By Jug Varner
For those desiring to escape August's stifling heat, British Columbia is an unparalleled attraction.
The weather in August 1989 could not have been better - balmy days, cool evenings, and occasional light showers that were more like commas than exclamation points. Altogether, it was a delightful contrast to summer in Texas.
Enroute, my wife and I enjoyed stopping at Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, the California Redwoods, Olympia Forest, Seattle, Portland, Columbia River Gorge, Colorado Springs, Taos, Santa Fe, Cloudcroft, to mention a few. Each place deserves an article of its own.
Six weeks and 7,200 miles convinced us that Victoria and Vancouver, BC, were well worth the time and effort it took to get there and back.
Arriving aboard an automobile ferry from Port Angeles, Wa., Victoria impressed us as being “veddy” British and “touristy.” A week later, aboard an even larger ferry to Vancouver, we weren't quite sure if we were ready to leave the queen city capitol of BC.
In between, we met a lot of friendly Canadians, ate a lot of wonderful food, visited colorful gardens, ate a lot of great food, saw many interesting sights and ate a lot of delicious food. Local chefs have a way with salmon, which we ate just about every way they could cook it. They know how to prepare most everything else, too.
Oh yes, we partook of enough tea to float the ferry back to the mainland. At the famous old Empress Hotel, they turn away as many as they serve at their mid-afternoon “high” tea - so called because of the dress code required and all the goodies served, although the $13.95 per person tab would have been reason enough.
Flowers were everywhere…in window boxes, on street lamps…mini-gardens in the business districts…in residential yards and public parks…but, most impressive of all, at Butchart Gardens.
This one-time limestone quarry was transformed into a world famous horticultural treat that might have made Adam and Eve jealous. We began our tour in early afternoon, took tea, completed the tour, had dinner, enjoyed their outdoor theater presentation, then toured again after they turned on the colored lights that night. Magnificent!
Some other attractions you may want to see are: the fine British Columbia Museum, an unbelievable Miniature World, Fable Cottage Estate, Royal London Wax Museum, countless galleries, theaters, parks, government buildings, historical sites, and impromptu entertainment along the waterfront.
We rented a modern replica of a 1932 Model-A Ford convertible one afternoon and drove through Beacon Hill Park, took video tape of gardens, watched cricket players and lawn bowlers and saw several hang-gliding enthusiasts jumping into the wind from a hill above the beach.
McPherson Playhouse featured “Move Over Mrs. Markham,” that week. This hilarious British farce added emphasis to the area's British ambience.
If you like window-shopping, Victoria offers an attractive downtown area that is noticeably free of litter, panhandlers, street people and crime problems.
Colorful street venders, mimes, and businesses with obvious appreciation for tourists make Victoria a friendly and enjoyable place to visit.
Vancouver is a contrast to smaller Victoria, but unique in its own right. Unlike big cities in America, Vancouver is clean, modern and relatively free of crime - evidenced by the large crowds of people able to walk along the streets at night without fear.
City officials, building on the good will and tourism created by EXPO 86, have converted many of the Expo buildings into permanent attractions.
Most conspicuous of these is Canada Place, housing a hotel, world trade and convention center and cruise ship terminal. Science World, a treat for kids, is housed in the former Expo Center near the covered stadium, BC Place.
From our hotel window overlooking the busy Burrard Inlet, we could enjoy views of downtown, harbor traffic that ranged from all types and sizes of marine craft to float planes, and distant Grouse Mountain high above North Vancouver. The sky ride by tram to the top of Grouse Mountain and the additional ski lift ride to its 4,100' peak provided a view of the city and coastal areas.
From there, we stopped to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge. I walked across this 450' long “stomach-tester” swaying high above a wooded gorge and stream. My wife preferred just to take a picture of it.
New York City's Central Park can not compare with Vancouver's Stanley Park, a thousand acres encircled by a sea wall hike/bike/jogging path. Profuse gardens, a zoo, aquarium, Amazon gallery, athletic fields, concert area, and on and on. The park abuts the shores of Burrard Inlet and English Bay.
Like Victoria, Vancouver is bursting with flowers at ever turn. Trees line the streets of many downtown shopping areas such as Gastown, where the world's only steam-powered clock blows its top every 15 minutes.
Granville Island, off English Bay at False Creek, is a popular shopping and eating area. Shoppers can go crazy in Vancouver with so many unusual places to choose from. About ten blocks along Robson Street is a night shopping area favored by young and old alike.
Chinatown here rivals that of San Francisco. Many Asian people have mi-grated here from Hong Kong.
Another grand view of the entire city, up close and personal, can be experienced atop the Harbour Center building, where we had a fine lunch at its revolving restaurant. Food is wonderful in Vancouver with an infinite number of places to eat.
For those who like guided tours, both Victoria and Vancouver have an abundance — by car, bus, rail, air, boat, bicycle, horseback or shanks mare. There is more to see and do than can be accomplished in one brief visit, but that's a good excuse to return again, isn't it?