Vancouver Island

Monday, 31 July 2006, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, BC
So it's six days now since we arrived in Canada, and Vancouver Island, and it is definitely noticeable that we are in a different country. We're not sure if it's just Vancouver Island and will have to wait until we have visited more of Canada before making a definite statement about it, but it does seem to be more European than we have experienced in the United States. There are definitely a lot more English people on the streets here, and I don't think they are just tourists!
On arrival in Canada on Tuesday we drove directly to Tsawwassan - just south of Vancouver, and only about 30 kilometres from the border - to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island. We took the advice of Pat (one of the couple we met in Bay View State Park) and bought a Circlepac ticket which will take us to the Island and back to the mainland a little further north and back to just north of Vancouver via Canada's own Sunshine Coast. More of the details of that as we go along. We arrived at the ferry terminal at about midday and left on a ferry at 1.00 - so much for everyone's 'you'll have to book in summer or you'll wait hours to get on a ferry'!!! The ferry trip is about an hour and a half and takes you through the Gulf Islands. It is a very pretty trip with a close up look at a number of pine tree clad islands.
The ferry arrives on Vancouver Island at Swartz Bay, which is actually just a little north of Sidney on the Saanich Peninsular, and quite a distance from Victoria, much to the surprise of a lot of people, who really expect to arrive in Victoria - it is, after all, called the Vancouver-Victoria ferry! We drove to Sidney, found an internet connection and moved money into an account we could access so that we could get some cash from an ATM - we didn't have any Canadian Dollars on us to that point.
As it was already getting late in the day, we tried an RV Park nearby suggested to us at a tourist information office. It was a new park and well away from highways and train lines! It was rather expensive though and we were a bit worried that the whole island may be that way... It was called Oceanside RV Park and everything was very new and tidy, but showers were $1 for 5 minutes which seemed a bit steep after paying $33 + tax for just a site - no power, no water and no sewer!!! Had we opted for these it would have been $44.
On Wednesday we went on to Victoria in search of a campground we could stay in over the weekend. We didn't want to find ourselves on Friday night with all places full - again. We checked out Fort Victoria RV Park just in case the others on our list were full and were impressed enough to check in until Sunday without going further. The Park is close enough to the city centre to catch a bus, for which there is a stop a short walk away. They have internet access for $2 per 24 hour period. And they have power and water for $29 ($2 more if you wanted sewer and TV hook-ups). There is a highway nearby but if you get a site on the right side of the hill it does a fairly good job of blocking it out, and it is not such a busy highway as you find on mainland America.
It had been a while since we stayed so long in one place - I think Monterey must have been the last time, and that was far from being relaxing as we had the turbo trouble on our minds. We spent a lot of the time relaxing at the park and catching up on things. A couple of members of my family received long overdue telephone calls. And we spent quite a bit of time on the internet, catching up the web site and also researching and catching up on other web logs that Juergen follows of fellow travellers. But in between, we did see some of Victoria and also drove out along the south-west Coast one day.
On Wednesday, we parked in our site, had a bite to eat and then caught a bus into downtown Victoria. I was prepared for it to look very English, and it was even more so than I had expected. We went directly to the tourist information and then took a self-guided walking tour using a brochure we had received. The thing that struck me the most about the city, after the British influenced architecture, was the masses of flowers. Everywhere you looked there were flowers, in hanging baskets, in gardens, in parks, on balconies, on window ledges... everywhere. And they bloom prolifically. I always have some petunias in pots at home, but they never develop into such a mass showing as you find here. The flowers were certainly the most impressive thing to me about the city. The walking tour took us through lots of interesting, and sometimes a little out of the way, places, including Chinatown and Market Square, but it also caused Juergen's foot to give him problems again.

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