During my stint in New York City, I had more frequent trips to the west coast than ever before. I was working as part of a "distributed team," most of whom were on the west coast, so it was absolutely cheaper to make the east coast people fly over repeatedly whenever there was a reason to try to get people face-to-face. As ever, I had interest in "work-adjacent personal travel."
In past visits to Seattle, I had tacked on stops at Olympic National Park and Vancouver (post forthcoming). This time, I thought I'd visit the Canadian city of Victoria, famous for its gardens and its beautiful architecture.
Of course, October might not have been the best choice of time to do it.
An Aside: Some Recommendations from a Local
Before getting into what I actually did during my visit, I'll share some recommendations that I got from a local before I visited:
I recommend you drive to the top of Mount Douglas and watch the sunset - you can also see all of Victoria from up there. Also, make sure you try the poutine at Pink Bicycle - if you like truffles, try the truffle one (if you're a vegetarian, they have vegetarian mushroom gravy). The best configuration is with cheese curds (instead of parmesan) and to add blue cheese (which costs extra).
If you like animals, make sure you visit the farm at Beacon Hill Park: https://goo.gl/maps/axmJFdo62X6bSYv67 You can see peacocks, donkeys, alpacas, and pat many, many baby goats. If you sit on the rocks and bend forward, they sometimes even jump on your back!
Also, if you have time, I recommend exploring the Gulf Islands (Saltspring Island is the easiest to get to in terms of ferries) - the sunset from the top of Mount Maxwell is something special.
Can you guess which one of these I followed?
Journey & Arrival
I booked an after work flight from JFK to Victoria with a layover in Calgary. Unfortunately, my flight out of JFK got delayed, so I spent a night in the Calgary Airport instead of in my desired accommodations.
I took the following day off work for "traveling from New York to Seattle," but I groggily checked my email in a coffee shop nonetheless.
My manager wanted to talk, and as it turned out, wanted to tell me that there had a reorganization, and I would now be managed my someone else.
"Yes, yes. This makes sense. This is a good change," I blearily spoke into my computer.
The following week, I had face-to-face meetings in Seattle, but the rest of the weekend was ahead of me, with a brand new city to explore! Sunday night, I would take the passenger ferry to Seattle's city center. For now, I was going to enjoy myself, and see what plants and gardens I could see on a rainy, pre-Halloween weekend.
Abkhazi Garden caught my eye because... erm, it was apparently founded by an Abkhazian Prince, whose family had fled Abkhazia in response to the Bolshevik Revolution. I shan't summarize the details, and shall instead let you peak at the official signage:
The one thing that I decided I wanted to do was to get somewhere further out from the city center. I knew the Pacific Northwest was full of beautiful hiking spots, and that Vancouver Island was home to famed locations like Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, but I also didn't have a rental car.
I went on Google Maps and looked at some nearby parks. I set the mode of transportation to public transit, and moved the pin for my destination around, up to a couple miles outside of park boundaries. Google was not about to tell me I could cut through the edge of a suburban-looking housing development, walk alongside a busy road for a mile, and thus gain easy access to a beautiful park, but I could coax that information out of them.
The one that seemed most spectacular, and among the least annoying to get to was Goldstream Provincial Park. My trip there was exactly as expected... except that I had to wait a good while for the bus to show up in Victoria's city center.
It turns out that it's both illegal and very dangerous to walk on the trestle bridge, so I do not condone doing so. Strangely, there was only signage on <em>one side</em> of the bridge, and I <em>just so happened</em> to start my crossing from the side <em>without</em> the signage.
Emily Carr was born in Victoria, and painted works showcasing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and indigenous villages. I've enjoyed seeing her work in museums, so it was cool to be near her old home.
The main attraction for me was the Butchart Gardens, probably among Victoria's biggest tourist draws. Naturally, a public bus goes there from the city center, so it's an easy spot to reach.
The Clipper Ferry is a rather expensive boat ride, one with tickets tiered for where you're allowed to view the surroundings from the boat. I got the lowest price ticket and spent a while looking out on the deck at sunset as we cruised towards Seattle through the majestic Puget Sound.
Having crossed a maritime border, we all had to queue in a very long line for customs and passport control when we arrived. After the agent asked me a few questions about places I had visited on a previous trip, I was through.
So, overall, Victoria is a beautiful place, with ample opportunities to stroll through manicured gardens or enjoy high tea. My favorite of the places I visited, though, was Goldstream Provincial Park. Perhaps, I was more drawn to the allure of the forest than the marvels of modern landscaping. As was, I don't think I felt as connected to Victoria as other places I've visited. I would like to return there, especially to see the art at their museum, but I haven't gone out of my way yet to do so.
As for the change in management, everything was okay, and I probably exaggerated being worried about it for writerly effect. (I.e., to keep you in suspense.) We had already worked together, and got along quite well until I left that team.