Before yesterday, I had never been to Victoria before. Now, for a brief period of a few hours I had been in British Colombia, waiting at the Vancouver airport for a flight to take me to Portland , but I had never seen British Colombia on the ground to get a sense of what it was like as a place. Being someone who likes to be a tourist and explore the areas around me, especially when my mum is in town, so it happened that an adventuring party made of three other people and myself made the trip starting on Friday evening from Oregon to British Colombia, and here are my thoughts and observations about the trip as well as my thoughts about Victoria so far.
For the most part, a trip to Victoria is not necessarily very exciting at all. It was interesting exploring the part of Washington that is north of Tacoma. When my brave little toaster  was finally packed about an hour or so after I got home on Friday evening, we were off, and some of my passengers seemed to think that my driving was a bit Mario Andretti, largely because of the way I attack curves on roads the way someone would tackle a road course on Formula 1. Averaging about 65 to 70 miles an hour the way, we stopped at my favorite restaurant in Napaville (Ramblin’ Jack’s Rib-Eye) and then headed to the home of some friends in the Bothell area for the night. After an enjoyable breakfast and some conversation on Sabbath morning, we were off again in a gray and somewhat drizzly day to Anacortes, where I gave a Bible Study  and we waited for several hours in the rain while the car fogged up until it was time to board the ferry to Sidney, BC. On the ferry itself I read one book and most of another, napped a bit, and enjoyed the view of the San Juan Islands along our route, and the ferry did not take nearly as long as expected. One thing of note, though, was that an alarmingly large number of car alarms kept going off in the ferry, which prompted repeated announcements for so and so with their Washington plates to to go to their car and turn off the alarms on the car deck. The customs check on the Canadian side was pretty quick as well, and before too long we were on our way. It was pleasant to wander down from the ferry towards Victoria, where we stopped at a White Spot Restaurant near some bluntly named offices, and then went to our rental unit near a gorgeous lake, Lake Glen, on the outskirts of town, and had a somewhat irritating moment when our debit cards weren’t taken at the local grocery store.
So, what are my impressions of the city so far? Well, Vancouver Island is not as heavily urbanized as one might expect. Victoria, the largest city, is at the southern tip of the island, and the suburbs nearby (including Langford, where we are staying) are all fairly small towns. There are long stretches of roads through forests or by rivers and lakes with gorgeous views and low top speeds (usually 50 to 60 km/hr). The GPS we brought with us helpfully tells us “Warning” when I drive too quickly and even once warned us about a stoplight camera on the way, which earned it some brownie points that it partially used up when it failed to let us know about the road construction in downtown Langford that made our drive a bit more circuitous. The Canadians we met in general were friendly and I only had a couple of cops tail me along the drive, none of whom thought that my Oregon license plate was anything too unusual in these parts, I suppose.
By and large, Victoria and its surrounding area looks a lot like the Pacific Northwest in general. It being summer, the flowers are in bloom and there is a lot of lush greenery to be seen around. The roads look like they could use some attention by the transportation department–hence the construction–and a lot of the buildings were clearly constructed decades ago. There are a lot of touristy things to do, but we did not do any of them yesterday and I will talk more about them anon. At least from what we have seen so far, Victoria has a quirky feel to it, and the people are generally friendly (on the scale of friendliness, where Molalla gets a zero and Mayberry gets a ten, Victoria seems to sit around an 8 or 9). Little details matter here–friendly security people when we headed to grocery shopping, or the manager at the grocery store who observed a member of our party browsing in an aisle and leaving on the lights for that section while making his end-of-shift rounds shortly before the close of business at 10pm. These little details auger well for a hospitable experience overall.