Day 4 : Tuesday 28th September 2004
Over to the Island!
Today was the first day of travelling in our holiday. We had arranged to pick a car up at the airport at 10am, so we rose early again (only slight hung over from the previous nights' activities!) and got a taxi to the airport. Now this might seem a bit inefficient, especially as we were already in downtown, but it seemed to make perfect sense when we booked it! In any case, the airport is on the way to the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal, which is south of Vancouver.
We got to the Ferry in time for the 12:00 ferry. Except there wasn't a 12:00 ferry. Slight error on the part of Tourist Info desk in the airport . So we had a longer wait for the 13:00 sailing. No problem, we were on holiday, so no rush at all.
The ferry was a standard car-carrying large ferry, very similar to the ones that ply the English Channel between Dover and Calais, with very similar facilities. Except that of course the view is much better on this one! The journey between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island takes about 1.5 hours, give or take. Luckily on the way over, our ferry was visited by a pod of Orcas (killer whales). This caused much commotion as many people struggled to get their cameras out before the pod swam past.
We arrived at Swartz Bay and drove down to Victoria, where we were staying for the night. On the way, we decided to stop off at Butchart Gardens. My friend had had it recommended to him by someone in his village. What he didn't tell me was that this "someone" was in fact a pair of pensioners in his village. And when we got there, it was obvious we were the youngest there by about 30 years!! But to be fair the gardens were lovely. Some of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.
We got to Victoria a little later and found that our "downtown" hotel was in fact way out of town . Why do they advertise themselves as "downtown" when it was at least 15 mins walk to the centre of town? Anyway, after getting completely lost trying to find it, we checked in and then went down to the waterfront, while the light was still good. There are some beautiful buildings in Victoria, the Empress Hotel and the state Parliament building. But I didn't really get the feel that this was the "most English town in Canada" as most of the areas outside of the Waterfront area were fairly typical of what I had seen in other parts of Canada.
We took a further walk down to the Mile '0' Marker, which marks the beginning (or end!) of the Trans-Canada Highway. The other end of the highway is about 5,000km away in St Johns, Newfoundland.
We ate at a lovely Irish pub in town and consumed the requisite amount of beer. After stumbling back to the hotel we turned in, tomorrow was going to be a day full of driving.