Mini-Adventure: tourism at home

Despite several attempts to blog about various topics that sort of include travel my activity could indicate I fell off the face of the Earth. I finally threw in the towel and admitted that without a destination to talk about I have very little to offer that might have a modicum interest to readers. The last couple of months have been tough. It was just as well I did not make any trips. I would love to say I have finally bounced back. I am maybe at half bounce. Definitely not feeling like Tigger. However, I did make the effort to actually do something interesting on Family Day! On my own.

Eight of Canada’s provinces have a Family Day, or a holiday equivalent, on the third Monday of February. Only Quebec, Newfoundland and the three territories do not. Sort of a way to encourage getting out with the family and enjoying our gloomy winter. Living in Victoria this usually means enjoying the cherry blossoms, pleasant walks on the waterfront, cycling, kayaking, walks in the park, golf (not me) and even hiking. Not this year. We had snow! Lots of it, so much that we broke some records for snowfall in February. It was, and still, also below seasonal temperatures. We Victorians are not made for the cold. I usually leave all my winter clothing in Ontario, so glad I had expected to need it for my still in the plans trip to Churchill. I digress. Family Day.

I decided I could do a mini-adventure if I did not have to pay for anything. That meant taking advantage of free entry to two places. The Robert Bateman Centre, that I had been wanting to visit ever since it opened, and the Royal B.C. Museum’s exhibit: Wildlife Photographer of the Year. All I had to consider was a cup of coffee, which I really did not need, and lunch. Aha, I had some money on a Tim Horton’s card, gift from our landlady(!) for my coffee and rewards on Starbucks for my lunch. That is not cheating when it comes to not spending money as my daughter puts money on the card. (I am so lucky!) Although parking was also free I parked at another daughter’s, handed her the keys for her to load up her laundry, (too bad she does not pay for our hydro) telling her I would return in a couple of hours.

The sun was out, people were smiling, a jaunt in my step, was spring finally in the air? It was that afternoon. There was even a piper somewhere in the distance – I could hear him but did not see anyone. Most likely at the Legislature where visitors were lined up for a free visit. Note: visiting is always free (although that should be confirmed before heading there) My first stop was to the Robert Bateman Centre, housed where Victoria’s very popular Royal London Wax Museum welcomed visitors from 1961 to 2010. The building was built in 1924 as the Canadian Pacific Marine Terminal. Although there was concern the building could not be saved once all the was figures left the building (yes, Elvis was represented) extensive earthquake proofing and upgrades were made before becoming the much gentler on the psyche art centre.

Robert Bateman is a well known Canadian artist whose main focus is of wildlife. His numbered prints run at $750.00 and up – well worth it if one can not afford the original. Sadly, I will only be able to look at my photos and perhaps buy a calendar one of these years. What I found amazing is that photos were not discouraged, just not flash. Wonderful, such works need to be shared. It took a bit of sleuthing to find the entrance, seems the restaurant management on the main floor hopes to entice visitors to have a meal first, or after, visiting the gallery. For those less inclined to a fell, sit down meal, there is also a small Starbucks. More on that after.

Heritage – Bald Eagle (2010)

One of the first paintings at the centre; so apt considering the winter we have been hit with.

Eagles and tree stumps are the sad story of progress. Too many nesting trees lost. Seeing an aerie of eagles flying high above where trees once stood is rather heartbreaking.

By the Tracks – Killdeer (1971)

Although not a painting of railway ties in Victoria this fading effect is evocative of our silenced tracks.

High Kingdom – Snow Leopard (1986)

Like all cats this one looks so innocent in repose! an excellent capture in paint.

Gentoo Penguins and Whale Bones (1979)

Robert Bateman has been to Antarctica an enviable five times! I am a sucker for penguins.

This majestic painting was hidden away in a side room, used for classes I believe, no title – not that it needs one. I took several shots at various angles. This was my first, and my favourite. Such disdain in those eyes.

There were several others but these were my favourites. I felt fortunate that, although there were several visitors, including children, I could take my time to enjoy the artistry before descending the stairs in search of lunch. I discovered that the Starbucks in the building does not have much of a selection. My guess is that to share the space with the restaurant they keep the choices to a minimum, choosing instead to concentrate on coffee sales. They were certainly doing a brisk business. Fortunately I was not yet famished and did know where to find another Starbucks.

Before seeking lunch I still had the RBCM to look forward to. I was not too surprised to see the place teeming with families. However, I was quite taken aback by the sheer number of children tagging along with parents to view the photography exhibit. It was so busy it was nearly impossible to see the works yet alone enjoy them. I was happy to have turned left to see the winning picture from the under ten years old category. Sadly, not photographs are allowed. The young boy, I believe in India, saw some owlets flying towards a drainpipe, asked his father to stop the car, and managed to capture these tiny birds cuddled together in the entrance. It was enchanting. My attempts to view much more were thwarted by the crowds of people who all seemed to be taller than me! (Except the children who were with tall adults) I gave up and exited without visiting the galleries I have seen many times but never tire of. I highly recommend visiting. Perhaps not on a free day.

I came across this construction site across from the legislature – I will not be surprised if the lowest price is not below $1 million. The sign is rather in your face.

I believe this is new government offices. On the far side there is a much needed, new library. Until it was built that area of Victoria did not have a library.

I walked back towards where my daughter lives, stopping first at the Starbucks close to her place to have a relatively quiet lunch in a comfortable chair – a few of the stores still have those. There I met an elderly woman struggling with keeping her drink upright in the basket of her walker. After helping her I ended up chatting about a variety of things, nothing extraordinary just a pleasant time for two strangers to appreciate the afternoon and a quarter hour of unity. It was a pleasant end to a very short adventure and a reminder to enjoy what is in my backyard.