So we are finally reunited with my parents, but on the other side of the world. A strange way to celebrate Christmas, by bringing the entire family to North America. Jarrod and Guy were also around, but jogged off in the direction of Whistler.
Vancouver is an interesting city, a cross between Brisbane and Sydney. It seems nice but is not anything to be amazed at. It is just another modern western city, full of concrete and desk jobs.
The little bits of interest in ‘Couver can be uncovered, we just did not have a lot of time. The harbour and the boats immediately drew me in. If you don’t like boats, do not bother going to Vancouver. The sea planes making their runs add a bit of difference. Like bees flying from flower to flower, they dart back and forth around the city. The mountains that surround the city in the distance also inspire awe. The lights on the hills at night resemble UFO’s.
Let’s talk about Stanley Park for a moment. This park has everything, a world renown aquarium, miniature train, squirrels, coyotes and even a salmon river. This kind of park, together with others such as the Munich Englischer Garten, make me want to petition the Brisbane government for more urban areas such as these. A giant space for open recreation and the outdoor enjoyment of all citizens. Brisbane has parks, yes, but they are tiny front-yards in comparison to Stanley Park.
We wandered around the park for a few hours and took in some sights. We got there in the late afternoon so we did not have a lot of time to spare. Fortunately for us, this time of year the Canadians like to celebrate Christmas in style. The holiday lights in the park were outstanding. Those who created the lights had taste and style. There was no corny or tasteless overuse or mis-use of fairy lights or any other kind of Christmas crap you are likely to see in front-yards around the world this time of year. We got some hot apple cider to keep us warm, then sat and watched some boats for a while.
The next day was a hop and a skip to Vancouver Island and the British Columbia (BC)provincial capital of Victoria. After a seemingly endless cab ride, we arrived at the ferry terminal and boarded one hell of a hulking ship.
The ferry trip itself was little over an hour in duration. The stretch of water we crossed was calm, barely making the ship tilt. We passed through channels and various small islands on our way to Vancouver Island. Teeny and I kept our eyes peeled for orcas and seals, who constantly frequent the area. We were let down this time.
Vancouver Island is just over 31,000 square kilometres in size, meaning it is no small island (Switzerland is just over 42,000 square kilometres in comparison). The highest point is Golden Hinde, at around 2,200 metres. Australia’s highest point is Mt Kosciuszko, at 2,228 metres. The population is over 750,000 people, most of which reside around the southern end, near the BC captial, Victoria. The island has special significance to the indigenous inhabitants, many of whom still reside on the island. Notable tribes include the Kwakwaka’wakw, the Nuu-chah-nulth, and the Salish.
Upon arriving in Victoria, we hiked through town to our small rental house. The Airbnb cottage is around a kilometre to the main centre of the city and a short stroll to the antique district of town. That night was spent eating anything to do with maple, drinking beer and watching the fireplace channel.
Our first full day in Victoria was spent wandering around town and eating. We experienced possibly the best coffee ever made at the Blue Fox Cafe. I had the chilli mocha and Teeny had the caramel and macadamia latte. Five stars to that little cafe.
We visited the nearby Craigdarroch Castle, built by an extremely wealthy coal merchant in the late 1800s. Robert Dunsmuir, the families patriarch, capitalised on the North American industrialisation period through various business interests, mostly revolving around coal. He was known as a bit of a bastard and was a tyrant to his workers. He famously lowered his miners wage by one sixth, and when they decided to strike, evicted them all from their houses (the only accommodation available was owned by Mr Dunsmuir himself). Robert Dunsmuir eventually went into politics, like most rich businessmen, he then used his power to further his business interests. I couldn’t help but draw parallels with a well known overweight coal mining magnate from Queensland who has recently entered politics.
The castle is ridiculous in its unashamed decadence. The house is over 25,000 square feet in size, four floors and a basement, it has 17 fireplaces and about 29 separate rooms. It also features a tower. It features building materials sourced from around North America. Most of the wood came from as far as Arkansas in the US, manufactured in Chicago, then shipped via railroad to Victoria. A cost of hundreds of thousands today, quite possibly much more in the 1890s.
Fortunately, the prayers of the people were heard and the family went from boom to bust. Losing all their finances after only three generations.
The house then went from private ownership to becoming a military hospital, a conservatory of music and then a college. Now, it is rightfully a museum for all to share and laugh at the selfishness of the man who built it. A person whose pure and malignant greed caused his family to destroy itself once he died.
We finished off the day meandering around the streets all light up with Christmas lights.
Rowan & Teeny xox