USA and Canada trip, Summer 2023: Week 6
- Seattle, WA to Victoria, BC (Victoria Clipper): 140km
- Vancouver Island, BC
- Nanaimo, BC to Vancouver, BC (BC Ferries): 85km
- Vancouver, BC
- Vancouver, BC to London LHR (British Airways): 7600km
Seattle is a lovely city, but having visited it a few times before, it’s not so disappointing to be just passing through. An early start gets me on the Victoria Clipper, a three hour ferry ride over the US/Canadian sea border to Vancouver Island.
Those not familiar with the geography of this lovely part of the world are sometimes surprised when they see a map of the region. Vancouver Island lies off the Pacific coast of Canada, opposite the city of Vancouver on the mainland, and stretches way south of the straight 2000-km ’49th parallel’ border between Canada and the USA. The island is over 450km long, and about the size of Belgium, but it’s home to only 850,000 people. Nearly half of them live in the area around Victoria on the southern tip.
I’m staying with relatives in Victoria (for a day) and a short distance up island in Crofton (for a week). As I step off the ferry in Victoria harbour (below), memories of previous visits return, and it instantly feels like home. It must surely be a wonderful place to live. Surprisingly, the locals seem to agree, which is not something you hear in many other places in the world.
The next few days are spent with my wonderful relatives, firstly Joyce and Vic, and then with Mel and Kevin, and young daughters Rose and Lucy. After so many weeks of sightseeing, it’s fun to experience some everyday family life again. That said, we manage to fit in loads of great things, including visits to several brewpubs, restaurants, cinemas, shopping outlets and more, with trips on ferries of all sizes. The weather remains spectacular.
Crofton, the small town where Mel and Kevin live, has a two-hourly ferry over to the enchanting Salt Spring Island. I’m on this at the earliest opportunity. At the other end? A seafood restaurant. What more could anyone want? I’m not going to attempt to describe how wonderful this area is, because I simply don’t have the words. Probably nobody has.
Eventually it’s time to head back to the mainland, on the largest ferry I’ve been on so far this trip. It’s time for a couple of days in Vancouver, with yet more welcoming relatives, Adam and Daisy. I’ve been seriously calling in the favours these past few weeks!
Time to talk beer
This may be a good time to talk beer. It’s strange that 25 years ago, to the average Brit, North America was synonymous with terrible beer, both in terms of the beer itself and the places to drink it. Now we’ve been caught up and left in the dust. While pubs in the UK continue to struggle and even steadily disappear, here in North America, there seems to have been an explosion in small breweries with their own bars. I went to a cracking one in California (the Altamont Brewery in Livermore), but here in British Columbia, they’re everywhere. The BC Ale Trail alone lists more than 220 of them! The six that I visit all produce their own ranges of beer on the premises, and what distinguishes them from craft breweries in the UK is that their bars are the focus of the business. They’re welcoming, often well appointed, and the only downside is that their popularity means that queues for tables seem to be frequent. Every bar offers tasting flights, which are really popular. It’s opening up socialising over a drink to a young generation, just as we appear to be losing that in the UK.
I spend a day in Vancouver seeing the sights and taking in the atmosphere of this very special city. It may not appear that high up the list of North American cities by size, but comes a lot higher in terms of being liveable – indeed, it’s right at the top, and in the world’s top ten cities. I can understand why. This is the $3 bus from the ferry terminal to the city…
Then, sadly, it’s time to head back home. I’ve been abroad 50 to 100 times in my life, but have never felt as reluctant to leave somewhere. Maybe it’s because I’ve been away so long. Maybe it’s because I’ve met so many lovely people. Maybe it’s because I’ve been looked after so well by so many wonderful friends and family. Maybe it’s because the UK has never seemed as dismal from a distance as it does at the moment. Probably it’s all of these things and others. I need to work out why I’ve enjoyed the last six weeks so much, because I really, really would like more of this.
Cue the compilation best-bits video, if I ever get around to it.