continued from last month
Nanaimo to Victoria
We remained on Vancouver Island and made our way by bus to Victoria with an excellent visit, despite heavy rain, on route to Chamainus, a former lumber town with a population of 600. In 1982, the main mill employing 400 people closed, re-opening a year later with a modern one but employing only 150. Not wishing to see their community die, they looked to Tourism and decided to attract tourists by creating large murals depicting the history of the town. There are now 32 murals, for some of which the artists are world-renowned. A small tractor drawn, open sided train, complete with a guide to explain each painting, takes the visitors. Near the area of the train was a museum, one of the exhibits being a collection of school photographs from the early thirties with corresponding present day photographs of each group, on the occasion of reunions. It was rather fun and reflected the changing fashions.
We became quite cold in the process of seeing the murals and were glad of the many restaurants to have soup and a sandwich. Some of the party encouraged us to try a hot waffle and coffee. This we decided to do and it proved quite a challenge, as we ploughed our way through waffle, fresh raspberries and cream. There is a photograph in our album to prove it!
Victoria, with a population of 350,000 is the capital of British Colombia and said to be the most English of cities in all of Canada. It was very appealing with a long waterfront and at the same time a compactness that suits the visitor admirably. There is the charm of China Town, a distinct feature of the City, offering easy shopping without the brashness of the ubiquitous Malls found in Victoria, and all other towns. We were captivated and would have welcomed a longer stay.
The Legion made us welcome and we had a friendly pizza and salad evening with them. Volunteers run Legion halls with membership extended to veterans and their immediate families; indeed they encourage actively grand children to become members with modest subscriptions of Can$30-50 per year. The bar is the money-spinner with attractive prices in a country where the Government seemingly imposes severe duties on alcohol, spirits, beer and wine. However, the Legion, on the face of it, seems to fulfil a great social need, leaving one to wonder why. One suggestion is that distances are so vast the provision of a meeting place satisfies a community need, whereas the ready availability in the UK of the local pub might meet this requirement, more so than a British Legion Club.
Is it difficult to imagine setting aside a day to visit a museum? Such was the quality of the exhibits and their unique presentation, many of us did so, when we went to the Royal British Colombia Museum in Victoria. There are natural history exhibits offering gradations of light, sounds, smells and temperature differences of a coastal forest full of animals or a mud flat seashore with numerous sea birds, fish and crustaceans living in a rock pool for all to see. There are hands-on exhibits relating to the gold rush days, a turn of the century street with its Grand Hotel, sweeping staircase and principal rooms. The presence of the sea and land exploration naturally dominate since they are at the heart of the Province's origins and together with artefacts from the First People, being the name given to the island's first inhabitants. There was a special exhibition charting the life of Emily Carr, born in 1871 and multi-talented but remembered chiefly as an artist intent on recording the First Peoples' Totem Poles. She travelled to London at the turn of the century to further her studies, and became an inveterate smoker much to her family's disgust. Later, in 1912 she went to Paris and was inspired with the use of colour. Thus, one could view her early works, see the changes in her skills and admire her use of cubism in the 1930 works, whilst retaining her central theme of Totem Poles.
On another day, again using public transport, the destination was the Butchart Gardens located on Tod Inlet some 12 miles north of the City. A Canadian cement pioneer, R P Butchart came westward to locate a limestone quarry, which he developed and set up home nearby. In 1904, the quarry was depleted. The family were keen travellers and collected rare plants and shrubs, which they planted to beautify their home and garden. Mrs Butchart had the inspiration to purchase land and have the topsoil carted in to create formal gardens with connecting paths, ponds and fountains in the barren quarry. No matter at what season one visits the gardens they are an inspiration. Now run today, as a family trust, employing 50 gardeners, the grass and lawns were verdant green, setting off for us beds of miniature chrysanthemums, alongside the formal Rose and Japanese gardens. There was the added pleasure that the prices in the teahouses were on a par with others we had used downtown, whereas one might have expected them to be inflated. The purchase of a guidebook to remember the gardens by was a must.
TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT MONTH
page last updated 31 MARCH 2002