I guess it is about time that I write something to live up to this blog's namesake. After all, it is the Travelog and Dog Blog. So far The Dogs have gotten center stage. But, since the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver are over (and I can get back real life and watch The Office and Modern Family again!), I think it would be appropriate to write about Vancouver.
It would be appropriate, but I have never been there.
On the other hand, I have been to Vancouver Island, and I'm here to set the record straight that that's not the same thing at all. Since NBC had the exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics, you may have heard them on NBC's Today Show mention Vancouver Island at least once in relation to the Olympics, when they talked about Nanaimo candy. Nanaimo is a town on Vancouver Island, well-known in those parts. What that has to do with Vancouver is beyond me. As far as I could tell, they were just name-dropping.
Vancouver is related to Vancouver Island in name only. Vancouver Island is NOT part of Vancouver. I'm not positive which came first, the chicken or the egg, but one (I think it was the city) obviously derived its name from the other because of their location, being across the water from one another. But Vancouver Island is very large so only the southern tip of it is across from Vancouver.
You may have heard of Vancouver Island because on it sits the Capital of British Columbia, Victoria, and therein is one of the grand dame hotels of the world, the Empress, located on the Inner Harbor. John and I visited Vancouver Island for a week in August, 2003, and stayed at the Empress for two nights:
My favorite memory of our stay at the Empress was having a nightcap beside an open window in the quiet dark of a warm summer night in the famous Bengal Lounge. Formerly the Hotel's library, the Bengal had been designed to recall the British colonization of India, complete with Indian-style ceiling fans and a tiger skin wall hanging. Spectacular. I'd go there again. By the way, Happy Birthday, Mom, we were there on your big day, August 5!
Victoria is also home to Buchart Gardens, a truly indescribable set of sunken gardens designed in a huge old worked-out quarry by a rich lady who obviously didn't have enough to do with her money but who had a vision for celebrating horticulture and beauty. No matter that it attracts loads of tourists on buses, it would be a shame to miss this exquisite piece of real estate!
That picture shows only one part of the Gardens. Buchart is much bigger than one photo taken from the ground can depict. There is also a rose garden, a classic Italian garden, a serene Japanese garden, all interspersed with sculptures and linked by beautiful paved pathways.
While the Empress is impressive, Buchart Gardens is lovely, and Victoria in general is a sweet town, our destination was The Wickaninnish Inn, about half way up the Island on the west coast just outside the town of Tofino. Tofino is about 5 1/2 hours' drive from Victoria (I told you the Island is large!), with brief stops along the way. Tofino is a tiny but interesting artists' and fishing community with lots of local arts and crafts galleries. One very special gallery, The Eagle Aerie Gallery, is actually owned by the artist himself, Roy Henry Vickers:
John and I bought two small reproductions at his gallery, one for ourselves and one for my mom. We both still have them and admire his talent for superimposing a ghostlike eagle almost hidden across the moon or the sky in the background of every picture. You can see his signature eagle incorporated into the design of the front of his gallery, above.
We continued our celebration of birthdays of faraway family members, this time brother-in-law Ken's birthday on August 6, by dining at the Wickaninnish's superb restaurant, the Wickaninnish (how original). All in all, the Wickaninnish Inn is one of the most wonderful inns at which John and I have ever stayed. We even liked the bathroom in our room so much that we took photos of it for plans for a bathroom just like it in our basement at home (...someday!). I wish I still had the photos to upload here of the Inn (and the bathroom!), but alas, when I gave my old camera away to my brother Jeff, I forgot the little SD card in it and who knows where it ended up!
When we hear people talk of going to the Pacific Northwest, we usually think of Seattle or Oregon. And, truth be told, John and I did start and end this particular trip in and around Seattle. But our favorite part of the trip was the 5 days we spent on Vancouver island. It is beautiful, peaceful, fascinating, and, best of all, practically undiscovered by tourists. Even though the infrastructure for tourists is decidedly casual, there is still plenty to do there and the people are so friendly and accommodating, we appreciated the laid back style of the Island. We took a terrific whale-watching trip, a seaplane tour, a sea lion tour amongst the numerous small islands surrounding V.I., a nature walk with a naturalist, walked through Cathedral Grove (see photo below). We could have gone canoing or kayaking, but John would have none of that!
In any case, if you think that a trip to the Pacific Northwest may be in your future, consider spending most of your time on Vancouver Island. Certainly you fly to Seattle and maybe spend a night or two, but then rent a car and drive the couple hours up to Anacortes, Washington, to catch the few hours' ferry ride to Sidney on V.I. It takes you through the San Juan Islands, and that ferry trip is one of the highlights of a visit to Vancouver Island! You can see some of the San Juan Islands in the background of the photo below. The one of John, anticipating Vancouver Island. I assure you, he was not disappointed!
Next week, back to the dogs.