Tuesday, August 16th
Things happen for a reason and usually work out for the best. I was concerned last night about our ferry ride back to the USA, because the departure time changed. When I made the reservation, it was a 2pm departure, which would have left just enough time for museum tours in the morning. However, when I double-checked the schedule, it said 12 noon, which was too early. Luckily the 5:55pm ferry had plenty of room, although we could not get a firm reservation, only standby. No problem. Thus, we accidentally gave ourselves more time in Victoria, yay!
Karen’s parents had visited Victoria and liked a breakfast cafe called The Village Restaurant in the Oak Bay neighborhood, so we got going fairly early and made it there soon after 8:30am. Excellent! I do recommend it. The clientele seemed to be all locals, and the food was quite good and not too expensive.
Erik and I decided to check out Miniature World while Karen and Lara went to the Royal BC Museum, which we had seen during the layover on our cruise. More thumbs up for Miniature World! There are about fascinating 50 displays — dioramas, doll houses, etc., built in various scales. I like the war scenes depicting the U.S. revolutionary and civil wars, the Great War, and WWII. If you are not into that, you may like a room-size model of portions of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Or, check out a 10-foot long working model of a sawmill, which I think is the most clever engineering feat in the whole exhibit. London streets are shown in different eras old and new.
After all those (and more), there are quite a few “dollhouses”, except these are very large and incredibly detailed — a royal mansion, complete with the king’s and queen’s bedrooms, dining halls, a “haunted chamber” up top, and even servants’ quarters; a Tudor mansion; American-style dollhouses; and on and on. We spent about 2 hours in there and were rushing a bit near the end, but then we came upon the piece de resistance: a huge circus diorama! Not just a circus, but a whole town with thousands of little inhabitants. In the first part you see a parade through the town, and then for example a school, sports fields, and lots of other stuff before the next sections contain the circus itself, with a “big top” and several other tents with sideshows, plus a carnival with moving rides like a ferris wheel and tilt-a-whirl. Mind-boggling! Miniature World is more than worth the $12 ticket for an adult, $10 for a youth.
Afterward, we went to a game store and bought a 2-player game called Famiglia that the proprietor recommended. I just had to buy something, as he seemed like a nice guy, and he insisted that he had not sold a game to a U.S. tourist all year! Right, well…
Having had the large breakfast, none of us were ready for lunch, but we needed a treat. On the recommendation of two ladies at the front desk of the Empress, we walked up Douglas street toward Beacon Hill Park, and across the street from the park is a very popular ice cream place called Beacon Drive In. They only sell soft-serve; I prefer regular ice cream, but I have to say Beacon has the richest, creamiest soft-serve I’ve ever tasted. The flavors are subtle and presented as vanilla swirls; I tried strawberry, and the others had chocolate. The ice cream was a delicious complement to our walk through the park in the warm sun.
We had more free time before heading to the ferry terminal up north in Sidney, so we drove past Beacon Hill Park up the east coast of the Saanich Peninsula. Ho hum, there were merely more views of bays, islands, and lighthouses! Lots of people were walking and cycling along waterfront paths, as usual. Eventually we took a left turn away from the shoreline and drove through the campus of the University of Victoria, which is very pretty although nothing special architecturally. The kids had dozed off in the back and missed it. We stopped for a late lunch at a mediterranean-style steak house, where Erik kept alive his streak of days eating red meat at least once by ordering something I’ve never had — steak and spaghetti. I was not pleased with my “greek salad”; although it didn’t taste bad, it was not what I had in mind.
We had to go through customs and wait over an hour before we could board the ferry to Anacortes, Washington. Like our ride to Victoria, it was very scenic. Erik and I spent most of the wait and virtually the whole trip playing Famiglia, which proves to be a lot of fun.
The only downside of spending more time in Victoria was that, by the time the ferry made a short stop in the San Juan Islands, then on to Anacortes, and we drove all the way to Seattle, it was very late — about 10:30 or so, and we were very hungry. We wolfed down breakfast meals at the IHOP! I love eating breakfast food any time of the day, and I make no apologies, IHOP knows what they are doing. 🙂 We straggled into our room around 11:30 and finally got to bed around midnight. Luckily, our flight tomorrow does not leave very early.
Wednesday, August 17th
Homeward bound. The flight was uneventful, which is a good thing. Everything went well, and we made it back to Walnut Creek around 3pm. Perfect, as it left plenty of time to settle in and relax as well as doing some chores.
It has been said (and I paraphrase) that a great vacation requires two things: a nice place to go, and an equally nice return destination. I cannot agree more. I love the Pacific Northwest so much that I honestly believe I would enjoy living there. On the other hand, Walnut Creek is very nice, too, and I never regret pulling into our driveway. I am very thankful for all that I have and for the wonderful vacations my family has enjoyed.