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Last legislature
John Lennons' Rolls

We spent more time this morning sorting out all the stuff inside Morty in preparation for taking him to a dealer tomorrow. Both of us have that “moving home” sort of feeling. Considering how cosy the interior is its amazing how long it takes. We stopped off to post our parcels and then headed into downtown Victoria.

Our first stop was Tourist Information to book a hotel for tomorrow night and to sort out how we would get back onto the mainland. The chap there was very helpful and gave us an overview of what we could see and do in town in the short time we have available. We then ambled up into the main downtown area to do a bit of shopping and just to generally have a look around.

The centre is quite small and has a villagey atmosphere to it. It is a direct contrast to Vancouver’s big sky scrapers and tower blocks as most buildings here are probably no more than four or five stories high. There is not so much evidence of the big chains of shops so again it has the feel of a boutiquey type village.

At four we went down to the Legislature Building where they run a free tour. The security guards here were very friendly and as we had time before the tour they told us about some bits it would be worth us reading. They had a whole series of black and white photos which showed the process of the building being constructed.

Initially the site of a building called the Bird Cages, they had to be moved before work on the main legislature could begin. It was a big project, managed by the architect Rattenby who was originally from Leeds and ended up being bludgeoned to death by his wife and her lover! Only twenty five when he won this commission he then went on to design and build many of the main properties in Victoria.

From the outside it was similar to others, a grand building but simple in design. Inside however it was more sophisticated, full of marble and warm wood panelling in contrast to the more modest interiors of those we saw on the East coast. They had some superb stained glass windows (made in Bradford) which we did not see at their best as the light was starting to fade by this time. Lights and lighting are quite focal to this building. For Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee they trailed three thousand three hundred and thirty three white lights around the building and have continued to light them every night ever since. It gives the place a gingerbread house look when you see it at night.

They are very proud across Canada of the Royal Family, more so I think than most people in Britain, and here they had a display of photos of Royal visits. These were lined up on a wall next to a large portrait of the Queen and Prince Philip. In the main entrance lobby they had a large coat of arms for British Columbia which for many years has been illegal as it included the crown and lions rampant that are only allowed on the Royal Coat of Arms. The problem was solved recently by adding a string of Dogwood flowers to the lions neck, a suitable differentiation.

After the tour we worked our way back up into town drawn by the sound of unusual music on the street outside the Elephant and Castle pub. A group of about ten people were playing fabulously rhythmic music on hug wooden xylophones, it was a really spectacular sight to see. They were hopping about and all looked as if they were having great fun, although they were also getting a little cold.

Across the way was the Irish Times pub and we popped in for a quick drink. It was a great place with a big bar filing the middle of the pub and tables all around the outside and in a gallery up above. In one corner a band was playing live Irish music and as we sat and supped our beer and wine we both knew that we fancied staying for the night. With Morty in the car park we knew it was a dangerous proposition. Sense sort of prevailed, we took Morty back to the RV park and then came back into town on the bus.

The pub was probably more full when we came back than it was when we left. As it is Friday night there were a lot of people who had obviously come from work for a few drinks before heading home. The reason we came back was because a band from Newfoundland were playing this evening. We managed to get a perch, opposite a couple of local men who come here every Friday. We chatted to them off and on throughout the evening but when the band was playing there was no point in trying to make conversation. They were really good but also really loud.

Next to us was a group of Newfies who were here for a course at the local naval college. They were well and truly into the music and knew all the songs. We recognised a couple from our Newfoundland Gold CD but this group rattled through them so quickly it was almost impossible for us to keep up! As we left the pub we were surprised to see a bouncer outside managing a small queue of people waiting to get in. The atmosphere inside had become more alcohol fuelled and outside too trouble a bit of trouble was starting to brew.

Bye Morty. Thanks for all the memories!
Parade of trucks

Having spent most of the night drinking pints in an Irish pub heads were inevitably a little fuzzy when we woke this morning. We had our last breakfast in Morty, finished cleaning him up inside and then left our last Canadian campsite. We stopped off in town to drop our bags off at the hotel only to find that what the chap at Tourist Information had confirmed would be a room with harbour view and free wireless internet access was not actually the case. An upgrade sorted the view (ish) and internet access was kindly provided by the Marriott a couple of blocks away!

We headed out of town and up to Sidney to take Morty to True North RV, the dealers we are using to sell him. A stop at a car wash along the way took care of most of the muck and dirt he has acquired on his time on Victoria Island and then it was time to say goodbye. This time round we spoke to Kevin, the man I had originally spoken to on the phone. He is an Aussie who left home with four friends many years ago to see a bit of the world and they are now each pretty much on different continents with their children providing a global network of contacts for each other.

Kevin reminded me a lot of Michael Hubbard, his counterpart at Roulottes Gilbert from whom we originally bought Morty. Both in their fifties or early sixties, they are not shy of spinning a yarn and are both frustratingly slow with paperwork. Kevin introduced into the process additional checks that would need to be done as Morty is registered out of state, frustrating as none of these were mentioned to us earlier in the week. We really have no choice but to leave them to sort it all out.

It felt very strange to hand over the keys to what has been our home for the best part of four months. Even though it is only a collection of metal, wood and rubber, we have both become very attached to Mortimer the Motorhome and will keep great memories of our travels with him for many years to come. Kevin offered to drive us back into town, in Morty, really his chance to check out that all was as good with him as we have said it is. We only hope he did not run out of petrol on his way back because we had not left much in the tank!

In town we unpacked all of our stuff to do a final check for bits and pieces we would need to see us through the next few months and headed into town again. We stopped at a Dutch café for lunch, which could have been a greasy spoon anywhere had it not had things like kroketten and uitsmijter on the menu. We ambled through town again, this time a little further away from the centre. For such a short distance there was a remarkable change in atmosphere. This area seemed a lot more seedy and run down than the main central blocks.

At about half five we hopped onto a number 31 bus and headed down to Ogden Point. Each year in the run up to Christmas there is a parade of trucks from local businesses. The trucks are all decorated and lit up and it is a colourful spectacle to see. We were there in time to be able to walk around the trucks before they set off on parade. Some were relatively modest but others were incredibly ornate and fancy. It seems that they all look on it as just a bit of fun but there is also a vote for the best dressed truck and there was a definite competitive edge.

With last night’s excesses still fresh in our memories we opted for a night at the pictures and went to see Aeon Flux. We both enjoyed it just for the fun of the type of film although I am sure there are holes galore in the story line and plot. We stopped at the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner and had probably one of the best value meals we have had in Canada. For $40 (about £20) we had soup, a big bowl of past, ice cream, tea/coffee, a glass of wine and mineral water. Not bad going.

To make our Canada crossing official
Kwakiutl totem poles
Indian art at the airport

Our last full day in Canada. It is strange now that we have got to this point as it somehow feels like the last four months have flashed by really quickly. We have seen and done so much in our time here and yet will leave still feeling there is more to come back to see and do.

We headed back out to the bay to find the Mile Zero Marker. It is a simple monument looking out to sea that marks this end of the Trans Canada Highway. We saw the other end weeks ago in St John’s on Newfoundland. There is a new Terry Fox monument here and a monument to another runner, whose name I cannot remember, who actually completed the coast to coast run. The US is visible across the bay.

Walking back down to the Legislature and the harbour we ambled through some of the streets in the residential area known as James Bay. It seems very quiet and tranquil and the houses look large and spacious. In some of the streets here houses have very narrow fronts to the road but stretch back a long way. Taxes used to be levied based on the length of road front taken up, hence the long thin design.

Our last stop in Victoria was the Royal British Columbia Museum. In the lobby they have John Lennon’s Rolls Royce, painted to look a bit like a canal barge and modified so that the back seat folds down into a double bed. On the second floor they have a natural history style museum with exhibits on the local landscape, animal life and climate change. Parts take you through different types of forests and to a beach shore and I am convinced I could smell as well as see and hear the forest.

The third floor holds a really good exhibit about the first nation’s peoples. Other museums we have been to focussed mainly on hunting and fishing and how critical these activities were to survival. This one was more about their wider way of life. An early part of the exhibit had a Kekuli, or pit house, used in the winter. Essentially it is a big hole dug in the ground with a roof placed over it. A hole in the roof allows access and acts as a chimney for the fire. They were warm places to live and only needed small fires to keep enough heat inside.

They had displays explaining the techniques for making pots and bowls out of wood bark, weaving, and making wooden boxes. For the boxes long single planks of wood were used. Grooves were cut where the corners would be and the wood was then soaked until it was soft enough to bend. Three of the corners were made simply by bending the wood and only the fourth had to be pinned together.

Both inside and outside they had a large display of totem poles, which were used to adorn the front of large wooden houses for certain tribes. These were a status symbol as only families with wealth could afford to have them made and erected. They were beautifully carved and I wish that there had been information available to explain the significance of the carvings.

Leaving the first nations behind the exhibits then took a step back in time to the Victorian age and there was a mocked up village to walk through. Trains whistled past the railway station and business seemed to be booming at the local hotel with its public bar downstairs. Across the way was a clothes shop with fabulous period costumes and a shop selling china to meet your every need. The last section of the museum focussed on local industries, mining and fish canneries, and walked you through a model of HMS Discovery. All in all an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

We headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags and both groaned at the unfamiliar feel of a backpack on our backs. It has been a long time since we walked with them and they still feel heavier than we would ideally like. Fortunately the bus station was only across the road so it was a gentle way to ease ourselves back in. The bus took us back up to the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay, with us both waving goodbye to Morty as we passed the dealership along the way.

The ferry crossing was uneventful. It was much busier than when we had come across in the middle of last week. There were definite signs of students having been home for the weekend and people heading back to the mainland for work. When we landed back in Tsawassen our bags were transferred across to another bus for us and we were eventually dropped off at the airport. It is a really good little service that they run from Vancouver to Victoria and it makes it very easy to get from one city to the other.

At the airport we checked accommodation for the night and ended up at the Sandman Hotel, about a ten minute trip on a free shuttle bus away. We checked in and headed for the pool for a quick swim before it closed at 10:30. There was no one else there (not surprising really considering how late it was) and the water was fabulously refreshing. Better still though was the hot tub which was deep as well as hot and relaxing. We rounded off our day with dinner at Moxies and then headed for bed, thoroughly worn out.