This morning we have a lazy few hours with Max and Abby watching television cartoons. I am folding the clean laundry (I have a rule about travelling with dirty laundry) and when I need their assistance and call their name, they respond with a karate stance and a sharp “ma’am! Yes ma’am!!) They lighten my slightly sad mood as I realize this is the last morning of Nana Vacation time, and now I will have to share them again.
Packed up our beautiful little condo for 5 days and then out and about to say good-bye to Victoria before we have to head to the airport.
It’s a good thing that we are leaving the dangerous downtown of Victoria. The kids were almost eaten by a Canadian bear!! Poor little things were terrified.
To celebrate their survival, we hop on our final Victoria Taxi and made our way to the Victoria airport to meet up with Jeffry and Kerri in Calgary.
Almost everyone of these taxi’s we used (and we used them at least twice a day!) were all Prius cars as Victoria prides herself on keeping green. The Unites States could take some lessons from Canada. Going green is just one of them. The other major one is how British Columbia tries to save historical buildings – or at least their facades and architecture – even if they will be renovated for use other than what was originally intended. I understand how a sleek modern building may be the desirous effect of the moment, the beauty and history of the old is far more interesting to me. And I think by discarding them, we do our younger generations a disservice and rob them of the importance of our past. That is just this Gdovin Girl’s perspective.
This old Catholic church in BC was restored and has been used as an art gallery.
The Empress Hotel in 1908 and then today.
Late lunch at the White Spot in the Victoria Airport before winging our way to Calgary. Jeffry and Kerri met us with a rental car and the GPS loaded for our drive to Red Deer, Alberta – Kerri’s hometown, and then to our Airbnb for a week. Of course the little ones were very excited to get hugs from mommy and daddy and jabbered about their adventures and the plans for upcoming family get-togethers as we navigated our way to Red Deer.
The day began with a light drizzle, so we decided that the Hop On and Hop Off Gray Line tour bus would be a good option for today. Our tour began in front of the Empress. The kids were thrilled when they got to scurry to the upper level to the very front of the gigantic window to view absolutely everything in sight!
The tour guide told us all about the Hudson Bay Company and Butchart Gardens and the Johnson Street Bridge and lots more.
The drizzle slowly turned into a somewhat heavy rainstorm. The children were not deterred in their enthusiasm. They still found fun things to look at and things that made them giggle and while driving through Chinatown, a bright yellow-orange Asian paper umbrella to which Abby exclaimed … “Nana! Mahmaw has an umbrella exactly like that.” She was quite tickled over that fact.
But the pièce de résistance and the be all to end all, was when the rain dried up and we hopped off to spend an hour at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. Our first stop was the bird sanctuary to see the tiny Zebra Finch and the apricot color tiny Canary. I am not a fan of larger birds and filthy doves/pigeons/seagulls. But these tiny little Aves are simply adorable.
The peacocks were gorgeous in their electric blue. The ducks were quacking their heads off. The llamas were funny. The miniature horses and mule were sweet. The Guinea pigs and the bunnies were a little smelly, but too cute.
But the very best part of the visit was the baby goats. Once the kids discovered that the goats would jump on their back if they got down on all fours, all you could hear was hearty laughter and little girl giggles. Both Max and Abby thought this was the best thing ever and the baby goats certainly enjoyed their cooperation. I had to keep a sharp eye out as the kids (goat kids – not grand kids) would go after a corner of a jacket (wanting to eat the fabric) or scratch with one leg the back of Maxwell’s jacket so hard, that I thought there would be shreds had I not stopped it. Both kids and kids enjoyed the experience and Abby hasn’t stopped talking about the baby goats.
After our baby goat time, we hopped back on the tour bus and passed by several other landmarks before ending up at Frankie’s Modern Diner on Government Street and enjoying some dinner. We meandered through a couple of stores downtown and, before making our way back to our home away from home, the kids took time to pose with the friendly hosts of Canada.
Max and Abby took showers and got freshly shampooed before donning their very cute matching pj’s we found at a local shop. And now they are just as adorable as the baby goats!
(this touching photography session was shortly followed by “OUCH! ABBY SCRATCHED ME AND SHE DID IT ON PURPOSE!” and then a quick response in a light small voice “you okay mama? you okay? want me to kiss it, mama? you okay??”)
After a pancake breakfast (why, yes. I did make the kids pancakes today) we begin our day – where else – the Inner Harbor. Can’t hardly begin the day without having a glimpse of the boats in the Harbor and breathing in the sea air. You just can’t!
and then … The Fairmont Empress began her story as Victoria, British Columbia’s, most iconic hotel on January 20, 1908. Famed architect Francis Rattenbury was commissioned to design the hotel after his success in designing the new legislative buildings in the relatively new Canadian province of British Columbia. Fairmont Empress was meant to serve business people and tourists, but after the Canadian Pacific Railway discontinued service to the area, it was successfully marketed as a resort.
A star from her beginning, Fairmont Empress did not have a sign over the front entrance. When a sign was finally raised, one irate Victorian uttered the phrase, “Anyone who doesn’t know this is the Empress shouldn’t be staying here.” However, it would appear many did know and appreciate the Empress. Edward, Prince of Wales, danced in the Crystal Ballroom in 1919 with many local ladies, whose obituaries mentioned that night over 50 years after it happened. When reigning royals King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Victoria for the first time, they stayed at the Fairmont Empress. Over the years, HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, stayed at the hotel as well.
Celebrities came to the hotel in droves. Stars like Rita Hayworth, Jack Benny, Roger Moore, Katharine Hepburn, John Travolta, Barbra Streisand, and Harrison Ford have passed through the Fairmont Empress’ lobby. Shirley Temple came to stay in the 1930s after rumored threats of kidnapping. Her bodyguards stayed in the room across from hers and always kept their doors open.
By 1965, the hotel had fallen on hard times; it was faded and dowdy, leaving officials to debate on whether or not the Fairmont Empress should be torn down to make room for something more modern. Thankfully, it was decided that the loss of the Empress was far too great. Instead, there was a $4 million renovation and refurbishment, the first of many. In 1989, $45 million was spent in what was dubbed the “Royal Restoration,” which was also when the indoor pool, health club, and guest reception were added. In the midst of this restoration, it was discovered that the beautiful, Tiffany-style stained glass that makes up the roof of the Palm Court had been covered by wood. To this day, guests can now enjoy sparkling light on the shining marblefloors during weddings and other special events. In the 1990s, the Willow Stream Spa was added and became Victoria’s most award winning spa to date.
Behind the hotel grounds and down the block, is the Miniature World – which is exactly what it says. Looking at the entrance gives you the impression that you will be in and out in ten minutes – but looks can be deceiving! Room upon room takes you through history in tiny form. From the destruction of the war in Germany …
Buttons are on almost every display making trains travel, propellers spin, chandeliers glow, farmers plow, hoods on classic cars raise and lower and everything imaginable (or unimaginable) to make the entire experience unforgettable. Difficult to get good photos through the glass. You must really experience it in person.
Welcome to Victoria in floral glory!
Always some “Buskers” (street entertainers) in the Harbor. For many, this is their way of earning a living. They love the work, but I imagine it can be very physically and mentally challenging.
Victoria plays host to the “Buskers Festival” in July. Lots of street entertainment downtown as well all week long.
Head downtown for five days for live entertainment featuring local and international comedians, contortionists, magicians, musicians, and much more.
Four stages: Ship Point, Bastion Square, Market Square, and Centennial Square
An outdoor beer garden at Ship Point
A dozen performance artists
Five days of free all-ages fun
With laughter by day and excitement by night, the Downtown Victoria Buskers Festival showcases quirky, funny, and sublime international talent.
“Home” after a long and busy day to pork chops, broccoli and warm biscuits! More fun tomorrow.
Since we got to bed so late last night (or so early this morning – which ever way you want to look at it) we got a bit of a late start to the day. But, we are on vacation and have no timetable or schedule and are just free to be!
We leave our condo and prepare for adventure. Walking from the residence and through some beautifully landscaped areas, it seems as though everything parts and makes way for the Johnson Street Bridge; where we can gaze at part of the harbor. Amazing to see the tiny boats as well as the tallest of the sailboats.
It is a wondrous site and bittersweet memories flood my mind and heart as I remember my first visit here with my hubs thirteen years ago. Bob and I were in the midst of a terrible family crisis. This was one we could not face at the time. Our strength had been tested in ways we would have never thought possible. We “ran away” to Victoria to be by ourselves. It was a great comfort being in a place where we would never come face to face with anyone that we knew. Walking the Inner Harbor every morning to the downtown area or just to watch the street entertainers helped us to forget what we had to face when we returned. We were in a magical land and for just a couple of weeks, we had no fear or worries. It was just us. And we clung to each other certain in the fact that whatever happened, we always had each other. That is the way our marriage began and that is the way our marriage ended with Bob’s death.
I have to blink away the tears several times until I hear Maxwell tell Abby that I am remembering being here with Poppa. Then I have to laugh at the innocence of a 6 year old little girl … “oh yeah. You came here with dead Poppa, right, Nana?” Pulls me right back into the current and makes me laugh – knowing Bob would think that the funniest thing ever. I can hear his laugh now.
We venture over the new replacement Johnson Street bridge and ooh and aah at the mechanisms that will lift this bridge, effortlessly allowing tall ships to sail through. It certainly is an engineering marvel. At night, it is lit in a beautiful blue as a reminder of the powder blue bridge it replaced.
Our first stop was to get some food in the kids’ tummies. We found a cute little place called Picnic- a coffee house with locally sourced cafe items. The kids liked it and I especially liked the Portuguese style bun!
And now, we were off. We needed to get a few groceries for the Airbnb, but before that, we explored the Inner Harbor. Now, you cannot explore the Inner Harbor without going to Wharf Street and you certainly cannot visit Wharf Street without having your photo taken at the CANADA sign!
Now that we have that out of the way, we see a small closed trailer in bright red. A young lady is standing near the steps and asks us if we would like to see a free 3 minute play. She explains that she and her entertainment partner, students at the University, travel around doing these little 3 minute plays, but also teaches school children the art of acting. We enter the small trailer and to my surprise, there are a few theater style seats from times gone by and a little stage with the requisite heavy drapery. Max and Abby think this is quite a treat, so we all take our seats. A cute mini-play begins and near the end, one of the young ladies says she needs a volunteer to help rescue the other lady. Up shoots Maxwell’s hand and before you know it, he is standing on the stairs outside of the trailer and within a minute is hailed as the hero. Quite an entertaining few moments! And such a novel idea.
These are the little things that Bob and I found so endearing about Victoria. A bit quirky. A Little relaxing. And a whole lot of fun. I think that if Portland and Austin had a baby, she would be Victoria BC.
We take our remaining time to walk around and watch the boats and observe the life here. Then, we board the water taxi to get back to our side of the harbor and are on our way to the Country Grocer and home for dinner and relaxing time. Well, as relaxing as you can get with Teen Titans!
to beautiful Victoria BC. Jeffry and Kerri are driving Max and Abby and I to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. This evening, the grand kids and I will board Alaska Airlines (upgraded seats) to make our way to Seattle and eventually to Victoria – the cutest gem of a city that I have ever laid eyes on. After kisses and hugs and “see you in 5 days”, we checked our luggage and ventured into the general boarding screening area. The kids do not have known traveler numbers, so in the general line we went. Everything was smooth until the man said “all food items must be out of the bags and into one of the bins”. I thought, ‘no problem’ since I packed the snacks in a little lunch box and just placed it in the bin. All of the sudden, Maxwell was in a panic – going through his backpack pulling out 3 Starburst and a couple other small items. Crisis averted!
The kids were treated to a kid’s snack box with a turkey sausage stick, applesauce, cheese crackers, popcorn and a mini chocolate bar and of course apple juice and sprite. Happy Campers!! Thanks, Alaska Airlines! On the descent into Seattle, we watched fireworks shows all over the city from above. Believe it or not, the displays are not nearly as amazing from above as they are looking up at them. A new experience.
The transfer in Seattle was rushed, to say the least. After getting off the first plane, we had 20 minutes before we boarded the second one. Normally, not so much to worry about. However, we landed at one terminal and our next gate was C10D. Excuse me? Okay then – we find the train to take passengers to GATES B C D. That is what it said right there on the little red letters above the train. So there we await the little train to take us to our gate. We board the train. The doors close. And then a voice comes over the loudspeaker … “this train will not stop at gate C. To get to gate C, disembark at gate D and walk to gate C”. Well, now that was fun with all 3 of us – me with back issues and two children sleepy at 11 pm – scurrying in and out of crowds of people to get to our gate just as they called our group. We made it. Got settled in our upgraded-but-you-couldn’t-tell-it-was-an-upgrade seats and settled in for a quick flight to land in Victoria. Had no time to pick up a cute night shirt in the Seattle Airport that said “Sleepless in Seattle” and that is one of my favorite movies of all time!! (“hello, Howard!”)
Got to the Airbnb around 1:45 am.. The kids were both now alert and ready to explore the little condo…”look how these light switches work… the toilet lid closes by itself like ours … hey, I have dibs on the pull out sofa …”
By the time we got settled in and faces washed and teeth brushed, it was close to 2:30 a.m. and all three of us were exhausted and sleep came ever so easy. (shhhhh. more tomorrow)