Canada and Alaska: Vancouver Island

We spent two and a half beautiful, sunny days on Vancouver Island, right before our Alaskan cruise.

If your geography is a bit shaky, Vancouver Island sits along the south-west corner of Canada, it is part of the province of British Columbia and the capital of that province is Victoria, which is situated on the island. The island is a 40 to 90 minute ferry ride (depending on where you go from and how fast you go) from the mainland and it is a really big island, over 500 km long. Big enough for some people to feel that it could get along quite well without the rest of Canada, thank you very much.

Vancouver Island also has its own microclimate – or many microclimates, depending on how you look at it, the weather can vary from bay to bay. It does not get anywhere near the amount of snow as the rest of Canada and so is a haven for retirees. Being an island, it keeps the prices a bit lower for real estate than Vancouver city, but it is becoming more popular.

Anyhow, we left Whistler, drove down the coast then caught the ferry across to Nanaimo, a town north of Victoria. Then we drove to Chamainus, a small logging town that now attracts tourists by being super cute and having lots of murals all over town. I saw a hummingbird while we were there. It was so tiny that I thought it was a beetle until I saw the beak. No photo though!

Last stop was Victoria and our waterfront hotel. Victoria is a city built on fur and gold and so it has some similarities, architecturally and culturally, to Melbourne. Our guide the following afternoon told us that the Chinatowns in Victoria, San Francisco and Melbourne were the most significant centres for Chinese culture outside China, and their existence allowed for free discussion that led to the uprising that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and communism in China.

Victoria’s Chinatown also has one of the narrowest streets in North America. Fan Tan Alley. The area is now popular with artists and designers.

Victoria has a wealth of beautiful buildings and I won’t bore you with too much history, but the most notable (and noticeable) are the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Building. They were both designed by a fellow with quite an interesting history. He was a very young architect who scandalized Victorian society by running off to England with his mistress. The mistress then fell in love with an employee (a butler or something), they messily bludgeoned the architect to death to grab his fortune. They were both caught and, upon learning her lover was to be hung, the mistress threw herself off a bridge. However the lover’s sentence was commuted, then he was drafted for WW1, survived with medals of honour and was eventually freed.

Despite his dubious past, the fellow obviously knew what he was about, architecturally-speaking, and these days the parliament buildings are outlined in lights at night, giving an appearance similar to a birdcage. Although there are no bulbs within reach of the ground because people would steal them.

While we couldn’t see the birdcage from our hotel room, we had a great view of the harbour. Victoria has the cutest water taxis I’ve ever seen and I spotted a seal in the water. Others had just seen an otter – you can imagine my disappointment at missing out!

Terrible photo but that underwater slug is actually a seal.

Next: Burchart Gardens!

I Aten’t Dead (Luke)

We aten't dead yet!

Yes, I know, an update – and a video one at that! I’m as amazed as you are.

Obviously it’s been a while. Doing these videos hasn’t been a priority for me over the past year. I’d like to say it’s because my new business has been booming and I’ve been run off my feet, and indeed that did happen for a few months, but there was plenty of other time I could have put towards these videos. I spent that time enjoying the activities I couldn’t always do while travelling, like playing games or watching TV and movies. I also worked on a few film projects as well.

Recently I have moved house (again) and find myself without an internet connection for a while, plus work has slowed to a pace that has once again given me some free time. Amanda brought up the videos in conversation recently, and that’s returned them to the front of my mind. Time to work on them again!

Since we were going on a mini holiday, and I fully intend to, where possible, document our travels no matter where on the planet we go, I thought I’d make a little video on our sojourn to Ballarat to get back in to the travel-video-editing groove. However, for one reason or another, I think it’s the longest Here Comes The Planet episode so far. Hopefully it’s entertaining enough to sustain your attention. I did wonder about leaving the pantomime stuff in there, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and so want to remember it in future. Apologies for the indulgence!

In any case, you can expect to see more video updates this year. I can’t tell you how many or how long you’ll have to wait for them, I can only tell you they’re more of a priority for me this year and I’ll be working on them for you. So be vocal when they’re posted and let me know you’re watching them – I thrive on comments! 😉

And with that, I might go and see how the next episode is shaping up. Ciao for now!

Blogging About Blogging (meta-blogging!)

Blogging while traveling is easy (if you have the means) and serves many purposes. I have two primary reasons for doing it.

1. To record my travels. I find typing easier than writing. On my first trip overseas I kept a written diary that I treasure but using a blog means a more attractive and neater format with the ability to add photos and links.

2. To communicate with friends and family back home but also with new friends along the way (*waves* to Andrew from NZ!) and anyone who stumbles across this blog. On my first two trips overseas 10 years ago I felt very isolated at times and loneliness would often set in, particularly in countries where people did not speak English. Using the blog and Facebook I feel as though I can tell people what is happening in my life, get responses (if people comment) and keep abreast of what is happening back home. I’m an inveterate socialiser and without daily communication of some sort I pretty much wilt.

Not everyone wants to blog or understands why we do it. I’ve been told ‘don’t let it take over your trip’. But it’s quite the opposite. In fact Luke and I have, several times, pushed ourselves to go and do something new despite the fact that we felt tired/cranky because we wanted to put something interesting in the blog – win/win, really. We also interact more with locals through the video aspect, such as with the owner of the Wild Weasel Bar in Hoi An, whom we briefly interviewed.

It’s been a great balance, with Luke’s skills in video and my desire to write reams and take lots of photos. I’m imagining that if we can keep up this level of output we’ll have an amazing collection of memories when we return home and if anyone wants to know about our trip we can point them in this direction. I remember getting kind of sick of telling the same stories over and over when I got back last time.

We both hope you’re enjoying our work 🙂