The Island

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This blog entry about the events of Sunday, February 27, 2005 was originally posted on March 10, 2005.

DAY 498:  One of Canada’s tourism slogans is “Discover our true nature,” a pun that I think is quite clever, even by American standards.  The slogan brings attention to the fact that the main attraction in Canada is its countryside, a magnificent landscape of rivers and mountains and honking Canadian geese.  It is this nature that spawns the stereotypical Canadian image of guys ice fishing while wearing floppy ear flap hats and discussing hockey as a moose walks by.  (I know I’m not the only one who has this image.)

Vancouver Island — not to be confused with the city of Vancouver — just a couple of hours away via bus and ferry, was where I’d see just how rural—and kitschy — a place like Canada could be.


I WAS UP AT “STUPID O’CLOCK” to take the first of two buses to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry terminal in northern suburban Vancouver.  A high speed, modern ferry with food court, kids’ playroom, video arcade, and office desks whisked me and about a hundred passengers across the Strait of Georgia to the terminal on the other end where I met my Vancouver Island liaison for the day. 

“Hey!”

Angie (who I met and traveled with in Egypt) recognized me as soon as I stepped out the door.  An Island Girl long returned from her own worldly travels and a three-year stint teaching English in Korea with her friend Denise, she was the perfect person to show me around and give me the essence of life on “The Island” as everyone in the greater Vancouver area called it.  Or was she?

“What’s this mountain range called?” I asked as we drove through the countryside.

“Uh, I’m not really sure.”

It was understandable; it’s normal for someone not to know jack about the place he/she lives in.  No matter; what Angie lacked in information, she made up for hospitality and friendship — I hadn’t forgotten that it was her that gave me a friendship bracelet before we all parted ways in Dahab.  (Sadly, I lost the bracelet just two weeks later.)  Anyway, Angie was kind enough to call in sick from work to show me around The Island, and on her birthday no less.  We had the instant rapport again and most of our drive time conversation reminisced about our travels in Egypt and the other places we’ve been to since.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Well, I don’t really know what there is to see,” I said.  “Everyone tells me about Victoria though.”

“It’s just a city, but we can go if you want.”  Previously, she was pushing the nature stuff.

“Yeah, let’s check it out, at least to get out of the rain.”  There was a drizzle coming down.

We rode about an hour and a half in her 4-Runner through the rural countryside of farms, forest, and pastures for sheep, and when we arrived in Victoria, I saw that it was indeed “just a city” that didn’t really live up to the hype I had heard of.  Well, that’s not true; David Sebastian told me that there would be a lot of old people there, and the place was like geriatric ward.  Within two minutes of parking the car, a guy in one of those old person electric wheelchairs zipped right by me.

That’s not to say there was nothing but old people; there were old buildings too, and quite impressive-looking.  As the capital city of the province of British Columbia, the city boasted classical architecture, from the Parliament building and City Hall to the fancy Empress Hotel.  But Victoria wasn’t all class; there was kitsch too.

“There’s Miniature World,” Angie pointed out.  It was a kitschy “museum” of dioramas and model trains going around model cities and landscapes.  I was skeptical on going to such a tourist trap, until I saw the sign outside the entrance that said there was a new miniature future exhibit and that Miniature World was “the Greatest Little Show On Earth.”

“Is it really the greatest little show on earth?” I asked the cashier inside.

“I think so,” she answered.  Not surprisingly, she was an old cheery woman, the kind you’d expect to be a cashier at a place called “Miniature World.”

“Okay then.”  We bought tickets and went inside, first into the Avian-1 Starcruiser, which sounds cool, but in reality is just a small dark hallway with two dioramas behind glass with miniatures of a sci-fi space station and little spaceships that didn’t even move.  The place was backlit, which was sort of cool; also there was a voice from a speaker welcoming everyone to “the future.”

Out the door we were transported the past — the past in miniature form that is — with a series of dioramas depicting famous battles (including WWII) and the creation of the Great Canadian Railway linking Vancouver to Toronto and beyond.  While this was all nice and somewhat educational, Angie and I paid attention to more important details, like little figures following off bridges, and falling down a hill (Jack and Jill in the nursery rhyme diorama). 


“I’M NOT FROM HERE.  What should I go see?  What must I do?” I asked the not-so-old guy at the tourist information office.  He looked pretty bored until we walked in.

“Are you into museums?”

“Not really.”

“Oh, because those are the must do’s [around here],” he said in a sort of snooty un-Canadian-like way.

Angie and I wandered the harbor area and stumbled upon two museum-esque things anyway, and she left it up to me.  “We can go to the aquarium or the wax museum.”

“Which do you think is worse?”

“The Wax Museum.”

“Let’s go.”


THE ROYAL WAX MUSEUM LOOKED A BIT DESERTED and I thought Angie and I would be the only visitors.  “Are there any people here?”

“There are lots of people here,” said the old woman, the kind of old woman you’d expect to see working the front desk of a wax museum by Madame Tussaud.  “They’re just not alive.”

Amongst the unliving were the Queen of England, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, the recent presidents of the United States (including the Clinton, Carter, and the Bushes), and the Prime Minister of Canada (whatever his name is) — more important than him was Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe.  Rounding out the collection was an assortment of waxy figures like Everest trekkers Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay; Voltaire (or is that Liberace?); and Albert Einstein, who looked like he being secretive about releasing an SBD fartCleopatra was also there in full topless form, just down the hall from the information desk — manned by fake wax figure.  Things got interesting after that, with the Chamber of Horrors, featuring life-sized dioramas of torture chambers, and a twitching severed head with a slight resemblance to Uma Thurman


THE CITY WAS NICE FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS, but we soon left town and head up north again to do more outdoorsy stuff.  The highway through the mountains led us passed scenic viewpoints (picture above) and many totem poles, as well as many little towns that with the standard Canadian restaurants, the most popular being Tim Horton’s.

“This is Old Person Central,” Angie told me.  Inside, I saw just how true that was, but that wasn’t our concern; we wanted to try and stump the cashier with a couple of questions.

“The chicken and roasted red pepper sandwich,” I ordered.  “And a Nanaimo bar.  Is that from here?”  (We were in the town of Nanaimo, where the chocolate dessert originated from, although we didn’t know that until looking it up on the internet after the fact.)

“I have no idea,” the woman replied.

“We also want to know if you know who Tim Horton is.”

“Uh, the founder of this place.”

Another girl butt in.  “He’s over there.”  Angie was confused, but it was just a picture on the wall of the Tim Horton, a guy more popular than the Prime Minister of Canada (whatever his name is) since he was a hockey star.


CANADIAN COUNTRY CAME when we drove up and strolled the hiking trails of Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, home of the impressive falls and river of the same name.  Unfortunately there were no guys ice fishing in floppy ear flap hats talking about hockey, or any mooses (meese?) for that matter.  We didn’t stay long because the day was running out and my knee was bothering me; in fact, that was our last stop for the day.  “I don’t think we’ll have time to see anything else,” Angie said.  We were still miles away from where I had to grab the ferry back to the mainland. 

“This is our big town,” Angie pointed out when we stopped for gas in Parksville, a town actually very small.  Six years prior, size didn’t matter because it was the site of a huge full-scale riot that spawned out of a fight that broke out at a sand castle building festival on the nearby Parksville-Qualicum Beach, if you can believe that.  Angie told me that it was actually a pretty big deal; about 45,000 people (the entire population of Parksville) showed up to the event, only to end up in a huge brawl that wrecked storefronts and overturned cars.  The whole thing should have filmed for a FOX special, When Canadians Go Wild! so that Americans might realize that Canadians might actually be a force to be reckoned with.


“WELL, HOPE YOU HAD FUN,” Angie said as we parted ways again, this time at the ferry terminal on Vancouver Island. 

“Hope you had fun, calling in sick and on your birthday.”

“Yeah.”

I rode back to the mainland and readjusted back to “big” city life, which didn’t take too long.

“So how was your date?  Where did you go?” Aviv asked me back at the house in Kitsilano.

“All around.  Victoria, up north.  I had a Nanaimo bar in Nanaimo.”

“So is she your girlfriend?” David Sebastian asked.

“No.”

“Oh, that’s the wrong answer!  [In this house, if you meet up with a girl, she’s automatically your ‘girlfriend.’]”

Right.  I had forgotten about that on-going joke in the house, much like I had forgotten the name of the Canadian Prime Minister — but I guess that doesn’t really matter because he doesn’t play hockey anyway.






Next entry: Worried At Whistler

Previous entry: The Ultimate College Experience




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Comments for “The Island”

  • I apologize for the slow-posting of entries.  Less than a week back in NYC and every thing’s been going so fast so far with work and other opportunities—I barely have time to breathe! 

    Be patient you Blog-aholics!  Your next fix is coming soon…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  04:29 PM


  • First one last time!

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… The West Coast has got it all!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  04:29 PM


  • wow….meanwhile back at the chevron in Parksville, Bruce topped off his gas tank but when over by a penny….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  04:58 PM


  • Ok…so I check and there’s a new entry…..immediately I scroll down to try and be first without even reading…..damn you Td0t…..if you weren’t injured I may just get on the 400 South break your fingers….

    wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:04 PM


  • Lisa: Are you kiddin’ me?! With the traffic on the 401/DVP transfer by the time you get downtown I’ll be long gone in the safety and comfort of my GO train!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:14 PM


  • Ok I just finished reading…

    Btw Erik….the wax figure of the Prime Minister is the Jean Chretien…..he is no longer the Prime Minister of Canada…..that would be Paul Martin!

    Tim Horton was a Hockey Player and if you remember in Wayne’s World the coffee shop that Wayne and Garth frequent is based on Timmy’s or Horton’s or Horny Tim’s as I call it!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:15 PM


  • Td0t, is it Train 48?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:17 PM


  • I LOVE that show… the acting is SO believable, and true to life!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:27 PM


  • I went to that same wax museum as a kid!  I totally forgot about it.  In the torture chamber area, did you see the “Algerian hook”, where some guy was hanging with what looked to be a huge fishing hook through him?  As an 8 year old it fascinated me!  That was on one of those month-long family car trips. 

    British Columbia is so pretty!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:28 PM


  • I sense some sarcasm…...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:28 PM


  • What’s that MarkyT, Parksville not vibrant enough for your Yankie tastes?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:36 PM


  • man, this is making me miss canada.
    mmmm . . . nanaimo bars . . ::salivate::

    and i miss tim horton’s too, especially during roll up the rim to win season :(

    Posted by Alyson  on  03/10  at  05:43 PM


  • Margaret Thatcher looks demented.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:45 PM


  • wow you must have work lined up like crazy.  i thought you would be lounging around doing nothing for a few weeks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:48 PM


  • Alyson: Roll up the Rim just started last week.

    Who remembers the Tim’s commercial when the guy crossing the boarder said “Rrrrrrrooll up the Rrrrrim to win” to the U.S. customs officer as proff of Canadian citizenship?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  05:50 PM


  • ha. i never saw the commercial, but that’s funny.

    Posted by Alyson  on  03/10  at  05:55 PM


  • SCOTT:  Yeah, I was hoping for the same thing too… let me DIGEST the trip, you know?  But everyone here was waiting for me, almost as if to think “What the hell did New York City do without me all this time?”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  07:07 PM


  • Td0t, that was a good commercial!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  08:03 PM


  • I still have the same aversion to the wax museum as ever - ew!

    I love the miniatures - I haven’t been since the 3rd grade, though. It’s fun to see the pictures of places where I used to go - thanks… smile I love Nanaimo bars!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  09:22 PM


  • Great morning reading material….......as I sip my Tim Hortons coffee…....in my Tim Hortons Anniversary mug….....in China!  I miss Roll Up The Rim To Win….....all those free muffins and donuts…......

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  09:44 PM


  • i couldn’t make it to the Zen Lounge tonight.  had a Bible study by a friend’s house, and afterwards we watched Baraka. i just got home at like 1:45am.

    i couldn’t believe the snow falling on the way home . . . man, those flakes are huge.

    . . . does anyone else think tim horton’s coffee is scalding hot? i used to always burn my tongue and then not be able to fully enjoy my english toffee cappucino.

    Posted by Alyson  on  03/11  at  05:12 AM


  • Oh, Tim’s is sooo Canadian.  It’s my first stop after exiting the airport whenever I go home.  smile
    I love miniatures.  I find them fascinating.  I’d go nuts making them myself, but looking at them is fun.

    Posted by Liz  on  03/11  at  03:07 PM


  • Congrats on your RTW trip and this awesome blog!  You have inspired me to start scuba diving.  Just out of interest, do you wear contact lenses when diving?  I’ve heardboth for and aginst.  What’s your take?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/11  at  08:46 PM


  • SAM:  Contacts, yes.  I don’t see why people would say they would be a problem.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/11  at  10:38 PM


  • I’ve worn contacts on every dive I’ve gone on..never a problem. But they also make dive masks with prescription lenses in them..but I bet they’re expensive.

    Posted by Kailani  on  03/11  at  11:10 PM


  • ye i wear glasses, that makes scuba diving more or less impossible for me.
    it’s a pain to buy glasses with prescription, especially if you arent diving frequently.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/12  at  12:09 AM


  • I third the contacts comment - why would it be difficult? Strange - no problems on every dive I’ve gone on.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/12  at  12:58 AM


  • Strange uncomfirmed fact(?) about Timmy’s (as reported by a guy in my training class at work, whose GF manages an outlet)

    Apparently they put nicotine & MSG in the coffee.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/12  at  05:26 PM


  • WOW! Blame Canada…..
    I think that they should have filmed the Canadian brawl thing….
    “Chapeau l’eau!!!”.....

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/13  at  02:22 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Worried At Whistler

Previous entry:
The Ultimate College Experience




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

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