DM and MM's USA and Canada 2004 Trip Diary

Day 18 - Seattle to Victoria

Tuesday, 13 April, 2004

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We rose at a leisurely pace and had breakfast - Michelle ate the last of the cereal while I had hot breakfast supplied by the motel. Then we completely repacked our luggage to try to even out the weight between our two bags, and threw out anything we didn't absolutely need. We put the heavy Jelly Bellies and books in Michelle's bag and a lot of the lighter stuff in mine. It worked too well, with Michelle's bag ending up heavier!

We checked out and then, since the weather resolutely failed to provide the forecast rain and it looked to be a partially cloudy day at worst, we drove out to Washington Park Arboretum and checked out the Japanese Garden there. It was stunningly beautiful, with various cultivars of Japanese maple with plain and dissected leaves, in green, red, and variegated varieties, plus rhododendrons ranging from small shrubs immaculately trimmed into cushion shapes to massive trees, all just bursting into flower, from white through pale pink, to dark pink, purple, and a lovely salmon pink, as well as camellias, magnolias, and cherry trees all in flower. Then there were pine trees, ginkgos, willows, and various others everywhere, all growing from a carpet of moss in the shady areas and a spotless field of grass in the sun.

Seattle Japanese Gardens
Japanese Gardens, Washington Park Arboretum

Amidst all this was a large pond - a small lake really, fed by a stream and a separate cascade over a stand of rocks at one end, and drained through an exit stream at the other end near a trellis of wisteria - not quite in flower yet. The lake was crossed at narrow points by stepping stones in one place and a series of two bridges in another, meeting at a small island, one a "bridge of earth" - a shallow wooden arch covered with gravel - the other a "bridge of planks" - both traditional elements in Japanese gardens. Another island was inaccessible, and on it grew two pine trees, leaning over the water, in poses symbolic of Japanese cranes. A third bridge, of mortared stone, arched gently over the cascade stream.

Tortoise Family
Japanese Gardens, Washington Park Arboretum

On one side of the lake stood a tea house in a traditionally fenced two-part lawn, and ante-chamber lawn and an inner lawn. Below this was a wooden platform extending over the lake, used for viewing the moonrise on warm summer evenings. The lake held hundreds of koi carp of various sizes and patterns - gold, white, black, and various specklings of these. There were also tortoises - several of which we saw sunning themselves on flat rocks by the lake side. Scattered throughout the garden were carved granite lanterns of various sizes and designs, ranging from a flat-topped "snow lantern" to a large hand-carved lantern weighing 2.5 tons and nearly 200 years old, given to the people of Seattle by the city of Kobe in Japan as a gift of friendship in 1954. There was also an 11-tiered granite pagoda on the hill above the cascade. An Emperor's Gate was closed against the outside world, with five vertical pine trees planted opposite it to symbolise the Emperor's strength. The whole garden was really beautiful and we could have spent hours there, but had to get moving.

We drove north on I-5 out of central Seattle to Allison's friend's place, managing to follow the directions and navigate Seattle's bizarre street numbering scheme without mishap. We got there just before 1pm and only stayed for a few minutes before hopping back in the car with Allison to drive back to lake Union for our seaplane flight to Victoria. On the drive we regaled Allison with our adventures so far.

We arrived at the Kenmore Air seaplane terminal on Lake Union before 2pm, over an hour early for check-in, but checked in straight away. Our luggage was about double the free baggage limit and we had to pay for the excess at $1/pound. We were also told that if the plane load was too heavy we might have to leave some of it behind!

We said bye to Allison for the last time, until next time one of use travels to see the other. Then we walked to the office block next door to get some lunch at the Starbucks there, being quite hungry by now. I got an Italian grinder sandwich and a dark cherry soda and Michelle got an oat scone and a hot chocolate for our last meal in the USA. Then we walked back to the terminal to wait for the flight.

We boarded with seven other passengers - a full load - but thankfully with little baggage so we could go with all of ours. We climbed aboard the 10-seater DHC-3 de Havilland Turbo Otter seaplane (that's 10 including the pilot) and taxied out on to Lake Union. While taxiing, the pilot said, "Don't worry, I'm just going outside to lock something down," and opened his door and half climbed out - while the plane was still moving! He fiddled with something outside for a moment (we later learnt it was a loose fuel cap) and then climbed back into the cockpit - we could see right into it as there was an access way to the cabin.

Puget Sound Islands
Puget Sound islands from the air

The plane accelerated across the lake and slowly lifted off, soaring out over Seattle's northern suburbs as it climbed. We had great views of the city, then the countryside as it slid off into Puget Sound and various islands slipped beneath us. The Olympic Mountains stayed on our port side the entire flight, while the sound and the San Juan Islands flew by to starboard. After barely 20 minutes in the air we descended into the Inner Harbour of Victoria - which looked from the air to be quite extensive.

Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, British Columbia, from the air

We taxied into the wharf terminal and unloaded from the plane. The first stop was Canadian Customs, worked by a single officer who asked some friendly questions about our trip plans before stamping our passports and letting us in to Canada!

We undid the backpack straps on our packs and loaded up for a walk of about six blocks to a good-sounding motel we'd read about in the Lonely Planet - Traveller's Inn. When we got there, we saw there was another Traveller's Inn right across the road! After checking in and looking at our neat room, we saw from the info there that Traveller's Inn had nine properties right in Victoria!

Parliament of British Columbia
Parliament of British Columbia, Victoria

After a short break to unload, we went for our first leisurely walk in Canada, checking out the central downtown shopping area. Most shops were closing as we wandered around, but Michelle checked out some of the touristy shops, and we found a nice looking chocolate shop but didn't have any Canadian money yet. We found an ATM on the next block and got our first Canadian dollars, then went back and bought a dark chocolate truffle, coconut cluster, and rocky road cluster. We walked further down to the waterfront near the Empress Hotel and Parliament Building, which we admired for a while, then turned back to find the Re-Bar restaurant for dinner. We located it after being mystified by it not being where the Lonely Planet indicated and asking some locals, who pointed us in a direction, then saw it another block down that way.

Empress Hotel
Empress Hotel

Michelle had the almond burger and I had the potsticker bowl, and we shared some Yukon gold and yam fries, which came with some barbecue sauce and a delicious lime and sage mayonnaise dip. Michelle also had a Dale Evans - a strawberry, banana, vanilla, and soy milk smoothie.

After eating, we returned to the motel to gear up with jackets against the cold and my tripod, to go out and take some night photos of the Empress and Parliament. Then we returned to the motel and used the free Internet terminal in the lobby to check e-mails, before retiring to our room.

Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour at night

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