiked a bit to the beach location.

Kayakers started arriving and a group of 3 young women who drove to the area and then hiked to where we were sitting promptly took off the tops of their bathing suits and had only their skimpy bottoms on. The young men kayakers enjoyed this as well as Ken.

After this adventure, a young woman who worked at the kayak shop drove us back to the inn.

We needed to find a restaurant for dinner and after reading a bit, decided on the Hummingbird Pub. By the way I must mention there were lots of hummingbirds on the island. The pub had a bus service and we arranged to be picked up at 6:20 pm at the local gas station (the only one on the island) where the driver would fill up the bus. Nothing on the island is hurried and the driver arrived about 20 minutes after the appointed pick up time.

The bus was an old retired school bus with Tommy Transit driving. He had cymbals mounted above the windshield and in the center of the steering wheel was a tambourine over the horn button. Tommy knew everybody on the island and as we drove past people would call out to them. One fellow had long hair and Tommy called out “cut your hair” upon which both laughed. He told us the fellow had made all the outdoor furniture at the Grand Central Emporium. We checked this out and it was beautifully done.

The Hummingbird Pub was a real down to earth place with people enjoying themselves. We asked Tommy if we could buy him dinner. He accepted our offer and told us to order fish and chips with one piece of cod. When they brought his dinner the piece of fish was about 7 inches long.

At the table next to us were 5 fellows. They had a piece of cake with a candle brought to the table to the fellow whose birthday it was. There was lots of good camaraderie.

After dinner Tommy brought us back to the inn in his car. Before dropping us off at the inn, he drove up an incredible overgrown track to a lot he would love to own. It has a fine view of the sea through a wide gap in the trees. Three deer stood close by watching us.

The seafood was great. We wanted to return to the same place on Sunday for dinner, but they did not have the bus operating at that time. We were told we could hitch hike, but I could not see us hitch hiking after dinner and possibly walking back 3 miles. So we ate at Babes in the Woods.

Next morning we ate breakfast at Grand Central Emporium and I had the truck drivers breakfast. Lots of food. After breakfast the tide was out so we walked along the rugged sandstone shore line to a quiet park area and sat on the smooth sandstone. We read and watched as some whale watching boats were in pursuit of the orcas. We saw two orcas breach clear of the water.

We take the ferry to Sidney after 11 am. So we walked to the ferry service to purchase tickets and were advised that when we purchased our ticket to come over to the island that included the round trip return.

We checked out of the hotel and were walking up the road to the ferry service when Michael and Mae appeared yet again and took my luggage. We walked down to the ferry service where Michael’s vehicle was parked. He put our luggage in the vehicle and we waited for the ferry. After the ride to Sidney they also brought us to our Sidney Pier hotel. What generous people. Sidney is a lovely clean town. What we were able to see that afternoon was beautiful. We walked the seaside park featuring sculpture every 20 feet.

Decided to have dinner at the hotel. Great choice! I got halibut, the catch of the day, which was delicious. Ken got halibut fish and chips. Freshly caught makes the seafood really delicious.

We left the next morning from the Sidney airport to Seattle. You have to pay to check your luggage both ways. So it cost us $50 each way. Airlines have cleared $23 billion dollars on profit last year due to cheap fuel but they do not pass along this earning to passengers and as we heard from our ticket agent, not to the workers either.

In Seattle we first went thru immigration, picked up our luggage, passed through customs and deposited it for our connecting flight. We stood in the TSA lines for an hour or more. Our Senators and Congressmen should stand in these lines. They hold up thousands of people, they have not found a terrorist and they do not find 95% of the items that they say you cannot bring onto a plane. It was frustrating, tiring and at 3 pm when our plane was scheduled to leave we were still in the TSA lines. I must say I was angry. After all this, because I have had a complete hip replacement, I get a body pat down.

Since the flight to Denver did not have the majority of its scheduled passengers, they rescheduled the flight to leave 40 minutes past their scheduled flight time. Approaching Denver International we were told we have to circle for approval for landing as there were high winds, etc. It was good to be on the ground. Travel is no fun any more.

We got our luggage to the bus service at US Airport parking. One couple on the bus with one young child had at least 8 pieces of luggage, some very large and some medium and some small. Ken commented to me that he would never again complain about my bringing too much on a trip. I thanked him and the people across the aisle all smiled. Then we went off to find our car. The bus driver drove past it and had to circle back to find it. Did not get home until 10 pm.

Woke up very tired and had to bring in my art to the Longmont Artists Guild art show at the Boulder Fairgrounds. It has been go-go-go since we returned. I’m writing now because this is my first free day.

Hope you all are enjoying summer.

Love,

Diane and Ken

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