Magical gingerbread beings, with access to twinkling lights and horse-drawn carriages, must have built Victoria, Canada—and I couldn’t have been happier to just come running at its harbor, armed with expandable waist pants, a jug of eggnog, and an unrelenting hunger for super cute stuff. That’s just how delicious this place looks and is. You’ll want to dunk its precious little head into hot chocolate or something and sing Christmas carols from the rooftops. To get there though, you must perform at least 16 hours of holiday chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry) and then travel 4 ½ hours from Snohomish, Washington. However, it’s worth every paper cut from wrapping and static cling sting from folding laundry to spend 37 hours before Christmas Eve in Victoria. Here’s what Nate, Alex, and I did:
It’s very important that big holiday trips begin with a swim meet in the morning. Swim meets are just the thing to help pass the time so that the traffic can swell and build to a maddening creepy crawly pace. Passengers inside the car are then forced to think about their bladders. Fortunately, despite the late start in the afternoon, this was not the case. We were able to get right onto I-5 and then use our Nexus passes to get over into Vancouver. Then, we just needed to drive 30 minutes more on 17 to get into the waiting lot for cars. We even had time to go into the fabulous ferry station/store. It’s a smaller, lighter, and airier version of Pike’s Market, where Nate and Alex sampled tacos and I tried on hats. Here are our ratings of the store: Nate and Alex thought the quesadillas/tacos were “very good” and I thought the hats “didn’t reek of other peoples’ heads, thank goodness—and they were lovely/well made—but they were too big for my head.” Once on the ferry, the 1 ½ hour trip flew by. It then only took us 30 minutes to drive to our hotel. A very kind attendant agreed to park our car and remained patient as I asked Nate over and over again (while not so subtly winking,) “Are you sure we have everything out of our car? Everything?” The look on Nate’s face told me he did not get the hint at all. He seemed confused, yet intrigued. I imagined he was excitedly thinking, “What could you have possibly brought that requires winking and emphasizing the word everything?” So, I needed to set him straight: Did we have our Nexus passes or did he leave them in the car? Nate confirmed that we had the Nexus passes, but he was hoping that I was hinting at something a bit more racy than legal travel documents.
Points of Interest:
—Bard & Banker Public House. Nate, Alex, and I enjoyed a fantastic meal in an historic building, rich with history. It was named in honor of Robert Service, who worked at the bank and wrote poetry in the 1900s. (Here is a sample of his poetry, called “In Praise of Alcohol.”) I was hoping the place would be haunted by ghosts lugging barrels of real money, which they would then throw at people. (The money, not the barrels.) Nate was hoping there would be no ghosts at all. Nate’s wishes were granted.
—Hotel Grand Pacific—which is where we stayed. The lobby restaurant has excellent desserts, the rooms did not appear to be haunted, but if you stay too long in a room, the conversation might lean towards subjects like “the creation of the Internet.” Example:
Alex: Dad, how does the Internet even work?
Nate: Well, Son. . . (and Nate went into a nearly 30-minute technical spiel about how the Internet works. Cecilia was flabbergasted because she thought he only knew one or two minutes’ worth of information, since he is an accountant and not an IT person, but she forgot that he once managed an IT department, so he had to find out how the Internet worked so that he could keep up with his employees when they discussed IT stuff.)
Cecilia: Can we please stop talking about how the Internet works? Please? It’s almost Christmas and we’re on vacation.
Nate: Oh, look! Die Hard is on TV.
Cecilia: Yes! Yes! Let’s watch Die Hard!* (The * denotes phrases/things Cecilia would never say under normal circumstances.)
–Craigdarroch Castle: Nate, Alex, and I walked about 30 minutes in the rain to visit this place and it did not disappoint. Alex and I suspected it was haunted, based on one room that gave us what we called “the heebie jeebies.” Nate was also in the room, but he did not feel a thing. The “castle” belonged to the Dunsmuir family in the 1880s and they owned a very successful coal mining operation. Over time, this place became a military hospital and a college, but now it is an historical site, with steep staircases, creaking floors, and intricately carved interior wooden domes and panels—and all kinds of things I want my new house to have when we win the lottery.
—Bay Centre, which was decorated for Christmas. I was hoping to find a pair of antlers to wear to dinner. I didn’t find any, but I might not have been looking hard enough.
–The Royal BC Museum had an excellent Maya exhibit, an “old timey town” that featured all kinds of Christmas decorations, and a very excellent photo opportunity with a giant replica of a Wooly Mammoth.
–Pagliacci’s for dinner. It’s a dark, cozy, and crowded place where tables of two suddenly serve three people—four if you’re made of gingerbread, perhaps. The food was delicious. No one seemed to be haunted by anything or anyone.
Before heading home, we loaded up on Roger’s Chocolates and thanked the good gingerbread beings of Victoria for creating such a wonderful place that tourists reluctantly leave—their festive, elastic waistband-pants flapping in the wind.
In Other News: My short story, “The Breadbox” was published in Soteira Press’s anthology, The Monsters We Forgot, Vol. 3. You can find it on Amazon, here. Cheers!
Your Turn: Where do you like to spend the holidays?